Getting close... while far away (without post-cropping)

Hi folks, At the moment, I want to get really close to the set with the camera three feet away (otherwise it's too close to step in front of to animate). I've looked at extension tubes and close-up filters, and none of those seem like they would solve the problem.

If possible, I don't want to digitally crop the image to make it bigger. Kind of confused how all of the behind the scenes pics from different movies always show the camera quite far from the set. That works on a large set that you want to see just a small area of, but what about when your whole entire framing area is only a little larger than the camera itself?

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Woah! You mean you can mask out what you don't want and digitally zoom in on a part of the picture WITHIN Dragon Frame? How does this feature work?  I think I missed that conversation...But that seems like a valuable feature. That would let anyone put their camera farther back and zoom in with the software and still get the shots they would enjoy if they were physically moving the camera closer to where it was in their way. Good on D-Zed for thinking of this!

The tripod I'm using is a Sunpak 8001UT and the one I'm looking at is probably going to be the same one, because the other options at the store were ball heads and those aren't desirable for stop motion because when you unlock them, all axes are instantly available instead of just pan or tilt. Then again, those can be Dutch-tilted by nature of their design, so there's at least one benefit to using a ball head for stop motion. Especially since not everyone can afford a Manfrotto 410jr, which includes the ability to Dutch tilt.


I've had this tripod, in its cracked state, since 2004 or 2005. So it's definitely serviceable... But if anyone can recommend something else, I would be interested. This one is modded; the handle that sticks out has been sawed off to avoid being bumped.

The main requirements I have for a tripod are:thick, strong legs, an anti-spreader lock, and an anti-sink center column lock that doesn't let the column sink slowly into itself (unwanted lowering of the camera). At the moment, my work-arounds are as follows: flour sack in a bag suspended from tripod center  to weigh down the spindly legs, and a hose clamp to prevent the post from slowly falling down into its tube.

I doubt that a new copy of the same tripod would need those adjustments, though.The cracking happened when I had a friend cut the handle off (well, when it was put back in- it was turned too hard). The spindly legs are also not designed to take a 5-pound weight. Since the camera is about 1 pound with its lens, and the Manfrotto adds another two pounds, the total I'm putting on that poor tripod is 8 pounds. So, anything that replaces it will need to bear that much weight or more.

I'll recap on the mask push-in real quick.

If you have the latest version of DF go to the View pulldown menu at top of page and select Composition Guides. Check the box to activate mask push-in and the box under it (forget what it's called) - that one lets you move the mask around to try different framings. 

It's only a mask used in the animation window - it won't actually crop the image that way. You'll still need to do that in your post production software, the mask is just a guide (composition guides, remember clicking on that?). It's just so you can frame properly without distractions while animating. But it is an amazing tool and makes this really easy - the only way it would be easier is if it actually would do the cropping for you! 

Good summary, Strider. To add to this, by cropping in on your pictures, you'll be able to move your camera further away, and use wider lenses. As Don has found out, zoom lenses aren't the answer. If a 50mm or 85mm lens can't get a good close-up for you, then cropping is the answer.

Another thing I should mention is this: when importing your footage into your editor, you'll want to match your cropping exactly to the way Dragon cropped your image. Since different editors will have different ways of scaling, the best way to figure out your crop is a manual technique ->

  1. Print out a piece of paper with a 16x9 rectangle on it (or whatever your frame size is). We'll call it a "framing guide."
  2. Set up Dragonframe with your desired mask push-in percentage
  3. Take a picture of this framing guide, lining up the rectangle exactly to the edges of your mask in Dragonframe.
  4. Import this picture into your editor, and zoom in until the rectangle matches the edge of frame.
  5. Apply this same zoom value to all shots using the mask push-in.

Not sure I completely understand that, but it sounds like a very good way to achieve absolute precision. If I wanted something close to precision but it didn't need to be perfect, I think I'd start by setting up the camera on dof preview mode so you get the best image quality (it looks nearly as good as the final high def images, and much better than the normal framegrabbing preview images that you work with while animating) and make sure Dragonframe is set so the preview images are highest quality (also makes a huge difference) and, once I found the framing I want, snap a screen grab of it, then just look at that and use it to decide exactly how to frame in the editor. 

Personally though, I think I'll use it more as a loose guide and then feel free to recompose in post as much as I want. The freedom to rotate the image often leads to unexpected possibilities that you couldn't find while setting up the shot. 

They say to a large extent a film is actually created in editing. This is not as true of course for animated films - but I think they can be largely shaped in post through things like creative reframing. Since discovering the power Lightroom affords for reframing and recomposing I wouldn't want to pass up that option. In fact now I usually start by framing a little bigger than I really want the shot to end up, allowing myself a little breathing room for final tightening and composing in LR. But of course to each his own. 

I will have to give this a try.  At the moment all I have for my work flow is DragonFrame, Photoshop and IMovie 11. Not quite what I ultimately need, but it will have to do on my current project.

Evan DeRushie said:

Good summary, Strider. To add to this, by cropping in on your pictures, you'll be able to move your camera further away, and use wider lenses. As Don has found out, zoom lenses aren't the answer. If a 50mm or 85mm lens can't get a good close-up for you, then cropping is the answer.

Another thing I should mention is this: when importing your footage into your editor, you'll want to match your cropping exactly to the way Dragon cropped your image. Since different editors will have different ways of scaling, the best way to figure out your crop is a manual technique ->

  1. Print out a piece of paper with a 16x9 rectangle on it (or whatever your frame size is). We'll call it a "framing guide."
  2. Set up Dragonframe with your desired mask push-in percentage
  3. Take a picture of this framing guide, lining up the rectangle exactly to the edges of your mask in Dragonframe.
  4. Import this picture into your editor, and zoom in until the rectangle matches the edge of frame.
  5. Apply this same zoom value to all shots using the mask push-in.

Lightframe, eh?  I know you posted a tutorial on this.  I have the latest Photoshop - I wonder if it will do what I need in compositing.  Tricky business.

Strider said:

Not sure I completely understand that, but it sounds like a very good way to achieve absolute precision. If I wanted something close to precision but it didn't need to be perfect, I think I'd start by setting up the camera on dof preview mode so you get the best image quality (it looks nearly as good as the final high def images, and much better than the normal framegrabbing preview images that you work with while animating) and make sure Dragonframe is set so the preview images are highest quality (also makes a huge difference) and, once I found the framing I want, snap a screen grab of it, then just look at that and use it to decide exactly how to frame in the editor. 

Personally though, I think I'll use it more as a loose guide and then feel free to recompose in post as much as I want. The freedom to rotate the image often leads to unexpected possibilities that you couldn't find while setting up the shot. 

They say to a large extent a film is actually created in editing. This is not as true of course for animated films - but I think they can be largely shaped in post through things like creative reframing. Since discovering the power Lightroom affords for reframing and recomposing I wouldn't want to pass up that option. In fact now I usually start by framing a little bigger than I really want the shot to end up, allowing myself a little breathing room for final tightening and composing in LR. But of course to each his own. 

Oh ok, reading through it again it makes perfect sense now. Hmmm, I still like not needing to print anything out, so if I needed that kind of precision I think I'd just snap a screengrab with the mask at half opacity so I can clearly see exactly where it is, then I'd crop the edges off the screengrab so the full border of it is exactly the same as the full frame size. Import that into your cropping software (whatever you use for it) and you can get the same precision. That's assuming the full size images are exactly the same as the framegrabber images. 

It may be the rum - in fact, I am certain of that - but my brain is starting to hurt  a little as I think about all this.

Does it make sense that each image for an entire movie would need to be cycled through Photoshop for wire removal, flicker removal, cropping and then imported into Quicktime?

Like I said . . .could be the rum . . .

Cheers David! 

I don't know if it's foolish to respond to a (possibly?) drunken question, but here goes anyway...  

Hopefully your camera doesn't flicker. If it does, then I guess you'd need to run every shot through some deflicker software.

Wire removal - you wouldn't have wire rigs in every shot, unless you've set yourself some kind of monumental post production task by making a film that's essentially an endless special effect. 

Cropping isn't done on individual frames, but an entire shot at a time. Most of my shots are fine and don't need any cropping - it's just certain ones that do. Usually the ones like Pram is talking about (hey, ease up on the constant name-changing buddy, youre wearin' me out here!) - where you want to get in closer than the camera wants to allow. 

Understood! ( Rum hasn't kicked in yet.)

The flicker is mild - and some could be my occasional behind the camera move.

Wire removal is minimal.

The cropping would only be for a few shots

Are you saying I would batch process the cropping for an entire shot?  That makes sense, though it would be a first time for me.

I must apologize for causing you to repeat what has already been stated several times.

Don't worry about it - I don't think this has been mentioned yet. 

You don't have to batch process - if you crop in an editing or post-processing software you work with entire shots, not individual pictures. So you can do the cropping during the edit stage (not before) if you want to. 

In my case I'm using Lightroom to process my images before turning them into an image sequence for editing. Fortunately, Lightroom has a very simple Sync function that lets you make adjustments on one image and then sync the entire folder, so the changes are applied to all the pictures in it. So it's sort of like batch processing, only made super easy. 

Basically the stuff I'm doing in Lightroom is the stuff most people would do later in editing - color grading, cropping etc. But I like working in Lightroom because it's very intuitive and allows some really subtle and powerful work.  

I really need to some good Photoshop tutorials - what you just described sounds heavenly.

To be honest, , I have been able to do adjustments along these lines in PS.  I am making it seem harder than it is.

Thanks for the suggestions, however. They are appreciated.


Strider said:

Don't worry about it - I don't think this has been mentioned yet. 

You don't have to batch process - if you crop in an editing or post-processing software you work with entire shots, not individual pictures. So you can do the cropping during the edit stage (not before) if you want to. 

In my case I'm using Lightroom to process my images before turning them into an image sequence for editing. Fortunately, Lightroom has a very simple Sync function that lets you make adjustments on one image and then sync the entire folder, so the changes are applied to all the pictures in it. So it's sort of like batch processing, only made super easy. 

Basically the stuff I'm doing in Lightroom is the stuff most people would do later in editing - color grading, cropping etc. But I like working in Lightroom because it's very intuitive and allows some really subtle and powerful work.  

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