Macro photography can bring an audience into a whole new world. Adding camera movement to a macro image gives that world an added dimension.
That’s what my colleague Brad Carter and I set off to do with making this short macro film, Mouse Trap.
We had a Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 2X Macro Probe Lens for the weekend to play with. A probe lens is simply a macro lens with a unique build which allows for unique dolly type of shots, which would be very difficult to obtain otherwise. Additionally, a probe lens allows for camera placement in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible with a cinema camera.
The biggest challenge with the probe lens was that it required a LOT of light as the lens is T14. The smaller the number, the more light can enter. Camera lenses generally are at least T4 and often time much lower.
We converted my garage into a small studio, and had a Aputure 300d with Light Dome II mounted over the game on a boom. Even with the light placed very close to what we are filming, we found ourselves taking off all diffusion just to get an OK exposure. Additionally, we had a second Aputure 300d with a Light Dome Mini II as our key, with a pair of Aputure 120D mkII lights on the flanking sides of the game bouncing into 4×4 ultrabounces. The lens does have LEDs built into the barrel, but we opted not to use it as we anted more control.
We shot this on the Panasonic EVA-1 camera at 120fps. Even with four powerful lights placed very close to the board, I still found myself having to crank ISO up to as much as 5000 at times. The EVA-1 does fairly well in lowlight, with a base ISO of 2500. We used the ‘Smooth’ noise reduction setting in-camera as well as additional noise reduction in post.
The production went well, and all the difficulties we had with capture did not lie with production, but rather with the game Mouse Trap itself. We experienced all sorts of misfires, busted rubber bands, and marbles flying everywhere in our small garage studio.
Luckily, we didn’t lose our marbles – both literally and figuratively – and managed to film the sequence as planned. Our on-set frustrations inspired the ending.
We knew that in order for the sequence to make sense, we’d need a few shots that were not entirely macro. For those we shot using a Sigma 18-35 f1.8 ART lens, which has OK macro capabilities as well actually.
Probe Lens is a fantastic tool for macro tabletop cinematography. It’s a specialty tool that allows one to add movement to macro film.