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When you’re just starting out as a cinematographer, understanding filters can seem a bit tricky. With all the different kinds of filters out there, it’s easy for filmmakers to slip up and use the wrong kind — or worse yet, fail to use one altogether. Especially when it could have enhanced your shot. Neutral Density filters (otherwise known as ND filters) are some of the most common filters and come available in all shapes and sizes, including both plastic and glass.

In this article, we’re going to dig into the finer details of ND filters so you can make the best possible decision for your camera kit. With that in mind, let this serve as your guide to Cinematic ND Filters 2021.

Here’s some of what we’ll explore.

  • What does an ND Filter do?
  • ND Filter Reference Chart
  • Why Use ND Filters?
  • Tiffen Straight NDs
  • Tiffen IR ND Filters
  • Water White Straight ND Test
  • Tiffen Black Diffusion

What does an ND Filter do?

At its most basic form, neutral density filters allow you to control the light that enters your sensor. Think of it much in the same way sunglasses work over your naked eye. Filters help you see more clearly and expose for more texture and details, while not affecting your color. And, that’s precisely what inspires the “neutral” in neutral density.

However, even though the color should remain neutral, there are NDs that experience color shifts that you can use to your advantage, like greens, cyans, and magentas. But even if you’re shooting in black and white, NDs are still useful for establishing more texture and achieve the same benefits as you would shooting in color.

What’s the difference between photography and cinema ND filters?

Both in photography and cinematography, NDs are used to mitigate overexposure and image brightness. But, in photography, you can also adjust your shutter speed to make it shorter. What makes neutral density so important for cinema is how it controls the light separately from your camera and lens.

When shooting with a motion picture camera, you have a Base ISO, a required shutter (almost always 180 degrees unless looking for a special effect), and your Lens T-stop. The Lens T-stop is important to maintain the same depth of field throughout shooting conditions so that you are exposing a variety of shots at the same level. In filmmaking, you don’t change the lens and camera settings much when dealing with exposure levels. Instead, you add or take away ND.

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There are 3 primary types of ND filters: Solid ND filters, Graduated ND filters, and Variable ND filters.

Solid Neutral Density Filters

Solid ND filters are NDs at their simplest form, meaning that the filter is evenly coated across all edges.

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Graduated ND Filters

Graduated NDs are darker on one side and lighter on the other and made available in 2 forms: Hard Edge NDs and Soft Edge NDs. The difference between the two is pretty simple: Soft Edge NDs provide a softer, gradual transition from translucent to dark, and Hard Edge NDs have a clear-cut, defined transition line.

Variable ND Filters

Variable NDs are easily adjustable and best for when you don’t have time to switch between filters. They’re comprised of 2 separate glass polarizers stacked together and with a scaled ring that you can rotate to modify the levels of intensity. These“polas” limit light coming from a certain direction and when combined together they work to limit light from entering the lens.

Why Use ND Filters?

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As we mentioned above, there are a few key reasons why you would want to use ND filters for cinematic effect. Think of it this way, using an ND can be the difference between capturing a milky sky with fleeting clouds overhead, full of dramatic detail, or just a blown-out, white abyss.

Here are some of the other reasons why you need ND filters:

  • Shallow Depth of Field
  • Blurred Motion Effects
  • Consistent Exposure
  • Exposure Counterbalance for Skies

Take a look below for a list of our favorite ND filters that we’ve also reviewed! And if you need a little help finding the right filter for your lens, Tiffen offers an extremely helpful Camera Lens to Filter Chart!

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Tiffen Straight NDs

Tiffen filters come in all forms, from straight NDs to glimmer glass and Infrared (IR) variants. Just like a painter has various paints and brushes for their canvas, a cinematographer needs a healthy variety of filters.

At your foundation, you’ll need Straight NDs that you can count on. To see how Tiffen’s Straight NDs perform, take a look at our side-by-side comparisons in the video below.

Tiffen IR Neutral Density Filters

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Tiffen IRND filters prevent Near-IR and Infra-Red light pollution while simultaneously maintaining the appearance of your darker areas. These filters are really effective in preserving color accuracy for most cameras.

In fact, IRND filters are ideal for HD cameras since they have greater low-light sensitivity and a greater sensitivity to IR contamination. So, if you were to just use an ND filter to counter the increased light sensitivity, the IR pollution will be unavoidable.

But in some cases, such as Canon’s camera system, its optical low pass filter (OLPF) handles IR pollution well enough where you won’t require an IR ND. But with other cameras like RED Dragon and Blackmagic, you may need IR NDs on hand.

Most cameras with internal NDs are matched to the sensor with the appropriate OLPF and Color Matched NDs. So, you’ll need to be aware of cameras that don’t have internal NDs. Modern OLPFs for RED have improved in this area. There are a large number of IRND options out now, and it’s much more common.

For tests and side-by-side comparisons of how these filters work, we recommend What is IR Pollution and How Do You Combat it? for Hot Mirror IR ND filters, Straight NDs, and more.

If you want to be sure about how these IR filters work on the RED Dragon, the video test below is particularly helpful.

Tiffen NATural ND Filters

The first thing you may notice about Tiffen’s NATural NDs is their bronzed appearance, rightfully giving them the impression of the next layer of ND technology. That’s because these NDs are designed to reflect away infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) contamination.

NATural Neutral Density filters use dual-layer ND elements that work in harmony to assure a clear, neutral image without any unwanted tint.

Another useful feature of NATural NDs is how you can use them to ensure your cameras match, reducing extra time balancing color shifts in post-production.

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Like its other filters, Tiffen’s NATural NDs are crafted with two pieces of durable Water White glass with the brand’s signature ColorCore® technology for lasting effect.

Speaking of Water White glass…

Tiffen Water White Straight Neutral Density Filters

The Tiffen Water White Straight ND filters are designed with ‘Water White’ glass and constructed with ColorCore technology.

What this does is increase your clarity and color fidelity. Water White filters are often crafted with infrared technology to reduce IR pollution.

When out shooting during a bright afternoon with the sun high in the sky, simply snap on your Water White NDs, optimized for digital sensors.

Tiffen VariND Filters

VariNDs (Variable NDs) are used in place of multiple fixed filters, allowing you to change the amount of light entering your lens. It shares the same ease of use that you would get with a zoom lens, where you can control it just by turning it.

VariNDs are good when you don’t have a lot of time or working with shifting light and need quick versatility of control. Just like a circular polarizer (CP) filter for photographers out there, Tiffen VariND filters work by rotating one layer from the other.

However, there are some shortcomings. The VariND takes the polarizer and changes its effect. A VariND will stop doing what it normally does, which is to keep certain directional wavelengths of light from entering the lens and reduces glare or sheen from a face.

This can help make people look less shiny, but won’t work when you are using two polarizers together in a VariND system. It changes the way a pola works to make it more about cutting light off from the lens.

You won’t want to depend solely on a VariND, but it’s a good idea to have a solid one in your kit, especially if you’re a documentary filmmaker and need to move quickly.

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Tiffen Black Diffusion Filters

When it comes to cinematic filters, you’ll require Black diffusion for their softening qualities that present a small, yet satisfying glow on overly sharp or well-defined imagery while still maintaining contrast – this is what the “black” in Black Pro-Mist defines.

This glowing effect is essential when painting with light and implementing more texture into your shot to avoid overly crisp, and daytime soap-looking images.

That way, your shot will appear much more ethereal while losing little clarity in the process. Take a look below!

The Bottom Line

Every cinematographer should understand why and how to use neutral density (ND) filtration. The value of ND filters is priceless for crafting the most memorable, cinematic shots.

Hurlbut Academy actually offers a free course that you can access in our sampler courseware.

So, real quick, let’s review why Neutral Density filters are necessary:

  • Balances your exposure
  • Helps eliminate overly bright, washed-out images, or Skies
  • Allows you to better control depth-of-field
  • Enables slower shutter speeds for blurred motion effects (primarily a photographic effect but also sometimes used in filmmaking)

There’s an extensive variety of filters out there that you should consider implementing to enhance your filmmaking.

However, what works for your style might not work for someone else. So, be sure to try and test different NDs with your camera setup, and review as many videos as possible.

If you need more help with understanding diffusion and filtration, we also offer a super helpful course: How To Use Lens Diffusion. In this course, Shane Hurlbut, ASC takes you through the proper use of filters and clues you in on essential advice that you’ll only receive from a professional cinematographer!

FAQs

Which course is best for filmmaking? ›

Filmmaking Courses
  • Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass. ...
  • Complete Filmmaker Guide: Become an Incredible Video Creator. ...
  • Filmmaking: Write, Direct and Distribute Your Feature Film. ...
  • Make Epic Videos for the Internet! ...
  • Learn to Storyboard for Film or Animation. ...
  • ULTIMATE FILM FINANCING.

Is film school worth the money? ›

Not only does film school help you in the field, but it can also aid in your post-graduate job hunt. Listing a film degree on your resume can increase your chances of being hired by a production company, editing house, or writer's room. This is because employers recognize the skills it takes to complete a film program.

What is Filmmakers Academy? ›

Filmmakers Academy is a versatile, premium online filmmaking platform that unlocks a whole new realm of educational possibilities for creatives.

Where can I study cinematography for free? ›

The StudioBinder Film School is an ever-expanding series of video master classes for anyone that wants to learn practical filmmaking and cinematography techniques. These filmmaking courses are 100% free and in video.

Which country is best for filmmaking? ›

Best countries to study film
  • USA.
  • UK.
  • India.
  • China.
  • Japan.
  • Germany.
  • France.
  • Spain.

Is film making a good career? ›

Despite the fact that careers in film can be incredibly rewarding, they typically come with a low level of job security as you'll usually be hired on a film-by-film basis. Wages, working hours and locations vary, depending on the size of the production you're working on and the level of funding behind it.

Is a film degree hard? ›

While film studies is not really difficult, it's a must for students majoring in it to obtain all the skills they can get and the network they can make in college for a promising career. Continue reading if your goal in life is to become a filmmaker, producer or movie crew.

Do you need a degree to be a filmmaker? ›

While there are no formal requirements to become a filmmaker, a bachelor's degree in film and television production is recommended as it will provide you with an opportunity to acquire many of the skills necessary to work in the field, as well as gain experience with projects and establish industry contacts.

Do most directors attend film school? ›

Some of our favorite directors started school then dropped out, while others are completely self-taught. Many of the best classic directors made their marks on film before film schools even existed. You're sure to find many directors you recognize on this list!

How much do cinematographers get paid? ›

Currently, the national average salary for a Cinematographer is around $65,000. Cinematographers working on indie or low-budget projects will also earn less than those working for established production companies.

Is film school free in Germany? ›

Most public schools in Germany are tuition-free for undergraduate students! Currently, only the state of Baden-Württemberg requires non-EU students to pay tuition for their education.

Can I learn filmmaking online? ›

The prestigious Sundance Institute which runs one of the world's most celebrated film festivals, offers a range of online filmmaking masterclasses on everything from Documentary Filmmaking to Crafting A Web series. Each masterclass is a 3-hour video and all are run by industry professionals.

How much time does it take to learn filmmaking? ›

How long is enough? If you're looking for a course which will make your work ready, a six-month full-time course is the preferred option. You will have just enough time to build confidence in your chosen field and create an industry-standard portfolio.

How long is a filmmaking course? ›

Universities offer courses ranging from 1 to 4 years, with the majority lasting 3 or 4 years. Conversely, films schools focus on shorter technical courses of 1 or 2 years.

Is Nyfa a college? ›

New York Film Academy - Los Angeles is a for-profit college located in Burbank, California in the Los Angeles Area. It is a small institution with an enrollment of 962 undergraduate students. The New York Film Academy - Los Angeles acceptance rate is 100%.

Which country is No 1 in film industry? ›

Top 50 countries ranked by number of feature films produced, 2005–2010
Rank (2010)CountryNumber of feature films produced1
2006
1India1,016
2US673
3China330
47 more rows

What is the number 1 film school in the world? ›

29 Best Film Schools In The World To Study At In 2022
  • American Film Institute. ...
  • University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. ...
  • New York University Tisch School of the Arts. ...
  • Beijing Film Academy. ...
  • University of California Los Angeles. ...
  • 6. California Institute of the Arts.
20 May 2022

Which is the richest film industry in the world? ›

World's Top 10 Film Industries 2022
  • Cinema of the United States (Hollywood) ...
  • Hindi Cinema (Bollywood) (India) ...
  • Cinema of China. ...
  • Cinema of the United Kingdom. ...
  • Nihon Eiga (Japan) ...
  • Cinema of South Korea. ...
  • French Cinema. ...
  • Cinema of Germany.
17 Oct 2022

Is the film industry stressful? ›

So, of course, there is always stress in filmmaking and if you understand cinema by reading or assisting, then you will come to know about the pressures and stress of work. If you're ready for that stress then only you can think of yourself as a director in the near future.

What are the disadvantages of being a film director? ›

A disadvantage of becoming a movie director is the stiff competition you will face from other directors vying for the same jobs and sources of project funding. Producers and investors are bombarded with movie ideas and can have their pick of eager directors.

How hard is it to get a job in film? ›

The film industry is notoriously hard to get started in, and nowhere is that more true than behind the scenes. There are a lot of jobs on a movie set that need to be done, but landing that first one can be difficult, especially if you don't know where to start.

Do film majors make money? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that film and video editors earn median annual wages of $62,650.

What university has the best film program? ›

Best Film Schools 2022
  • American Film Institute (AFI) ...
  • California Institute of the Arts. ...
  • Chapman University. ...
  • Columbia University. ...
  • Emerson College. ...
  • Loyola Marymount University. ...
  • New York University (NYU) ...
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
1 Sept 2022

What is a film degree called? ›

Film studies can also be known as cinema and media studies. Instead of working with the technical equipment or shooting your own video, cinema and media studies is more an exploration and understanding of classic and iconic films.

How do I start a filmmaking career? ›

Steps to Going to Film School & Pursuing a Film Career in Cinematography
  1. Gain Experience in High School. ...
  2. Pursue a Degree in Film or Cinema Studies. ...
  3. Keep Working on Your Portfolio. ...
  4. Network in the Industry. ...
  5. Latest Posts.
14 Jul 2022

What to major in if you want to be a director? ›

What educational requirements should a director have? While not always required, directors can benefit greatly from obtaining at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as film. Within a degree program like this, you can then select director courses like film editing, cinematography, screenwriting and film history.

What is the difference between filmmaker and director? ›

In most cases, the term filmmaker refers to the director, but the term can also be used to refer to the producer. Filmmaker is not an official title in Hollywood. You won't see someone credited as filmmaker at the end of any movie. Because of this, there is no set definition.

Where did Quentin Tarantino study? ›

Quentin Tarantino

Where did Quentin Tarantino go to film school? ›

Naturally rendering his work with a unique style, vicious dialogue and groundbreaking visual storytelling, Tarantino, famously, didn't attend any film school. In fact, Tarantino dropped out of high school at the age of just 15 and opted for work at a cinema, as well as a video store later in life.

Does Quentin Tarantino have a film degree? ›

Quentin Tarantino

The creator of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Inglorious Bastards did not complete higher education either. He dropped out of school at 15 to start acting classes with the James Best Theatre High School but lost interest and left to work in Video Archives, where he learned a lot about cinema.

Who is the highest paid cinematographer? ›

Top Grossing Cinematographer at the Domestic Box OfficeBETA
RankNameDomestic Box Office
1John Schwartzman$3,127,929,105
2Dean Semler$2,995,911,840
3Don Burgess$2,982,186,430
4Jeremy Lasky$2,820,961,879
78 more rows

Are cinematographers in demand? ›

The employment of cinematographers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. Demand for television shows and movies will drive demand for cinematographers.

Who makes the most money in film production? ›

Let's take a look at five of them.
  • Executive Producer. Top of the list is the executive producer – the person who controls the entire project. ...
  • Director. ...
  • Screenwriter. ...
  • Editor. ...
  • Other opportunities. ...
  • Media Schools.

What is the best film school in Europe? ›

Top Film Schools in Europe
  • London Film School. Film Program. ...
  • University of Television and Film – Munich. Film Program. ...
  • Lodz Film School. Film Program. ...
  • International Institute for Image and Sound. ...
  • Paris Sciences et Lettres University – La Femis. ...
  • Tallinn University. ...
  • National Film and Television School. ...
  • VIA University College.

Is Germany good for film? ›

From the expressionist films of the 1920s to the New German Cinema of the 1970s, German filmmakers have always been at the forefront of international cinema. In addition to this illustrious history, Germany boasts some of the world's best movie theaters and film festivals.

Is Germany good for film studies? ›

From four week short courses to Masters degree programs, Met Film School Berlin is one of the best film & photography schools in Germany. Masters are available in Cinematography, Directing, and Documentary. The program offers students the opportunity to split the program between Berlin and London.

Is film making course easy? ›

Everything about filmmaking is extremely easy to learn. Anyone can do it if they wish. The challenge is filmmaking requires learning a huge number of skills. Each skill is easy to learn but the number of things you must learn is huge.

How do you write a short film script? ›

6 Tips for Writing Short Film Scripts That Connect
  1. Find a small, specific, significant idea you can tell well in a short script. ...
  2. Craft a complex character with a small, significant want. ...
  3. Create a pattern of external and internal change. ...
  4. Start your story on page one. ...
  5. Hit your scenes late and get out early. ...
  6. Show don't tell.
26 Aug 2020

What is film production course? ›

Film Production courses cover various aspects of filmmaking like Direction, Production, Cinematography, Lighting, Editing, Post-Production, etc. These courses are especially for students who have a keen interest in the film making and related fields.

How do I start a career in filmmaker? ›

Steps to Going to Film School & Pursuing a Film Career in Cinematography
  1. Gain Experience in High School. ...
  2. Pursue a Degree in Film or Cinema Studies. ...
  3. Keep Working on Your Portfolio. ...
  4. Network in the Industry. ...
  5. Latest Posts.
14 Jul 2022

How do I learn film production? ›

How to become a movie producer
  • Pursue an education. ...
  • Get an internship. ...
  • Produce a short film. ...
  • Network in the industry. ...
  • Work as a production assistant or entry-level filmmaker. ...
  • Be a producer on a major industry film. ...
  • Gain experience in a mid-level producer role. ...
  • Advance into upper-level producer roles.

Can I learn filmmaking online? ›

The prestigious Sundance Institute which runs one of the world's most celebrated film festivals, offers a range of online filmmaking masterclasses on everything from Documentary Filmmaking to Crafting A Web series. Each masterclass is a 3-hour video and all are run by industry professionals.

What is a film degree called? ›

Undergraduates are usually awarded with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film Studies. If you're interested in graduate programs, you can earn a Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) in the fields of filmmaking, film studies or film theory.

How many years is a film degree? ›

Undergraduate degree programs in film and digital video production typically take four years to complete, and result in such merits as the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Filmmaking or Bachelor of Science in Video Production.

How long is a filmmaking course? ›

Universities offer courses ranging from 1 to 4 years, with the majority lasting 3 or 4 years. Conversely, films schools focus on shorter technical courses of 1 or 2 years.

Do filmmakers need a degree? ›

While there are no formal requirements to become a filmmaker, a bachelor's degree in film and television production is recommended as it will provide you with an opportunity to acquire many of the skills necessary to work in the field, as well as gain experience with projects and establish industry contacts.

Can you make a film with no experience? ›

High-end TV and major film sets require you to have some experience, even for entry-level work. You will find it hard to work on a big film set without at least 3 previous credits in your role. As such, you might need to work on independent film sets before working in the professional film industry.

Can you become a filmmaker without college? ›

Whilst going to film school can be the right choice for some, the simple truth is; you don't have to go to film school to work in the industry.

How much money do film producers make? ›

How much does a Film Producer make? Film producers make $50,185 per year on average, or $24.13 per hour, in the United States. Film producers on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $30,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $81,000.

Is being a film producer hard? ›

Being a movie producer is not an easy job, and becoming one is not particularly easy either. It requires hard work and commitment. Many people enter this field because they have one essential factor: a passion for producing works of art.

How do film producers get paid? ›

Generally, Producers make money by receiving producing fees set out in the production budget. In other words, Producers don't normally get paid unless their film or television show is actually produced and financed. It is possible to make profits from a successful show, but profitable shows are few and far between.

Is film school free in Germany? ›

Most public schools in Germany are tuition-free for undergraduate students! Currently, only the state of Baden-Württemberg requires non-EU students to pay tuition for their education.

Is film making course easy? ›

Everything about filmmaking is extremely easy to learn. Anyone can do it if they wish. The challenge is filmmaking requires learning a huge number of skills. Each skill is easy to learn but the number of things you must learn is huge.

How do I become a director? ›

Becoming a Film Director

Most film directors typically hold a bachelor's in film or a related field and have several years of work experience. They often begin their film directing career as a film editor, actor, or assistant to an established director.

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