Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Everyone thinks that shallow depth of field is part and parcel of the film world but not everyone was happy with SDoF.  When one of Hollywood’s biggest directors Orson Welles filmed Citizen Kane a film made in 1941 which was not only directed by Orson Welles but stared the very man himself, director Welles insisted on having a large depth of field for many of his shots.

This gave the crew a nightmare as they had to bring in far more lighting when Orson decided his next shot was to be filmed at T11 or f11 to you and me. T11 in those days ment blasting the set with light in order to allow the iris to stop down to f11, if nothing else things must have got very hot indeed.

If on the occasion enough light was not the answer they would use a split lens to give them two seperate depths of focus now this was tricky as you had to make sure your foreground actors and background actors never crossed the “invisible” line.

As an example you would use the edge of the door as an invisible line then pop on the split lens giving you two separate focusing fields.

As you can see the actors could not move from that position or the effect would be ruined. So you see it’s a savvy director who decides not to follow the rest of the field and give the viewer a visual experiance that in those days was new and different to the norm.

Think out of the box like Orson Welles did seventy years ago, the internet is a great tool but many of you are trying to emulate and be influanced by what you see on YouTube, Vimeo etc. The best films or videos today are fresh, free of influances from what others do and say, it does not have to be the “Film Look” for everything you do, video and its larger depth of field still has a place, it’s the power of your story that matters the tool to do the job is secondary to that.

My thanks to Norrie for the background info.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

3 thoughts on “Harking back to the past to educate the future

  1. From the DVD Extras: The scene in the film with the ice sculptures was a problem as all those lights needed for T11 were melting the sculptures faster than they could shoot.

  2. Being human is THE big handycap, when we only had b/w photographs we longed for colour ones, now we have colour photos, we want b/w again. Orson Welles had shallow DoF, he wanted all in focus, we have as sharp as you want video and long for shallow depth, grain like film… now, what do I want do I really really want….

  3. I for one HATE shallow DoF! I don’t see the world in horrible bokeh. The human eye, even with the pupil wide open, has very good DoF. You can easily prove this to yourself. Hold up your thumb at arms length, close one eye and focus on it. While keeping your eye on your thumb, use your brain to notice the background, Sure, it will be out of focus, but it will not be an indistinguishable mess of colors and shapes.

    What is more, with a flick of your eye, you can look at the background, and then back at your thumb. In other words, the entire field of vision is available to you and it is IN FOCUS!

    I am sick of the director telling me WHERE I have to look in a scene. I want the freedom to choose if I want to look at the talent, or if I want to notice something in the background.

    This is why I will never, never buy a large-sensor cam like the FS100. 1/2″ sensors are great, just make them sharp and free from coma and CA!


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