In the annals of film history, there is perhaps no shot more memorable than those split diopter shots from cinema classics like Citizen Kane, Jaws, or PulpFiction.
You know the ones I’m talking about, those shots which seem to do the impossible by focusing on two different subjects which our mind subconsciously knows are too far apart to see both clearly.
And while it’s true that this technique can be traced back to some of the earliest days of cinema, unlike many other cinematography techniques it’s still very difficult to pull off. Traditionally speaking split diopters are expensive, hard to use, and difficult for novice filmmakers to utilize.
However, thanks to an innovative breakthrough with the world’s first handheld split diopter from CinePacks, all that has changed.
Let’s take a new, fresh look at the world of split focus cinematography to explore how you can use split diopters to enhance your visual storytelling.
What Is a Split Diopter?
Before we dive into how to use split diopters on your film and video projects, let’s first explore just what a split diopter is and what it does.
Simply put, a split diopter is a technical tool that filmmakers use to create deep focus. And deep focus itself is just another term for explaining a phenomenon in the depth of field—more specifically how filmmakers look to create a large depth of field which can simultaneously show areas of the foreground, middle ground, and or background all in focus.
Traditionally speaking, the split diopter has been a half convex glass filter that attaches to a camera’s main lens to “split” the focus in half. These split diopter lenses are obviously difficult to make and can be quite hard to find outside of big-budget commercial projects.
Yet, the style and look itself has been popularized over the years from classic cinema, to American New Wave directors like Brian De Palma and Robert Wise, to modern filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese.
However, in recent years, new technological innovations (like the CinePacks Split Filter) have caused the style to become more affordable and popular in contemporary projects ranging from music videos to short films to even corporate and wedding shoots.
Using a Split Diopter for Your Projects
So, now the question becomes, how does one use a split diopter like the CinePacks Split Filter for your own films and projects? Well, as you can see in the great video above by Anamorphic on a Budget, it can actually be quite easy.
The CinePacks Split Filter is a great option that is much more affordable than traditional split diopter lens filters, and you can actually use them in more innovative and creative ways.
With CinePacks, you also get the option of working with three different split diopters which vary in terms of strength and focus.
- Split 1: Offers a subtle blur for those using longer lenses
- Split 2: Very versatile, offers the popular ghost blur effect, and works with most focal lengths
- Split 3: Best for bold, highly stylized, heavily distorted looks
You can use these different split strengths for a wide variety of uses from cinematic distortion and bokeh, to creating your more traditional iconic split focus shots based on which strength is right for your focus distances.
Mounting a Split Diopter Filter
As you can see above, you also have the option of mounting your CinePacks Split Filter directly to your camera cage or rig to keep your focus consistent.
CinePacks offers an 11-inch mounting arm, which is the perfect length for using the filters on any camera. Just attach the mount to the bottom of your mirrorless or DSLR or to any of the ¼ 20” mounting points on your camera cage for your cinema cameras.
However, while mounting will probably be your best bet for creating those steady split focus and deep focus shots, with the CinePacks Split Filter you’re also no longer limited to this static approach...
Get Creative and Go Handheld
For any music video directors or other creative cinematographers, the real allure of using a lightweight split diopter like the CinePacks Split Filter is going to be the flexibility it offers.
With its easy-to-hold finger loop handle, you’re really limit-free in terms of how you might want to explore and create these deep focus splits in your cinematography. The possibilities are endless as you can either use the split directly in the middle of the frame, or off to a side or from any degree which you desire. (For a cool bonus look, try moving or twirling the split filter around the lens as you record—trust us, it looks awesome!)
This CinePacks Split Filter truly unlocks all sorts of cool bokeh effects and other creative visuals which you’d be hard-pressed to create with any amount of post-production tools or effects.
Pricing and Availability
- Split Filter: $59 each (your choice of filter strength)
- Triple Split Filter Kit: $129 (includes all 3 Split Filter strengths and the 11" Mounting Arm)
- 11" Mounting Arm: $22
If you’d like to check out the CinePacks Split Filter, you’re in luck, as they’re currently offering a special discount for No Film School readers of 15% off split filters with promo code "NOFILMSCHOOL15" at checkout.
Be sure to show us how you use these awesome tools!