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How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?

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Mike Imam
How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 14, 2013 at 11:17:52 pm

Hi all,

I'm planning on shooting a music video in low light conditions (think a subway station platform),but I'm looking for a way to get both the background and subject (who is in the foreground) in sharp focus, as I need the station sign in the background to be clear.

In well lit conditions, this is not so much of an issue since I can put my aperture to 11 or higher. Problem is, I can only use available light on the platform so I may not be able to get my aperture past 3 or maybe 5.6 (generously), and thus the frame will have lots of bokeh/depth of field.

Any idea how I can get everything sharp with no additional lighting and keeping my shutter speed as at acceptable level for smooth motion?

I'm using a Canon 5D Mark III (possibly a T2i), and I'm planning on renting a lens, so the latter piece is flexible. I'm probably going to go 35mm for wideness, but I might even go wider (as wide as I can without major edge distortion).

All ideas are welcome! Thanks!


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Chris Wright
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 15, 2013 at 3:24:20 am

the only obvious thing left is high ISO and then use neatvideo to remove the grain afterwards.

or.. you could shoot the sign focused separately as a matte then track it back in post.

I would do a test before committing to either of these.


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 15, 2013 at 3:47:30 am

If you're renting a lens, rent the fastest you can find in the Canon Primes. Also bear in mind that if you want a wide (35mm) lens that because of the T2i's sensor size, there's crop factor of 1.6. It will make your 35mm lens a 56mm lens. So rent a 22mm lens, which would give you true 35mm. The Canon 24mm here would be a good choice, if you can find a rental:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=590449&is=USA&A=deta...

These guys are well known, and you can get the above lens for three days for 52 bucks:

http://www.borrowlenses.com/AdvancedSearch.do?searchString=canon+22mm

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Chris Wright
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 15, 2013 at 9:01:20 am

I don't think a fast prime will help give a high depth of field. You'd need f/11 anyway. no point in paying more.

and actually a wide angle lens like 15mm will give more depth of field than a large mm lens.

since you don't want shutter blur, I still think you're stuck with high ISO noise or a roto matte, or buy some lights!


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Sareesh Sudhakaran
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 15, 2013 at 12:08:34 pm

Rent a 1/2" broadcast camera, or even a 2/3".

Second option: tilt-shift lens.

Get the Free Comprehensive Guide to Rigging ANY Camera - one guide to rig them all - DSLRs to Reds to the Arri Alexa.


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Anders Larsen
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:44:48 am

Another approach would be to plan it as a day-for-night shoot. Lots of lights so you can shoot f11, and then darken it in post.
It's a lot more labor intensive, but you will get rid of the high-iso noise and have a lot more freedom in post.


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Mike Imam
Re: How can I shoot video in low light with minimal bokeh (i.e. everything in focus)?
on Aug 16, 2013 at 7:51:30 pm

Thanks for all the advice! A few points:

- Using lights are impossible due to restrictions on use in the subway, so that is not an option. I also cannot use reflectors or a tripod, but that's only semi-related to my issue.

- I don't think I'll have much choice except to punch my ISO up to 6400. I was not planning on making this vid black and white but I suppose a high ISO could be offset with an artistic look if I convert to black and white, where high grain isn't that unusual. Would I better off shooting in color and converting in After Effects, or shooting in black and white using my camera's built-in filter?

- As for lenses, as you guys saying that the lower the mm, the higher the bokeh? Maybe I should get a very high mm prime lens (like 100mm and higher) and shoot from further away?

- Sareesh mentioned a tilt-shift lens. I can look into it but wouldn't it worsen my problem by creating a ton of bokeh?

- Unfortunately the subway station is underground an indoors, so natural light will not be available.

I would love for the video to look super crisp like all the visuals in 99 Problems:
http://www.blastro.com/player/jayz99problems.html?detect_bitrate=_2000

Any further advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks!


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