Shooting Goldfish In A Tank...Methods
Published : 2nd July 2007
I've got an interesting job where I have to shoot a goldfish swimming in a tank with an all black background. They are going to take the fish shots and create a composite animation for an art installation in Miami in November.
I've gotten some really great shots by placing a white showcard underneath the tank and simply lighting it from above with a Diiva400. The problem is that I can often see the reflection of the fish in the back glass. If the reflection touches the fish, the post guys are screwed. So we're looking for a bigger tank. Something like 48" x 48" so the fish can be as far away from the back glass as possible to minimize his reflection. So far we've found a 24" x 24" Gonnna do some tests in a few days. But I’m not sure if this will be big enough. I’m starting to worry that having to shoot through too much water may decrease sharpness and saturation.
Anyone worked with goldfish before and have any tips on dealing with this scenario?
John Tipton, DP LA
Can you possibly put the black material in the tank in front of the back glass, so you don't have reflections? Obviously, you might need some distance to cut the light off the black backing, and I'm not sure what would be the best material for this... black crushed velvet works best on land, but not sure about underwater.
Have you thought about putting sand blasted black Plexi on the back surface? Not as black as what you've probably been doing, but it would stop your reflections.
Just a thought.
Director of Photography
Interesting that you should mention black plexiglass. I just drove by a plastic specialty shop today down on Pico near Sepulveda, and was so interested in their kitsch window display that I pulled over and wrote down their info.
According to their website – www.solterplastics.com they sell all manner of custom and collared plexiglass. John, you could try them if you're looking for a resource for that sort of material.
I'm in no way affiliated with Solter Plastics, but just happened to notice their bright yellow store when I drove by this morning.
Pete Romano of Hydroflex would be an expert on something like this, by the way. I've seen him on this list sometimes...
In the past I've used Cadillac Plastics in the Valley. I don't remember if they will sandblast or not, but that shouldn't be to hard to find someone to do that.
Director of Photography
Graham Futerfas wrote:
class="style2">>>Can you possibly put the black material in the tank in front of the >>back glass, so you don't have reflections?
I'd use plexi-glass as others have suggested rather than fabric, since fish are extremely sensitive to chemicals/dyes, etc. and I'd be worried about what's in the cloth (some fabrics have formaldehyde on them depending on where they're manufactured). If you do use plexi, make sure it's clean before it goes in the tank but only use water to clean it. Cleansers of any kind or even the anti-bacterial coating on sponges will kill the poor guy pretty quick.
I also had the thought that you could light the back of the tank brighter than the fish to eliminate the reflection. Someone please speak up if you think I'm wrong here but it makes sense in my head- usually when you are trying for a reflection you light the person or object you want to reflect brighter than the surface it will reflect onto (assuming it's not already reflective, like a mirror), so theoretically the opposite could be true.
Plexi seems the simplest solution, but the idea popped into my head so I thought I'd toss it out there.
class="style2">>>I've gotten some really great shots by placing a white showcard >>underneath the tank and simply lighting it from above with a >>Diiva400. The problem is that I can often see the reflection of the >>fish in the back glass.
One idea for the aquarium could be (if you are going to build it yourself or have it made upon your design is to have the rear (the far) black wall not vertical but inclined at 30 degrees.(towards the cam and shaded from the upcoming reflected light).
Of course the aquarium would have to be a lot deeper (longer) but
there will be no reflections.
You could then insert 1 more glass to limit the fish's swimming range towards the cam (how do you plan to focus otherwise).
I don't now about what kind of water fish need to be in, but maybe someone can join in here with his knowledge but I’d suggest to use filtered water (like these "brita" filters that are so common now).
Hope that was a help to you and that was Phil Soheili
People, corporate portrait & fashion
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Just a simple question, can't you just shoot a normal glass jar, placed far enough from a bluescreen, so no worries about reflections, and if they're going to composite anyway, they can easily key the fish and put him on any colour?
Probably I am missing something, as the answer can't be so obvious,
1st AD / director
class="style2">>>I'd use plexi-glass as others have suggested rather than fabric, >>since fish are extremely sensitive to chemicals/dyes, etc. and I'd be >>worried about what's in the cloth (some fabrics have formaldehyde >>on them depending on where they're manufactured).
The problem with black plexi is that it will still have a glossy surface, and will reflect almost as well as clear glass, especially for a light-coloured fish.
What you need is something with a matte black finish. Front-lighting the fish will help, as the light will be on the opposite side from the reflection.
If your camera lens axis is perpendicular to the front glass, the reflection of the fish in the far glass wall will always be directly behind the fish, if the tank walls are parallel.
The farther off-angle you can shoot, the farther off-axis the fish's reflection will be.
A triangular fish tank would be ideal for hiding that reflection!
A round tank won't solve this problem, as the reflection will still be behind the fish.
I once shot a goldfish in a small round bowl, never even thought about
reflections. Off course the fish couldn't do Olympic laps...
class="style2">>>Just a simple question, can't you just shoot a normal glass jar, >>placed far enough from a bluescreen, so no worries about >>reflections, and if they're going to composite anyway, they can >>easily key the fish and put him on any colour? Probably I am >>missing something, as the answer can't be so obvious,
I don't think you're missing anything. I've shot a standard glass aquarium against a small piece of green or blue screen (depending on the colour of the fish) several times for exactly the sort of project described here.
I extracted the mattes live with hardware, including some lovely translucent jellyfish. The screen and fish were separated by about five feet, lit with separate instruments. No problems.
To eliminate reflections, why not just use the time-honored technique of making a cone of black cloth that blocks all light from between the lens and the front surface of the tank. For the back surface of the tank you can use black matte- or ripple-finish acrylic sheet (Plexiglas in the US, Perspex in the UK), and position your lighting to minimize reflections. Maximize your DOF by whatever means are available, and/or use a very shallow (front to back) tank.
Marin County, CA
This is not a specifically cinematographic suggestion. Yes, it's useful to start with clean, clear water, but ... The note I've made to myself (and the talent/art department) about shooting fish is try to get them into the water in which they will be shot long before they will be on camera.
In my experience, the first thing fish do when put into unfamiliar environments (new water) is to shed some sort of scale/skin/stuff which floats distractingly in the water. Of course, there is always some reason why this request cannot be accommodated and the poor animals are dumped into the water immediately before they are to be shot. So, have a heavy duty tank filter on set to get rid of that stuff. Leave enough time for the filter to do its work and the fish to settle down.
Here is my $0.02 worth also not from cinematography point of view but from that of a fish keeper, well when I was a teenager anyway. I haven't read many of the posts on this topic so please excuse any duplication or if I'm too off topic.
Firstly are the fish in a "bowl" or a "tank"?
A fish bowl is round in shape and of course of ALL glass (or plastic)
Construction. A fish tank has flat (probably glass) sides. Probably rectangular in shape but could be a hexagon, octagon etc
Almost all fish will suffer shock (sometimes death) when being transferred from an existing aquarium setup to a tank or bowl of "fresh" tap water. If you really want happy and healthy looking fish for your shot you MUST use the water they are currently living in!
In a well established aquarium there will be a variety of small amounts of both "mineral salts" and living micro-organisms in the water. Both of these are crucial to a balanced aquatic ecology in which happy and healthy fish live. Such water can be effectively optically clear and any turbidity would be caused by other material in suspension in the water
So get your fish from a well established and stable existing aquarium
and bring the water with them. If the water is not clear enough for your liking then it is worth going to town with mechanical filtering on the tank from which the fish and water will come. Start this a day or two before use.
Most established, well maintained aquariums which have an existing well balanced aquatic ecological system are usually "crystal" clear.
Sorry to bore those not interested
All the best
Tropical fish enthusiast at a youngster
class="style2">>>The note I've made to myself (and the talent/art department) about >>shooting fish is try to get them into the water in which they will be >>shot long before they will be on camera.
Having the same temperature is also very important - the water in the tank should be the same as whatever water they've been supplied in. A difference of only one or two degrees can severely affect their survival rate, depending on what fish type we're talking about.
Wouldn't a polarizing filter take care of the reflections?
Silicon Imaging Product Development
I’ve been so busy I haven't had a chance to check this list to see all the interesting comments regarding my fish shoot.
We did the shoot about a week ago. Here's what I learned.
1/. The fish must be in the tank they will be shooting in for a while. They need to get comfortable in the water.
2/. There is no filter than can get all the particles out of the water. I lit them from above and was able to stop down sufficiently to lose the particles. I was surprised how well it worked.
3/. I ended up putting some duvateen in the back of the tank, inside. The fish were not harmed, thankfully. It worked perfectly. I was able to wrap the fabric around the two back corners as well which gave me some extra pan room. The tank was only 24" x 24", so there was not a whole lot I could do movement wise.
It was really critical to reduce the fish reflection as much as possible, because if it ever touched the fish, the compositing would be much more difficult.
4/ Someone mentioned using green screen. We chose not to because the tails of the fish are transparent, and we were worried about keying
issues. Black was to be the final background colour, so we went with it.
5/. The fish really didn't like the duvateen. And as a result they stayed toward the front of the tank, closer to the lens, which ended up helping. I experimented putting more duv on one side of the tank to force the fish to stay on one zone. It worked well.
Client happy, job done!
Best to everyone and forgive me for not checking in as the thread