Recently, we released a new video for Real Turf Solutions, a landscaping company that has us do all of their production work. In this video, titled Powering through Winter, there was a short shot with a very unique look. We have had some people ask how we achieved the effect which was captured 100% in-camera. We'd love to say that it was a well planed cinematography technique, but we'd be lying. In truth, it was, as many great shot are, created purely by chance. Now that we have discovered this effect though, we will be looking for new ways to use it in future productions. So what is this effect and how did we do it? We'll show you that in this article.
This is the clip from the video. The effect of interest can be seen in the bottom and left-hand areas of the frame. At first glance, it almost looks like a light leak, but that isn't the case here. First off, let's look at what we were filming with.
This shot was captured using our Canon C100 Mark II with a 135mm Cine prime lens at a 2.2 aperture. The lower your aperture is, the shallower your depth of field will be. This is important in the creation of this effect. We were filming at 60 frames per second so that we could use the footage as slow motion shots. We didn't use any stabilizers in this shot. It was filmed handheld. We pulled focus on the worker and continued pulling focus past him. This way, he would come into focus and go slightly out of focus in a smooth flow which would create a visual to match the feel that the music would have at the point in the track where we would be using this shot at. This is obviously a low-angle shot, and it was filmed from ground-level while laying down on a sidewalk.
Creating the Effect
This shot was filmed in the weeks before Christmas, so the homeowners had Christmas lights out already. This included a string of lights with clear bulbs mounted in the grass along the edges of the sidewalk. One of these bulbs was just a few inches in front of the lens on the left side of the frame. This was intentional, but what wasn't intentional were the tree limbs blowing in the slight breeze and the sunlight reflecting off of the bulb and hitting the lens. At an aperture of 2.2, the bulb is barely visible in the shot, but the light bouncing off of it can still be seen. The tree limbs waving lightly in the breeze are out of focus and not visible. One was being refracted through the glass though and therefore was slightly visible, but only its motion can really be seen. When all these things come together, they produce a really cool visual effect in-camera. Add a little color correction and grading, and it is good to go!
Here is an unedited still-frame captured with a higher aperture setting.
This is why keeping your aperture low is critical to achieving this effect. At a high aperture, the depth of field is not shallow enough to hide the bulb and other objects in the shot. You can easily recreate this effect yourself artificially. Post any questions you have in the comments. If you use this effect in a project, be sure to post it as well!
If you're looking for great visual effects for your projects, be sure to check out ProductionCrate! They have tons of ready-to-use cinematic visual and sound effects that you can put into your projects and really add to your production value. They have everything from light leaks to entire military tanks and more, all ready to be placed right into your shot!
If you are interested in seeing the entire video that this effect was featured in, check it out below! Remember to set the video quality to 1080p in the player settings for the best picture quality.