Now you may already be familiar with the use of polarisers to control reflections, but did you also know that polarizers can be used to help manage colour? I know in this age of awesome colour correction programs, like Da Vinci, Apple Colour, and all the rest, it just might seem like something passe, but using tools and techniques on set to control colour, is still a vital film-making skill. Some things just don’t look the same when done artificially. Just because we have great post-production tools, doesn’t always mean they’re the right tool for the job at hand.
There are plenty of cases when knowing how to do something in camera cannot only save you time and money in post-production, but also give you a more distinct and organic look that you can’t achieve otherwise. One of those things you can often accomplish in camera is making your colours pop with the polarizing filter.
The image above, shows a still road and sky scene, like one you might shoot for a documentary, shot without any polarizer.
Next to it is the same scene shot with the polarizer.
Notice how the browns look much more rich and how the reds really pop out of the scene? Now, let’s look at another common scenario and that’s shooting streets.
If you’re shooting an average black asphalt street, there’s a pretty good chance that on camera, it doesn’t look black at all. It probably looks a little more muted grey. It’s a classic case of the vision in your head looking so much cooler than the vision you actually end up with when you turn on your camera.
You may be familiar with the Hollywood convention of wetting down streets in movies so they look better and pop on screen. It seems like half the street scenes in Hollywood take place just after it finished raining sometimes. Well, we often don’t have the resources to wet down an entire street just for looks, but a circular polarizer can also be used to great effect to help make black streets and asphalt look better on video.
You can get a dramatic difference in blackness and saturation of the colour on the street if using a polarizing filter. It decreases glare, and allows the audience to see more of the true colour of the asphalt. The street will look more dark, rich and saturated, and it has a real presence in the shot.
Now you’re ready to shoot that big street race scene. Next time out, we’ll talk about everything else you can do with the circular polarizer filter.
Artis, Anthony Q. (2014) Controlling reflections in glass. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Shooting-Video-tutorials/Managing-color-polarizers/129017/169951-4.html