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Aperture used for shooting miniatures


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I am looking for some advice on how aperture is involved in miniature cinematography. I am planning on shooting two shots which appear from the same view point, a telescope, one which is live action and one which is a miniature. In order to make these both look the same scale I will be adjusting the camera set up by the scale of the model. I will be using 1:15 scale, so shooting the live action with a 300mm focal length and the miniature at 20mm. I've read that aperture should be adjusted the same way if wanting to make it seem that live action and miniature are the same size, so if shooting live action at f2, then i'd shoot the miniature at f30 (which poses problem with equipment). However, I still don't understand how this approach will replicate the same look. Surely, shooting live action at f2 will result in a shallow depth of field but shooting the miniature at f30, will have such a deep focus. If anyone can help me wrap my head around it then that would be great, thanks!

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On 3/28/2021 at 4:39 PM, Orla Langton said:

I am looking for some advice on how aperture is involved in miniature cinematography. I am planning on shooting two shots which appear from the same view point, a telescope, one which is live action and one which is a miniature. In order to make these both look the same scale I will be adjusting the camera set up by the scale of the model. I will be using 1:15 scale, so shooting the live action with a 300mm focal length and the miniature at 20mm. I've read that aperture should be adjusted the same way if wanting to make it seem that live action and miniature are the same size, so if shooting live action at f2, then i'd shoot the miniature at f30 (which poses problem with equipment). However, I still don't understand how this approach will replicate the same look. Surely, shooting live action at f2 will result in a shallow depth of field but shooting the miniature at f30, will have such a deep focus. If anyone can help me wrap my head around it then that would be great, thanks!

There are all kinds of problems with shooting at very deep stops. Most lenses don't go as far as f/30, so you won't be doing that, at least, and even if you just go as high as you can, you are likely to hit diffraction limits which will make things look oddly soft. Many lenses go down to f/22 but it can be a bad idea to do that, even.

The reason people might use a different stop between the miniature and the live action is that you are, in effect, using a camera with an extremely large sensor compared to the size of the miniature. If your miniature is 1:15 scale, you can consider that the camera sensor is effectively 15 times bigger than it really should be. Bigger sensors create lower depth of field, so you need to stop down.

As a practical matter, the single biggest issue with shooting miniatures is having things be out of focus that shouldn't be, particularly in the foreground. If you look at some of the miniature shots from Moon you'll notice it looks fantastic but with the small problem that some of the shots are soft in the foreground. It's very tough to avoid sometimes.

What you'll likely want to do is to stop down as much as you reasonably can for the miniatures; shoot tests to determine when the particular lens you're using starts to look mushy because of diffraction and then design the shot to avoid visible inappropriate softness, which may often require you to avoid foreground objects.

Normally your focal length would stay the same, though; I'm not sure where you got the idea that it would change. The wider you go, the less obvious depth of field issues become, though.

P

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On 3/30/2021 at 11:25 AM, Phil Rhodes said:

There are all kinds of problems with shooting at very deep stops. Most lenses don't go as far as f/30, so you won't be doing that, at least, and even if you just go as high as you can, you are likely to hit diffraction limits which will make things look oddly soft. Many lenses go down to f/22 but it can be a bad idea to do that, even.

The reason people might use a different stop between the miniature and the live action is that you are, in effect, using a camera with an extremely large sensor compared to the size of the miniature. If your miniature is 1:15 scale, you can consider that the camera sensor is effectively 15 times bigger than it really should be. Bigger sensors create lower depth of field, so you need to stop down.

As a practical matter, the single biggest issue with shooting miniatures is having things be out of focus that shouldn't be, particularly in the foreground. If you look at some of the miniature shots from Moon you'll notice it looks fantastic but with the small problem that some of the shots are soft in the foreground. It's very tough to avoid sometimes.

What you'll likely want to do is to stop down as much as you reasonably can for the miniatures; shoot tests to determine when the particular lens you're using starts to look mushy because of diffraction and then design the shot to avoid visible inappropriate softness, which may often require you to avoid foreground objects.

Normally your focal length would stay the same, though; I'm not sure where you got the idea that it would change. The wider you go, the less obvious depth of field issues become, though.

P

Thanks that has been a lot of help and been very interesting! The changing of focal length is an experiment I am doing to see if it can be a technique employed in miniature cinematography.

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On 3/30/2021 at 9:29 AM, Doug Palmer said:

Not sure what you mean 😕

Can you give more details about the shot ?  Is it meant to be a large telescope or normal size etc

The idea is that a character looks down a live action telescope and we see their pov as they move the telescope view point across a town. Some of what is seen through the telescope is live action and some is miniatures and i want to test how to successfully make both images look the same through adapting a camera set up to do this. Hence, looking at the relationship of aperture, focal length etc

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I think you're likely to discover that a significantly differing mixture of focal lengths looks very odd. I'd encourage you to try it and figure out whether you like what you're getting, but do that on some down time that doesn't matter very much.

P

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Just now, Orla Langton said:

The idea is that a character looks down a live action telescope and we see their pov as they move the telescope view point across a town. Some of what is seen through the telescope is live action and some is miniatures and i want to test how to successfully make both images look the same through adapting a camera set up to do this. Hence, looking at the relationship of aperture, focal length etc

I understand now thanks, I hadn't read your question properly.  I think also like Phil above that it would be maybe better to keep the focal lengths fairly alike, although a very long lens on the miniatures might look wierd. And maybe draw too much attention to them being miniatures. Increase depth of field perhaps by doing single-frame long exposures ?

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Another idea maybe, if I'm understanding you correctly 🤨. Is it possible to make the miniature set just with cut-outs... photos etc?  They might appear similar to the cut-out effect one sees through a telescope.

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