I am an ENG cameraman at WPIX-TV, a Tribune Broadcasting station and WB network affiliate in New York City. I’ve been at "PIX" for 21 years.
Before that I was a hard-core rock ‘n’ roll musician (guitar, bass and drums), and a still photographer. I’ve shot three Emmy winners, an American Film Institute Award winner and some local award winners as well.
Although my work in television news is anything but typical, here are a couple of scenarios that a shooter may have to handle at a moment’s notice.
A stranded whale has just been rescued! Cameramen from the all the network flagship stations are shooting the event alongside you. You come up with the only good pictures of the animal while it’s underwater. Are you the best shooter in town?
A prisoner is being moved in the back seat of a car by the cops. It’s a sunny day and the window is reflecting the surroundings outside of the car. Lots of cameramen are shooting and again you are the only cameraman to get a clear shot through the reflections on the window. Are you the best shooter in town?
What you are is a cameraman who uses filters!
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Before I adopted ENG as a career I’d been a still photographer and that’s when I began using filters. I have noticed that very few ENG shooters (and news still photographers) in New York use filters, even though they can really make the difference between getting OK shots and getting good shots.
In the two situations mentioned above, the filter made all the difference by removing or minimizing reflections that obscured the target subject. The particular piece of glass was a Tiffen circular polarizing filter, on a Fujinon zoom lens attached to a Sony Betacam SX camera.
The polarizer comes in handy in a number of situations that we shooters frequently encounter on the street. As noted, the polarizer cuts reflections and lets you to shoot through water and glass when you otherwise might not have a shot.
The filter also can darken a sunlit sky without affecting the brightness of your subject – a good way to focus attention on your target – and you get a beautiful, saturated blue sky.
A subtle but noticeable effect of polarization is that reflections that you may be unaware of – for example, the blue of the sky reflecting off of green foliage – are removed giving you richer, uncontaminated colors.
Another advantage to having the polarizer on the front of my lens is that it has a filter factor of about 1.5 to 2 stops. My SX camera is a little too sensitive to light, so this provides a kind of neutral density filter with polarizer benefits.
SEEING THE RESULTS
With a video camera, you can see the effect of the polarizer change as you rotate the filter ring. Because you can see the results in your viewfinder, the polarizer is easy to learn to use.
There are only two basic rules. First, when shooting through transparent reflective objects like glass or water (and to minimize surface reflections on opaque objects), the maximum reflection cutting occurs when you shoot at an angle of about 32 degrees to the reflective surface.
Second, to get the maximum effect in deepening a blue sky, make a "gun" shape with your hand – index finger pointed toward the sun, thumb pointed up at a right angle to that index finger – and rotate the thumb around the index finger. Your thumb will be pointing at the area of the sky that the polarizer will darken the most from horizon to horizon. You could, of course, also find this area by looking through the viewfinder.
The polarizer is easy to use, can give you good results not obtainable in any other way and is not expensive. Tiffen guarantees its filters for 10 years, too!
So, will this piece of glass make you the best shooter in town? Try it. Then let your boss answer that question.
I know about another filter, too. When you use what I call the "Love Potion #9" filter to shoot a woman, it has been my experience that most of the time, after she sees the result, she will tell you that she loves you. The filter that I am talking about is a Tiffen Pro-Mist Diffusion filter, and yes, they REALLY DO say that, with amazing frequency. Hmmm... too bad I’m married.
I’ve been doing creative things for my entire life and I’ve learned many of the tricks along the way. But using the right tools for the job is no magic, just common sense.
For more information contact Tiffen (800-645-2522, www.tiffen.com)