Trying something new: A 1:6 scale miniature set, with 3D tracking and digital extensions…

Having worked exclusively in digital formats for the past 15 years, I have recently been making a concerted effort to resurrect some of my practical design skills. Around five years ago, I started to sketch more frequently, as I began to take on more of a design lead on projects. It proved a great complement to pixels.

More recently, I have looked to expand upon this positive experience and started to explore the use of miniatures in filmmaking. The shots below are of a miniature I have been developing for a sequence of shots based on a snowy environment I have designed. Two faces of a section of a building have been constructed, and set within a snow covered landscape. This miniature set design will ultimately be extended through the use of digital set extensions and 3D tracking.

Shot of the in-progress, 1:6 scale, miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
A shot of the miniature including snow and ice effects.

The shell of the building was made out of foamcore, which was then clad in balsa. The balsa was ridiculously pristine when first applied, but has since been aged and weathered with heavily diluted ink washes. The snow is a combination of polystyrene base, on top of which, model railway snow effects and marble dust (to add sparkle) have been applied. The icicles are made by applying model railway water effect gel to waxed paper. Once dried, they are glued to the eaves of the building. It’s not finished yet, but so far, it’s proved to be a hugely, enjoyable indulgence.

Detail shot of 1:6 scale miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
Detail of the miniature in it’s current stage of development.

As with any miniature, depth of field has proved problematic. The only way to counter this, has been to dramatically stop down. Testing has shown f16 to be the absolute maximum, but to achieve optimum results, I am going to need to reduce the aperture even further. The direct consequence of this, is that I then need ridiculous levels of light.

I’m currently looking at stop motion techniques to achieve small apertures, with less light and longer exposures. This approach will allow for better digital environments through better depth of field and improved image quality and resolution compared to video capture.

I wanted to post these before Fortitude is screened tomorrow, as I started work on this last Autumn but business has been very busy and limited the opportunities to work on these kinds of personal projects.

Work schedules permitting, I’m hoping to have the first sequence completed by the Spring

An earlier shot of the miniature set, prior to adding snow and ice effects.
Shot of the miniature prior to the application of snow and ice effects.

 

Kick Diffuser for Rift Labs Kick Light

AttachDiffuser1

 

The fantastic little Kick Light, an iPhone sized LED photography and video light unit, controlled by an app installed on your iPhone will soon have a diffuser attachment.

No prices or launch dates for the Kick Diffuser have been released yet, but Rift Labs have posted a “teaser” page on their website.

Anybody that has had a chance to play with one of these great little devices will understand that this is exciting news!

Update August 5th, 2014 – After a brief interlude pending a repair on a Kickstarter stage component (see comments below) I now have my Kick light and a Kick Diffuser.  As soon as schedules permit, I’ll be looking to add a review and some test shots. Thanks to Morten at Rift!

Hole in my bucket… part 2

After concluding that the footage from the HV20 just wasn’t going to be good enough, I decided to have a look at the footage my DSLR could produce. The poor mans HD (720p) spewed out by my D90 is awful so I was never considering using that, but I did take a look at the stills capability and that looked fantastic and provided a clean key. If I could rig something that would capture the camera move I was looking for using a combination of time-lapse and stop motion then that could be a great solution. The miniatures aren’t going to move so I would only need to animate the position of the camera.

First things first, I need to sort out the camera. I started out by testing the camera hooked up to Nikons Camera Control Pro 2. First thing I noticed is that a zoom lens just wouldn’t work because the lens components shuffle every time a shot is taken so I tried out a 35mm DX prime. The shuffle problem was solved but I started to get a flickering effect even with constant lighting. Thinking this might be due to the AC supply I then tried out long exposures of up to one second but this still resulted in an annoying and very obvious flicker. Investigation on the web revealed that DSLR cameras utilise automatic shutters in which the iris stops down with each shot, then opens back up again to allow for a clean preview through the viewfinder. This closing and opening of the aperture inevitably results in tiny inconsistencies that lead to variations in the exposure and cause the flicker. I tried partially unscrewing the lens to disconnect the contacts and override the stopping down but the lens would lose its aperture setting completely.

The next step, source an older Nikon lens on which I can set the aperture manually and test again…