Cinefade: a storytelling device for filmmakers

Blurry backgrounds are the Holy Grail of moviemaking and now there is a camera accessory that allows cinematographers to vary depth of field in one shot, enabling the gradual transition between a sharp and a blurry background: Cinefade.

Cinefade: a storytelling device for filmmakers

Cinefade is the brainchild of Oliver Janesh Christiansen, a London-based filmmaker passionate about the creative potential of variable depth of field. This storytelling device for filmmakers enables a whole new form of cinematic expression.

Currently being used by directors of photography for TV dramas, feature films, commercials and music videos and available as a rental-only item in London and Los Angeles, Cinefade is an in-camera effect that can immerse viewers in a story or make a client’s product stand out in a commercial. Developed in partnership with cmotion Lens Control Systems of Vienna, Austria, this project of Oliver Janesh Christiansen enables cinematographers to gradually vary the sharpness of the background in a motion-picture shot at constant exposure, while keeping the foreground in focus.

A video published in January 2015, when Oliver Janesh Christiansen invented and patented the variable depth of field method, shows how the system works. Cinefade uses a custom cmotion lens control system to vary iris diameter, changing depth of field. A custom-built variable Neutral Density filter sits inside a matte box and keeps exposure constant by slaving the filter motor to the iris motor. The whole process is explained on the website created to show the system.

Cinefade: a storytelling device for filmmakers
Oliver Janesh Christiansen testing the Cinefade system

Depth of field is a powerful cinematic storytelling device. In the past, cinematographers have always been limited to choosing either a shallow or a deep depth of field that stays consistent throughout the shot. Cinefade gives them the opportunity to explore the vast creative potential of a variable depth of field. Fading from a deep to a shallow depth and thus gradually blurring the background could, for example, communicate a shift in the subject’s emotional state in a narrative or guide the viewer’s eyes to focus on a product in a commercial. As Christopher Ross BSC says, “Cinefade is a really useful and subtle tool to use in moments of extreme drama.”

The Cinefade system works with any digital or film camera and cine lens,  is quick and easy to set up, simple to operate and allows for a range of up to 5 T-stops. Find more at Cinefade’s website.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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Jose Antunes LAB 2.35:1 Recent comment authors
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LAB 2.35:1
LAB 2.35:1

Interesting, although destined to be obsolete in (hopefully) very near future… Just look at Sony’s FS5, arguably one of the most awesome entry-level pro-grade cameras to recently hit the market with it’s magic-like variable electronic ND!!! None of this clunky nonsense with boxes, gears, and other mechanical craziness. None of the issues associated with polarizing filter sandwiches stuck in front of your glass. Pure genius! My hope and prediction is that it will become the holly grail of controlling your exposure in the future as we start seeing this tech implemented in more cameras and by more manufactures. Absolutely beats… Read more »

Jose Antunes
Jose Antunes

I will have to agree with you. But for large cameras this may be the way to go for some more time. Smaller cameras will, in fact, introduce the use of Variable ND, which is a great thing. Compact cameras where the first to introduce NDs as a way to control exposure, although for other reasons. VarioND are the next step of the magic, although we’re not yet seeing much of that magic.