July 19, 2018

Watch: Using Filters to Make Your Work Look More Professional

Filters—one of the most essential tools in a filmmaker's gear bag.

The most common problems you'll see in the work of new filmmakers have something to do with exposure, whether it's underexposing foregrounds or overexposing skies. And it makes sense—shooting situations that have vastly different light intensities can be really tricky for beginners because, hello, which part of the frame do you expose for? Typically, newbies will expose for their subject and sacrifice details in the sky or windows, allowing them to blow out and be big white blobs in the frame, which is not visually appetizing.

That's why all beginners need a good ol' fashioned primer on different types of filters that explains what they are, what they do, and how they can be used to make your footage look a thousand times better. In this video, Peter McKinnon gives it to 'em. Check it out below:

While using filters isn't super complicated, it's certainly not as simple as grabbing any old one and popping it onto your lens and calling it good. These things come in a wide variety of different sizes, strengths, and types, many of which (perhaps the most important of which) McKinnon covers in his video.

  • ND Filter: ND (neutral density) filters, which are probably one, if not the, most essential of all filters, reduce the amount of light that is able to enter through your lens. They allow you to shoot in bright environments (outdoors) with a wide open aperture, which means you can still get shallow depth-of-field.
  • Polarizing Filter: If you want to darken skies or see through windows, you're gonna need a polarizing filter. They increase color saturation while decreasing reflections and glare. Be aware, though, that you'll need a lot more light in order to properly expose when using them.
  • Black Pro-Mist: These filters are great for subtly toning down sharpness and contrast to give you a more balanced, atmospheric image.
  • UV Filter: These things are supposed to protect your images from being compromised by ultraviolet radiation, but since most people can't really tell the difference in image quality, they're better utilized as front element protectors.
  • Step-up/down ring: Your lenses most likely have multiple diameters, and unless you want to buy filters for each friggin' size, you'll want to get yourself some step-up and step-down rings.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how these filters can make your set-life easier because, for many filmmakers, these are the tools that are almost as important as the camera and lens itself.

If you want to learn more about filters, click here to indulge.     

Your Comment


'your shutter speed must be double your frame rate' - thats a pretty not quite correct way of explaining shutter speed. In terms of speed its twice as fast as each frame on screen buy saying its double your frame rate sound like their should be 50 shutters for every 25 frames which is just a little not quite correct. 'Cinema Cameras have ND filters on board and thats why they are so expensive.....' rightio m8, I think this should be 'video cameras'

July 20, 2018 at 12:28AM

Isaac Elliott

First of first he did a video on filters with almost the exact same script 9 months ago. Built in ND filters do not make cinema cameras more expensive not in the slightest. (Other technical reasons I won’t get into).

I think he googled the 180 degree shutter rule and he just read what the results of his search were. And there are times when shooting at a higher shutter speed is motivated if it’s a look you are going for. (Band of brothers, saving private Ryan specifically shot at a 45 degree shutter angle to render the hand held stuff a bit sharper with all the camera movement as well as reducing the effects of motion sickness with the hand held/motion blur that results shooting at 180 degreees (1/48th second).

You can tell his knowledge on the peripherals of the gear is weak as hell, it boggles my mind his stuff gets shared here as much as it does.

Don’t forget to check out his affiliate links because this whole thing was an advert for polar pro.

July 20, 2018 at 4:34PM, Edited July 20, 4:36PM


No one will probably read this, since it's an old "article", but: You really wonder why Peter's stuff gets shared this much? Because he is a successful youtuber. He is good at playing himself, just like Nicolas Cage or Tom Cruise. He is good at (re)packing common camera knowledge and presenting it in an entertaining way.
Let's be fair: Operating a video camera, setting up lights, recording audio or an editing program isn't that difficult. Even back in film days, it just was more tedious.
But once you go beyond filming your pretty girlfriend walking over a free-hanging bamboo bridge somewhere in Malaysia, if you go beyond that single random shot, things get difficult. It's the difference between a good looking travel video on youtube and a documentary. It's the difference between a well lit corporate video with interviews and a movie.
Peter is a great youtuber (= business person) and NFS is depending on the same audience for making revenue, so sharing what he does is a mutual interest.
I'm OK with that, as long as it helps NFS in bringing original or non clickbaity content as often as possible...

September 26, 2018 at 6:30AM, Edited September 26, 6:31AM