Thread: Wide angle issues - difficulty focusing, dull looking images, et cetera

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  1. #1 Wide angle issues - difficulty focusing, dull looking images, et cetera 
    Senior Member Ruben de Boer's Avatar
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    Hi folks,

    I'm having some issues with making my wide angle shots look interesting. My 50mm and 85mm lenses are looking pretty well. But my wide angle shots look dull. All are Nikon cine-modded lenses. The wide angle shots are shot at f2.8 or f3.5. Below are ungraded stills (left 50mm, right 24mm) from a recent 48HFP.

    It seems much harder to grade and focusing is really difficult (even with 200% punch-in with the Ursa Mini screen). The resulting images look really dull.

    I've talked to some folks and Googled a bunch, but I don't seem to get the answer that I need.

    Is this something that's suppose to happen? Am I doing something wrong? Is there a magic trick to working with 24mm and 35mm lenses on the Ursa Mini? Should I work with different lighting in a wide angle scene?
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  2. #2  
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    I find the same thing. A simplistic reason would be that wide shots often lack an obvious subject. Along with the deeper DOF, the eye needs to work harder.

    Wider shots also reveal less than desirable locations, costume, lighting ratios, etc. Your wide shot is close to the wall. Could you set up the shot in the centre of the room and get more depth?
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    I'm not sure about the mood you are going for but the first shot looks fine to me. I would probably avoid using the wide as an over the shoulder reverse like you did in the second shot. Feels awkward. I'd keep the wide as master shot, side on, or birds eye if you want to get fancy. Also maybe bring the camera down or up(angled down), and add some foreground elements or more set dressing, really depends on the context and mood of the scene i guess.. Just my lame two cents.
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    My feeling is the wide is too busy, and it's hard to know what the focus of the shot is. It feels like documentary, not cinema.

    If it's a master shot, then the angle feels wrong. It's like you've set up a two-shot with the suits, but pink jumper guy is the largest character in the shot. There's also too much headroom for my tastes - hinting that the background/location is a hero on the shot. As Ben pointed out, place the camera so you have a profile of all characters. And if possible go on a longer lens to reduce the visible background.
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    Senior Member Ruben de Boer's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses!
    It really helps. Yes, it's indeed a master shot. But couldn't get it to work properly with this shot. For the next one I'll keep in mind:
    1. Placement of table and subjects away from background.
    2. Working with sizes of the characters, also compares to the background ("who / what is the biggest in the shot?", is it the most important one?).
    3. Set dressing of the foreground.
    4. Maybe use a longer lens further away (if possible.)
    5. Working with contrast (less light spill on the background) or "pools of light".
    6. Different perspectives (higher or lower).

    Am I forgetting something?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruben de Boer View Post
    Thanks for the responses!
    It really helps. Yes, it's indeed a master shot. But couldn't get it to work properly with this shot. For the next one I'll keep in mind:
    1. Placement of table and subjects away from background.
    2. Working with sizes of the characters, also compares to the background ("who / what is the biggest in the shot?", is it the most important one?).
    3. Set dressing of the foreground.
    4. Maybe use a longer lens further away (if possible.)
    5. Working with contrast (less light spill on the background) or "pools of light".
    6. Different perspectives (higher or lower).

    Am I forgetting something?
    Just another thought, there's lots of lines in the background. This makes it look 'busy' - which you may, or may not want.

    The curved arch diving the rooms is an odd one, and our eyes naturally want to follow lines to see where they are going. so, where it that?

    For instance, a character standing on a straight train line that disappears into the distance. Those lines naturally lead to the character if they are centre of the tracks, and, more or less, so is the lens. So you need to consider that in the composition.

    Basically, what I do in a tricky scene is walk around with a stills camera and take shots at different angles. Then, on a laptop, go through the images to chose the angle/position that feels right, or works best for the scene/shot. You can do that before setting up lights.
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    This isn't even really a wide shot, just a touch over medium. The focus seems to be too far back, though it's hard to tell from the low res, ideally the guy on the left is just barely in focus so the background can falloff a little.

    I get the composition, you favored headroom over empty floor/under table blah. While I'd agree with most of the advice here, shooting profile would only necessitate a wider lens which would include more window and more under table garbage. I think you made the right choice with the angle. Though stepping back and using a longer lens would definitely have been a better choice.

    Now that it's done you can do a few simple tricks to help yourself out a little. A 2.40 matte will help to lose some of the details that distract from your shot as well as a light vignette. Totally artificial of course but it will help to keep the viewer's attention where you want it.

    Good Luck

    vig3_1.1.3.T.jpg
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    It's true, IMHO this is all about composition. The light colored, empty table in the foreground for example draws too much attention.
    Of course, it can be symbolic if the actors are about to discuss a plan for which there is no concept yet… Everything in art has rules that may be broken to great effect.

    In general, wide angle compositions tend to be more difficult, since a lot is more or less in focus and asking for the viewers attention. To learn from a master, study Orson Welles' films. He is the pioneer who brought wide angle into the cinema with great artistic results.
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Ruben de Boer's Avatar
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    A small update: I watched Citizen Kane and it was really helpful for figuring out how wide angle shots work best. Thanks guys! :-)
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