Neutral density filters are a must-have item in any cinematographer or photographer’s toolkit. Digital cinema camera sensors are optimized at higher ISOs vs a traditional DSLR sensor. These can be 400 and 800 ISO with the Blackmagic Design Cinema Cameras. As a result, if you’re shooting outside on a bright sunny day you’re going to need ND with a BMD camera. They not only help you get your aperture to where you need it to be for artistic and aesthetic purposes but also allow you to expose the picture properly without it going into clip on those sunny exteriors. These sensors are also prone to what’s known as IR contamination when higher levels of neutral density filters are used. This infrared contamination can wreak havoc on the color balance of your picture… especially in the blacks (ie: black clothing). The darker black tones in your picture will tend to shift to brown and skin tone will be affected as well. This is a colorist’s nightmare in post-production and often is never completely color-corrected without a compromise in the picture’s tones elsewhere. To correct this during field recording an additional filter, known as an ‘IR Cut’, is needed when higher amounts of neutral density are used.
Many matte boxes can accommodate 2 filters at the same time but what if you’re working with a smaller rig without a matte box and require screw on filters? What if you could have the functionality of neutral density and IR Cut in one piece of glass without any color cast? That is now an option with the Firecrest line of neutral density filters from Formatt Hitech. We continue to test their circular 72mm versions and are liking the results we’re getting. Stay tuned for more on this exciting new line of neutral density filters.