Cinegear Expo – Why You Should Go

First of all, this is not a paid ad. I’m getting nothing out of doing this post other than making people aware that they may be missing a big opportunity to take advantage of an event where they can learn a lot about the state of current and upcoming technology that is created specifically for the entertainment industry.

Cinegear is an annual expo that takes place in Los Angeles during the summer. This year it’s being held back at its usual spot on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood on June 1 – 4. (There was one in New York in March and there will be a slimmed down version in Atlanta in October). And, it’s free. Admission is now waived, you’ll just have to pay for parking in an adjacent structure.

Known mainly as a product expo for manufacturers and purveyors of cameras, lighting instruments and production equipment, the event is a perfect place for designers and art directors to find out about inventions and equipment that will affect their jobs now and in the future.

People who aren’t camera-savvy tend to be intimidated by the immense amount of hardware on display and assume that they have nothing to gain by spending a day looking at cameras and grip equipment.

Yes, it’s geared toward professional camera crews, but they don’t make you take a test at the gate. The vendors are more than happy to answer any and all questions about their merchandise, even ones that you think might be simplistic. There are also hands-on exhibits and master classes available to anyone.

Where else can you go and see (and play with) every available cinema camera that’s on the market? My daughter loves checking out those $60,000 cameras that she can’t yet afford to rent.

At the Panavision booth they’ll even put any vintage anamorphic lens you want on one of their cameras so you can see them in action.

And it’s not just cameras that are on display. Vendors of new LED lighting instruments, LED wall systems, backings, pre-visualization systems, etc., are eager to show anyone involved in the business what the possibilities are. LED lighting instruments keep getting better, brighter, and smarter. The new Arri LED panels, for instance, are set up to mimic any color temperature or lighting effect.

You can see a map of the vendor sites on their webpage, and you can create your own map to track booths you want to visit ahead of time if a fear of being overwhelmed by the size of the venue (nearly 200 vendors) is a concern. Vendor booths fill 5 sound stages and the entire backlot area.

Master classes are usually held on the last day and attendance quotas fill up quickly, so be sure and make a reservation in advance.

If you do go, save time by registering beforehand and skip the long line at the gate:

Registration page is here.

This years’s show should be well-attended. It’s been 4 years since the last show at Paramount. Last year there was a much scaled-down version at the Los Angeles Convention Center which was disappointing to say the least.

The $150 Forced Perspective Miniature – Part 2

A diagram showing the set shot at the widest angle with a 25mm lens.

( This is the second part of a previous blog entry -Read Part 1 here. )

When the work print arrived from the lab, I couldn’t get it up on the flatbed editing machine fast enough. These were the days when you didn’t know for at least 24 hours whether or not you had captured anything on the film stock, much less something that looked any good.

A miscalculation in an exposure setting wasn’t something you could see beforehand on a monitor. If you had flubbed up, it could mean jettisoning the whole scene altogether. Sometimes reshoots, like this one, were just impossible. It wasn’t for nothing that I was nervous. The first scene of the film would end up having to be reshot twice. Once because of a mislabeled neutral density filter and another because of a sloppy meter reading.

This was when you kept Pepto Bismol handy for the times when you finally saw your footage and realized you had just spend a lot of time and money on film and processing for nothing.

The print ran through the viewer and the scene appeared on the screen. It was just a single-light print but I was relieved. We got a good shot. The next scene looked good too, exposure wise. Still, there was something that bugged me.

Never Work With Children Or Animals, Or . . . .

Miniatures of static or physical objects is one thing, but shooting miniatures with natural elements is another thing altogether. Replicating rain, bodies of water, smoke, and fire are tricky.

It’s the reason most model ships for films are built at a large scale. The model for James Cameron’s Titanic is over 25 feet long. It was a true milestone when VFX artists were able to create believable water effects.

Making a fire look like a really big fire or making water behave naturally in a smaller scale usually requires over-cranking, shooting at a faster frame rate so when you slow it back down to 24 frames a second, it smooths out the movements to a speed that looks more believable to the eye.

Unfortunately combining over-cranked footage with in-frame live actors was beyond my capabilities. Today this whole problem could have been solved by a high school student with a green screen and Premier Pro editing software. Not a big deal. I was stuck with in-camera effects.

So, the fire effects weren’t quite up to my expectations but the fact I had gone for a bigger size (as in extensive) backing helped minimize the effect. The focal length of the lens helped too, along with the shallow depth of field.

Analyzing Different Set-ups

Diagram of camera set-up

How could I have improved the flame effect? Well, I could have built the facade at a larger scale. Below is a diagram showing the scale of the backing compared to a full size person.

On top of the backing is an icon of a person at the scale of the facade.

Below is an image of what the facade would have looked like at twice the scale size.

Angle of view on a 25mm lens
Angle of view on a 75mm lens

Yes, the flame effects would have been even more frightened real. The fire would have also been at the scale of an actual small house fire and without a lot of fire suppression in place, it would have been incredibly unsafe. The detail of the backing would have also needed to be much more realistic. I also was trying to capture a feeling of isolation, and the scale I used allowed me to portray the actress as being farther away from the fire than I would have been able to achieve given the size of the pond.

The fire burned itself out quickly. We went in and put out any remaining embers with a fire extinguisher and Hudson sprayers. I’m sure the firemen were even happier than I was that they got a good show and hadn’t had to drag their firehose through the mud, which would mean spending the rest of the evening cleaning firehose. And that, I can tell you, is really not a fun job.

The $150 Forced Perspective Miniature – Part 1

Forced perspective miniature during filming – Photo: Alan Derringer

The Challenge

My professor, Carl, looked at the scene list for my senior thesis film and furrowed his eyebrows. When I told him it was going to be an hour-long black & white film, set in the 1940’s in Eastern Europe, with dialogue in three different languages, he looked at me as if he wasn’t sure if I was being serious.

I assured him that I wasn’t kidding, and I knew that he was thinking it would probably be another overly-ambitious senior film that would never be finished.

He poked his finger at the page.

“So how do you plan on doing this scene?”, he said. “The fire-bombed city scene.”

Now this was the pre-computer, pre-digital, in-camera-effects-only period of filmmaking. Green-screen and blue-screen work was serious money. The only option other than in-camera effects was optical printing, and he knew I couldn’t afford that on a student film budget.

“A miniature”, I said. “A really big miniature”.

“Uh huh”, he said, with a look that told me he thought I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing.

It took about three weeks to truck all the materials to the farm pond where I planned on filming the scene. When everything was finally at the site, we had accumulated over 200 discarded wood pallets, over 24 sheets of plywood of various types and random pieces of drywall and corrugated metal. Since all the materials were donated, I estimated that the final cost of the miniature was $150 based on the cost gas for the vehicles and fire accelerant, i.e. kerosine.

I’d staked out my camera position and estimated that I need a miniature that was about 130′ long to fill the frame from edge to edge when I was shooting with a medium length lens. I planned on a miniature scale of somewhere between 1:10 and 1:12.

My father and I would drag the plywood sheets close enough to the small house on the property to string an extension cord to jigsaw-out the +250 rough rectangle openings in the wood to simulate the windows of the buildings. Once they were staked in place, we stacked the hundreds of pallets behind the wall, just far enough away to keep the flames from setting the plywood on fire before I could finish filming.

When we were done stacking the pallets, we moved to the other side of the pond to look at the finished model.

It was really, really ugly.

There was no detail. No even a coat of paint on the raw wood. But I new that it would look good on film because I had three things going for me: a night shot, shallow depth of field, and black & white reversal film.

The Shoot

The night of the shoot I was nervous. Black & white reversal film is unforgiving. Instead of creating a negative, you’re creating a positive image. It’s like slide film for a cinema camera. Exposure-wise, you have about one f-stop of leeway as far as over or under exposure. You have about a 5 to 7 stop range from pure black to blown-out white. Beautiful contrast, no margin for error. Modern digital cameras, by comparison, will give you up to 15 stops of latitude. I had to re-shoot the opening sequence of the film twice because of a mislabeled ND filter that resulted in over-exposed footage.

This scene was a one-shot deal. There would be no reshoots. The five-person crew was in position.

I’d tried to do some test shots a few weeks before using a bonfire and my lighting plan, but the bonfire was not a good simulation for what would end up being 15-foot tall flames in the miniature.

I used the headlights of a car for the key light on the actress Liana. A fog machine, run by my cousin Greg, was positioned next to the car to give some depth to the background as well as to diffuse the illumination from the headlights. The Assistant Director, Jan, helped the actress into position in the water.

A pumper truck from the local fire department was positioned next to the pond. They showed up hoping to just see a good show, but were prepared for an interesting fire training exercise on the chance that the flames got out of hand.

Scale plan of miniature & camera position.

The Technical Info

If your eyes glaze over reading technical data, you can skip this section and go to the next. I’ll try to keep this paragraph brief, but there are people who like to know this info.

I shot the scene using a Bolex H-16, a 16mm film camera that is spring driven. You have to hand wind the drive mechanism with a crank. It has a three-lens turret with 16mm/f1.8, 25mm/f1.4, and 75mm/f1.9 lenses. The 16 had too wide of an angle of view, so I decided to use the 25mm for the wide shots and the 75mm for the close-ups.

The H-16 did not have an external magazine, meaning that I was confined to a 100 foot roll of film. There would be no time to reload once the fire was started. This would give me 2 1/2 minutes of shooting time. I figured that the prime “flame activity” once the fire was started would last from three to five minutes before the flames would have consumed the majority of the wood and the flames would start to lose their visual impact.

I planned to wait until the flames had reached a peak and then start shooting, getting the wide shots with the 25mm out of the way first, and then switching to the 75mm lens for the close-ups when the fire would still give me great reflections in the water but not have the intensity that it did in the wider shots.

The 25mm, focused at 16 feet away, and with an f-stop setting of about 2.8, would give me a depth of field of about 20 feet total. The Kodak Tri-X 7266 film stock had an ASA of 200, so I had to shoot almost at full aperture to have enough light on the actress. I spot metered several times from her face to the fire after it started before I was sure about my exposure. The f-stop spread convinced me that the front of the miniature would be solid black and out of focus, devoid of detail.

Plan of miniature shoot showing angle of view, focus distance, and depth of field range.

The Fire Is Lit

The pallets had been soaked with 5 gallons of kerosine a few hours earlier in the hope that the fire would spread evenly when lit but not explode the way I thought they would if we had used gasoline.

Only a few minutes after the fire is started, the flames are already subsiding in some areas.

When I gave the word to start the fire, it spread pretty quickly, but without a sudden burst of flame. Within a minute the flames were high above the top of the miniature and yelled for the soundman to start recording. I had rehearsed with Liana as to the sequence that we would follow and it went smoothly, without any stopping for head or tail slates.

The 100 foot roll ran through the camera quickly and when I heard the tail end run through the gate I knew I had better have gotten the scene. The flames were already far below the top of the facade.

Four weeks of work would translate into a minute of the finished film. The shooting schedule would continue for the next 8 months before we would be finished.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what I would do differently.

Ends In 24 Hours – 50% Off

One-Time Pre-Sale Offer + 2 Free Design Books

There are 24 Hours left in our 50% Off sale of the 10-Week Set Design Fundamentals Course.

In addition to half-price off on the course, if you sign up before the October 31 deadline, you’ll get two free design Ebooks:

By Hand & Eye

This is one of the design books on my Top Ten list. Authors Jim Tolpin and George R. Walker examine the role of proportion in design from ancient times to the present. While the emphasis is on furniture design, they show how much of the world is governed by simple proportions, noting how ratios such as 1:2; 3:5 and 4:5 were ubiquitous in the designs of pre-industrial artisans.

This is not a recipe book but a guide to a new way of looking at design through the eyes of centuries of artists.

Published by Lost Arts Press, this is just one of a whole line of fantastic books on design and hand woodworking that they offer.

You’ll receive a link after you purchase the course to download the PDF.

Wrand Glossary of Film & Video Terms

This new first edition is the only one of it’s kind; a film glossary created for film designers. Whether you are a novice or an industry professional, you’ll find useful information in this book that doesn’t exist in any other film glossary,. As well as nearly 1500 up-to-date terms on production, cameras, crew positions, post-production, legal aspects, stage equipment, and industry slang, there are hundreds of entries on architecture, hardware, set construction, and more.

The 2023 Ebook is due to be available in mid-December. Series purchasers will be the first to get the book when in becomes available and will receive a download link.

The 10-Week Course Description

This is the only time the series will be offered at this price and it will return to the normal price when the series begins on October 31.

This self-paced online series covers the fundamental skills that a Set Designer in the feature film and television industry here in Los Angeles are expected to have.

This is similar in difficulty to a one-semester graduate-level program at a university, but much of the material presented here is not covered at most colleges and is normally only available at the professional level. I’ve been developing this series for several years, basing it on classes I teach at the Art Directors Guild in Los Angeles.

Here is an outline of the material that will be covered in the series:

Week 1 – The Basics

Standard drafting conventions and symbols for set construction drawings. Set construction: typical flat construction techniques and variations.

Week 2 – Cameras & Optics

Understanding basic camera and lens terms: aspect ratios, focal length, depth of field, sensor sizes, exposure, stage lighting, using camera angle templates.

Scaling from photographs and artwork: calculating dimensions, understanding picture perspective and allowing for lens distortion.

Week 3 – Analyzing the Script / Reference Materials

How to break down a script for set design; using storyboards; techniques for estimating drawing time schedules.

References: using online, printed, and survey photo references; building a reference library on a budget.

Week 4 – Working Drawings

Step-by-step directions on creating proper construction drawings: plans and elevations; details, full-size details, and digital cut files; reflected ceilings and furniture plans; stage spotting plans, and director’s plans.

Week 5 – Door & Window Details

Diagrams and explanations of door and window construction and various adaptations for stage sets; creating accurate-looking period reconstructions; understanding, using, and sourcing hardware.

Week 6 – Stairways

The fundamentals of stair design: types of stairs, stair construction, how the choice of stair type affects design, and designing elliptical stairs.

Week 7 – Mouldings & Staff Elements

Understanding and using the Classical Orders of architecture; the proportions of mouldings based on style type; using a moulding catalog and creating built-up moulds.

Using plaster staff and compo elements in a set; designing with brick skins and textured surfaces.

Week 8 – Backings, Special Effects, & Visual Effects

Using painted and photo backings: The advantages and drawbacks of various types; creating custom backings; how to calculate correct placement distance from the set.

Special effects considerations: replicating fire, water, and wind effects; understanding legal requirements for special effects work on a sound stage; dealing with practical fireplaces.

Visual effects work: shooting with green or blue screens; using LED walls or volumes.

Week 9 – Backlots & Location Surveys

Shooting on studio backlots; shooting on location; proper surveying techniques; assembling a personal survey tool kit.

Week 10 – Physical Models

The advantages of physical study models; determining model scales; various model types and construction techniques.

Class Materials & Videos

Each week there will be tools, charts, and reference material to download as well as video instruction to help you do the exercises and create your portfolio drawings.

Along with the classes, you’ll have access to a private chat area that is only available to students of the series and alumnae who have taken courses previously. Here you’ll be able to meet other designers, discuss class material, get advice on your career, and exchange ideas and experiences from both the classes and real-world entertainment jobs.

Prerequisites:

– You must know how to draft. Drafting ability is essential to effectively completing the course and ending up with a set of professional quality working drawings. I’ll be offering a course on drafting later in 2022 to fulfill this prerequisite.

– Be familiar with CAD software  –  You are free to use any CAD software you are familiar with. Using software that you are still learning may make the lessons more challenging than you can handle. There is no standard drawing software in the entertainment industry as far as the Art Department is concerned. There are preferences among certain designers but one aspect of the job is a need to create files that can be used by many different other programs. 3D modeling won’t be required for any of the class projects but feel free to work that way if that is part of your usual design process.

There is a 14-day money-back guarantee from the time you begin the series if you change your mind. If you’re unsure about whether the series is right for you, you can schedule a free 15-minute discovery call to talk with me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Sign up for the course and learn more here.

New 10-Week Set Design Fundamentals Course – 50% Off

One-Time Pre-Sale Offer

Wrand Productions announces it’s 10-Week Set Design Fundamentals Course at a Pre-Sale price of 50% off the regular price. This is the only time the series will be offered at this price and it will return to the normal price when the series begins on October 31.

This self-paced online series covers the fundamental skills that a Set Designer in the feature film and television industry here in Los Angeles are expected to have.

This is similar in difficulty to a one-semester graduate-level program at a university, but much of the material presented here is not covered at most colleges and is normally only available at the professional level. I’ve been developing this series for several years, basing it on classes I teach at the Art Directors Guild in Los Angeles.

Here is an outline of the material that will be covered in the series:

Week 1 – The Basics

Standard drafting conventions and symbols for set construction drawings. Set construction: typical flat construction techniques and variations.

Week 2 – Cameras & Optics

Understanding basic camera and lens terms: aspect ratios, focal length, depth of field, sensor sizes, exposure, stage lighting, using camera angle templates.

Scaling from photographs and artwork: calculating dimensions, understanding picture perspective and allowing for lens distortion.

Week 3 – Analyzing the Script / Reference Materials

How to break down a script for set design; using storyboards; techniques for estimating drawing time schedules.

References: using online, printed, and survey photo references; building a reference library on a budget.

Week 4 – Working Drawings

Step-by-step directions on creating proper construction drawings: plans and elevations; details, full-size details, and digital cut files; reflected ceilings and furniture plans; stage spotting plans, and director’s plans.

Week 5 – Door & Window Details

Diagrams and explanations of door and window construction and various adaptations for stage sets; creating accurate-looking period reconstructions; understanding, using, and sourcing hardware.

Week 6 – Stairways

The fundamentals of stair design: types of stairs, stair construction, how the choice of stair type affects design, and designing elliptical stairs.

Week 7 – Mouldings & Staff Elements

Understanding and using the Classical Orders of architecture; the proportions of mouldings based on style type; using a moulding catalog and creating built-up moulds.

Using plaster staff and compo elements in a set; designing with brick skins and textured surfaces.

Week 8 – Backings, Special Effects, & Visual Effects

Using painted and photo backings: The advantages and drawbacks of various types; creating custom backings; how to calculate correct placement distance from the set.

Special effects considerations: replicating fire, water, and wind effects; understanding legal requirements for special effects work on a sound stage; dealing with practical fireplaces.

Visual effects work: shooting with green or blue screens; using LED walls or volumes.

Week 9 – Backlots & Location Surveys

Shooting on studio backlots; shooting on location; proper surveying techniques; assembling a personal survey tool kit.

Week 10 – Physical Models

The advantages of physical study models; determining model scales; various model types and construction techniques.

Class Materials & Videos

Each week there will be tools, charts, and reference material to download as well as video instruction to help you do the exercises and create your portfolio drawings.

Along with the classes, you’ll have access to a private chat area that is only available to students of the series and alumnae who have taken courses previously. Here you’ll be able to meet other designers, discuss class material, get advice on your career, and exchange ideas and experiences from both the classes and real-world entertainment jobs.

Prerequisites:

– You must know how to draft. Drafting ability is essential to effectively completing the course and ending up with a set of professional quality working drawings. I’ll be offering a course on drafting later in 2022 to fulfill this prerequisite.

– Be familiar with CAD software  –  You are free to use any CAD software you are familiar with. Using software that you are still learning may make the lessons more challenging than you can handle. There is no standard drawing software in the entertainment industry as far as the Art Department is concerned. There are preferences among certain designers but one aspect of the job is a need to create files that can be used by many different other programs. 3D modeling won’t be required for any of the class projects but feel free to work that way if that is part of your usual design process.

There is a 14-day money-back guarantee from the time you begin the series if you change your mind. If you’re unsure about whether the series is right for you, you can schedule a free 15-minute discovery call to talk with me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Sign up for the course and learn more here.

The Original Pre-Viz Tool – A DIY Lens Angle Calculator

 

Some of my collection of traditional studio lens angle templates. The ones on the left are for long lenses while the ones on the right are wide-angle lens. The third from the left is a zoom lens template.

Some of my collection of traditional studio lens angle templates. The ones on the left are for long lenses while the ones on the right are wide-angle lens. The third from the left is a zoom lens template.

 

 

Pre-vis Before Previs

Before the term “Pre-visualization” ever existed, there was the lens angle template. These were a staple of any Hollywood studio Art Department and were used when laying out a set to determine camera angles, backing sizes needed, rear projection screens and planning back-projected set illustrations for the producer and director to approve sets long before there were 3D computer programs.

There was a time when a basic knowledge of optics and lenses was considered mandatory and was necessary not only because the Art Director would design the sets to be shot in a specific way but this information was needed when designing effects shots such as forced perspective sets, glass shots and the like.

Todd AO template

A template for a 100mm to 300mm zoom lens in the Todd AO format. Todd AO was an early 70mm film format with an aspect ratio of 2.20.

The templates were for a single lens, usually a prime lens, and were made using 1/8″ or 1/4″ thick plexiglas. The projection lines were scratched or engraved into the acrylic, sometimes by a Set Designer but other times they were made by the studio sign shop. Some of my examples are obviously done with a hand held engraving tool while others have been done with a lettering template and have inked letters.

Todd AO lens template

Each template had two sets of projection lines, one set for the horizontal plane (for use with a plan view) and another for the vertical plane, for use with scale room elevations. Most are made for use with 1/4″ scale drawings but they are accurate for any orthographic drawing because the angle is unaffected by the scale. Most will have markings to note the distances from the lens entrance pupil in 1/4″ scale.

angle of view

The “Quick View”

By the 1990’s, there were so many different formats and lens combinations most of us in the Art Department in Hollywood carried thick manila envelopes of acetates of the various focal lengths, but I always seemed to be missing one that I needed and I found some were inaccurate from being cloned so many times. In 1998 I designed a device that had all the available formats and prime lenses  so you could just dial up the one you needed. I redesigned it in 2008 to include the digital formats but sold out of them a year ago.

I stopped having them made since they were expensive but hated to see them become obsolete since they are still so useful. For a director, they are the perfect way to see if a shot is possible at a location or see the limitations of a particular lens on a set when you can’t rely on wild walls.

Making A Quick View

Yours won’t be on Lexan like the originals were but will be sturdy enough plus cheap enough to replace if it’s damaged or lost. Download the files below and take them to your nearest copy center and have both the dial and the nomen printed on clear acetate. They don’t have to be printed at exactly 100% but they should be at the same scale to each other. Then you just line up the center marks and use a compass point or push pin to pierce the centers, creating a pivot point in place of the brass rivet as in the photo above.

The diagrams from the original instruction manual will explain how to use them. You’ll note that I’ve added a feature that wasn’t on the originals, a protractor which will tell you the angle of a selected lens.

Quick View II User Manual_2

Quick View II User Manual_3

QuickViewII_nomen

QuickViewII_dial

Comparing Cinema Lenses To Still Camera Lenses

A lot of people take shots of sets and wonder how the focal length of their still camera lens compares to cinema lenses. Even if the capture format is 35mm film or a digital camera with a 35mm size sensor, the angles of view are not the same as with a 35mm still camera.

The reason is that the the film runs horizontally through a still camera instead of vertically as through a cinema camera, resulting in a larger frame in the still camera which in turn results in a wider angle of view with a similar focal length lens.

The lens angle chart below is similar to the traditional AOV acetates used in Art Departments for decades but this one has the equivalents for still lens focal lengths next to the cinema lens angles. (You can print out a pdf of this below, just have it printed on clear acetate.) Beside each cine focal length you’ll see the equivalent focal length with a full frame DSLR. If you are using a camera with a crop frame factor this will of course be closer to the cine focal length. In fact if you shoot with the Nikon D40 or similar, it will be almost identical in focal length numbers to the cine lenses.

Angle Of View Comparison Chart

On the chart I’ve drawn a full size outline of each sensor/frame size so that you can see the difference between the two mediums. You can use this chart on any size scale plan and it will give you a very close approximation to what you’ll see with a given lens. If you want to use it on elevations you’ll need to divide the angle by 1.33 to get the vertical angle.

For those of you who use iPhones for stills, you can download a AOV chart for the iPhone below, print it on acetate and compare in to the 35mm lenses.

 

Cinema_Super 35 AOV Comparison

iPhone Angle Of View

What Lens Is It? Comparing Apple Device Cameras To 35mm Lenses

A lot of times when you’re using your smart phone camera to take a shot of a set or location it would be nice to know what the equivalent view would be with a 35mm cinema / video lens.

I ran the numbers for most Apple devices and came up with the following equivalent focal lengths for both 35mm still cameras (full frame) and Super 35mm size sensors. Remember that although both formats are based on 35mm film stock, the frame for a still camera is a 1.5 aspect ratio with a frame width of about 1.417 inches. A Super 35mm frame is a 1.35 aspect ratio and the frame width is .980 inches.

Why only Apple? Well, the company readily makes their devices lens and sensor data available and it was easy to calculate. In the next post I’ll show you how to measure for your devices’ angle of view if the exact focal length isn’t published.

Please note in the following table the focal lengths for the given device have been rounded up to the nearest whole number so the equivalent lengths given are approximate.

Apple device lens comparison chart

Understanding RED Camera Formats & Camera Angles

In the Sketchup™ Camera Tools seminar this past weekend I talked about the current trend in digital cameras and how they relate in using camera lens angles to view 3D models and illustrations.

The RED Epic™

A camera that is creating a great deal of excitement in the camera world, and a lot of confusion in Art Departments, is the RED camera. Just over three years ago the Red Digital Cinema Camera Company  entered the market with what they called a DSMC system, or Digital Still and Motion camera system. The camera was basically a component system with the body, or brain, containing the sensor and the other various components needed to record an image. The system was designed to be configured and upgraded as the user saw best to fit their work needs. The design of a camera with dual capabilities would fuel the current trend of high-end still cameras which also record HD video, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Designed with a 35mm sized chip, the camera is able to record video with the same depth of field as 35mm as well as having similar focal lengths, allowing for the use of existing lenses from other camera and 35mm systems.

The system allows the user to record in four different formats: 4.5k, 4k, 3k, and 2k and each of these can be framed or extracted in different aspect ratios. With the new Epic, whose sensor is 5k (5000 pixels across), the choices are 5k, 4.5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1080p, and 720p.

At this point your eyes are probably crossing and you’re saying, “so what?” Basically, what you need to know is that each successive format is a smaller cropped version of the previous one.

diagram showing a Super 35mm frame and the three extracted ratios

In Super 35mm, the frame, or negative is cropped according to the aspect ratio for the release. The difference is,  the cropping only occurs vertically. The width of all the formats is (nearly) the same, so that a lens focal length will be similar in each of them. Here is a diagram explaining the Super 35mm format from an article comparing digital and film formats that I wrote for theAug-Sept. 2010 issue of Perspective Magazine.

With RED, each format will have a narrower horizontal field of view than the previous one. Meaning that a 50mm lens in in 3k will have a much narrower field of view than it does shooting in full sensor 5k.

Below is a viewport in Sketchup™ set up using the Advanced Camera Tool pluging. The “camera” is set up for the full sensor option with the safe areas turned on for the other formats.

screen capture showing RED Camera full sensor area and 2K, 3K and 4K crop areas

In this screen shot of a model viewed with a 14mm lens, you can see how each progressively smaller ‘k’ format crops the sensor and has a narrower angle of view with the same lens. So, when you are setting up a model to view from a specific position with a particular lens, it’s important to know at what ‘k’ is the set going to be shot. Click on the image to enlarge it on your screen.

Chart of horizontal fields of view for various focal length lenses in the three different shooting formats

Here is a chart that breaks down the horizontal angle of views depending on which format the film is going to be shot in. The lenses listed are generic focal lengths and do not cover the entire range of lenses available. But, this should give you an idea of the proportional change in the horizontal angle of the captured frame based on the different shooting formats.

Camera Tools For Sketchup Pro

( Note: There is a half-day seminar on using the Camera Tool plugin on January 15 in Sherman Oaks. The cost is $50 but ADG members get in for $25. See the site below for more details: )

http://www.insidetheframe.biz

Years ago Sketchup developed a plugin for the industry called the Film & Stage plugin which allowed you to view a model with a set aspect ratio and allowed you to control the focal length of the viewing window.

The plugin was never updated for newer versions and was eventually put aside once the company was acquired by Google. Many of us have moaned for years, begging for an update. I devised a way of setting the view window to get a correct view with specific focal lengths, but it was a tedious process and a painful one to try to demonstrate to others.

In March Sketchup released a completely retooled version of the plugin that was everything I had hoped for and more. The new plugin, now called Advanced Camera Tools allows you to view your model with virtually any camera now available with any aspect ratio and with any focal length you choose. There is even a method of adding new cameras.

Nearly every camera in use in the industry is included with the pre-sets as well as all the RED cameras.

Aidan Chopra, product evangelist for Sketchup told me that updating the plugin really hadn’t been on the company’s radar until they held their semi-annual Basecamp last year in Boulder. The event was attended by Local 800 member Brad Rubin who pitched an update to them at that time. While it still didn’t make it onto their hotlist, the idea was intriguing to one of their software engineers, Brian Brown. The company offers to let their employees use 20% of their time working on side projects and Brian decided to use his time reworking the old Film & Stage plugin. So, we really have Brian and Brad to thank for making these tools available again.

While the plugin is as intuitive to use as Sketchup, there are things about the plugin that work differently when you are working inside it as opposed to the normal Sketchup tools.

The plugin is free, but works only with Sketchup Pro versions.

You can get it here:   http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/download/plugins.html

With a little effort you can quickly save multiple camera views and know that they are fully editable without having to create entirely new views if the lens or camera information changes.