Really utilizing the GL2
I'm a student filmmaker, and I currently work with my Canon GL2 on my projects. I'd consider myself decently proficient with the camera, but I still don't totally understand how to really manipulate it. My main question is pertaining to how to really play with the depth of field and focus, so that my films can start to look more professional. I know that digital camcorders don't really accomplish this anywhere near as well as the professional cameras, but I have to hope that I can get some decent rack focuses or just blurred out backgrounds in my shoots. As of now, my only way to do this has been to position the camera absurdly far from my subjects, zoom in all the way, and then I can use the manual focus to play around with focus. If there is an easier/more efficient way to get this same effect, please let me know. Also, I've got a bit of money that I can spend (unfortunately not enough at this point to upgrade to a camera with a more powerful/interchangeable lens), so if there are any adapters/accessories that may help me, any and all input would be helpful.
[Sean Meehan] "my only way to do this has been to position the camera absurdly far from my subjects, zoom in all the way, and then I can use the manual focus to play around with focus."
Well Sean.... that, plus shooting with the iris wide open, is about the best you can do. Because of the tiny chips and the unwavering principals of physics and optics your depth of field is most always going to be very very deep.
A more powerful or interchangeable lens wouldn't make any difference... the DoF is restricted by the chip size. Even one of the "big boy" cameras (2/3" chips) still has very deep DoF.
This has been discussed at length (and at length and more) on the COW. Do a search for "Depth of Field" or "DoF converter" and you'll get lots of helpful posts.
The best route for that is to use a Depth of Field Converter. Those threads will tell you all about it, and on the COW somewhere in the archives you'll be able to find a PDF of last summer's issue of the COW magazine (or was it fall?) where I wrote a much-too-long article about them. A DoF converter ranges from about $1000 for the cheapest halfway decent one, to well over $10K for the top end pro ones. Then you have to add lenses (35mm cine prime lenses, or SLR still camera lenses if you do it on the cheap).
Barring that, other suggestions are to put some kind of diffusion material behind your talent (there was a recent good thread about that), or to "haze" the room if it is interior. A haze machine is much like a smoke or fog machine, but it uses the same fog juice to just put sort of a "film" in the air... it's usually done just for visual effect but one incidental byproduct is that is can make DoF's appear shallower. A lot of the grittier nighttime dramas (Law & Order, etc.) haze their scenes a lot.
But for real control just as if you were shooting 35mm film, you need a DoF converter.
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Would you happen to know if renting the DoF converters/lenses is reachable on a student budget? I'd be funding it myself, and I'm not necessarily rolling in the dough. Although I might be able to swing for the lower end converter and then trying for a lens, I'd like to lower my cost if I can.
[Sean Meehan] "Would you happen to know if renting the DoF converters/lenses is reachable on a student budget?"
The answer is probably, sadly, no... and here's why. I don't think the lower-end (and lower-priced) converters are typically available in the rental market. Now, I could be wrong about that, but I've never seen any for rent.
The rental-available units are typically the P+S Technik Mini35 and Pro35. Those are $11,000-$26,000 units (depending on the model) so the rental on them is not real cheap... they typically rent for several hundred dollars a day. Rent one for just a couple of days and you could have bought your own bargain-basement converter. Not quite the same product, but at least you'd own it.
A set of PL mount cine prime lenses is going to be worth a heckuva lot more than even a high-end converter, and will rent in the same ballpark... probably about $400+ a day. For a student, that's the one circumstance when I'd recommend SLR still-camera lenses. Decent ones can be found affordably, especially used or on eBay.
Now if there is anyone out there renting the lower-priced converters (such as the Brevis35 or the Letus35... or maybe even the Redrock M2), they would no doubt be more student-budget friendly since the units cost a fraction of what the P+S Technik does. I just don't think any houses keep them in their rental inventory, though. Maybe I'm wrong about that....
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