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Video setup used on shows such as Insectia

 
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Moebius



Joined: 27 May 2005
Posts: 146
Location: Omaha, NE

PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 6:35 am    Post subject: Video setup used on shows such as Insectia Reply with quote

I was watching several chapters of an excellent video series called Insectia and was curious how they obtained the large DOF (would guess 12") and what kind of video setup they would be using. I don't think I want to tackle such a thing financially, but has me wondering...

I never saw an insect or even large groups of insects where any were out of focus, and that includes group shots entailing a lot of depth (12" or so). Optically, how do they get such DOF on a video camera?

Ken Nelson
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rjlittlefield



Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 727
Location: Richland, WA, USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't find much about Insectia in particular.

However, there is an excellent video titled "The Photographer's Secrets", from "The Odyssey of Life" series, that goes into considerable detail about the technology used there. Says the back cover...

"For the first time ever, Lennart Nilsson reveals the start-of-the-art techniques that gave us The Miracle of Life and so much more. How does he capture the exact moment of conception? How does he (without special effects) turn a beetle into a menacing dinosaur -- while rendering "tiny" humans in super-sharp focus as well? How does he convince a famous opera star to solo for him -- with an endoscopic camera in her mouth? "I know where that little camera has been," the reluctant singer quips. For decades, this unparalleled photographer has astonished the world with images -- from the creatures under the sea to the viruses inside our cells -- that make visible the mysteries of life. Yet Lennart Nilsson has kept his own secrets to himself...until now."

Cutting through the advertising hype, that one word "endoscopic" pretty much gives away the secret.

Most of Nilsson's macro work was done using what we would now recognize as a medical endoscope. The version that Nilsson used consisted of a very short-focus lens (the video mentions 2mm), feeding into a series of relay lenses that transmit the short-focus wideangle image to an ordinary camera roughly a half meter away.

These devices have undergone quite an evolution over the last few years. In the beginning, the image was transmitted optically using rigid relay lenses on the order of 30mm long. Then the relay lenses were replaced with coherent fiber optic bundles. I understand the modern trend is to skip the optical transmission and just put a CCD image sensor right behind the lens. The most sophisticated versions of these are now self-contained and wireless -- you swallow the dang things. (Do a Google search on "capsule endoscopy" and see what all turns up.)

Anyway, I suspect the answer to your question is mostly "short focus, small aperture". There's probably also an element of careful scene selection, to divert the viewer's attention from the remaining out-of-focus areas. I'm sure it helps a lot that this is video, since the movement and intrinsic low resolution (effectively 640x480 for standard video) make it a lot easier to give the impression of sharpness even though individual frames would be recognized as pretty fuzzy.

I tried freezing some of the preview clips posted at www.insectia.com. Most of the frames that I grabbed looked like conventional small-aperture DOF. Champions of Evolution and the spider about 3 seconds into Childs Play make good examples. But I'll have to get the full video and see what it looks like there. Insectia looks like a great series -- thanks for the pointer!

--Rik

PS. The Photographer's Secrets is still available on Amazon.com for under $7. I recommend it.
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MikeBinOKlahoma



Joined: 20 Nov 2004
Posts: 1491
Location: Umm....Could it be Oklahoma?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Rik's analysis is spot on, though I wasn't sure enough of myself to speak up before he did!

Rik, I I'd thought of ordering Insectia before, and didn't. Your comments pushed me into ordering both Insectia, and "The Photographer's Secrets" just now! Smile
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rjlittlefield



Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 727
Location: Richland, WA, USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ken,

Thinking more about your post, I realize there is one more technique that Insectia might have used -- the tilt lens.

Very briefly, the trick is that the plane of focus does not have to be parallel to the plane of the image sensor. Rather, it can be tipped from a little to a lot, just by tilting the lens with respect to the image sensor.

So, if the subject lies in a plane or close to it, then essentially unlimited DOF can be achieved by tilting the lens properly. Some of Mike's recent posts have used this to good effect Smile, though his subjects have been too 3-dimensional to club us over the head with "how did he do that?!"

You can read about tilt lenses at http://www.photo.net/photo/canon/tilt-shift, or search Google for words like "tilt lens plane focus". The effect is easy enough to play with, by jury-rigging or handholding an ordinary lens in front of an SLR. To use tilting regularly in practice, you would probably want a lens specially designed for the job. It will have the appropriate mechanics and also will be designed to maintain quality over a larger than normal image circle, since the sensor effectively moves off-axis as the lens tilts.

--Rik
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MikeBinOKlahoma



Joined: 20 Nov 2004
Posts: 1491
Location: Umm....Could it be Oklahoma?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some of Canon's videocameras will use their EF camera lenses mounted directly on the camera. They have a very large cropping factor--That's how some of the shots of wild lions and predators you see on nature shows are taken--Using a video camera with a 500mm lens cropped to some ridiculous level. So you could put a tilt-shift lens on a videocamera. Maybe even with a bellows or diopter or teleconverter for more magnification.
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Mike Broderick
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(reposts on this site of my images for critique or instruction are welcome)
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nzmacro
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Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Posts: 1604
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well its time for a birthday present soon, so these sound good to see. Very Happy Wink

All the best and thanks for an interesting to read thread and the recommendations guy's. Very Happy

Danny.
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Moebius



Joined: 27 May 2005
Posts: 146
Location: Omaha, NE

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the excellent responses...I was hoping it would be something out of my price range...no temptation whispering in my ear.

I would highly recommend the Insectia Series - beautiful work. You can rent the series from many rental outlets.

Ken
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