A split diopter is a part of a lens that attaches to a regular camera lens and has at least two focal planes. This lens attachment dramatically increases the depth of field, allowing for sharp focus in both the immediate foreground and the distant background. This enables the cinematographer to convey a lot of information or emotional content in a single shot in filmmaking.
How Does a Split Diopter Lens Work?
A split lens diopter, also known as a split-field diopter or a split focus diopter, is an adaptor that refocuses light travelling through the convex portion of a normal camera lens filter. When this light strikes the film or sensor in the camera, that area of the image will be on a separate focal plane than the rest of the image, providing for sharp focus in both the foreground and background.
A split diopter, in technical terms, gives the appearance of deep focus. The two distinct focus planes merge to form a single image. Some diopters function as a close-up lens, allowing anamorphic lenses to see objects that are too near to the lens. Because the two planes of focus are distinct, a boundary will appear between them, often as a blurred vertical line in the image's centre where the convex element stops. Filmmakers can hide this to some extent, but it's difficult to conceal.
What Do Split Diopter Lens Shots Portray?
Split diopter lenses can be used by cinematographers to generate a variety of visual effects to accomplish the director's desired emotional or narrative impact. The following can be achieved with split diopter lenses:
1. Complex compositions:
A director can construct a scene with a lot of information and texture in a single shot by using a deep depth of field. Both the extreme foreground and the far backdrop can be in focus, allowing the spectator to focus on both small details and large scales.
2. Many split diopter shots will focus on one character's face as the remainder of the scenario, sometimes including another figure, plays out in the background. This might highlight a character's emotional state or emphasize their reaction to an event as the scenario advances.
3. Under duress:
The same process that gives the appearance of depth may also give the appearance of flatness. Scenes using this technique can appear artificial and produce a sense of claustrophobia since the split focus effect does not mirror how our eyes receive visual information normally. The split diopter can provide the impression that a character's surroundings are squeezing them in some instances.
4 Scenes Shot Using a Split Diopter Lens.
The split diopter lens adapter has long been a reliable camera accessory for cinematographers. The following are a few examples of how it's been used:
1. Citizen Kane (1941):
Orson Welles' first film, Citizen Kane (1941), relied largely on on-camera effects. He pushed the use of deep focus in daring new dimensions with his cinematographer Gregg Toland, depending on a variety of advanced film-printing and camera techniques, including the split diopter, to do this. A split-plane diopter, among other tools, was used in a few sequences to sharply focus a character's head in the foreground while other people across the room were also firmly in focus.
2. West Side Story (1961):
Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, who used cinematography methods to heighten the emotions in this adaptation of the Broadway musical. While the scene of community dance, the focus switches, isolating the main protagonists as they lock eyes across the room and approach each other. Diopter lenses were used to create the appearance of one character only seeing the other, with the rest of the scene blurring.
3. Blow Out (1981):
The split diopter lens effect was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, and director Brian De Palma was a big fan. The technique is used in several frames in the film Blow Out, which stars John Travolta as a sound recordist who becomes entangled in a conspiracy plan. Split-diopter effects were also utilised in several De Palma's other films, including Carrie (1976) and The Untouchables (1977). (1987).
4. Reservoir Dogs:
The usage of split diopter effects in Quentin Tarantino's debut picture, Reservoir Dogs (1992), demonstrates his respect for 1970s American filmmaking. A split diopter is used in one scene to depict an exchange between a captured cop and a critically injured criminal (played by Tim Roth).
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