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Today I was making a net filter for my little Sony NEX 6 camera. Bill Wages, ASC had introduced me to this fine black veil material you can get at wholesale fabric stores -- it's the lightest grade of net diffusion I've ever found, at least for front-mounted nets (I haven't tested rear-mounting yet.) What's also nice, besides it being a cheap and easily found material, is that it is fairly strong, you won't get a run trying to stretch it on a frame (and it's not very stretchable anyway.) I've used this material on 4x5 filter frames on a number of projects, for close-ups mainly. The only downside is that the weave is a simple criss-cross pattern that produces an X-shape flare around points of light; I would have preferred more of a honeycomb structure like Dior nets have.

 

Here's the material:

net6.jpg

 

I glued it onto a cardboard ring made by cutting the backing chipboard on a notepad:

net7.jpg

 

Here's a shot of a truck in the street shot clean and then with the net. The strong glint on the truck makes the effect a little more obvious:

net8.jpg

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Looks like tulle or bridal veil? Definitely much tougher than pantyhose. I like the look, but I miss the softer rainbow flare of nylon. What are you going to use it for?

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Yes, a type of bridal veil material. I just thought I should make a diffusion filter for my Sony still camera in case I needed one (too hard to put my 4x5 filters in front of that little camera...)

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I bought some pantyhose at Roses, which came in two flavors (Tan and White). It was extremely cheap but had a much finer mesh pattern and was very delicate, however with patients one could pull it apart for a less dense net.

 

netting2.jpg

 

David this cardboard method looks like it would work better on a front lens method. I found the material a bit too diffuse and something such as the material you found above would have been excellent. I'll have to look for this.

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I've had some that's a hexagon weave, but I don't know how widely available it is. You can also get it in grey or white which may be useful occasionally.

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"Excalibur" was all shot through nets and was nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography -- it's quite lovely to look at!

 

Other great works of cinematography shot through nets include "Intonement" and "Anna Karenina", shot by Seamus Garvey, "The Conformist" (Storaro), "Great Gatsby" and "Julia" (Slocombe), "Snow Falling on Cedars" (Richardson), "Day of the Locust" (Hall), and much of Kaminski's work for Spielberg.

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"Excalibur" was all shot through nets and was nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography -- it's quite lovely to look at!

 

Other great works of cinematography shot through nets include "Intonement" and "Anna Karenina", shot by Seamus Garvey, "The Conformist" (Storaro), "Great Gatsby" and "Julia" (Slocombe), "Snow Falling on Cedars" (Richardson), "Day of the Locust" (Hall), and much of Kaminski's work for Spielberg.

 

 

Great films!

 

David - in terms of focal length, have you found optimal results in a particular range with front mounted nets?

 

I found some of the material you suggested and the results were very pleasing.

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On this movie, the nets were mostly for the medium and close shots shot on 35mm, 50mm, 65mm -- I never tried using a net in front of an 18mm, for example. Because I was worried about seeing the pattern of the net on a wide-angle lens, I usually just used a Classic Soft filter then, and if I was worried about seeing the pattern of the Classic Soft, I'd use a Tiffen Soft-FX filter.

 

The nets worked fine for most of those medium and close shots. I only had some issues when I tried using nets on the front of the 24-290mm zoom outdoors because there is such a large glass element in front that you have a lot of ambient light hitting the front-mounted net, lowering the contrast. I also found that when I used nets on the 200mm macro doing extreme close-ups of eyes, that the net pattern in the glint in the eye was quite enlarged. I started using the Soft-FX filter instead for those macro shots.

 

For example, I did this 200mm macro shot with a Dior net:

lovewitch21.jpg

 

But later I did this one with a Soft-FX #2 (maybe it was a #1) because I felt that the net flare pattern before was covering her eyes too much:

lovewitch22.jpg

 

(I suppose it could be argued that the first version with the net pattern in her eye glint is more "witchy"...)

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Kaminski's work for Spielberg.

I'm not a fan of nets at all, but Kaminski's use is particularly objectionable, all too often visible in frame.

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I recall reading a from the 30s or 40s that said some cinematographers, when shooting close ups, would burn two holes in a net with a cigarette uncovering the eyes so they would stay sharp while while the rest of the face stay soft.

 

Also they would layer nets with concentric circles/ holes cut out, to make the sharpness gradually fall off.

 

I suppose one would go through a lot of nets.

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I haven't used nets much except for the occasional romantic close-up in the past simply because they are so tricky -- one problem being that they don't come in strengths so you can gradually reduce or increase the effect in even amounts. But I love the look of "Snow Falling on Cedars" - I think the combination of a light rear net with the silver retention printing and the anamorphic format worked great together. I hope to find a project someday where I can experiment more with them, find a way to get the effect to be as mild as, let's say, a 1/8 Hollywood Black Magic. But I think Kaminski has been very brave with them, though I'm sure they've also caused him some headaches, enough that he's used Classic Softs more often than nets in his later movies.

 

My favorite moments are when the flare from the net is momentary during a dolly move so that the strongest effect only happens for a few frames, similar to a big anamorphic lens flare coming in at the right moment. For example, the opening scene in "A.I." which has a big L-shaped dolly move through a classroom and at some point, the backlight bounces off of the table and flares the net:

 

ai4.jpg

 

ai5.jpg

 

But it really is in close-ups where a net looks the best, there is something about the way it smooths skin that feels different than a glass diffusion. On "Smash" I mostly used the Hollywood Black Magic filters but now and then I used a net when I wanted the close-up to be a touch more romantic. I also used nets more freely on the fantasy musical numbers.

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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. But when the majority of the frame is front-lit, as in a day exterior scene when you have to turn around and shoot against a bright street, the effect starts to look like a 70's fog-filter-fest real quick. I believe Phedon Papamichael used them on 'Sideways' and while the close-ups of the women looked great, some of the day exteriors got totally washed out. Personally, it was a little too extreme for me.

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David, when you talk of "nets" are you only refering to the improvised ones, or are you sometimes including the ready mades (between glass) by Tiffen etc. For example in this list.....Excalibur, Intonement, Anna Karenina, The Conformist (Storaro), Great Gatsby and Julia (Slocombe), Snow Falling on Cedars (Richardson), Day of the Locust (Hall), and much of Kaminski's work for Spielberg.....

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Not many people used those Tiffen nets sandwiched into glass. Also, most of those movies I listed used the net attached to the rear element, not on a filter frame in front. "Bugsy" is another example of that.

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Not many people used those Tiffen nets sandwiched into glass. Also, most of those movies I listed used the net attached to the rear element, not on a filter frame in front. "Bugsy" is another example of that.

 

 

Does rear-mounting provide better results? I've been testing this mostly with Canon EF lenses that i own versus PL mounts, and I haven't seen any DIY instructions for Canon. I'm not sure how to get the snot tape on the EF without touching the glass or the electrical contacts.

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I haven't tested rear-mounting yet myself because that technique seems better for a show where the net stays on most of the time rather comes on for close-ups. But judging from movies that do it, it seems a little more subtle but mainly it's a little more consistent across focal lengths in heaviness because the rear elements of these lenses tend to be similar in size, compared to the front element.

 

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.

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Rear-mounting nets gives a more consistent effect between focal lengths because you're basically filtering the image after it's been created by the lens. If you're working with a zoom for example, the effect will be consistent from wide to telephoto. But you will begin to see the net pattern in the bokeh on telephoto side.

 

If you use a front net, the net pattern at the wide end of the lens could start to come into focus due to depth of field and also diffuse less because the gaps in the weave are proportionally larger to the objects in the frame, so more of the in-focus image shows through. At the telephoto end, the diffusion effect will grow increasingly heavy unless you stretch the net tighter for larger gaps in the weave.

 

So rear-netting gives more consistency with a range of focal lengths, but it's time consuming to remove and reapply them, or to vary the stretch factor. You usually just leave them on and check every so often to see if it's getting loose or starting to run. Front-netting works better if you want to use them only for specific shots or retain the ability to quickly remove the filter.

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We had a set of primes on a show I worked on last year with Julio Macat. I cant remember what they were, but they all had fogal blacks adhered to the rear element. We would occasionally compliment them with 1/8 to 1/2 classic softs on some of the closer shots. The amount of diffusion stayed consistent between sizes, but on the longer lenses the chromatic diffraction was more apparent, and ultimately less appealing.

 

Just my opinion, but I don't think nets look that great on close ups, and it doesnt seem like Kaminski really uses them except on medium and wider shots.

 

post-53750-0-87986900-1468700919_thumb.jpg

 

They are very fickle in my opinion, because there so many variables, i.e. the density and color. An ultra-sheer black will render a totally different effect than a white or charcoal tulle material, but it is of course always fun to experiment.

 

 

 

 

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Rear-mounting nets gives a more consistent effect between focal lengths because you're basically filtering the image after it's been created by the lens. If you're working with a zoom for example, the effect will be consistent from wide to telephoto. But you will begin to see the net pattern in the bokeh on telephoto side.

 

Thanks. I found on my zoom that until about 35mm I was seeing the net, but after that the effect was very nice out to 100mm. I didn't see the effect on the bokeh on my 7" monitor, but I'll keep an eye out for that now. I'm not worried about consistency over the range, since I'm testing this for an interview setting where I'll keep the lens set. I''ll be comparing the net to various filter options.

 

 

They are very fickle in my opinion, because there so many variables, i.e. the density and color. An ultra-sheer black will render a totally different effect than a white or charcoal tulle material, but it is of course always fun to experiment.

 

Agreed, I haven't played with nets much, but David's post lit the flame. It's unpredictable for sure, but it really is fun to play with.

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@ Satsuki...."If you use a front net, the net pattern at the wide end of the lens could start to come into focus due to depth of field and also diffuse less because the gaps in the weave are proportionally larger to the objects in the frame, so more of the in-focus image shows through. At the telephoto end, the diffusion effect will grow increasingly heavy unless you stretch the net tighter for larger gaps in the weave..."

 

I'm interested in, and I listen to, observations from those with practical experience with nets. But on the level of theory, is that right, or back to front? If one used the same front net for wide vs telephoto.... at wide angle, the "holes" in the mesh are small relative to the frame, the mesh yarns also. At telephoto the holes in the mesh and yarns are big relative to the frame.

 

The Tiffen (glass ) black soft net has #1 mesh honeycomb shaped "holes" about 3mm size, the # has about 1mm size. Has anyone here used these different grades to control the relative effect on wide vs telephoto? Any theories about it?

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Sorry, my typo...it should read ...

"The Tiffen (glass ) black soft net has #1 mesh honeycomb shaped "holes" about 3mm size, the # 4 has about 1mm size.".....

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