Testimonial Video Production with a New Lens

November 27, 2017 | Andy Linda

Testimonial video production is best done with a camera and lens combinations that can give you shallow depth-of-field. That means you can throw the background out of focus. It makes for pleasing framing when doing any kind of interview video production. Strap on your thinking cap, this is going to get a little technical:

One of the reasons we got our new FS7 video camera was because of its large sensor. This is one half of the equation in getting a shallow depth-of-field which allows for selective focus. That’s another way of saying we can keep the background out of focus and not distracting when we’re doing any kind of interview video production. Selective focus is a tool to really guide the viewer’s eyes to where we want them to look. A MetaBones lens adaptor we use helps in this respect as well: it makes the Super-35-sized sensor act as a full-frame 35mm sensor, which is the size of 35mm slides. That’s even larger than classic movie film. Remember, the larger the sensor, the shallower the depth-of-field, that’s the nature of optics. The missing link to achieving super soft and creamy backgrounds in testimonial video production was a nice wide-aperture prime lens.

Samyang Cine Lens

Of course a lens is key to creating a particular “look” on photos, film and video, and that can be of particular benefit in testimonial video production. For shallow depth-of-field one needs a large aperture (low F-stop) lens. The lower the F-stop, the larger the hole through the lens and therefore the depth-of-field is shallower; once again that’s the nature of optics. An F1.2 or F1.4 lens has a significantly shallower depth-of-field than a lens that can open up only to F4 which is what our zoom lens is capable of.

Samyang Cine Lens Side View

Long story short: we got a 50mm F1.4 prime lens for our camera and it makes great pictures. It is an absolute must for testimonial video production and it works great for much other shooting. (We actually got the cinema version of this lens that’s rated at T1.5, has follow-focus gears, no click stops on the iris ring, and is matched to other Samyang cine lenses. All these features make this a professional cinematography lens.)

This sample was shot with the new lens and it demonstrates the last essential piece of the puzzle: a variable-density filter in the camera. A large aperture (low F-stop) lets in a lot of light, but if you’re shooting outside where there is a lot of light and you don’t want to close down the iris (and lose that shallow depth-of-field), you need a neutral density filter to cut the light. A continuously-variable ND filter lets you dial in the precise exposure while keeping your lens wide open. In other words, use the ND filter for exposure while you use the lens’ F-stop to control the depth-of-field. That’s what makes our FS7 Mark II so special. The Mark II has a built-in continuously variable filter that can even be used for auto-exposure. So we have absolutely all the tools we need to control exposure and depth-of-field independently of each other and the resulting images are fantastic. (Note that the video sample above was shot and is posted in full 4K [2160p]!)

Samyang Cine Lens rear

The bottom line is that this cine lens, coupled with our sophisticated Sony 4k camera, gives us a true film look whether we’re doing testimonial video production or shooting a tomato harvest.

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