Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Black Pro-Mists


I am about to shoot a low-budget feature (Arri BL4, Zeiss primes, 1:1.85, mainly on 5279) and am thinking of using Tiffen's 'Black Pro Mist' filters... I know and love these filters on S-16, but have never used them on 35. I am thinking of using something like a 1/4 on the lenses up to 28mm and a 1/2 on those above (the longest being an 85mm.)

Since I do not have the 'luxury' (i.e. no budget) of tests on this one... just calling on anyone's experience of these on 35. I am assuming that I can afford to be slightly more heavy handed with the mists on 35 than on 16? Look wise I was thinking of Robert Richardson's fantastic photography on 'Bringing Out The Dead' ( which I seem to recall he shot on (Primo?) anamorphics with the Black Pro Mists?) I appreciate a lot will be down to personal tastes and lighting styles... which will probably err on the side of hard back light and exposing for bounce... mainly wondering about these filters given format differences... might shoot some tests on 35mm stills

Brendan McGinty

DOP, London

>I am about to shoot a low-budget feature (Arri BL4, Zeiss primes, 1:1.85, mainly on >5279) and am thinking of using Tiffen's 'Black Pro Mist' filters

I shot a feature couple of years ago with the 535, Zeiss primes, 1:1.85, on 5274 and 5279 and used black pro-mists for the whole thing - i was luckily able to do some tests and ended up using a 1/2 on wider lenses up to about the 32mm then 1/4 from then on up - to long end of the zoom at 250mm. The effect of the filter is more pronounced the longer the lens - so on the 35mm format you probably want go with slightly lighter pro-mists than 16mm Ð or video which seems to like a heavier filter yet again. But this is on day scenes and interiors - night exteriors on the streets i only used a 1/8 maximum, as anything heavier tender to bloom out too much on highlights like car headlights etc. Unless you want that heavy mist filter effect of course....!

Toby Oliver, DP

Sydney, Australia

I can't answer your question but I was wondering if you could answer one of mine? I am shooting something on S16 and I would like to use some B pro mists. Would you suggest lighter that 1/4 if I am going for a subtle effect? Is it better to use lighter grades on wider lenses? Do you have any other advice about the use of pro mists.

Seamus Tierney

>Is it better to use lighter grades on wider lens?

There are two (sort of) opposite schools of thought on this:

(1) Longer lenses will make a diffusion filter look heavier, so you switch to a lighter diffusion to match shots better.

(2) Wider shots need more definition and detail than close-ups so you use heavier diffusion on tighter shots and less diffusion of wider shots. And of course, often wide shots are on wider lenses than the close-ups.

As you can see, these two points are not really opposites, since in one case I'm talking about matching lenses & diffusion, while in the other, I'm talking about shot size and the creative use of diffusion to reduce definition in close-ups while keeping more detail in the wide shots (because your eye tends to expect to see more detail in a wide shot.) And it's typical in a scene that the wider shots will be made on shorter focal lengths than the closer shots.

And in many formats, it's in the wide shots that the definition problems are the most apparent (including a blow-up from S-16 to 35mm.)

I tend to follow the thinking in #2 more than in #1 -- to me, wide shots (and thus, the wider angle lenses used for a scene) need more detail than close-ups. You can "get away" with diffusion in tighter shots more than wide shots, especially when you're talking about a format with less resolution than 35mm (and depending on the size of enlargement, you should worry more about definition even when shooting in 35mm...)

But ignoring the shot size issue, if you were going to shoot a whole scene on longer lenses, you'd probably use LESS diffusion to MATCH another scene shot mainly on wider lenses. Understand?

But it gets even trickier because apparent depth-of-field and even lighting can affect our perception of sharpness. For example, in a closer shot made with a longer lens, with more of the background out-of-focus, what's IN focus will tend to "pop" out more and feel sharper, especially when combined with a hard backlight that draws a visual "line" around the subject. So a shot like this could withstand heavier diffusion because it SEEMS sharper.

But wait... if that lower depth-of-field was achieved by opening up the f/stop, then you also have to factor in the definition loss of shooting at wide apertures, which can make diffusion look heavier (which would seem to contradict what I just said about shallow focus making something in-focus look sharper.)

So you see, there are a LOT of factors to consider, which is why the use of diffusion is highly personal and specific to the needs of the shot Ð so telling you to use or not use a 1/8 Black ProMist is next to worthless advice. You have to decide what you like yourself at the time you shoot.

David Mullen

Cinematographer / L.A.

>I am thinking of using something like a 1/4 on the lenses up to 28mm and a 1/2 on >those above (the longest being an 85mm.

That seems kind of backwards; to be a little simplistic about it.

There are so many factors that I think you should use your eye to dial in the amount of diffusion. If you like 1/4 on short lenses, then leave that filter up when you change to something longer. Then take a look at the 1/2 if you think you need a bit more.

I find the jump from 1/4 to 1/2 is a bit big sometimes. You can sometimes bridge this with the 1/8 or a very light diffusion of another type.

David Perrault, csc

>I find the jump from 1/4 to 1/2 is a bit big sometimes. You can sometimes bridge this >with the 1/8 or a very light diffusion of another type.

Tiffen will custom make you a 3/8 grade, which is a nice strength to have. I shot a whole season of the PROFILER series with a 3/8 White PM.

Lowell Peterson ASC

Los Angeles DP

>,,,,,I am thinking of using something like a 1/4 on the lenses up to 28mm and a 1/2 >on those above (the longest being an 85mm.),,,,,

As a general rule (for me at least), the longer the lens the less diffusion you need. It is because of the built in inherant softness of the longer lens which makes the image softer than wider lenses in the first place.

Consider this, when you put up a 100mm for a close up, notice how soft the out-of-focus background is. This is one reason for going a little lighter on diffusion with longer lenses.

It is kind of like lighting ratios when setting up a scene, you can go more contrasty in your wide shot, but when you go into your med and close shots, you usually light less contrasty...make sense?

Ken Glassing


Los Angeles

Many of the nagging questions in this string had been bothering me as well until I decided to do a test about three years ago.

I decided to shoot a person's close-up on a 25mm, 50mm and 135mm lens, each with a 1/4, 1/2, full BPM and a clean lens. (35mm format film).

I decided, based on that test, that sticking with the same filter over that range of lenses was ultimately the closest match (which was surprising to me Ð I always had thought it was best to reduce the filter

strength for longer lenses). True, the 135 was inherently softer than the other lenses, but reducing the filter seemed to overcompensate that.

Having said that, I also believe that the quality of light effects the filter a great deal more than the focal length. I always reduce filter strength when shooting something into the sun or against very bright and large light sources, such as windows.

There's something else, and I would appreciate everyone else's experience on this: I was recently allerted by my AC that there seems to be inconsistencies in Tiffen's manufacturing of BPMs - and sure enough, on the set of filters from the rental house, the 1/2 BPM turned out to be "heavier" than the full BPM! What a surprise... apparently it has to do with the manufacturing batch of the filters. I am not sure how well known this is, but it's good to let the rental house know about it ahead of time. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Theo Angell, DP



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