The filter test: what filters to use when shooting a movie

 Video filters

Lens filters offer an awesome way to create some cinematic magic. In this post, we take you through the best ways to enhance your film with great filters. Read on for our advice.

What’s so great about filters?

Well, this is an easy one, filters offer a range of benefits that include simple things like protecting your camera lens from the elements, especially when filming outside, are inexpensive to replace and provide a greater ability to reduce glare and reflections; however, one of the best reasons to use a filter is the ability it gives you to create a much more artistic shooting style.

Writing in Videomaker, Tony Gomez says, “Many videographers out there may be squeamish about taking their camcorder out into environments that aren’t perfect. Many others, though, look at these conditions as a challenge awaiting them. Changing the color or hue to a video can elicit different emotions in a scene. Using a special filter to tint the shot slightly can give your scene a bluer tone that might make a lively scene appear more "cool" or less friendly. Likewise, a yellowish tint can make a video appear warmer. Yellow tinted filters can also give your video a dated feel - like a story from the old west. Many videographers who wish to create a black and white scene don't rely on simply taking out all color during the editing state.”

The right filters for the right scene

1. ND filter

One filter which is particularly good for videographers is the ND filter, which in simple terms allows you to “maintain your chosen aperture settings, while still reducing the amount of light passing through the lens.” As Jon Devo writes in The Video Mode.

 Photo taken using an ND filter

The ND filter can easily become a filmmaker's best friend, as they are especially helpful when filming outdoors, during times when you are at the mercy of natural sunlight etc. Although, not giving you complete control, it helps to reduce any unwanted light streams and reflections, giving your scene a more crisp and refined look.

There a range of ND filter models, which offer different strengths in light stops, going from 1 to 10.

2. Polarizer filter

The polarizer filter is the second tool that a filmmaker should include in their arsenal. Next to the ND filter, the polarizer offers the ability to cut out glare, reflections, and other unwanted sources of light, giving your scene a much more artistically controlled and cinematic quality.

3. Diffusion filter

The diffusion filters give subjects a natural and subtle glow, softening certain areas to appear more natural. The diffusion filters are the perfect accompaniment to powerful cameras, as their softening abilities make a scene appear less digital and more natural; when paired with a soft camera, the combination can create something that’s very dreamlike.

4. Colour filters

As many filmmakers and photographers will know, the colour filter can be awesome when you use it correctly; however, these can be tricky if used just on a whim, as they can create an effect that’s a pain to alter in post-production, if you decide you don’t like them. Each individual colour filter has its own purpose, from warming a scene up to cooling it down, and then there’s others that just change the colour slightly.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what filters are going to work, we suggest having a play around with certain filters, just to see what really suits your production.