Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Cascading Fruit In A White Limbo


Hello all,

I have a commercial shoot coming up (16mm), and for one shot the concept calls for slices of fruit cascading (in slow motion) through a frame of white limbo, the idea being that they are in some sort of water fall. My idea at this point is to shoot in white limbo with the fruit slices being dropped and sliding down an angled piece of glass with water and gravity doing most of the work. Pretty straightforward I think. I plan on shooting each type of fruit slice separately for easier pickings and adjustments in post. I welcome any suggestions on this, though- especially from those of you who may have shot something similar in the past. My main concern is finding the correct overcrank speed, but I'm also considering the possibility of different shutter angles to catch the little drops of water.

Now, on to the more difficult part of the equation. We'd like to have little sparkles in the background- behind the water/fruit cascade and in front of the white wall. My idea is to hang a large number of mirror shards from fishing line at various distances between the foreground and background. I want them to be obscured by the fruit and distorted by the water. The idea is to then aim a light only on the mirrors (keeping spill of the back wall and of course off the fruit) so that the camera sees the bright little reflections when the little mirrors catch the reflection the right way. In order to keep them from looking like little black spots when light is not hitting them I plan on basically enveloping the set in white so that they are always reflecting white or Bright light.

So, it's not that I have a dilemma or anything- I feel confident that I can deliver on the concept using this technique, but I'd appreciate any feedback or alternative ideas to help me get a great looking shot.

Many Thanks,

Toby Birney
Director of Photography, LAC
Vilnius, Lithuania

>My idea at this point is to shoot in white limbo with the fruit slices being >dropped and sliding down an angled piece of glass with water and >gravity doing most of the work.


I have done many of these falling object shots. Many time the props will build a homemade sort of a conveyer belt system which can be of great help. Some designs of this are more elaborate than others but they are simple to make and improve upon. This system helps control the flow of the subject.

They take a piece of diffusion maybe 8 - 10 inches wide and several feet long depending on how much material you have to release. Then take a piece of smooth wood with routed ends, or stiff material they can work with of similar width dimensions and half the length of the diffusion. Then wrap the diffusion around the wood and tape the ends of the diffusion together. A small tab is taped to the diffusion on the bottom to act as a handle. This creates a small conveyor belt. They mount this on a stand or two above the shot, load the subject material onto it and quickly pull the tab on the diffusion material so the subject material falls off the end.

The advantage of this system is that you can control the release in the sequence/placement of the mixed fruit and you can control the speed and precise location of the release. The sliding technique you have described also works but sometimes the fruits bunches up and clusters into similar sizes. It's more hit or miss in that approach. You could even incorporate the two methods together dropping the fruit from the conveyor onto the waterfall above the frameline.

Sam Wells gave excellent advice, as usual, regarding the use of Unilux lighting and the mix with tungsten. Lighting is the best way to achieve the crisp effect you described and mixed always seems to work better. I would stay away from a small shutter primarily because of the possibility of strobing. It is the golden rule to shoot faster fps than slower fps. If you need to speed it up in post you will have less problems than if you need to slow it down in post. You can slow down the shot maybe twenty percent before strobing may become an issue. This also depends on image size as the smaller the objects in frame seem to have a more likelihood of strobing than larger objects.

I would consider shooting at least 500fps or above but too much depends on the fall and where your frameline lies for anyone to accurately say what the rate should be. Test, test, and then test more if you have the chance.

Hope this helps.

Jim Sofranko

To add to Jim Sofranko's and Sam Well's excellent advice, I would add that if you do decide to go with Unilux, be sure to get a tech from Unilux.

I'm not sure if Unilux requires their tech or not anymore, but as with any piece of equipment, there is a learning curve. With Unilux, it can be steep.

Also, the techs have worked with some of the best table top guys in the business and can steer you away from disaster as well as being a source of good advice.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

>but I'm also considering the possibility of different shutter angles to >catch the little drops of water.

The 'cost no object' way to do this is to use synced strobes - typically Unilux --

What the strobes can do for you is that you can mix strobe and "constant" lighting i.e. you've effectively got two shutter speeds at once, the camera's shutter speed at whatever frame rate (which doesn't have to be way overcranked, in fact you can keep it slow enough to 'capture the blur' ) and the strobe light's very "narrow" effect.

Perhaps you can try some semblance of this "mix" in post if Unilux etc are not in your budget.

The lighting concept sounds quite intriguing !

Sam Wells
Filmmaker / Ex tabletop day labourer

>To add to Jim Sofranko's and Sam Well's excellent advice, I would add >that if you do decide to go with Unilux, be sure to get a tech from Unilux.

I second those opinions...I believe you can get a reel from Unilux to see how that system "makes liquids come alive".

They were all the rage a few years back. They can defiantly freeze objects in mid-air. Also a slo-mo simulator tape play back system can give you an idea of how things will look when you are done.

Very handy to have on set to show agency etc..

Nick Hoffman NYDP

I would love to learn more about Unilux, and in particular if anyone knows of Unilux in Eastern Europe - Poland, Chek Repubilc, maybe even Germany. I have a feeling that this would be out of budget but worth investigating. I'm not in a situation to test unfortunately. We shoot next Tuesday, and of course all of these specially type items will be imported...

In using these lights, how do you meter for them (besides using a strobe meter)? I have no experience with this type of situation, and I'm wondering how to expose for the 2 different light-schemes. If they were working as backlights, do set them at the level that you would as if it were a hot light- get the exposure the way you want it, and then let them do their thing?

For those of you following along, many of my questions were answered at

Thanks for the advice!

Toby Birney
Director of Photography, LAC
Vilnius, Lithuania

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