Shooting astronauts helmet (4 replies and 4 comments)
Hi! I know that most major films removes the glass in space helmets, due to the reflection issues. One of my next projects has three days of shooting an astronaut with a helmet, and removing the visor/glass is not an option. I understand there's no easy way to do this, some of the tips I have gotten so far is:
- Bring cardboard cutouts of the location you are shooting at, and make a hole in it for the lens.
- Shooting at an angle (obviously). Only problem is that a lot of dialogue is with only the helmet man, and I can't be shooting only from the sides.
Any other tips? Lighting for close ups is also a major challenge I guess, as reflectors/bounce will show. Im thinking about bringing a hard source and gel it warmer, so I might be able to sell it as the sun.
Oh and, of course, a big fan of your work and it is simply amazing this forum exists 🙂
The cutout idea seems like a good one. I would try to shoot with a shallower depth of field and, maybe, a slightly longer lens. That in combination with some sort of 'camouflage' on the camera should help quite a bit.
Yes, will absolutely try it. A little bit worried of the amount of plates I would need, as the setups vary quite a bit, and I would need sky, rock, and rock&sky cutouts I guess.
Another idea. Does a “less reflective” glass product exist? If I could have the glass in a special finish, or perhaps try and attach a non-reflective foil somehow. Dulling spray I guess is useless, as the glass can’t be matte. Thanks again for your reply!
Whether it’s made of glass or Perspex (optical plastic) the reflective surface still has to be dulled down, you may lose some clarity but not that much. The mask was made in a highly polished steel mould so all you are doing is removing the polished surface. You can still see through the glass but has a translucent quality. You can reverse this procedure by using G3 polishing compound and put back the reflective surface if you wished. It all depends on who owns the helmets, if they are genuine space helmets then you are restricted but there are plenty of ‘fake’ space helmets available you can hire. Ofcourse, you can make your own but you need a genuine one to make the master mould, very easy!
May I throw in my 2 pence worth.
You have not mentioned who actually owns the helmets. You can reduce the reflection by rubbing the surface with “flour paper”, it is a super fine sand paper that etches the surface and stops reflection. You can also use a car product known in Europe as “G3”, it is an abrasive polish which you use after spraying a car, on plastics it will stop reflection. With these products you can reverse its effects and put the shine back in after you have finished using the props. So nobody will know!
You could light the interior of the helmet to maximise the effect but if these are dialogue scenes, you don’t have to concentrate the camera on the face all the time as the astronaut will be moving due the zero gravity effect. I would deface the helmets glass and light the interior with a LED and gel to taste. You need to get the balance right to create a clear image of the actors face as it depends where you placed the LED. Old Christmas lights will be the best and are easy to hide. Photo attached on how the effect should look.
Thank you so much. Will look into these products, I have not seen the helmet yet, it will be a rental. Also, the entire shoot will take place “on a planet”, not in zero gravity. Will try and do the LED on the inside of the helmet for night scenes, as this will require little to none lighting for the face from outside the glass I guess
Using a polarizing filter could filter out most of the reflection:
So I had a look at some of the more famous films featuring spacesuits that we know didn't (couldn't) use CGI -
2001: A Space Odyssey - it seems to have been done it the Roger Deakins' way, giving the viewer something else quite bright to look at in the reflection.
Alien (the first movie) seems to have been done the same way. In some later Alien movies, the visors were matted out as Mike suggests for many shots.
The trick seems (I don't know, I haven't even tried) to be to give the viewer some funky reflections to look at and keep the camera, camera person and crew as dark as possible.
Thanks for this. In darker scenes, it will probable be enough to black out the camera and operator completely, and as you say, have something brighter reflect into the helmet. For daytime ext, my cardboard trick might come in handy, as black-out in that situation will perhaps draw the eyes towards anything reflecting that is not bright. Pola might come in handy too.