Jump to content

Good Literature for Miniature Photography


Recommended Posts

I'm curious about dabbling in miniature photography for personal work. 

I somehow have the impression you need to adjust your frame rate and either focal length or t stop to account for the scale models but really don't know the details....

Can someone provide me with a link to an industry standard text on this? Thanks everyone.

Separately, would it be better to shoot on a cinema camera like an ARRI ALEXA for this kind of work or a hybrid camera like the S1H, which offers 6K resolution and better low light and lens selection.

Edited by M Joel W
Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Premium Member

I was just looking into miniature work for a music video I have coming up. Here’s the miniature section from the American Cinematographer Manual, 8th Edition. It’s only a few pages. I’d also recommend “The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography” by Raymond Fielding. It has a good section on miniature work. 
 

I know there are people now doing really impressive miniature work online and documenting it on Vimeo and YouTube, which would be more relevant to the newer post tools we have for retiming and compositing. 
 

-Tristan
 


 

 

183B1508-200A-40D2-A81C-B60AF42A9DD2.jpeg

01BB56E6-4114-4D7B-9B0C-CC6894D97531.jpeg

604AEE0D-A80A-4F3F-A5A3-08DE19DB50BC.jpeg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

unfortunately there arent many good written resources, what I think was a symptom of each shop trying to keep their trade secrets back before the days where internet tutorials were a thing. Almost everything I know I learned from practical vfx era ILM people.

you might start with this edition of the VES handbook - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0240812425/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1  (no affiliation). it has some info, including some rough calculations for water and pyro scaling. But it definitely does not have everything you'll be after if you really want to master practical work.

These guys on youtube do some video tutorials for practical work and may be more immediately useful https://www.youtube.com/c/InCameraTV (again, no affiliation) 

You should also look up on youtube "sense of scale", its a documentary on the subject but the creator put an insane amount of additional footage on youtube, interviews with all sorts of people talking about all of their little tricks they use to do. 

If you're in the LA area, might be worth seeing if Fon Davis' Fonco Studios has any internship opportunities. If in the bay area, I'd see if Tippet might. Both still do practical effects (tippets practical work has been on the recent star wars shows). Obviously if you could find an internship at ILM and make friends with the old guard that would be the best way to learn, but I dont know what they offer or how competitive that would be (though Id guess quite competitive).

Just some thoughts to get you started

Generally speaking for miniatures you need to keep the full model in focus for your shot. This is one of the reasons motion control is useful, as you can use a DSLR to do long exposures while you're stopped down as far as your lens will go without going iffy, and still get a cool move. Motion control also can let you do repeated passes, so you can light the miniature for a "beauty" pass with no regard for the blue or green screen behind it, then you can shoot another pass with the blue/green screen lit up but your model flagged into complete darkness (thus giving you a mask pass to pull your matte from). You can do these moves with something as simple as a kessler moco rig or even a home made one. Next steps up are Kuper or MRMC systems, but those rent for several thousand a day + the operator. 

When you do high speed model work, you need lots of light. LOTS of light. Depending on how close you get to the model you may need to be living at T22. If you dont have a generator and lots of lights this can mean shooting outside and figuring out where the sun will be to get what you want. Wider lenses will also help you in terms of scale, how much depth you can hold too. As I recall Ray Gilberti (an ILM miniatures DP) always leaned toward wider lenses. He did Galaxy Quest, Star Wars Ep 1 etc

For best compositing results, its important to grain match all of your plates to the grain/noise of your source camera. There are tutorials on regraining on youtube 

Light glints are also something to be aware of - hard reflections can blow the scale of a shot. dulling sprays and sometimes even makeup powder kits can be used to knock down a glint.

A lot of pyro and water stuff tends to be more art than science btw, usually tests would reveal what worked vs any formulas. something to keep in mind.

If you need to run lighting on your miniature, model rail road incandescent lights are often your best bet for feeling real, not just for their color temp but also for their natural subtle flicker. when you use LEDs, you usually need the expensive ones to prevent hard on/off flickering. 

If your miniature is suppose to be outside, sometimes it makes sense to just film it outside. Note that the sky is, for all intents and purposes, infinitely scalable. Theres a great shot of a miniature of the Saturn V rocket in First Man that they got by just rolling the model outside as the sun was going down and just shot it all in camera. Same thing was done with the Sand Crawler in Rise of Skywalker (come to think of it I think in star wars 77 the sandcrawler was also 100% in camera)

If I think of any other tips off the top of my head I'll revisit the thread. Im sure theres some genuine veterans around here that could also chime in. 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

Ignoring special situations involving fire and water, which don’t really miniaturize, you shoot models just as you would a real-sized object in terms of focal length, with the camera position scaled to match the miniature (which can be hard sometimes, which is why snorkel lenses are used for example). The big issue is depth of field. Think of a real-sized object like a ship or building shot from 50’ away or so — most of it would be in focus even at a wide aperture. Now try and replicate that with the focus set on a miniature only 1 foot away.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks. Should I look into the Laowa probe? I wonder if you can combine that with a teleconverter. One nice thing about the hybrid cameras like the S1 is you have so much resolution you can really crop in. Not sure if the probe covers FF but if it does that gives you the equivalent of 16mm I believe in S35.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the Laowa probe does work pretty good, I've seen it get fairly close to a 3ft star destroyer type model and everything held up just fine. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=235199918550257

But if you are matching a live action plate, you'll want to use the same (or as same as possible field of view) lens, lest things get weird and the shot fall apart in comp.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I am currently doing some tests in blender using footage from miniatures shot wider to combine with footage shot at a normal focal length and tracked.  I'm shooting minis with a 9mm zero d as plates to put behind a live action plate. This way I have a ton of bleed over for the action. This doesn't work if everything has to be higher resolution than HD or some 4k.

I'm choosing blender so I can just atmosphere if needed digitally to create the scale, like you would if you shoot an all miniature environment.

Also look into the BTS from "Slice of Life" on youtube for some great pointers, also "In Camera" is a good resource. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...