Canon 5D MK II with Tilt & Shift MAGNIFIED!

Hello DOP Blog Crew

I promised to tell you all about some promos I have done.  So here’s two… The second was visually inspired by the first.

The first one was shot on Canon 5D MKII the other on RED.

Canon 5D MK II with x2 Tilt & Shift Lenses were chosen to create a low budget promo for a Football Programme.  The idea was to recreate a ‘Sports Desk’ where a reporter would be viewing a football match getting ready to give some critique.

Nizar Sfair the Director wanted something a little visually different.  So I suggested Tilt & Shift lenses to make the footage more abstract and in-turn hopefully more visually pleasing.   As Nizar is always keen to have fun he suggested we take it one step further and shoot through a magnifying glass to make an even more abstract image!  With no rules on this project and complete free reign ‘Why Not!’.

All the effects are done in camera – take a look

It’s seems so ‘Old School’ having a Digi Beta deck now doesn’t it?  But, that’s how many of these sports guys still operate.

Anyway, as I said all in-camera effects!  There’s no layering in post…  Crazy I know!  It really looks like it doesn’t it…  I back lit through the gaps (in the set) , to try and pick up some ‘glow’ and subtle flare. Our faithful and talented Art Director Matt made a rig of three magnifying glasses of different sizes and thickness.  As the camera tracked left to right, Matt physically held and moved the rig in-front of the camera lens.  This moving created the double distorted image.  Some people would say that we were brave/ or possibly stupid doing these in camera effects and it’s best to shoot ‘clean’ and work the effects in post. In many circumsatnces they would be right, but as this promo was a sequence of 25 Nizar and I both knew we could have fun and go a little mental with this one.  We wanted to create something completely different and with an abstract feel.  It’s inspired by Lomo Photography – I just bought the Lomography Lubitel 166+ Twin Lens Medium Format Film CameraIn a world of digital, its so inspiring to go back to basics with unexpected results and the 6×6 format…

We had to do about 20 takes with both a wider and tighter Canon Tilt Shift Lens to make it all work.

Essentially, it is a very cheap and simple promo, but was great fun to do as there were no rules!  The magnifiers also inspired us for another promo. This one was for a Horse Racing show.  We had to film a prize stallion both in the studio and on location.

Please forgive what happens in the Eye at the end…

The thing with being a DOP is that it doesn’t matter how much creative control you have on the shoot, essentially the final look is dictated by the Director, Producer and Client.

Having a horse in a studio is always a little tricky.  It gets hot, tired, bored, lonely (well, probably) and doesn’t really like loud noises – oh and of course likes to take a dump at some stage! Plus, they always seem to get a little. well how can I put it, ‘excited’!   Which it did on our best take!  Nobody (including me) noticed something growing in shot as we tracked in…  It was only when we reviewed the take – we all had a good laugh! Thank goodness for playback!

Lighting a Horse:

I have lit a few horses in my time, but it is always as equally tricky…

Firstly, you can not guarntee that they will stay in the same spot, actually you can guarntee they will not stay in the same spot!

As we were using a black infinity set,  I set a 5K in the truss as a back light gelled with 1/8 CTB.  Then used a 10K as 3/4 back light positioned camera right gelled with 1/4 soft, a 10K keyed from the left through a 12×12 1/4 silk and filled from right with 5K through a 12×12 1/4 silk which was positioned slightly closer.

I had my Gaffer run everything through a large dimmer unit.  This way I could at least control the amount of light very simply, plus I know Nizar is always very keen to experiment fading lights up as we track in…

Essentially a very simple set up.   I was worried that the floor would be too illuminated so I placed ND .6 directly on the bottom half of the lamps.  As soon as you put a light through a silk it disperses it massively and it becomes very hard to control so you have to do it directly on the source, any flags or nets in front of a 12×12 are worthless.

The great thing about RED is the grading capability.  As it shoots RAW you have the ability to manipulate the image in much the same way you can with a RAW still in Photoshop.   In post they made the image more contrasty, which instantly helped the floor crush out.

When we came to shoot the horse galloping, the light was perfect!  At Sunset you only have about 20-25min of similar light.  So I knew we had to work fast.  The Key Grip set up a diagonial track so the horse had room to safely pass by.  We shot a couple of takes of the horse galloping towards camera clean, then Matt the Art Director dusted off his trusty magnifier rigs.  One of the grips rode on the dolly and held it in front of the lens moving it as I filmed.

I really like the effect it creates. I shot directly into the dipping Sun which is a favourite trick of mine!


1) Experimenting shooting through objects can be very cool.  It can fill gaps and make otherwise ‘boring’ images come to life.  You can to it to a lesser or greater degree.

2) Tilt & Shift lenses can completely change the look of an image.  You can throw focus in different areas that you could never achieve with a regular lens and principals of depth of field.

3) You can use almost anything in the foreground.  Magnifiers work well to give a distorted double image, but I find work best when you are shooting towards a source of light.

4) It’s hard to light for any animal.  The best thing to do is mark out an area where you would like them to stand which is much bigger than normal and light for that, giving yourself a little leeway.  As it’s often hard to keep an animal in a specific spot have options with your lighting.  I always keep a couple of extra lamps on standby all plugged up and with the appropriate gels on just in case.  Having your lights through a dimmer is also very helpful to make quick changes in intensity of the light or if the heat bothers them…

5) Listen to the animal handler.  Sounds obvious, but they know the animal and it’s behaviour best.  If you want it to do a certain action communicate with the handler.  If it is very specific give the handler some lead time to train.

6) Make sure there are no obstructions and a clear path for the animal in and out of shot.  This is just a safety precaution incase the animal gets spooked and the handler has to take it away quickly.

7) As Animals move, set yourself on a track and dolly or slider so you can easily reframe and get in the best possible position.

Here’s a couple of clips from an Animal Planet rebranding shoot I did.  Shot on the Phantom.

Comment on the blow below and let me know about your animal shooting experiences!!  Best story wins a copy of my books How To Become a Cameraman full of loads of top tips and insider secrets HOW TO BEAT THE COMPETITION, FILMING ON LOCATION, LIGHTING FOR FILM AND TV

I’m off to Sundance in the morning for the Life in a Day project.  Check DOP blog for my video diary updates (which I plan to do every day…) as I hook up with Kevin MacDonald and Ridley Scott.