Thread: Variable ND's-Good Tool or Stay Away?

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  1. #1 Variable ND's-Good Tool or Stay Away? 
    Senior Member steve green's Avatar
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    On the fence about buying this (Lindsey Optics) variable ND to use with a Monstro. Any feedback on how it compares to other straight ND's out there? Right now I'm using Tiffen White Water glass, and they're just ok. Trying to find a compromise between neutral color and connivence of dialing in a stop. As always thanks for the input!

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  2. #2  
    Ive never used that particular system, but some of the variable systems have noticeable color shift as you get to the top end. Id definitely recommend demo-ing it if possible or at least trying to find some good videos on-line showing it in use through its range.

    Something else that seems like is more of a problem(or just more noticeable) with certain sensors/cameras is IR contamination when using NDs, especially at higher densities and when no compensation is made to cut IR in relation to the amount of visible light being cut.
    Last edited by Christopher A. Bell; 04-29-2019 at 09:58 AM.
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  3. #3  
    From articles I've read that particular filter controls banding really well, maybe it has a depolarizer? Can't find the information on it. It does shift blue slightly. The images don't appear to have obvious banding on the maximum setting and look very clean.

    They claim to have near infrared filtering but don't specify if it scales or anything.

    It looks like a really solid addition to a kit but I wouldn't want it to be my only ND solution.
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Michael Winokur's Avatar
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    Unless you can lock it in position I'd stay away, variable NDs change color as you adjust them, if it moves within a scene you have a color correction problem that's very difficult to fix.
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  5. #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Winokur View Post
    Unless you can lock it in position I'd stay away, variable NDs change color as you adjust them, if it moves within a scene you have a color correction problem that's very difficult to fix.
    This is true for screw on filters and loose *turn* filters, but the Lindsey Optics is a geared system. I doubt it would adjust itself even during a handheld shot or if rigged on a car or something. I could be wrong, it depends on how much friction there is on the gears.
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member steve green's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geran Simpson View Post
    This is true for screw on filters and loose *turn* filters, but the Lindsey Optics is a geared system. I doubt it would adjust itself even during a handheld shot or if rigged on a car or something. I could be wrong, it depends on how much friction there is on the gears.
    I'm not so concerned with it turning by itself, more interested if there's inherently more IR contamination then Tiffen glass or softness due to the extra glass.
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member Blair S. Paulsen's Avatar
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    Variable, screw on NDs can be very useful. That said, they will soften your image (which can be helpful on close ups).

    When my assignment is to shoot an event outdoors where I need to be mobile, or when a matte box might intimidate civilians, etc then a variable ND can be just what the doctor ordered - especially if your deliverable will be downscaled substantially from your capture resolution, 8K to HD for example.

    Where I've been burned, is shooting exterior vistas and high detail content for a UHD/4K deliverable. I went with the Heliopan VND as it controls color shift quite well, but I'd estimate it also acts as a roughly 60lp/mm low pass filter. Not ideal for big scenics.

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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    Bad ND is the curse of filmmaking. The color shifts are a real problem. There are few good ND's (that really have no shift). Proceed with caution. Variable ND's generally are even less reliable than ND.

    My advice would be to invest in some of the premium ND's out there, that have little to no color shift at all. Phil Holland has written a lot about these. Bad ND's have noticeable color shifts from 0.9 up. It's hard to tell at weaker strengths. But once those shifts are in, you can't take them out. Even if you are shooting RAW, you still have to deal with these anomalies and it can be a nightmare. Esp if some of your footage is clean. And other shots are contaminated. Trust me, it's not worth getting bitten.

    Just buy great ND's and call it a day.
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  9. #9  
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    Motion Mounts go for $1000-2000 on eBay, usually much closer to $1000. I think they're the best option.
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  10. #10  
    Moderator Phil Holland's Avatar
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    Phil Holland's Preference in Optical Neutral Density and Exposure Control (Bonus Mattebox Advice)
    1. Front of Lens ND 4x5.65"
    2. When appropriate, Front of Lens ND Screw-In
    3. Rear of Lens ND
    4. Internal Mechanical or Electronic ND (likely a tie for 3rd there cause you know samezees)
    5. Variable ND (last added glass into the mix solution, knowing I've now stepped into a saloon I don't want to be in)
    6. Iris down to whatever and "Fuck it"
    7. Adjust Shutter Speed to change exposure and Drink Away Your Poor Decisions in Life
    8. Find some semi-translucent material to put in front of the lens and pray you get an image you like, no no, pray harder
    9. Fight off the Devil with Evil, but won't get good results; Roll up the Tinted Car Window or Maybe Steal a Welder's Mask (that will be a green tint btw)
    10. That weird glass you got from NASA that is spooky thick and softens the hell out of the image and never asked why you have it in the garage

    ND-wise. As Nick said, invest in a good set of ideally Panavision sized 4x5.65" NDs and get used to maybe using a quick small matte box like the Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom, Clash, or perhaps the newer Wooden Camera Zip Box Pro. If you're on sticks or in a studio setting, get a big boy mattebox if you can handle it. My big boy is the rather good Chrosziel MatteBox MB565 CINE.1, but there's awesome ones from ARRI, Bright Tangerine, etc..... This is one of those you choose the car you enjoy driving sort of situations once you step up to the biggies.

    Some of you will be able to get away with 4x4" or just Screw-In ND Solutions. More power to you. For longevity, and I think I've been saying this for 12 years now on REDUSER, 4x5.65" is very much the most universal cinema standard. 6x6" is certainly a thing with large front diameter glass/likely real big lenses. Beyond that 4x5.65" is what nearly everybody uses in this industry.


    Phil Holland's General Advice for Starting out with ND Filters

    A. Budget Friendly and Incredibly Useful Set: 0.6, 0.9, 1.2 (2-4 stops)
    B. A standard ND set that goes far: 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8 (1-6 stops - this is pretty much the standard narrative/commercial set in town)
    C. You like fast glass and bright days, maybe got yourself a super light sensitive sensor?: 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.1, 2.4 (1-8 stops)
    D. The "Be prepared for anything set": 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.1, 2.4, 2.7, 3.0 (1-10 stops)
    E. The "Be prepared for the end of the world" set: anything going beyond 10 stops and you know you are doing weird things at that point

    I'm an E sort of fellow, because I've seen 14,000,605 possible outcomes and there's likely a need for crazy strengths if you're doing things Strange. Most of the time though B or D is with me in my Cine Filter Crate :)
    Phil Holland - Cinematographer - Los Angeles
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