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Pinhole Cinematography - Discussion

Published : 7th October 2003


I'm wondering if anyone has experience using this kind of technique, whether on a Bolex or 435.

Clairmont camera actually made a pinhole lens, which is simply a PL cover with an adjustable (?) tiny hole in the middle. Anyone used it?

For those unfamiliar, go to

http://www.clairmont.com/cci/2001/main/main.html

…and click on "Clairmont Specialty Items"

It says that the aperture ranges from f/48 - f/148. It looks like it could work with 500ASA on the widest opening on a sunny day, and under cranked or pushed otherwise.

I'm wondering if I can just do it by punching pin-sized hole on some black wrap, and covering the camera port with that. But how would one measure the size???

I'm also wondering if the results can be readily seen if this was tried on a video camera.

I'd appreciate any help / suggestions, thanks in advance.

Duraid Munajim
Cinematographer
Toronto
http://www.48media.com/directors_munajim.htm



If you just 'punch' a hole in a piece of metal, the microscopic jagged edges will make your image less-sharp. You can buy a selection of different size holes laser cut in copper or similar metal (cost approx $29~$39US).

Check "Google" for pinhole photography.

Then you can tape that to a lens or body cap. You can roughly calculate the f-stop by the distance the cap is from the film plane vs the diameter of the hole. More than likely your T-stop is gonna be closer to T180 or T256. Everything is in focus from an inch in front of the lens to infinity. But since the image is not optical it tends to 'fall apart' pretty rapidly as you enlarge it. But it's worth a test. I've not tried it on motion picture cameras, only on 35mm still cameras. It's can be pretty ethereal.

Al Satterwhite
DP/LA



Al said :

>You can buy a selection of different size holes laser cut in copper or >similar metal (cost approx $29~$39US).

Is the positioning (centre to the gate) of the hole not so important – such that you can get away with just 'taping a piece-o-holy-metal onto a port cap?

>But since the image is not optical it tends to 'fall apart' pretty rapidly as >you enlarge it.

As in there is insufficient detail?

Sounds fun.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
www.cinema-vista.com



David Vottero wrote :

>I've also found that on e-bay people often sell just the accurately drilled >"pinholes" much cheaper than you can purchase in stores.

Or you could get a piece of Blackwrap, tape it over a hole drilled in a body cap, and, gasp, take an actual pin to it and punch a hole.

Jeff Kreines



Most pinhole photographs that you see are done with fairly large formats...so their pin holes can be relatively large. Motion picture ones would have to be extra small...because of the small format...so one would need a lot of light. Also, because they are so small you start losing resolution because of diffraction. You can make your own fairly sharp edged pin holes using the tiniest drills available at hobby shops...drilling holes in thin copper... which you can also buy at hobby shops.

You can further thin the copper by hammering it.

You can easily test your pinhole by drilling out a body cap for a still camera (digital or film) and attaching your pin hole plate. You will see that the results are pretty soft...and will probably be even softer in motion picture formats. You can play around making multiple holes for multi images.

Mako Koiwai



PL cap with a pinhole. Pretty clever. I've been down this road when I attempted to make some homemade pinhole still-cameras. I've never tried motion-picture pinhole photography; sounds like fun.

Calumet ( www.calumetphoto.com ) sells SLR body-caps made by a company called Finney with a pinhole cantered in them. They're pretty cool. It is simply a body-cap specific for your SLR with a pinhole in the centre. The pinhole size is typically the equivalent of a 50mm focal length with approx. f/stop of f/180.

Calumet also sells a "Pinhole Kit" that includes 12 1 1/2" square sheets ranging from aperture sizes of .0039" to .0276".

I've also found that on e-bay people often sell just the accurately drilled "pinholes" much cheaper than you can purchase in stores. You can also get a kit of miniature drill-bits for about the same price of Calumet's "pin-hole kit," and DIY with some brass or copper sheet metal.

I have no affiliation with the following website, but I found :

http://www.mrpinhole.com/calcpinh.html

To be useful in making exposure calculations.

I made my own SLR pinhole "lens" by taking a body cap, drilling a hole in the centre of it (the centre was easy to find because of a little "Taiwan" logo) and glued a pre-made pinhole to it. Works like a charm.

Home-made pinhole versions (Hammer + awe + brass sheet) didn't turn out to be very exact, or in focus <g>. I don't see why this wouldn't work the same for a 435 or a Bolex.

I'd love to hear how you make out.

David Vottero

Boston



O.k., so I still don't get whether the position of the pinhole is crucial.

The other thing is the distance from the film plane. How crucial is that? Should the piece of copper/blackwrap/portcap be flush with the back-o-the flange, or out in front or…?

I wanna play!!!

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.



Shouldn't matter too much. Off cantering it slightly will simply skew your lens axis a little, but if you are reflex viewing (ha!) that won't matter!

The distance from the film plane only determines the focal length--put anywhere you want. You could zoom it, actually, but the exposure changes could be pretty severe.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>Should the piece of copper/blackwrap/portcap be flush with the back-o->the flange, or out in front or…?

The great thing is, this doesn't matter. You'll always get an image.

The distance between the pinhole and the film plane is very simply, the "focal length" of the pinhole. The ratio of that distance and the diameter of the hole is the f-stop. There's no such thing as "depth of field" (it's virtually infinite), but the diameter of the pinhole is, in effect, the circle of confusion.

A dead-centre pinhole is best and will give the same coverage over the frame as an equivalent focal length lens. An off-centre pinhole will give an offset image. If the pinhole is close to the film (wide-angle), you may start to see fish-eye distortion at one edge of the image.

Dominic Case
Group Technology Manager
Atlab Australia



>...the diameter of the pinhole is, in effect, the circle of confusion.

Dominic,

Thanks for that fascinating CoC titbit - I never thought of it that way - no wonder its so soft & streaky. And to improve you'd need one slooow aperture pinhole at 800 ISO / 2 fps to get an image.

Also sounds like something less practical in smaller S16mm or 2/3" CCD. And I'm owning the patent on 35mm anamorphic squeezed pinholes...I'm thinkin' a vertical tungsten thread around which light can distort.

Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP



Mark Doering-Powell wrote :

>And I'm owning the patent on 35mm anamorphic squeezed pinholes...

Hold on, this is not new, it has been done, see :

http://www.spme.monash.edu.au/~smort/scopePH1.tif
http://www.spme.monash.edu.au/~smort/scopePH2.tif
http://www.spme.monash.edu.au/~smort/scopePHa.jpg

Cya
Steve Morton

Scientific Imaging
Monash University
Melbourne
Australia



There is an extraordinarily good book on the subject available from Focal Press : PINHOLE PHOTOGRAPHY by ERIC RENNER, Second edition, published in 1999. ISBN: 0-240-803507.

It is worth getting, if only for the story about how they used a pinhole to measure and convince Pope Gregory XIII that the calendars was ten days out of sync with the sun and the seasons...one of the most interesting bits of useless knowledge I have acquired for a long time.

Unfortunately it is still too new and still in copyright to use in my current series of articles for the ACM.

Which reminds me, did anyone in Australia happen to photograph a crescent shaped image if the sun beneath a tree during the recent eclipse? If so, could I please have a copy of it to use in another piece I am writing for the ACM on the history of projection.

Sincerely

David Samuelson



Dominic Case wrote :

>If the pinhole is close to the film (wide-angle), you may start to see fish->eye distortion at one edge of the image.

Not so, me thinks, an "ultra-wide pinhole" (very short focal length pinhole) exhibits distortion that is quite similar to the edge distortion produced by ultra-wide angle rectilinear lenses. With a flat film plane objects toward the edge of the field are greatly stretched. Still/s ultra-wide pinhole photographers have attempted to correct this distortion using curved film planes. The best solution to correct this distortion is to wrap film on the inside of a large diameter tube with the pinhole positioned in the wall of the tube. The film covers almost the entire inner circumference of the tube but you must add the secret ingredient to get the maximum angle of view recorded on the film. The tube/camera should be filled with water, obviously placing a glass filter over the pinhole. Because water has a higher refractive index than air it effectively increases the recorded angle of view of the camera.

Sorry to divert the thread away from cinematography

Cya

Steve Morton

Scientific Imaging
Monash University
Melbourne
Australia


David Samuelson wrote :

>Which reminds me, did anyone in Australia happen to photograph a >crescent shaped image if the sun beneath a tree during the recent >eclipse?

I remember, long ago, being inside a classroom in Chicago, the lights were off to show some slides. The Venetian blinds didn't close perfectly, and the entire room was turned into a camera obscura -- we could see the inverted image of traffic going by.

Although it was a photography class, no one else found it very interesting....

Jeff "obscure, obscura" Kreines



>The Venetian blinds didn't close perfectly, and the entire room was >turned into a camera obscura -- we could see the inverted image of >traffic going by.

I have memories of waking up to this sort of thing when I was a kid, from a crack around the window somewhere in the room-always found it fascinating. But it only happened when the conditions were right!

>Although it was a photography class, no one else found it very >interesting...

Hmmm...

I once brought a music video (shot and edited in town by a professional DP) to film school so other students would get a chance to see some possibilities after graduation, etc. I thought the students would be all over it since a professional DP shot it, etc.

Not many cared(and one would think by logic that perhaps this wouldn't be a very competitive field...)

There seems to be a whole new attitude of "who cares" ...

We're doomed LOL

John Babl



>...The best solution to correct this distortion is to wrap film on the inside >of a large diameter tube with the pinhole positioned in the wall of the >tube.

I believe the best solution would be to use a spherical chamber, rather than a tube, since the corners of the image as they extend up and down the interior of the cylinder are going to produce pincushion distortion. The secret ingredient then is special film that has the emulsion coated on the inside of a balloon so it can be inflated to conform to the interior of the sphere....

Okay, Steve, give us the URL of that invention!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



I took many classes under Wiley Sanders and (U.of GA), the (self proclaimed) world's leading authority on pinhole photography. His 360 degree camera was film wrapped around a juice can inside a paint can that you stood on top of when exposing the film by lifting a cardboard collar. His spy camera was an aluminium 35 still film container. The shutter was a piece of tape over the hole-the film was one piece held against the inside opposite the hole.

I can't remember all the science except that the best f stop for sharpest focus was about f 300 and that would depend, of course, what your focal length was (distance from pinhole to film). As Mako Koiwia stated, the smaller the hole the more light scattering you'd have.

A "normal" view would be when the diagonal of the film plane equalled the focal length. One camera, a very long tube with a dime sized hole took fairly sharp telephoto pictures. We used photo paper as our negative material which allowed for long exposure times. The tube camera required very long exposures.

I still have my 4x5 and 8x10 balsa wood cameras.

Edwin Myers, Atlanta dp



Wade Ramsey wrote :

>I believe the best solution would be to use a spherical >chamber[......]give us the URL of that invention!

http://www.stlukeseye.com/Anatomy.asp

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



Wade Ramsey wrote :

>I believe the best solution would be to use a spherical chamber [......] >give us the URL of that invention!

Tom Townend wrote :

> http://www.stlukeseye.com/Anatomy.asp

Thanks Tom, you beat me to it

Steve Morton
Scientific Imaging
Monash University
Melbourne
Australia



Tom Townend wrote :

> http://www.stlukeseye.com/Anatomy.asp

>Thanks Tom, you beat me to it


Uhh...where's the pinhole?

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Another site which deals with pinhole photography and sells a small book (which includes several square sheets with different aperture ranges) on how to make one's own pinhole camera is :

http://www.pinholeformat.com

They also have a gallery and accept work for exhibition.

Robert Schaefer
Photographer/New York City
http://www.schaeferphoto.com



Hi Duraid,

One of the greatest pinhole photographers in the late seventies early eighties happened to be a Canadian, Ian Patterson. He used to walk around in public places and leave everywhere some shoe boxes to be collected some time later. Great work. He has a very interesting technique. Instead of shooting on neg, he shot on single fibre based paper. Then through contact print he obtained a positive.

Try to see some of his work, worth it. But I think having tried some myself, as directly influenced by Patterson, as he was my teacher at Parson some time ago, you will have some difficulty with applying it in cinematography. You going to struggle with contrast, sharpness vs speed, it is a slow learning process. Much slower I think than time-lapse. You might want to look at filming a projected image through the Camera Obscura as already mentioned earlier on. After all that is a technique that painters used some centuries ago.

Regards

Emmanuel Suys
Beirut



>I believe the best solution would be to use a spherical >chamber[......]give us the URL of that invention!

How about this? This guy painted emulsion on the inside of eggshells and exposed them in a pepper shaker from what I can understand.

http://www.pinholeresource.com/gallery/fletcher_carton.html

Bruce Douglas
DOP / Sao Paulo - Brazil



I'd like to thank everyone for the advice, links and valuable pieces of information passed on.

I will be shooting preliminary tests this weekend and will report the results back to this list, unless they're horrifyingly embarrassing.

Kind wishes,

Duraid Munajim
Cinematographer



I shot a spot about four years ago using a pinhole lense

http://www.subliminalpictures.net/video.html?id=8&size=large

It's a lot of fun. I was unable to get an image on the video tap, and the eyepiece was so dim that I needed a night vision eyepiece (on a 35III).

My calculated stop was f 150.

Best,

Anders Uhl
cinematographer
ICG, New York



Anders Uhl wrote :

>I shot a spot about four years ago using a pinhole lense…my calculated >stop was f -150.

....was that the Buell spot? It's pretty interesting. What was your frame rate? You brought it back in post? I assume that you pushed the film.

All best,

Al Satterwhite
DP/LA



That is very interesting looking footage, from what I'm able to make out on my monitor, what stock, shutter angle and frame rate did you use?

Thanks

Rafael Jenes
Miami



The Buell spot was mostly 12 FPS, 180 shutter Ilford HP5+ pushed three stops. I initially tested Kodak TMAX in a 535, but the results were not quite as good as the Ilford, which holds up very well at just about any rating. A freak week long rainstorm drove my exposure down and muddied things up a little (too many greys), but you can get some fairly sharp images if you have sharp contrast and strong highlights.

Best,

Anders Uhl
cinematographer
ICG, New York