What's up Filmmakers! So we all should know that filming outside in bright sunlight is usually a pain. In fact, the worst time to film is when the sun is high up in the sky (like at noon). Not only is it freakin' hot, but there's so much light reflecting everywhere that you'll run into a lot of exposure issues.
When filming in bright sunlight, the contrast between dark and light objects is increased and it becomes hard to keep all areas of the frame in correct exposure. When you watch professional videos, you'll notice that the exposure usually is more or less correct in all areas of the frame; that's because these scenes are controlled with lights, reflectors, flags/scrims etc.
Because there is so much scattered light on a bright sunny day, it becomes nearly impossible to control in a wide shot. This results in sub par footage, no matter what fancy camera you're using.
Thanks to Circular Polarizing Filters, you can tone down those harsh reflections to get a better image and richer colors. You screw the filter in from of your lens, and turn it to adjust the amount of light that gets cut off. Unlike ND filters that darken the whole image, CPL filters target specific areas of light.
I won't go into details on the science of Polarizing filters (I'm a filmmaker for a reason), so if you want to learn more on how they work, check out theWiki page.
A Polarizing filter does 2 things that will help you a lot when filming outdoors: It decreases reflections from objects, and it darkens the sky. The videos below were filmed in the infamous bright sun of Miami. Notice the great difference in the colors as I turn the filter:
Pay special attention to the leaves and the sky. Before the filter is applied, the leaves (and most of everything else) look desaturated and bland. That is caused by the intense light reflecting on their surface. As I turn the filter, it removes the reflection and the colors get richer. In the first shot, the sky was white before the filter, and it darkens after to become blue.
In the next example, the pavement is overexposed before the filter:
Notice as I turn the filter, the exposure of the shaded areas remains the same and the only thing that changes is the reflections from the sun. When turned, the filter removes the bright spot on the ground to reveal detail. An ND filter would have darkened the whole shot, but the CPL filter is more targeting.
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Removing glass reflections is also a popular use of the filter as shown below:
While a Polarizing Filter isn't magic, it can help tremendously during those midday shoots by giving you richer colors and less bright spots. I would highly recommend every cinematographer to have one in their kit. They come in different sizes, so make sure you get one that fits your lens. I used the Tiffen 52mm one for the (rough) examples above, and it cost me around $20 on Amazon. I'm not advertising for Tiffen though, so feel free to get whichever brand you want!
Thank you for reading! If you like this post, be sure to share it around and spread the knowledge. As always, please let me know your thoughts and questions below.