Director August Bradley Explains How He Makes Cool In-Camera Special Effects with Formatt-Hitech Filters

by steven schwartzLeave a Comment

What if using an ND filter could make awesome artistic special effects and save you hours of time in post-production? August Bradley is a professional LA film director who makes brand films, commercials, and short videos for national corporations and blue-ribbon clients. He uses Formatt-Hitech filters to add artistic looks while shooting – effects that cannot be created in post-production, at least without spending hours in front of a computer screen.

Shooting video is often made more challenging when your camera doesn't have built-in ND filters. At video shutter speeds (typically twice the frame rate) light levels are often too high for your desired aperture. Somehow, you have to cut down the amount of light coming into the lens opening – that's where ND filters come in. Unfortunately, many low-cost filters soften your image and add an undesirable color cast. Also, infrared light can react with digital sensors resulting in ugly, reddish-brown colors where blacks are supposed to be.

planet5D spoke with August Bradley to find out about his innovative use of ND filters by Formatt-Hitech in the brand film he shot for Fisker Automotive's Karma hybrid, “The Deal.” The film centers around a deal with the Devil gone bad. “The Deal” has a stylized visual aesthetic largely achieved optically. Shot on RED Epic, many of the visual effects were created in-camera using a variety of hand-crafted formulations applied to Formatt-Hitech filters.

Director Makes Cool In-Camera Special Effects with Formatt-Hitech Filters

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planet5D: How did you get started in directing films?

August Bradley: “I grew up hanging around in my Mom's photo studio, my first job was in photography for advertising, then I studied cinematography and worked as a DP on shoots, then shifted into directing.”

planet5D: Why not make your special effects in post rather than in-camera at the shoot?

August Bradley: “When you're a professional film maker, it all comes down to how many projects you can complete in a given period of time. If you take too long to finish a film your business won't survive! I'm always looking to find ways to make really great visuals in the camera rather than in the editing suite because it's faster and I think they look better as well.”

planet5D: How did you develop your techniques using ND filters?

August Bradley: “I began experimenting with making effects with filters years ago. I've tried all the filters from the lowest cost to the highest, and I found that no filter was 100% transparent. Even the most expensive filters had variation in transparency and color casts. Then I discovered the filters from the Welsh company Formatt-Hitech. I love talking about their products because their filters are the most transparent and the most consistent.”

planet5D: Can you reveal how you achieve the some of the creative looks?

August Bradley: (Laughs) “Well, these are my ‘secret formulas' but I'm actually glad to talk about them. Formatt makes a clear filter that's perfect to use for effects. We've experimented with all kinds of liquids and gels to apply on the filters, like the old standby vaseline, and we also found a great substance for making frosting effects is to use baby sunscreen.”

planet5D: What's the difference between a Formatt-Hitech glass filter versus a resin filter?

August Bradley: “The Formatt-Hitech resin filters are just as good as glass in terms of color and transparency. They're equal in quality, but the advantage of glass is they're more durable and if you're going to have camera assistants handling them on set – you might see scratches on the resin filters if they're not treated properly. The advantages of the resin filters is that they're significantly lighter, and when I'm using a Steadicam, the resins help cut down the weight of the rig. And the resins are less expensive as well.”

planet5D: What's your advice to people wanting to learn how to create in-camera effects with ND filters?

August Bradley: “Try out different color filters, try using multiple filters and experimenting with new liquids and gels – all to achieve deliberately degraded looks. I really like the halos and streaks you can get. It's kind of like having a custom set of lenses to make a unique look that sets you apart. This is something you have to buy and try – the options are limitless.”


Fisker Karma “The Deal”

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Making “The Deal” (Behind the Scenes)

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Hitech 100 x 100mm ProStop IRND Four Filter Kit

Hitech 100 x 100mm ProStop IRND Four Filter Kit

See product information at Hitech 100 x 100mm ProStop IRND Four Filter Kit

August Bradley's web site is‎

Have you ever experimented with smearing goo on filters for an in-camera effect? Share with others using the Forum link below.

[ Via August Bradley Media ]

(cover photo credit: snap from the video )

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