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ND for large expanses of windows

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Bob Cole
ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 1:02:11 am

Okay - this is probably a stupid post, the response to which may well be: "Just ND the **** windows."

But I am hoping for some brilliant suggestions from the brain trust.

I frequently get into situations where I should - but don't have time to - ND large windows. This is for situations where the "view" is part of the story. I've been getting foreground action and big white rectangles, when I should be able to "read" the exterior.

I know the drill (or think I do) of cutting the ND to fit the window, taping and hiding the edges, etc. But my budgets require me to reuse the ND, and that invariably means that I have a bunch of cut pieces that are too small or the wrong shape. Also, ND is a huge PITA, with regard to reflections, imperfections on recycled pieces, etc. It's especially problematic on these large windows, in offices or high-end residences, where I will have to piece together the ND. Putting it on the outside of the windows is either out of the question (skyscrapers) or dicey (windy days).

I am planning to experiment with sheer black fabric, which I've used successfully on frames behind an interview subject (and out of focus) to mute a background without entirely losing it. But the applications I'm thinking of now are for shots with deep focus, i.e. the foreground action and the world outside the window are both pretty sharp, and I am not predicting much success with sheer fabric that is in focus.

So does anyone have an idea? or... "Just ND the windows?"

Thanks for your help.

Bob C


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Todd Terry
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 2:20:18 am

Hey Bob...

I mentioned this stuff a while back...

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/47/858539

It's basically part of your answer "Just ND the windows," but it's a real easy and SUPER cheap way to do it. We use this stuff all the time. You don't have to worry about cutting it up... it's cheap enough to use up, cut up at will, and just ditch it afterwards.

The other obvious solution of course it to increase your illumination inside enough to combat the windows... which means HMIs. However, if the exterior is screamin'-hot-bright-sunlight, even with HMIs you'd probably still needs some window ND as well.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 2:32:15 am

That sounds fantastic, and I'm embarrassed because I did read your prior post (even replied to you) and didn't remember it when I should have, recently. Oh well.

Did this material have a name? Or, is the fabric store part of a national chain? You said in your prior post that it's in the section with shower curtain material, car headliner and upholstery fabric, but it sounds quite special.

EDIT -- I looked back at the whole thread and found the answer: Hancock Fabrics # 1172766.

Thanks!

Bob


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Todd Terry
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 2:48:53 am

Bob, Bob, Bob...

Read the rest of the previous thread. It tells you exactly what it's called, where to buy it, and a link to get it on line if you don't have one of the stores near you.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 2:51:05 am

right - realized that. I edited my post but it was too late.

Thanks. Going to the fabric store tomorrow!


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Mark Suszko
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 1:52:13 pm

Bob, I have one other trick for you to try.

Shoot the room as a plate, exposing just for the windows. Let the rest of the room go dim. Now shoot it again, this time with the Big Man behind his aircraft carrier of a desk. Composite the good windows with the good room lighting.

This is easiest to do when the shot is a lock-down, obviously. But trackers in 2 and 3-d are getting very sohisticated, yet cheaper and easier to use at the same time.

Think of it as shooting HDRI video:-)


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Alan Lloyd
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 13, 2011 at 2:13:44 pm

Did something very like this in what otherwise would have been a near-impossible shooting situation.

A corporate client loves the upper story boardroom in their downtown office tower. What they wanted, though, for a specific piece, was the CEO with a window over his shoulder.

In fairness, the view from that window is rather nice.

Did his piece first. Thankfully it was a set of short intros/out-tros for other speakers, and they were somewhat resigned to having a blown-out window behind him.

He's quite good on camera, knocked his pieces out with a minimum of fuss, and went off to do CEO things.

I told everyone to just stay put, and switched off all the lights, then stopped down the camera and ran off several minutes of a properly exposed window floating in dark space.

It took a couple key layers and some tweaking to get it right, though when they saw a proper view behind him (with traffic visibly moving along streets!) they were properly pleased.

Showed it recently to a local arts/freelancers group and popped up framegrabbed stills at the end to illustrate the process. Got a nice round of applause.

Stuff like this goes back to the days of optical bench composites. As does the pseudo-kinescope I had to MacGyver someone for a very different project. That, though, kids, is another story.


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Bob Cole
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 17, 2011 at 4:45:22 am

Sounds like an interesting idea, Mark. A bit scary - have to test this.

Thanks.

Bob C


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David Johnson
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 5:28:20 pm

Todd,
I just saw your original post for the first time and want to thank you for the tip and the affirmation ... while trying to occupy myself during a dreaded trip to Walmart with my wife 10+ years ago, I noticed a frosted vinyl shower curtain's similarity to lighting frost. Ever since, I would stop at Walmart on the way to these types of shoots to buy a few $3-5 shower curtains despite ridicule from the crew when I literally pulled shower curtains from my gear bags (of course, that inevitably stopped when they saw the results in situations they had yet to figure out a better solution for than the expensive "fix it in post" approach). So, thanks for pointing out where to buy the same material in bulk ... and for finally giving me affirmation that I'm not crazy ... correction, that particular idea wasn't crazy.


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Todd Terry
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 6:08:04 pm

Thanks David...

Yeah, I've used the "shower curtain" material for years. We have several 4x4s cut from it that I've put a "hem" of gaffer tape around the edges (just to make it look a little better...ha) and elastic loops on the corners so we can use them with 4x4 Hollywood frames. They're cheap enough to throw away, but honestly they're pretty durable and we've had some in service for literally years.

Another thing I did with one of the 4x4s, I took gaffer tape and fashioned little "pockets" on the corners. Then I drilled four holes around the edges of the base ring of the barndoors on one of our 1200w HMIs. I can stick four of the aluminum rods from an old softbox in the holes and the thing becomes an oversized speedring... and the other rod ends go in the pockets on the shower curtain 4x4. That way I can diffuse the HMI without having to set up another stand/frame. Believe it or not, the shower curtain diffusion doesn't melt...or even get warm (at least not with the 1200w HMI, I can't vouch for how a tungsten instrument would perform since it might be hotter). It's great for run-n-gun exteriors where you don't have a lot of setup time.

That description probably doesn't make much sense, so I tried to snap a quick pic. We're set up for a big shoot on stage, so I dragged the instrument out of the studio into our lobby....



T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Dave Johnson
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on May 12, 2011 at 7:23:20 pm

Awesome!! And gives "Fantastic Plastic" a whole new meaning. lol

I love these kind of MacGyver-esque techniques so I appreciate your sharing photos ... gives me some ideas since my mounting methods have usually been less elegant ... time is often a driving factor so it's often just - stand, clamp, clamp, done ... ugly as all get out, but effective.

I too have been pleasantly surprised by the material's heat tolerance ... I've used it with Tungsten and have never had a problem, although I must admit that may be because I haven't been brave enough to leave them on any longer than absolutely necessary.

Another trick I've found useful in some instances and that's another testament to the material's heat tolerance ... wrinkles obviously don't matter when using the material for instrument-side diffusion, but if you ever need to use it in a shot (i.e., for direct sun through large glass in the background), you can just throw it in a clothes dryer for 10 mins and it comes out perfectly wrinkle-free.


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Bob Cole
Re: ND for large expanses of windows
on Jun 18, 2011 at 2:59:08 am

[Dave Johnson] "you can just throw it in a clothes dryer for 10 mins and it comes out perfectly wrinkle-free."

At what setting?

Okay - haven't tried that yet, but I want to endorse this material. Wow, what a nice inexpensive alternative to the "optically clear" ND. I used it over big windows for some tungsten-balanced interiors, and had no problem with the color balance. It looks more gray than blue.

Thanks Todd!


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