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Think You Understand Depth of Field? Take the Black and Blue DOF Test to Find Out

06.4.12 @ 1:29PM Tags : , ,

So you just started using DSLRs and you think you’ve got an idea about this newfangled “depth of field.” Or maybe you’re an experienced professional AC and you know the depth of field chart by heart for a 40mm Master Prime. Regardless of your experience level, depth of field is an extremely important concept to wrap your head around if you want to shoot with large sensor cameras (like those DSLRs you might be using). Camera Assistant Evan Luzi over at The Black and Blue has created a quiz with 20 questions to test your depth of field knowledge.

Here’s a little bit from Evan on the test:

Do you know what depth of field is? Are you able to calculate it with just the power of your mind?

Well, it’s time to put you to the test.

I’ve prepared a 20-question Depth of Field Quiz that’ll scrutinize your knowledge of the basic principles of DOF and your ability to accurately guess the amount of depth of field in camera setups.

It’s not easy — but I have a feeling you’re up to the challenge, so give it a shot:

Depth of field is an essential concept to understand in filmmaking — because if you want people to watch your film, it has to be in focus. Understanding how f-stops, sensor sizes, and distances affect the amount of your frame that is in acceptable focus is an important skill. The artistic choices that can result from expert knowledge of depth of field can enhance the effect that a shot has on the viewer. It’s very common to see super-shallow depth of field in videos online, but razor-thin depth of field is an artistic tool (and a possible by-product of no light and large sensors) like any other that can be used to your advantage. One of the better uses of the shallow depth of field caused by the gigantic sensor in the Canon 5D Mark II (same sensor size as the Canon 5D Mark III) was the season 6 finale of the television show House M.D., which used the depth of field to enhance the emotion in certain scenes.

On the other hand, deep depth of field — even though it has fallen out of fashion thanks to large sensor digital camera — is expertly used in the Orsen Welles film Citizen Kane. While that is the most famous example, there are plenty of films over the years that have utilized greater depth to their advantage. If you would like to see more examples of shallow depth of field used in a professional setting, the DPs of the Starz series Boss with Kelsey Grammer — which happens to be shot on the Arri Alexa — work almost exclusively at T1.3 or T2 with Arri/Zeiss Master Primes.

Does anyone have examples of movies or shows that utilize shallow or deep depth of field to their advantage? If so, feel free share them below in the comments.

Link: The Black and Blue – Depth of Field Test


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • scored c- the first 10 q’s are quite easy but the second half really killed me

  • and i think the barry lyndon candle scenes are just superb examples of shallow dop using natural light, this video is part of the Stanley Kubrick: A life in pictures documentary

  • An easy example here would be The Social Network, which shot wide open for the entire film. What a nightmare for the 1st AC!

  • Got the first 10, failed the last 10. Oh well, thankfully I have the dough to hire a real AC when needed, and when I don’t I have focus peaking, hah

  • Hey Joe — thanks for featuring the test! Seems like a lot of people are having trouble with the second half. Maybe it’s a bit too challenging? :P

    Either way, I came here to chime in on a film I thought used shallow DOF great — Where the Wild Things Are. The look, I thought, was fantastic, though you could definitely tell the 1st AC had trouble pulling focus on a few of those shots.

    - Evan

    • Joe Marine on 06.4.12 @ 3:08PM

      Well what’s the point of an easy test, right? I really enjoyed it, thanks for making it.

  • I think most know this, but David Fincher’s last two movies The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are shot a 1.3 on Master Primes.

    His ACs hate him.


  • I use DOF because it makes everything look filmic. Like when i film my cats playing, it looks extra filmic. DOF!!!

  • The Coen brothers have used deep DOF to great comic effective in several films, “Raising Arizona” being a perfect example.

    • More of a Barry Sonnenfeld thing. He was the DP on Raising Arizona and loves to use wide lenses. Carried that look onto his own films that he would later go on to direct (good or bad).

  • john jeffreys on 06.4.12 @ 5:21PM

    I think I can speak for everybody here when I say that for the last part of the quiz I opened up another tab and googled “depth of field calculator” and used that to answer all the questions.

  • Related to depth of field. Absolutely love the use of the huge focus pull in the remake of pride and prejudice (the one starring kiera knightly).

  • Randolph Sellars on 06.4.12 @ 8:44PM

    Fun test – but don’t worry too much about not nailing the last 10 questions. I doubt that even the best AC’s would get all of those last 10 right. That’s why they make DOF calculators. Sure, a good AC should be able to get in the ballpark with the answers – but many of the answers only varied by an inch. It’s much more important to be able to judge distances and pull focus skillfully than to try and memorize DOF charts. It’s futile anyway because there are so many variables : lens brands with differing MTF, primes vs. zooms, slightly different camera sensor sizes. Even the best calculators are not 100% accurate. They are a guide. Good AC’s are generally striving for perfection in terms of a focus mark – even when they know that they have “slop.” DOF decisions are actually more in the realm of the DP. Often, pulling focus is not desirable. In this situation, the DP will ask the AC if they can “carry” two or more actors (on different planes) in a scene with one mark. In this case, an AC would consult a calculator to see if he/she can set a mark where all important subjects are “safely” sharp at a given lens focal length and F-stop.

    • Great comment, Randolph. DOF calculations aren’t a crutch to lean on, but a “guide” like you said. It’s fun to try and guess your DOF right, but it’s not the worst thing in the world if you can’t get it 100% perfect all the time.

    • There should have been one last question: does it make a difference in DOF when I put a 35mm f.2.8 lens with the subject 10 feet away on either a RED Epic or a Canon 7D or a 2/3″ Broadcast camera…

      -> No

      • Lucas Adamson on 06.7.12 @ 6:12PM

        Correct, but the confusion over this factual point you make comes when you try to frame the shot in the same way between those cameras, because that moves the subject distance and hence we get the predictable dof format differences.

      • I’m not sure the difference would be noticeable between the 7D and the Epic, but it would definitely be noticeable between the 2/3″ broadcast cam and the Epic. Part of the reason people flocked to DSLRs when they became affordable for video is because the shallow depth-of-field they afford. Format does make a difference when all other parts of the shot remain unchanged.

        Trust me, I’ve pulled focus on a 2/3″ broadcast cam at f 2.8 and I’ve pulled focus on an Epic at f 2.8 — the 2/3 broadcast cam was a heck of a lot easier.

  • I notice the radio buttons for questions 11 and 12 are linked in Safari 5.1.7 for Mac. In other words, when I select an answer for Q12, it deselects all the radio buttons in Q11. FWIW.

  • Chuck Cliftonn on 06.7.12 @ 10:17PM

    Check out “The Taking Of Pelham 1,2,3″ shot, I believe, by Owen Roisman. It was shot with Super Speed primes back in the day on NYC Subways. Extremely shallow DOF!

  • Once Upon a Time in America is a great example of deep depth of field, in my opinion.

  • Daniel Mimura on 06.12.12 @ 7:23PM

    Drive was a very wide open movie…

    I think Newton Thomas Sigel (the DP) was saying in the AC article about it that a lot of LA is actually too bright at night now, so they had to hunt for low light environments like under bridges…etc…

  • The Girl with the Pearl Earring uses deep DOF excellently.

  • I’m self-taught; jumped in headfirst, buying and shooting, learning the technical stuff later. I failed the first “easy” half, and only got one wrong on the second half. And I don’t know how to do the math! All by “feel” for the lenses I’ve used. But I couldn’t tell you what a hyperfocal distance is…. Funny.