You will never forget the first time you see a good tilt/shift video. The miniature effect is pure magic that amazes you like a child. Expensive as well as the lens that makes it happen is very expensive. You can however create the effect in post with the use of plugins. It’s not exactly the same quality but it’s still fun. So when Crumplepop offered it’s software tilt/shift plugin ‘Shrinkray’ with a pay-what-you-want discount, I had to get it and test it out.
My first tests in a local mall didn’t work. To make the miniature effect work you need to be high, look down at a ‘puppeteer angle’ and have some distance to you subject. So scout and plan ahead or you’re just wasting time. The second test (this video) was filmed from a high dune during a windy day at the beach. Still not high enough and a bit shaky but better. Besides footage for tilt/shift miniature I also shot some slow motion footage (60 fps) of kitesurfers, to see if I could use Shrinkray for selective focus and ultra shallow depth of field.
The shots are nice but the miniature effect isn’t as strong as I would like. Practice, practice, practice.
Here are some thoughts about Shrinkray. First of all, I like it because I got it so cheap (lucky me). But I’m less happy with the interface. It is difficult to control and it works slow. You can’t set the strength of the blur and Shrinkray only does horizontal and vertical focus lines. However, the ‘blur/focus patch’ and ‘blur/focus lightpost’ functions are very handy. Shrinkray isn’t perfect but it’s great fun and good for learning.
Probably the best tilt/shift FCP software plugin is included in the color grading application Magic Bullet Looks. All the control you need, easy to work with, but expensive. I use Apple Color for grading so I have no need for Magic Bullet Looks. And, in the end, the best tilt/shift effect is made with a real tilt/shift lens. If you ever have a client that needs this effect, rent the lens. You can also simulate the effect manually in Photoshop, After Effects, Motion etcetera. Tutorials are all over the net.
One more thing, you can also build your own real tilt/shift lens with a plunger and an old large lens, like the Pentagon Six. Just google ‘DIY tilt/shift’. The plunger design works for photography but for video you’re probably better of with twistable bellows on a rail.