March 2, 2015

Reflective Surfaces Can Ruin Your Shots. Here Are Some Quick Fixes

Removing Reflections with Film Riot
"Reflective surfaces are a pain in the ass," said every filmmaker ever.

Say you've just canned a glorious tracking shot. When you go to review the footage, however, you're dismayed to find out that you tracked past three windows, and in every single one of them you can see the dolly and camera crew, the boom operator, and some PA holding coffee that is wandering around like a lost puppy. Almost every filmmaker I know has dealt with this problem in some form or another, and it's one that every up and coming filmmaker will encounter at some point in their lives.

But what can you do to get rid of those pesky reflections that can ruin your shots? Here's Ryan Connolly and the Film Riot crew to offer up a few quick tips:

In my experience, it's always best to have a few different options for cutting reflections readily available to you, because there is no one solution that is perfect for every situation. First off, a circular polarizer is a must, especially if you're shooting in direct sunlight or with a single source of light, because it very effectively reduces glare from one particular angle. I find circular polarizers to be most useful when shooting outside, especially when you're dealing with car windows.

However, more often than not we're using more than a single source of light in our shots, which means that another solution is necessary. This is where dulling sprays and matte sprays become your best friend. Simply spray down your reflective surfaces with something akin to the Krylon Dulling Spray (hair spray works too), and you're ready to shoot reflection-free. Just make sure that the spray you choose is temporary and can be wiped off. The only problem with this approach is that it definitely changes the aesthetic of your reflective surfaces. If you want the windows and reflective surfaces to have a slightly matted finish, this solution will work great, but if you want your reflective surfaces to look -- well -- shiny and reflective like they would in actuality, you may want to avoid sprays altogether.

The last option is, of course, fixing it in post. There are plenty of tutorials out there for masking and tracking pesky reflections and applying a fast blur to them. Unfortunately, if you want the camera to be able to move around in front of mirrors (like in Birdman), you're going to need to do some serious work in post that probably involves 3D modeling and a whole lot of intense compositing.

What are your tips and tricks for getting rid of pesky reflections? Share them down in the comments!     

Your Comment

10 Comments

You can also block the crew with a cloth/flag/etc. or another light and you keep the rest of the reflections and no post ;)

March 3, 2015 at 5:17AM

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Re: reflections on car windshield
If using a variable ND [which is two polarizers] will a circular polarizer still be needed?

March 3, 2015 at 11:25AM, Edited March 3, 11:25AM

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Pete Balistrieri
Filmmaker
102

That's an excellent question. I'm going to make an educated confident guess and say that no, another polarizer wouldn't be needed. The ND polarizers should take care of the problem. Now, I've never used a variable ND filter - can you rotate both portions of it, or only one? If you can rotate both, then I'd think that once you get to a level of ND that suits you, you should be able to rotate the entire thing together in order to take care of any remaining reflections.

Or I could be wrong.

March 5, 2015 at 8:18PM

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Simple: don't wear sunglasses.

March 3, 2015 at 8:49PM

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Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
213

Tip from experience: if you're trying to remove the reflection from somebody's eyeballs on close-up, don't use the spray.

March 4, 2015 at 1:06PM

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Verily, that is a good tip. I concur.

March 4, 2015 at 8:55PM

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Jake Keenum
Filmmaker
2040

Nwo yuo tlel me. Tping wit oen eye scusck.

March 5, 2015 at 8:19PM

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Instead of something permanent, I'd like to offer three other solutions that I use regularly:

1. Movie Paint (that's the actual brand name) - Dulling Spray
http://www.filmtools.com/expendables/paintall/removable-movie-paint.html

And for when you don't have time for Ground shipping:

2. ANY aerosol hair spray.
3. ARRID Extra Dry spray antiperspirant/deodorant:
http://www.arrid.com/products/extra-dry-spray-regular.aspx
(just the brand that I go for... but others might work well).
This is great, because it wipes off with just a paper towel (well, mostly).
The only problem with this is getting the hang of spraying an even coat.

March 5, 2015 at 11:08AM

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Jon Wolding
DP/Director
204

in my opinion, anti-glare spray on glasses looks kind of unrealistic. maybe a super thin layer is sufficient and avoids that weird nacre effect.
btw: the guys at hyperstealth have developped an invisibility cloth which might be useful for filmcrews: http://www.hyperstealth.com/Quantum-Stealth
:-)

March 20, 2015 at 12:05PM

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Chris Eckert
Graphic Designer, Photographer, Filmmaker
99

oooooooooooooooo boyo!! I REALLY want that hyperstealth blanket!! :)

November 10, 2015 at 2:31PM

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JF
74

Any idea how to remove reflection from TV in the background?

September 29, 2016 at 6:11PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
693