Location Shooting 1: The Power of Transparencies


[dropcap cap="L"]ocation shooting is great--gets you out in the open and away from squinting at that computer all day. I think it gives balance and verity to the job. It’s kind of funny to say but I am able to engage more in the world with a camera in my hand.


I put some ideas together about location photography for matte painters. Some ideas would be considered “basic”. Others, I think, are cool tips industry people might be interested in. This was getting to be kind of a long post so I am breaking it up into sections. Here is the first of four tips so far.



The Power of Transparencies

This is a trick I learned from Chris Evens on a shoot he and I went on in New Orleans for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. First, I mocked up all the plates we were getting photos for in Photoshop with black perspective lines and an outline of the plate elements. Then, I printed out the black lines on transparencies. In New Orleans we walked around holding these transparencies up to buildings. I am sure we looked like fruit cakes but the huge advantage was we were making sure that what we shoot lines up to the plate’s scale and perspective. Being careful about how you shoot means the photos will sit very nicely in the plate with not a lot of effort.

As a test, I tried to line up the buildings with the plate from memory, not using the transparencies. I then held up the transparencies and boy was I wrong—I had to move myself quite a bit to align it with the plate.

Just in case you did not know "Plate" means the film footage.

Instructions are pretty simple. You hold the transparency up in front of you and walk yourself into place where the subject lines up with the perspective lines on the transparency. Then move the transparency away and take a picture. Try not to move too much when bringing up your camera. Also I think there is a natural tendency to want to move the transparency and not your body to get it to line up. You need to keep your arms out straight and keep your body square to the transparency and the subject. Kind of a cool old school trick from one of the masters that still works today.

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