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Filtration: Beware Of The Reaper Of Cheap Glass

  • February 10, 2010
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Filtration: Beware Of The Reaper Of Cheap Glass

Making HD look like film has a cocktail and one of the essential ingredients to this flavorful recipe is Neutral Density.  You have to keep your exposure on a 5D around a 5.6 to get that beautiful shallow depth of field.  The 7D should be around a 2.8, and the 1D around a 4.0.  This gives the focus puller a chance and still keep a beautiful fall off of focus.

The Canon cameras allow what has never been achieved before with most of the HD platform cameras.  They never had a vista-vision sensor in them.  It was always a 2/3 chip sensor or a 35mm sensor size with more depth of field than anyone would want or know what to do with.

I recently did a slew of tests for the Bandito Brothers Production Company and we discovered how cheap ND (Neutral Density) limited our color correction options.  Green is one of my favorite colors but not what bad green filtration does to a beautiful image with depth and color.

Hoya ND
Hoya ND


We had a test where I was shooting five 5D’s side by side with different ND filtration from a variety of manufacturers.  The color difference was astounding.  Muddy, green and flat was the feeling I was getting from an $11.00 HOYA filter. www.hoyafilter.com/products/hoya/oef-05.html

Schneider ND
Schneider ND

Schneider logo

When I moved to the next camera it had a Schneider that seemed somewhat clean, but not perfect. www.schneideroptics.com/industrial/filters/Neutral_Density.htm?gclid=CM_NhqTH258CFRJinAodS1XdGQ

B + W 77mm
B + W Filter

Then onto the B+W, which has a color that was very close to the Schneider.www.schneideroptics.com/filters/bw.htm

Cameras 4 and 5 had Tiffen Water White  1.2ND’s which looked the cleanest of all of them.  This filter was specifically designed for the HD world.  When you ND so much to get the exposure that you love it increases the IR levels that your sensor is taking in.  This filter counteracts that. BUT what I have found is that the Canon DSLR’s have very powerful IR filters on their sensors so the standard IR filtration in the HD world is not needed.  Testing has shown that when you go into the 1.5 to 2.1 range you do need a little IR compensation but no where near what the filter manufacturer’s have laid in there.  So my go to is the HV Tiffen Water White 77mm ND’s Indie: 3,6,9,1.2, Indie Plus:1.5,1.8,2.1 pola, or the HV Tiffen Water White 4 x 5 Pro: 3,6,9,1.2 and Pro Plus: 1.5, 1.8, 2.1 with 138mm Pola Kits.  For detailed information, please contact Jill Conrad at NYC Tiffen at 1-631-609-3215 or email jconrad@tiffen.com or Robert Oralndo in LA at rorlando@tiffen.com, they both will be able to direct you to a dealer to get you all set-up. The kits come with belt pouches that hold the 77mm or the 4×5 filters.  They are sweet and very user friendly.    Tiffen has also up their ND levels to 5, 6, and 7 stops.  These are now available in WW IR ND and WW Straight ND  1.5, 1.8, and a 2.1.  This is essential for getting that amazing shallow depth of field out of your Canon 5D, 7D, and 1D cameras.

HV Indie and Indie Plus Kits are 77mm Water White Straight ND’s
HV Pro and Pro Plus Kits are 4 x 5 Water White Straight ND’s

When we compared all the cameras in the color correction bay, the Tiffen Water White  ND quickly moved to the top. The Water White filtration is expensive, but you get what you pay for. What a difference!  So, my recipe for filming is to use the Tiffen Water Whites ND’s across the board.

What types of ND filtration do you use?  What gives you the best results?  What problems have you dealt with?

  • Canon
  • Filters
  • lense choice
  • Lenses
  • Tiffen