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Thread: Jack Cardiff, use of paint on glass

  1. Default Jack Cardiff, use of paint on glass

    Hi, I have just seen a video documentary on Jack Cardiff and was impressed by his use of paint on glass to create sets where there is no set.

    A good example being his 'Black Narcissus': Powell and Pressburger 1947 (?, I hope I have that correct)
    the film is supposed to be up a mountain in Nepal, though in reality it was filmed at Pinewood studios (London).

    I make simple music videos but fancy that painted glass technique could look good when using digital video. Also I should say that I do have a preference for B+W, though I do understand that my B+W is not anything compared to the real thing.

    Or is it easier to do this digitally?

  2. #2


    Yes, it's much easier these days, with green screens CGI and other digital manipulations. You might be surprised at how much every day TV is shot with a green screen and then backgrounds etc. put in afterwards. Here is an example.

  3. #3


    I tried a glass shot back in the late 60s with a Quarz (Russian) standard 8mm cine camera, the scene was shot by a lake that was surrounded by woodland.
    I wanted to replace the woodland shore with a mountain scene (a scene you would expect if shooting in the Norwegian fiords), it was not very convincing.
    The line where the water met the mountains was obvious, and the sunlight reflections on the glass was a nightmare.
    Even shading the glass from the sun caused problems with colour and light matching.

    I did plan on trying it again a few years later when i acquired a Bolex H16, but never got round to it, possibly because of the problems i encountered earlier and the cost of 16mm film stock/processing.

    Obviously, today i would use very different techniques.... we didn't have video or computers then.

  4. Default

    Wow! Great little video, can't wait to start doing this. Thanks

    Oh, and I have loads of green material, though I see they all use a lime green. Will any green work?
    Last edited by midiaxbill; 05-16-2011 at 08:37 AM.

  5. Default

    Hi Mannering Media, great post; it made Jack Cardiff's work all the more special to read that. I'm of the mind that it may still be worth a go, but maybe I will try to make it look like I'm using glass. I film indoors at home and some sort of surreal setting could be fun. I can see the problems with light will be an issue, I like B+W so maybe this will be easier. finding a way to hold the glass may be difficult. What thickness and what sort of distance from the lens do you think is best? MMM and I get to get my paints out.

  6. #6


    Hi midiaxbill,
    It is always good to experiment (even with old techniques), it what makes this hobby so interesting.
    In the 60s/70s, TVs came with a glass protection screen in front of the tube that was pretty high quality and very thick... this is what i used.
    Basically, the only part of the glass that needs to be optically good... is the area that will be transparent (not painted on).
    I placed the glass into a home made wooden frame and mounted it between two wooden supports made from 2x2.
    The distance between camera and glass will depend on the camera lens (minimum focus settings), and the detail required on the painted area of the glass..... experiment with the camera and glass in place and view through the viewfinder/monitor, then make adjustments.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    I once saw a couple of set-ups where the glass shot was chroma-green. In other words a piece of glass was placed in front of the camera and the sky, some rooftops and a building were "painted out" with green paint (and it had quite a rough finish in parts) and then a sky and fake buidings chroma-keyed in the edit. It worked amazingly well.

    The biggest bugger was avoiding reflactions with loads of black cloths being held around the camera to shield reflections but with a light on the glass to illuminate the green paint.

  8. Default

    Hi, thats a good idea! I will look for some non reflective glass and acrylic paint.

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