Every hilt needs a sharp blade, as every camera needs a great lens. In this post I will go over the different lens focal lengths and how they affect your image. A huge part of choosing which lens for your shot has to do with perspective. To understand this let’s go over how lenses work.
When using a wide lens your image is “expanded”. Objects nearer to the lens appear larger, while objects further from the lens appear smaller. When using a “long” lens or zoom lens your image is “compressed” meaning the foreground and background appear closer together. Let's look an some examples of this in action.
18mm lens, approximately 8 inches from subject.
35mm lens, approximately 2 feet from lens.
50mm lens, approximately 3.5 feet from lens.
Notice how we have the same frame on our Sith Master looking as imposing as ever. The only thing changing in the image is the perspective. This is a great example of how focal lengths "expand" or "compress" your images. In the wide shot, the light saber is much larger as it is closest to the lens but our background is "smaller" because it is furthest from the camera. As we "zoom" in with a longer focal length we "compress" the image. Our background and foreground appear closer together and our frame tightens up.
Let’s go over some practical uses for compressing or expanding our shots with lens choices. Say we have a scene where our character nearly gets hit by a speeding car. We can place our camera facing the action as the car drives from right to left. We place our actor a safe distance from the car and have him run towards the camera as the car speeds behind him. With a longer lens we can “compress” the foreground and background to create the illusion that our character is very close to the speeding car. If we were to shoot this scene with a wide lens, it would be very obvious how far away our actor was.
Now let’s use our wide lens to take advantage of “expanding” our shot. We will use Forced Perspective in this example. This is when we make an object look larger or smaller than it really is. Say we have a very detailed model car, we set our camera very low and put the model car closer to the lens. Then we have an actor far away from the lens walk as if he is going to get into the car. From the camera perspective it seems as if the car is life size. This works until we break the illusion and have the actor walk up from the background towards the camera.
Take a look at this great image showing a portrait at different focal lengths. This will give you an idea of how you can use these focal lengths to get really creative with your shots! In the image below, the photographer was starting out close to the subject with the wide lens, and moved back accordingly when using a longer focal lengths to keep the same frame of the woman's face.
A famous example of forced perspective is in The Lord of the Rings. They used forced perspective to make the hobbits look much smaller that the humans. Check it out in the video below!
How can you take advantage of different perspectives in your films?
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