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Old March 7th, 2013, 10:53 AM   #1
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Tips for close-up product videography

Hello all, I apologize if there is a better section for this post, but I couldn't find any since I have a broad topic of questions.

I do a lot of close-up reviews of tech products for my website/YouTube channel and I have been looking to get a bit more professional.

First thing I notice is that my area of focus is very small (Nikon D7000) so it's hard to move products closer/farther away from the camera and using the focus ring is often clumsy and unstable. I am using a 18-200mm lens. Aside from focus, are there any other recommended settings? I am using ambient lighting right now, but I do have some larger lighting rigs (nothing very direct/focused on a small spot though). I eventually gave up on using manual settings and am shooting on auto mode (which I'm sure is not recommended). I'm a pretty able photographer, but I just can't seem to get everything set right for video.

Going back to the clumsy focus, is there any easy/cheapish way to get very smooth focusing and zooming? Also any cheap solutions for sliders? I am currently using a Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with a joystick head.

In summary, what can I do to take better close-up video? What accessories can I buy that aren't massively expensive?

Thanks everyone!
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Old March 7th, 2013, 01:10 PM   #2
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

More light would let you not only stop down more to get better depth of field, but also give you more control of the appearance of the items. You can make a light tent with an old bedsheet and a homemade frame, or buy an inexpensive translucent booth. Your lights need not be expensive --- Home Depot clamp-on reflectors with large CFL bulbs would do...but you need enough light to let you shoot at, say, f11 or f16, for more depth of field. The light tent is an excellent way to control the light for closeup object photography.

Here's an example of such a booth. Not necessarily a recommendation but a picture is worth...well....http://www.hammacher.com/Product/Def...ders&catid=100
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Old March 7th, 2013, 02:49 PM   #3
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

What sort of product? Because that's going to affect the lighting. You'd want to compromise on focal length: too close will mean too wide an angle and the shot will spill outside the background, and you'll have less room for the lights. Too long is going to lead to depth of field issues.

Cheapest slider would be to use a little skater. Check out the Rig Skate half way down this page:

Dolly/Slider Kits Archives -

As you can see, you can also track around the product with something like this.

If you are a photographer, you'll have a bunch of reflectors and scrims, and they can be used with video. If you are starting out and want to keep costs down, builders lamps from the local DIY store are cheap as chips, but try not to set fire to anything.

BTW I use a Canon 100mm macro lens for all my stills product work. It is super sharp, and gives a nice working distance.
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Old March 7th, 2013, 04:22 PM   #4
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

Thanks guys. I'll look into that. Any ideas for focusing or zooming?

As for the type of products, it's all tech. Usually a tablet or smartphone involved. Here is my latest video:
(not advertising). You can see it's good but has a lot of flaws in the video quality.
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Old March 7th, 2013, 05:51 PM   #5
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

Nothing I can suggest comes within a bulls roar of being in any way "cheap" or even "cheapish", it all starts to add up rather alarmingly.

I was going to suggest something like this for macro work:

but having watched your video I have a feeling it's simply going to wash out the screen/s.

I'll let you do your own tests, though I guess it'll be screen type dependent, some handle direct light a lot better than others.

If flooding the screens with light is simply going to wash the screens out, you're stuck with using the fastest lens you can get your hands on to collect as much of what is being transmitted by the screen back light as possible, not a lot of room for maneuver there.

The only solution to that camera movement, short of mounting the camera to a block of concrete, is to remove the need to directly touch the controls at all during shooting, which implies remote operation of both the focus and zoom rings, either mechanical or electronic.

Not really my area of expertise though I know such systems are available for SLR type cameras, but it does imply using rails which bumps the price up even more.

Then, if it was me (which it isn't) I'd use a short counterbalanced jib like this: Hague Multi-Jib K12

to give me the versatility of camera movement required, and marry it to an under slung powered pan/ tilt unit like this: Hague Pro Remote Pan & Tilt Power Head PH200

(funnily enough, I do own both the above units, works a treat).

Of course, by this time you have spent a kings ransom but are probably still at the mercy of that lcd back light.


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Old March 7th, 2013, 10:18 PM   #6
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

Two things.

First, if you're shooting reflective objects, remember you can reflect two things. Light and LACK of light.
So if you want to make an illuminated screen "pop" try setting up large black flag and reflect THAT off the screen.

The second thing is related. High school physics. Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. That governs both lights and flags. So set both lights and light blocks with an eye to how they reflect off the surface of the object.

This kind of careful control means you'll often have to mount everything, lights the object being lit, and various flags off arms so that you can position them properly.

Stuff like ring lights can be useful on very small objects like rings or for softening wrinkles in close ups of faces - but generally they just make round highlights in reflective objects so I'd be careful with them for something as flat and reflective as a phone.

Hope that helps.
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Old March 15th, 2013, 01:23 PM   #7
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

These are tough to do. I use a DSLR with the Canon 100mm macro and the Canon EF25II Extension Tube. It comes down to rehearsing the shots beforehand to make sure that you'll be at the manual exposure you need and that you are indeed in focus. Lock down all settings, ISO, Aperture, Shutter and White balance. I also recommend using a larger monitor to check your work as you shoot.

Here is an example with the Canon 5D Mark II with the 100mm macro and extension tube. You can see how razor thin the depth of field is. However, with good exposure and locked settings, you can achieve great results. You might even want to shoot everything medium close-up, then again extreme close-up, then edit and VO later. I like the macro light too that Chris recommends. For macro work, these type of ring lights are essential (except when shooting screen of things like Android devices, iPad etc.)

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Old March 15th, 2013, 11:12 PM   #8
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

To handle the glare of the screen, try a CPL on your lens. You might have to make some small adjustments to the shooting angle to eliminate all the reflections, but I think it's an effective method.
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Old March 16th, 2013, 01:06 PM   #9
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

CPL's will definitely let you manage reflections from things like cellphone or tablet screens, but they cut the available light by two stops or more, meaning that the OP will have to use still more light to be able to expand the depth of field to an appropriate level.

I have the same problem when it comes to doing tech reviews of tablets and other shiny things. I try to use available daylight, supplemented by a couple of cheap, low-output LED light panels, but I still find myself forced to use a higher ISO (usually 1600 or greater) to be able to get a minimally acceptable DOF and a reasonably bright picture. Even then, getting precise focus is a pain.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 10:00 AM   #10
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

A focusing rail might help with your focusing issues. Allows you to make minute fore/aft adjustments to your camera position. You don't have to spend hundreds on one either, just get a decent single-axis type.
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Old March 18th, 2013, 02:44 PM   #11
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

As the OP is using a DSLR, they should perhaps shoot tethered to check both focus and composition. I am not sure if is as easy to do that with Nikon as with Canon bodies, but it is surely doable. There's nothing like a big laptop screen for checking image quality. Of course, they might need to test with still shots, but that would be entirely valid I'm thinking.
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Old March 18th, 2013, 03:22 PM   #12
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Re: Tips for close-up product videography

As Trevor mentioned, getting your camera tethered is a preferred way of verifying your shots are in focus. Since the D7000 doesn't come with any software for remote shooting like the Canons do (AFAIK), I found this link which might be of use:


Tethering the D7000 Without Spending a Week’s Paycheck.
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