vc002: Ink

The second of #100videoclips. Special effects experimentation with ink in water.

The Inspiration

I’ve seen a lot of videos that have organic flows like this, but the most recent was “The Colors of Feelings” by Thomas Blanchard.

His video deals with surface liquids, and I will probably do something like that in the future, but this one ended up being liquids (and jelly balls) in other liquids.

What I Did

My steps were basically these:

  1. Fill up a gallon glass jar with water. My jar originally held pickles.
  2. Put a light close to the jar. I put the jar on a clear plastic box and put the jar on the box. However, next time, I’ll try putting the light behind the jar, with a white screen between them.
  3. Put the camera close to the jar and manually focus. I have a travel tripod that can hang the camera upside down for shots near the ground, so all the shots were originally taken upside down. I kept that orientation in the final video, so things that appear to be rising are actually falling.
  4. Roll the camera and start dropping things in the liquid. Ink was best, although I also used acrylic paint and some little jelly balls — the kind that start out small but get huge when you soak them in liquid. (These balls also featured in vc010: Purple Jelly Balls.)
  5. At one point, I stirred the liquid, so the ink makes some nice swirling motions.

When the water gets too cloudy, you have to dump it out, clean the jar and start over again.

I had plans to do other liquid combinations, as well as trying out things on the surface, but that will have to wait for another time.

What I Learned

  • Getting good focus is key. I wanted my lens right against the glass, but that was too close for its minimum focal distance, given the small size of the jar, so I had to back it up a bit.
  • A dark room with controlled lighting is best. In my case, I had large daylight windows behind the camera which reflected on the glass in ways I didn’t like (particularly since I couldn’t get my lens right against the glass). It was difficult to find a position that avoided the reflections, and I wasn’t completely successful.
  • Ink is very cool in water. Acrylic paint, at least the stuff I tried, mostly just plopped in and sank to the bottom. (In the final inverted, it looks kind of like an explosion, so it has some uses.) I’ve got lots of other things I’d like to try: dyes, food coloring, oil, detergent, etc.
  • I set up a black background with lighting coming from beneath (but also from the large window behind the camera). Given my subsequent focus on ink, a black background wasn’t the best choice, although I took care of the contrast in post with blend modes in PremierePro. Next time, I’d try a white backlit background, with no other lights, as well as controlled side lighting to see how those worked.