Animation on glass - How do I deal with reflections?

Hey guys, I'm doing paper-cutout animation on glass for the first time, and I guess I didn't realize how big of an issue the reflections would be.  I'm using a pane of glass on top to keep everything flat, and since the camera's pointed straight down, it picks up its own reflection (as well as everything around it).  

I've tried moving the lights around, but it seems no matter how I point them, I can't fix the issue.  Is there some trick to lighting for glass sets?  Or is there anything else I can do?

Thanks!

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Move the camera back as far as you can and then use a long lens to zoom in. Draping the camera and mount in black duvatyne might help. Make sure you've got your lights properly shielded with barn doors or black wrap to keep the light from hitting anything you don't want it to hit. 

As a last resort, you might try setting up your camera slightly off axis to the glass, so it's at an angle. Without getting too much keystoning, you could probably angle it so the reflection isn't visible. 

I'm not sure, but I think the old animation stand I used to have used a sheet of non-glare glass on top. You might give that a try.

Looking at professional copy stands:

You can see they place the lights at a 45 degree angle on both sides. I imagine it also helps to pull the lights out far enough so they're not directly over the glass. The important thing is to make sure the reflections ngle up insuch a way that they bounce away from the camera. 

Black is the word.

To prevent reflections, like Strider says put your light not directly above the glass plate. Then try and black your camera as much as possible. In my case I had to tape 'canon' over to prevent it from reflecting in the glass. 

Black out your windows, obviously.

Then it's important to spread a big black fabric on the ceiling/all the way around if you can spare. Obviously far away enough from the lights to prevent fire. Specifically black velvet is best, because it scatters the light in all directions, and so in essence absorbs the light preventing reflections. However it's very expensive (in London it was £30 per metre). Black card is still quite shiney and reflective, but is good to block out small imperfections (e.g. cut a hole in it and stick the lens through it to block out the rest of the camera).

If you use multiplane, use black card under the puppets. E.g. this is a puppet of one of my films:

It's actually not perfect because also the threads, the lace, and the edges should have been painted black but it didn't seem to be an issue for this particular puppet.

Also the setup that strider posted is not great because it's a white room. Work in a black room. Your skin is a reflection/poly as well and white walls create a flicker because your shadows is cast on them. So whenever you shift this could be reflected back, meaning the light differs per frame. 

Lastly small imperfections like light reflecting from edges of the camera/camera stand/glass plates (yes they reflect too on multiplane)/ etc etc can be taped out by black gaffa tape. You can see this here in my setup where the glassplate underneath the one with the boat has a white edge - this is the gaffa tape with the black down so it doesn't reflect back.

Again, gaffa tape is shiny, and you need to position it until you find a way that it doesn't reflect as well.

So black, black, BLACK.

Or in the words of Mick Jagger:

Wow! A very detailed response from someone who obviously knows what she's talking about - followed by a great song! 

Traditional animation stands can be (and often were/are) equipped with polarizing filters. Looking at the photo of the setup Strider posted, you would cover each light source with a polarizing filter (both oriented to polarize the light in the same direction), and then put a polarizing filter over the lens, oriented to reduce reflections as you need, typically at about 90 degrees from the filters on the lamps.

A link to show the sorts of lamp filters I'm talking about:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/45130-REG/Rosco_101073001720_...

Thanks so much for all the advice, you guys.  Bianca, your setup is insane!  How many levels does that have?  Also, I'm not sure I understand the purpose of black card under the puppets.  This is supposed to block light reflecting from below?

It seems like I have a number of options:  antiglare glass, polarizing filters, different lights.  I think the easiest and most straightforward method for me is to cover the camera in black fabric.  Of course this still leaves the lens visible (to itself), but I take it nobody's found that to be a problem? 

Greg said:

Thanks so much for all the advice, you guys.  Bianca, your setup is insane!  How many levels does that have?  Also, I'm not sure I understand the purpose of black card under the puppets.  This is supposed to block light reflecting from below?

Yes, in a multiplane you will likely need to light several levels separately to distribute light well. This means light will come from below too, reflecting on the back which will reflect back through the layers of glass.

Plus in my case I also used a lightbox below to give a depth and shine to the sky, so this was another added lightsource. I had a total of 7 layers I animated on. This was because the point of my animation was depth-of-field to create the illusion of moving down through a 3D space despite it all being flat puppets. I had a massive 10k light shining over the whole thing, with a big diffusion gel in front. then two or three light with colour gels from the side and the improvised lightbox below (with colour gels). 

However, I have to say, the light etc was fine, but because I was restrained for time and the animation wasn't going evenly I had to shoot the last bit on greenscreen on one layer and composited in AFX...

You can see the result here:

London International Animation Festival 2011 trailer from Bianca Ansems on Vimeo.



Greg said:

It seems like I have a number of options:  antiglare glass, polarizing filters, different lights.  I think the easiest and most straightforward method for me is to cover the camera in black fabric.  Of course this still leaves the lens visible (to itself), but I take it nobody's found that to be a problem? 

Again remember that when you cover anything in fabric or paper to make sure you don't create a fire hazard, as the heat might melt the fabric and set it alight. As grecodan mentioned for lights you need to use black wrap (a thick, matt black foil). Your lens is black and should in combo with the other options not reflect back anymore. You can indeed increase the distance in order to leave it out of the light. 



Bianca Ansems said:

That is awesome Bianca!

Bianca,

All I can say is, "WOW!"  Make maaaany more!

Seconded!  Seeing the multiplane in action helps a lot.

Roger Beck said:

 

That is awesome Bianca!

Thanks for all the info. It was neat seeing the trailer Bianca absolutely gorgeous. I screened at that festival last year. My setup is a paint on glass one and I just finished painting out all the shiny bits from a nine minute film and have vowed to have a better setup next time!

This thread was a great help to me with my recent multi-plane build, and I thought it might be nice to add my own results for future visitors. At this blog post you can see a time lapse video, photos and more details on my build:

http://www.tessmartinart.com/featured/new-multi-plane-animation-stand/

-Tess

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