Advanced Camera; shooting miniatures?

I had the unique opportunity through my work to attend a pair of lectures on using the Camera by UCLA Cinematography Professor, Bill McDonald.

We went over Photographic Lenses, Lens Focal Length, Camera Operating and Camera Movement, Depth of Field, Camera Movement, and Frame Composition, citing camera techniques and examples. It was a really great class and in addition to the examples he walked us through;  from films ranging from Goodfellas (zolly) to The Graduate (telephoto, wide angle, zoom lens) to Citizen Kane (depth of field) he demonstrated what he was explaining with a video camera plugged into a large monitor. So we were better able to see/visualize concepts; like the compression of space when using a telephoto lens and the increased Depth of Field  from a wide angle lens. He also talked through and demonstrated the narrative impact of camera movement  and how it unconsciously effects the experience of the film.

While I could go on about the class I feel like the most important thing to get written out right now is this question I’ve got;

How do focal length and Depth of Field relate to shooting miniatures to match with live action plates?

Specifically I want to be able to take plates of my N-scale miniatures and comp them with live action backgrounds and add actors. Do I need to convert the lens’ focal length, match the angle of view exactly?

Here is a test I made a year ago when I started thinking about these problems to see if the elements can be made to work; The tracking is terrible, color is wonky, and extraction isn’t very clean. I could tweek this endlessly to make those aspects work better, but ‘you can’t gold plate a turd’. I just need to study this and turn out more tests.

The things I’m most focused on are the issues of camera, Depth of Field, camera angle, and matching lens distortion/focal length;

The problems I’ve been running into have mostly been relating to focus, my 100mm Macro lens gives me this lovely slice of shallow Depth of Field, but that doesn’t really help me make the miniature look bigger, I just end up with this;
Out of necessity of my stage,  I’ve been shooting my miniatures with the 100mm macro, and my actor with a 14-40mm wide.


Here is what I need to know about DoF;

Shallow Depth of field;

-longer lens

-wider apeture

-closer to camera

Deep focus;

-Wide lens

-further from camera

-smaller apeture

(needs more light to accommodate for wider f-stop)

I’ve been reading Stu Maschwitz’ ‘DV Rebel’s Guide’, and recently finished the chapter on effects and matching cameras. and there is a great breakdown of a Rolling Stone video shot by David Fincher, There he explains that the camera doesn’t see anything differently between a small object or a large one apart from Depth of field.  Use the same lens (focal length). So the things to record are; distance from the model/actor, distance from the ground, and angle of the camera. Then either scale up or down the distance when you shoot the opposing part.

I suppose this makes sense, but more testing is going to be necessary.

About brad isdrab

Artist and world maker View all posts by brad isdrab

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