Tiffen Diffusion Filters and Steadicam Innovations
Innovation in Digital Sensor Capture
Tiffen has been one of our blog sponsors for over four years. They have been incredibly supportive of my innovative ideas brainstorms and creative process and have embraced this new digital sensor technology head on. Back in 2009, they engineered a whole new ND filtration for the Canon 5D sensor with me, emerging as the leader in all digital sensor diffusion due to their understanding IR filtration and the power of correction in camera.
Steve Tiffen and I have been friends for many years. His company is top shelf and his team ranks right along with him. They have diversified their product line, created a partnership with Steadicam, and have been forward thinking in so many ways, not just from the glass side of things, but with motion solutions.
Tiffen has introduced a whole new line of filters for digital sensors and have shot a very in-depth 4K test that premiered at NAB this year, using the Sony F55 to show the power of their filtration and how each one is unique. I thought the test was very well done. I was able to see it at 4K and loved the results. If you are shooting with any of the Sony cameras, you really need to see this test and run out and buy these filters. It really made the camera come alive. It took that very video look that Sony delivers and softened it in a very graceful way. Click here to go to the Tiffen website for the test in 1080 (registration required to view).
“Let’s Break Down My Favorites”
I am not typically a Sony shooter so my favorites will be based on what I felt looked great with 35mm film, the Red Epic, Canon’s arsenal, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Arri Alexas.
The Black Soft EFX’s Diffusion:
This is an update on the very popular diffusion Soft EFX. I use this filtration all the time when I shoot film. I felt it was superior and delivered a wonderful look. The black addition to the Soft EFX’s dots gives you a little less blooming in the highlights, which I liked. You could go heavier and not get a milky over diffused look. I loved the feel of this filtration and will be adding this to my arsenal.
The Black Satin Diffusion:
This filter was so good, it blew my mind. It is a whole new diffusion filtration technology. Never before have I seen a diffusion pattern look so good and organic. We did tests on Fathers and Daughters and the director loved the feel of this filter. We had done side to side with the infamous Hollywood Black Magic and found their patterns to be very inconsistent. They diffused the outsides of the frame more than the center, which on a 60’ screen, looked odd. The Black Satin gave us this creamy look, with suppressed highlights while at the same time giving us a really nice glow from all of our practical lights as well as a street light glow. There are a good amount of levels of thickness to use with your whole lens arsenal from 14mm to 180mm. Again, I will be adding this to the filter list.
The Pearlescent Diffusion:
I would use this filter for a period piece that was set in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It has a very glowy feel. To me, it felt like old still photos taken from this era. I loved its consistency and its superior quality, along with all the different levels of thickness. I love the look of a net on the rear element.This came very close to that feel that you get without the stop loss and the painstaking detail in netting your lenses.
These were the standouts. Tests of all of these will be coming very soon to showcase each of them and the unique look and moods that they create.
Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam and is one hell of an innovator. This man has changed the way all of us make movies and he did it with true grit, intelligence and a vision beyond all of us. We have become very close friends and love sharing stories of our adventures. Look at this Rock Star.
This pic is my favorite because back in the day, there were no video monitors to view your image so he attached this periscope thing to his head, which showed him the image. Kind of like the first my view goggles, and he moved the camera with this. How the hell did he do it? He has so many great stories about looking ahead and trying to not kill himself.
The second pic is his version of 3D back in the 70s… Lol!
The third pic was with Kubrick on The Shining. Do I need to say more? His credit list will bring you to your knees. Love the man and his vision, which has helped me in so many ways as an artist. Cheers, my friend!
GoPro Steadicam Rig:
When I put the new GoPro Steadicam rig in my hand, I was surprised! This is beautiful. For all of you who have used their Smoothee or their heavier duty Steadicam products, this gives you the same control and feel. It was extraordinary. The same gimbal feel and touch was all the same. It WOW’ed me!!!!
The Steadicam M-1
I got an advance tour of this device at NAB. Garrett has made so many new additions to this rig. The post is a little smaller but more stable than the thick post version from years ago. The balancing of the batteries and monitors is so quick and effortless.
He made the powered baseplate thinner, lighter and more compact, along with newer electronic tech inside the arm and gimbal. This was one finely crafted machine. I love that he never stops. He moves the bar up every time and it doesn’t matter what size the capture medium is – from a GoPro to a DSLR to an Arri Alexa to an IMAX camera. Steadicam and Tiffen deliver the same excellence.
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About Filmmakers Academy Cinematographer Mentor Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Director of photography Shane Hurlbut, ASC works at the forefront of cinema. He’s a storyteller, innovator, and discerning collaborator, who brings more than three decades of experience to his art. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the International Cinematographers Guild/Local 600, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurlbut frequently joins forces with great directors: McG’s Netflix Rim of the World and The Babysitter, plus Warner Bros. We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation; Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed and Act of Valor; and Gabriele Muccino’s There Is No Place Like Home and Fathers and Daughters. His additional film credits include Semi-Pro; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Into the Blue; Mr 3000; Drumline; 11:14, which earned Hurlbut a DVDX nomination; and The Skulls. Notably, his television credits include the first season of AMC’s Into the Badlands.
Great article (as always) Shane! I’m upgrading my 5DmII to a 4k camera this summer and I’m definitely considering getting these filters to add to the arsenal. I’m considering the Panasonic GH4, but from what I’ve seen, I like except that the edges of subjects seem a bit too sharp for that cinematic quality. These filters look awesome and like they’d be a great way to slightly soften the edges. Do you know when these new filters will be available? Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the latest 4k cameras being released, such as the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7S. Thanks again for all you do!
James, Thank you for the kind words, I have not shot with the GH4 or the Sony A7S. But I feel that Panasonic’s edge sharpening is the downfall of their whole line. I have never really embraced that camera and even now that you have the ability to turn the edge sharpening down it loses all of its snap, so I feel filtration, just like with the F55 is the only way to make these camera’s feel cinematic and to take the edge off. I am not sure on their release date.
Have you ever used low contrast filters? Do you feel they are effective or do you steer clear of them usually?
Morgan Simpson, I have never been a fan of these filters. I would rather use glass that has lower contrast then try a filter. There are so many issues with putting glass in front of the lens with flaring and such.
I tried making my own steadicam from the videos on YouTube. It was really more of a pain than it was worth. I ended up getting this one for under 100 bucks. So far so good. Using it with my T3i and Go Pro.steadicam
Thanks again for a very useful post Shane. I live in a country where I can’t try them, which filter and what strength would you recommend for just taking the edge of sharp HD video? I have a 5d mark III and a pocket camera. Love your blog!