As filmmakers and videographers, at some point, you have to shoot an insert shot. It might be a phone, cocktail, or a clients product. This all means table top.
We’re going to look at some tips and tricks for shooting great tabletop shots.
Welcome to Pull My Focus, adventures in the world of digital filmmaking where we give you the tips, tricks, and techniques you need to make great video.
Here’s the first thing to know. Tabletop means you’re getting really close to what you’re shooting. That you see everything. Issues show themselves that you don’t normally notice, like scratches in glassware or a crocked or damaged product label.
Look at your hero and backup props closely before you shoot. Get brand new products, avoiding scratched or distorted sides, crooked labels, bend boxes and so on.
You’re looking to avoid issues that could steal the viewer's focus.
Lighting tabletop is interesting because it’s basically a microcosm for lighting on a full sized set. You still have key and fill lights, just on a smaller scale.
We’ll cut up pieces of showcard, white on one side, black on the other, and create little stands using cardboard and wedges.
I'll move this card into place and there’s my fill.
But you’ll notice, the card also throws a reflection on this bottle. Heck, everything in the room is reflected in this bottle.
I could put it into a white box but this is an insert shot where I want to see the environment around it.
Not a problem. Our showcard is black on one side remember, for negative fill.
We make a few cards with the black side facing out. This will help us sculpt the look of the bottle by controlling its reflections.
I’m using it to create a vertical line here. Now watch as I turn it, to catch some of the key light, it goes grayer and also changes its width.
I’ll also add another white card, not for fill but to sculpt it as well. As I twist it, it changes its light level and therefore grayscale reflection as well.
You can also buy gray cards which give even more options to work with. You can pick up showcard at any art store where they call it art card or presentation board.
Depth of Field and Focal Length
Because you’re close in on your subject, your depth of field becomes even shallower. This can look good but if you need more depth of field, you may need to boost your light levels to shoot at a higher f-stop. One way to do this, bring your lights in very close.
Be mindful of what focal length you shoot at. Since you’re in close, too wide of lenses and distort your subject.
An advantage of shooting in close, you can use any surface you want to put the object on. If you need a reflective surface, a clear acetate sheet or plexiglass on top of white or colored paper will work.
For certain shots, you may need to shoot in a lightbox, the tabletop version of a white cyc stage. You can purchase light boxes that are basically mini pop tents built out of white silk-like material that you can light through, and that have a built-in cyc.
If you want, you can make a light box out of a plastic bin put on its side, using paper or cloth to create the cyc.
And those are just a few of the numerous tips and tricks that go into shooting table. See our previous video on lighting liquids for more.
Editing / After Effects: Gali Segal
“Right Place, Right Time”
by Silent Partner
by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
Dice Rolling by sarcasticbracket
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