Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Jaws" De-Dioptered

direct YouTube link

Over on Twitter, we have fun pointing out split diopter shots in movies; shots that contain two fields of focus, allowing an extreme foreground object and a background object to simultaneously be sharp. Filmmakers like Brian DePalma and Steven Spielberg use the split diopter as a way of visually connecting foregrounds and backgrounds. It's supposed to be jarring, a little disorienting, and off-putting.

But some people absolutely hate the effect for that reason. (Monsters, all of them.) So I thought it would be fun to start removing the split diopter lens effects from movies, just to see how the scenes would play with more traditional depth-of-field. I started with "Jaws" (1975).

After finding all the split diopter shots in the film, I took each shot into Adobe After Effects and split up the frame into a foreground and a background by rotoscoping certain foreground shapes, and applied focus effects to simulate traditional depth of field. In some cases I had to do some background restoration (painting additional bits of background) to help sell the effect. In most shots I applied a rack focus in the shot from foreground to background (or vice-versa), based on the timing of the dialogue. Since the film was shot with anamorphic lenses, I made sure to use anamorphic-shaped bokehs, and also added the irregular lens breathing associated with these lenses that you see with dramatic focus changes.

This was a fun exercise. It's always a blast to see one of your favorite films from a slightly tweaked perspective.

As a bonus, here is a side-by-side comparison of the original split diopter shots, next to my traditional depth-of-field versions of those same shots.

direct YouTube link

If you want to learn more about the technique, read Cheating Depth: The Magic of Split Diopter Shots by my buddy Tad Leckman.

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