How to make small things appear big... opposite of T/S miniaturization

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by holmburgers, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Hey all,

    So I was thinking, if you wanted to make a miniature look life-sized, what could you do to achieve this?

    Obviously, everyone is familiar with how to miniaturize a photo using tilt/shift, but how about the opposite?

    There's a guy who makes model cars and model city blocks and then uses real-life backgrounds to produce fairly realistic looking scenes. I think it was on NY Times at some point...

    I was thinking that focus-stacking would be an option, though difficult (to say the least) with analog means.
     
  2. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Those are two separate questions.

    To increase DOF, focal stacks might help, yes.

    To make small things look like they are not, you have to miniaturize perspective to the scale of the models.
    If, say, you would take a photo of a car from about 3 meters away, holding the camera 1.5 meters above the ground, and use a moderate wide angle, you would have to scale down those parameters too.
     
  3. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    They aren't separate questions. DOF is inherently related to how close a lens is focused, and thus how close an object is. DOF is the visual cue that makes a T/S picture appear miniature.
     
  4. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    They are separate questions.

    Extremely low DoF makes things look, well..., weird.
    It's not how close you are, but how big you blow up the thing that is going to fill the frame that determines DoF.

    Perspective is the thing that gives away that the camera was used by a giant looking down on the world from far away, using a longish lens to pick out interesting bits.

    But yes, when you want to take ful frame pictures of small things, DoF is extremely shallow.
     
  5. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Thus, they are two considerations of the same problem/question. You can't make a miniature look life-sized if the DOF is shallow.

    I don't honestly understand how perspective is relevant.

    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/06/07/science/space/20100608-space-13.html
    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/06/07/science/space/20100608-space-14.html

    These two pictures got me thinking about this.
     
  6. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Perspective is the thing that gives away that the camera was used by a giant looking down on the world from far away, using a longish lens to pick out interesting bits.
     
  7. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Ok, but I don't understand your point about perspective. Look at the NY Times pictures; if he used a 50mm lens instead of a 28mm lens (for instance), the effect would still be that of looking at a miniature, only more "zoomed" in.

    Unless you can make a claim for an ideal FL to use to reach this effect, then saying "miniaturize perspective" is arbitrary.

    What's your point? You're not advancing my aim, which is to make miniatures look life size.
     
  8. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    Not just "zoomed in", but the change also affects the appearance of near/far juxtaposition, and depth of field if the camera isn't moved. Balancing the juxtaposition between near and far, depth of field considerations and camera viewpoint are a good part of what it takes to make a miniature appear realistic. There's no one magic lens/distance/aperture that will just make it happen for you. It's hard work, and takes lots of practice, that's why you see so few good examples (and why even today, those who shoot models and miniatures professionally make a very, very good income doing that)
     
  9. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I am.
    But you're not understanding doesn't. :wink:

    Especially the first, the pictures don't look like taken by someone of the same scale moving about in the model world.

    How often do you see a picture of, say, a car taken from 5 meters up and 12 meters away? When you go out in the street and take a picture of a car, your camera will be at about or just above the level of the roof, and perhaps one car length away.

    When you take a picture of a miniature care and want it to look like that car in the street you took in real life, the position of the camera relative to the model (and the focal length of the lens) will have to be the same.
    If it's not, you'd take pictures that look like you were indeed 5 meters up and 12 meters away from that car.

    To convince viewers that a photograph was taken in amongst the astronauts, the camera needs to be in amongst the astronauts. If you want to take a picture of a model cityscape that is meant to look like as if it was taken at street level in a real cityscape, the camera needs to be in the model where you would be in the real street.

    Perspective must be convincing, or else the photos are not!
     
  10. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    This I believe. I was just getting frustrated because it seemed as though Q.G. had the secret.

    However, riddle me this, wouldn't focus-stacking effectively achieve this goal? It seems to me that the only real difference between imaging something that is big and little is the inherent qualities of lenses and the focusing of visible light.

    For instance, electron microscopy doesn't appear "small", because DOF is so deep.


    update.... ok, sorry for being a bit short with Q.G.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2010
  11. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Focus stacking will only solve the DoF problem.
    Not the i'm floating somewhere above, looking down on reality problem.

    They used to use boroscopes with very short focal length lenses, move them along models at the proper level and the proper distance to the model, to create more or less convincing images. That really is something you should pursue, if (!) you're aim is to make the images look like they are of real-life-scale thingies, and not a model.

    (Used to use, because now everything that used to be done with models is modelled in computer graphics).
     
  12. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Yeah, but you could certainly be up in a tower, or in a hot air balloon...

    This issue of perspective seems self-evident. I guess I am wondering how we can overcome the limitations of lenses. Alas.....
     
  13. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    Borescope, Light Pipe, carefully placed first surface mirror, any/all of these effects will help you to realize your goal. Focus stacking, as Q.G. pointed out only helps with the DOF issue, and should be the last consideration after point of view and realization of that point of view.
     
  14. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Don't use a lens at all, use a pinhole.
     
  15. John NYC

    John NYC Member

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    If you are talking about the guy who does mockups of 1950's Main Street small town scenes and then photos them, he uses nothing more than a compact digital camera.
     
  16. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    Perspective can be an issue for sure - people pick up on these clues/cues unconsciously or even consciously if it's bad enough - if you have miniatures then to achieve normality the camera and everything related to it should be miniature also (even the grain). Not possible, so special periscope 'snorkel' lens systems have been made to fit big cameras into small areas...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The periodical Cinefex although it deal a heap with CGI nowadays has lots of articles on this kind of carry on - you can order back issues of most of your favourite films

    As for what you can do with your equipment is just think the opposite way around - whatever tilt faking requires just flip the thinking on it's head - and yes, one of the aspects that make that tilt faking work is using higher perspectives...

    Pretty good example here: http://vimeo.com/9679622

    to quote:

    "I was lucky to have friends, contacts and a some helpful people I'd never met but asked nicely allow me access to rooftops and balconies" :wink:

    I know you're after the opposite - but it just serves to prove the point I guess. For examples of what you're after just watch any effects heavy film from the 70's and 80's (they've been doing it since day one almost, but this particular era is the most laden) - and chuck in Kubricks 2001 for sure
     
  17. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Many of those T/S pictures that look miniature look that way because of vantage point. That is, a shot from a building down to an intersection looks miniature because in real life, depth of field should be much greater than that portrayed. On those types of shots the perspective is right; that is, the T/S pictures are taken from a naturally occurring perspective. So I think perspective as referred to here is not always part of the answer. It certainly is when realistic shots are wanted from the perspective of someone within the scene. But when an image shows a scene of naturally deep DoF, as would be seen looking down from say, a 12th story balcony, then the T/S effect will give that "model" look by unnaturally portraying DoF as if the object were very close.
    So in converse, a miniature taken from that "same" perspective will rely mostly on DoF to eliminate the look of it being a miniature. The angle is realistic for a 12th floor balcony shot. The challenge is to render DoF realistically.
     
  18. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Yes.
    And when we assume that DoF has been fixed, the challence is to get perspective right. :wink:

    The OP's question are two questions.
    We do not need to decide which of the two answers to these two questions is the right one (singular). Both are.
     
  19. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Use tilt-shift. :wink:
     
  20. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    Does anyone remember the movie "Team America"? For this movie they used puppets about 1/3 of normal human size, yet achieved rather realistic looking sceneries ... One could certainly look at the camera angles and perspective used in this flick.
     
  21. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Agree, this is probably going to be far more important than any other issue like focus or DOF.

    Amen, maybe something like this, but than in a model environment(Zero Image 4x5 in 25mm configuration):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Marco
     
  22. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Thanks for all the responses.

    I agree that perspective needs to be considered, and with the limited tools we have (i.e. lenses that focus light) it might be the most powerful tool in making miniatures look life sized.

    I think some are underestimating the DoF issue however. Since we've all been looking at pictures since the day we popped into this world, we have an ingrained knowledge of how lenses render images, whether we realize it or not. That is why the T/S stuff is so powerful. It gives the effect of shallow DoF which is usually completely absent from pictures taken at such a distance, thus it feels like the camera must be 3 feet above a model. Similarly, if you could take a picture of a miniature where everything was f/64 sharp, I think you'd never question that it's life-sized, assuming the miniature itself is realistic enough (herein lies the practical need for good perspective). Perspective will be accepted automatically if there are no other obvious cues.

    Anyways, no sense in beating a dead horse.

    P.S. There's some famous movie studio that did a lot of miniature work in the 50's era, and there's a website out there somewhere... but apparently there's a formula that relates the scale of the model to how "slow motioned" it needs to be to look realistic. So, whereas a matchstick falling to the ground looks like just that, if it's slowed down enough, it'll seem like a 2x4!
     
  23. nick mulder

    nick mulder Subscriber

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    This is from ILM:

    [​IMG]
     
  24. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Awesome, thanks for posting!