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playing with nets


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Luke, thanks for the info! That frame looks great, love the contrast from the wet down. That's pretty ballsy to add Classic Softs on top of the rear-nets. Funny that you don't like the chromatic diffraction, that's one of my favorite artifacts.

 

Gregg, that's from memory but it's certainly possible that I could be wrong. When I use nets, I almost always put them on the rear or I'm quickly throwing a front-net on for one specific shot. The last time I used front nets consistently on a set of primes was probably over five years ago.

 

I have always wanted to try the old Tiffen Softnet Blacks, but my local rental houses don't carry them and they are not cheap compared to just buying pantyhose.

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it doesnt seem like Kaminski really uses them except on medium and wider shots.

 

Kaminski has shot plenty of close-ups with nets... "Minority Report" is full of them:

minority1.jpg

 

But sometimes he seems to switch from a net to a Classic Soft when the flare pattern from the net is too distracting for that shot.

 

There are a few scenes in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" shot on nets, not as many as use Classic Soft or no filtration, but in this scene, it begins by using nets and then switches to Classic Softs for most of the later coverage -- look at the flare from the hanging lantern:

 

Net

lastcrusade3.jpg

 

Classic Soft

lastcrusade4.jpg

 

As for nets not being as nice on close-ups, we'll just have to agree to disagree, I tend to think that's when they work the best but mainly because they are usually too heavy for wider shots.

 

It was probably "Fiddler on the Roof" that first got me interested in nets, most of the movie was shot with a brown pantyhose stretched over the front of the lens. There is a behind-the-scenes photo of Ozzie Morris at the Panavision PSR camera with a pantyhose just held over the nose of the lens with a rubber band and the rest dangling down; I'm not sure if that was a gag shot since you'd normally put a matte box in front to keep ambient light off of the net.

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Looking through "Minority Report" again, it's mostly shot with nets:

minorityreport2.jpg

 

It's hard to talk about filters used on wides, mediums, and close-ups in a Spielberg film, particularly this one, because almost every shot moves from one to another, a close-up has a rack-focus and pan into a wide, a medium moves into a close-up, etc.

 

What you'll notice about Kaminski's work was that it was fairly clean up through "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" (1997) but after that, he started using silver retention printing processes and diffusion. You see a few scenes shot with nets in "Amistad" (shot the same year as "Lost World"), particularly the final Supreme Court arguments finale, then "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) isn't filtered much, but "A.I." (2001), "Minority Report" and "Catch Me If You Can" (both 2002) uses nets quite extensively, those three were sort of the peak of his usage of nets. Then on "The Terminal" (2004) and "War of the Worlds" and "Munich" (2005) he started to use Classic Softs instead of nets, sort of alternating between them. Then with "War Horse" (2011) and "Lincoln" (2012) you hardly see any nets and the level of Classic Soft diffusion seems lowered, particularly in "Lincoln". "Bridge of Spies" was even less filtered for the most part, and so was "BFG". He still uses other filters now and then, "Munich" had a scene that was a night raid in Beirut shot with ProMists, and there was the foggy battle in "War Horse" shot with Double-Fogs.

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I've been meaning to test them on the Leica Summilux lenses because they make a little metal ring for rear filters that snaps over the back end of the lens.

 

That seems WAY easier than snot tape....

 

Also, I believe those stills were from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, not sure if you meant to post those or snaps from the previous film.

Edited by Jay Young
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As for nets not being as nice on close-ups, we'll just have to agree to disagree, I tend to think that's when they work the best but mainly because they are usually too heavy for wider shots.

 

I don't disagree with you. I can think of a couple of examples were I loved the way it looked.

 

The way Robert Richardson used them on Bringing Out The Dead gave that movie a very distinct atmosphere that complimented the story as well as the character's perspectives.

 

post-53750-0-79812400-1468795506_thumb.jpg

 

They do however have a lot of potential to cheapen the image, and (to me) Minority Report, AI, and Catch Me If You Can are examples of that. I just wasn't a fan. It was too heavy-handed and it seemed unmotivated - especially with Catch Me - that one would have been a perfect opportunity to emulate a variety of different looks, with the story going from the 50's into the 70's...kind of like how Scorsese/Ballhaus did with Goodfellas.

 

post-53750-0-21935500-1468799788_thumb.jpg

 

I did like how he used them on War Of The Worlds and Munich though - especially on the back lit wider shots like in the image I posted. But I personally think they look best when used in black and white.

 

Here is a still from a noir themed short I was working on. I was using a cheap black hose from cvs over the front of the lens.

 

post-53750-0-95950800-1468799772_thumb.jpg

 

They are great if you're going for a vintage noir look.

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I think the key is to pair a bloomy diffusion like nets with backlight and contrast. It always looks great with a dark background.

 

 

I think that's correct too -- they work best with high-contrast lighting and processes like ENR, skip-bleach printing, etc., i.e. things that tend to increase the feeling of sharpness and depth, which counteracts some of the mushiness and contrast loss you get with heavy diffusion on the lens.

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Looking at some other movies shot with nets... most people know about Gil Taylor using nets in the Tatooine scenes in "Star Wars", where it might have worked better had they not run into such overcast weather on location, but after that, Taylor shot "Flash Gordon" and "Dracula" extensively with nets and I think both movies look quite nice. In "Flash Gordon" it worked particularly well because of all of the reflective costumes, and for "Dracula" it created a romantic tone.

 

One thing I have noticed in a number of films are scenes where the nets are pulled probably because of some flaring problem, often replaced with some other diffusion -- in the case of "Flash Gordon" and "Dracula", it looks like a fog filter replaced the net now and then. In two different scenes in "Dracula", once when Lawrence Olivier is climbing into a grave that leads to a tunnel, and another when he is entering the castle, carrying a lantern in both cases, on one side of the entrance, there is a fog filter, but when he enters the next space, it switches to a net.

 

flashgordon1.jpg

 

flashgordon2.jpg

flashgordon3.jpg
dracula1.jpg
This is one of the scenes where the filter changes once they go through the door:
dracula2.jpg
dracula3.jpg
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Looking again at the blu-ray of "Fiddler on the Roof", it's interesting to me how subtle the brown pantyhose net filtration is. Part of the reason I think is that there are rarely any bright lights or the sun pointed into the lens, and the slowness of the film stock meant that even indoors there weren't too many hot windows to flare the filter. Ozzie Morris must have had the netting stretched as wide as it could go to keep the effect lower.

 

You can see here that even in backlight, the net doesn't create much halation, maybe because the sun was softer, hazier in Yugoslavia where they shot the movie:

fiddler1.jpg

 

In the barn scenes the hot gaps in the roof flare just a little but some of that could also be the lens optics more than the net:

fiddler2.jpg

 

Since much of the film was shot with an anamorphic zoom, which was f/4-5.6 at the widest, some day scenes at the wide-angle end can sometimes have a faint chainlink fence artifact in the blue skies from having too much depth of field and seeing the net start to come into focus:

fiddler3.jpg

The artifact is easier to see in motion as the camera pans around than in a still frame.

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David Hamilton used them a lot in his films/photography

 

post-53750-0-47536300-1468894681_thumb.jpg

 

John Seitz as well

 

post-53750-0-38186800-1468895642_thumb.jpg

 

And Robert Burks and Bernard Knowles used nets too for their work with Hitchcock, but on the older films its hard to tell what's a net and whats petroleum product

 

post-53750-0-53922000-1468895432_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

 

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A lot of that blue-ish halo effect in Hamilton's photos come from fog filters though I'm sure he also used nets.

 

Another popular diffusion in the 30's through 50's was a glass filter with concentric rings etched in it, sometimes called "dutos" in Europe because a version was made and used by a Hungarian photographers Jeno Dulovits and Mikos Toth. In the bokeh, you see a thumbprint type pattern of partial rings -- I've posted frames before from "Spellbound" and "Vertigo" showing the artifact.

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I find it a bit hard to follow this thread because people don't seem to descriminate between nets in front or at the rear of a lens.

 

I keep wondering this. For those who have used soft net filters in front, say the Tiffen SN blacks...Suppose you were trying to achieve the same filter effect at wide and telephoto...what filter would you choose?

 

Does the scale of the mesh need to stay the same relative to the captured frame? So if for example you doubled the field of view you would double the mesh size. Putting it another way, if we wanted the same filter reffect, would we keep the same number of mesh cells within the field of view? And this could be easily achieved with mesh cells of various sizes.

 

On a simple level this reasoning seems sound, but I wonder....If the refraction, or whatever else causing the effect...is not physically scalable, in a simple linear sense, then what can we look for. Untill the principals are understood, then perhaps a hotch potch of experimental familiarity, expertse and artistry is the most usefull thing. Hard to discuss and usefully talk about though.

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I think it depends a great deal on the strength of the effect you're looking for. After sitting through the wonderful 4k demo that Tiffen put together of all of their filters, I came to the conclusion for for general-purpose diffusion, ye olde reliable Black Promists still stir my soul the most (over all these newfangled Glimmerglasses etc.), but I was blown away by the effect of the Softnet Black 1 as well.

 

It has a significant softening effect and can be hard to slip past the video village crowd at times, but does lovely things in a close-up. The stronger grades of glassed net diffusion strike me as too strong for anything other than a really specific aesthetic that you've established with a director in advance.

 

There are also a bunch of artifacts you have to deal with once you put the net inside glass and in front of the lens, so I think that using straight fabric would be preferable most of the time.

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I came back to the Tiffen SB black because it allows us to have a known, repeatable mesh size. But I suppose if glass is really problematic one could prepare mesh of measured cell size in frames. Known cell size being usefull in figuring out how the filters work relative to focal length. I snapped this pic comparing the cell size of Tiffen SN black 1 to 4. I originally thought that the yarn making the mesh was graded lighter from #1 to #4. Looking again I'm almost convinced, but not fully. But #1 looks heavier.

post-47078-0-09190800-1468989917_thumb.jpg

 

 

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Nets are always tricky because the diffusion is caused by the bending of light around the threads, whereas the gaps in the weave allow the sharp image to pass through. And since they don't really make nets in increments of heaviness (in terms of using them as a camera filter) other than the Tiffen Soft Nets and the heaviness is affected by how much you can stretch them before you glue them down (not to mention the focal length, the f-stop, and the size of the filter area relative to the glass area being used for the image) it's always going to be "unscientific" -- you just have to shoot tests for each individual project.

 

I've never used the Tiffen nets that are mounted to glass so I can't comment on them. My nets are stretched onto 4x5 filter trays.

 

The #1 is the lighter one because the gaps between the threads are larger, and it's the clear area where the sharp image passes through.

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#2 and #3 spacing looks like what I've used for a front net stretched across a filter frame or over the front of a lens. #3 and #4 look similar to what I've used for a rear net. I guess that's a pretty heavy effect. I've never used a weave as loose as #1. You might see the net pattern sooner when stopping down with that one. Would love to try them out sometime.

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To be clear, I haven't used these Tiffen SNBs either. I mean't before, that I keep coming back to them, when thinking of theory, which may be helped by the set sized meshes.

 

Satsuki, do you mean this particular set? So they have to take vacation to SanFran?

Edited by Gregg MacPherson
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No, I meant that I would love to try a set of these filters on a project generally. They are still avail for purchase new, looking at B&H. Just not called for often enough these days for small rental houses to invest in them. And I don't really have the funds to invest in a set myself right now. I almost bought a used set a year ago, but it just wasn't a good enough of a deal to go through with it.

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A lot of that blue-ish halo effect in Hamilton's photos come from fog filters though I'm sure he also used nets.

 

After I posted about him the other day, I just found out he was murdered so I came upon this thread.

I don't know about him using fog filters. If he did I haven't read about it.

His signature technique was to shoot Ektachrome 200 pushed to 400 or 800, possibly wide open, on a Minolta SRT101 with a 50mm Rokkor f1.7 lens. The lens would have a skylight filter upon which hair spray was sometimes applied for extra diffusion.

 

I'm saddened by his death and thought I had to get it out of my system.

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I shot a commercial with the SN Blacks + Glimmerglass on Master Primes and I really liked the combination, I haven’t been able to use the SN Blacks again because there is only one camera rental house in Spain that has them and they don’t subrent them.

 

I haven’t been a fan of Black Promist ever but I really like the Black Diffusion, they are probably quite similar anyways haha.

 

Really looking forward to using the new Black Glimmerglass filters when they come out.

 

Have a lovely day!

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