How to shoot ink in water.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film

Today I shot inkdrops dissolving in water for a studio based music video planned for next week. This type of footage could be used as abstract backgrounds in titles, or perhaps as an overlay in some trippy video art. I’m sure there are a million other creative things (duh!) you could do with this type of footage. Now I know that there are plenty of animations out there like this, but they joy of making films for me is in crafting all my components, be it practical effects or a simple animated title card. Remember; stay original.

So whats there to think about? Well, I guess it all depends on how you’re planning to use your footage. In my case, I’m gonna do a live projection of this footage onto the artist and studio backdrop so the ink in water footage isn’t going to be too much in focus. If you’re making an opening title card, credits or something like that, you might want to be a bit more careful about where and how you put your inkdrop into your frame. Let’s get started.

1

This project is very simple and you can pretty much set this up at home in your kitchen.

Here’s what you need:

  • Camera (something with a manual focus)
  • Tripod
  • Jug, or preferably a fish tank
  • Ink (or food coloring)
  • Eye-dropper
  • White background
  • Access to water / sink
  • Some sort of directional light source

The first thing you want to do is making sure that the container for the water has a somewhat flat side directed towards your camera. A cylindrical shape will be harder to light and you’ll end up with a lot of highlights. A fish tank would be optimal since you want the glass (or plastic) to be as clear and flat as possible.

Next, fill your container with water and set it up in front of your white background. Try and position your light on the side (or bottom if that’s and option for you) so that the area which will be in your frame is evenly lit.

Use a lens with manual focus. You want to get close enough to cut off all the edges of your container, but still be able to focus properly. The Canon 30-105mm did it for me. Now, before you put your ink in, put a spoon, stick or finger in the middle of your container so that you can set your focus on it. This is where you’ll be putting your inkdrops.

2

Ink is cheap, especially if you order online, but if you’re in a hurry, standard food coloring works just as well.

I shot my footage at 24fps but if you know you’re going slow-mo on this you might want to shoot yours at 60fps or higher if that’s an option for you. Like I said, it all depends on what you’re going to use it for in the end.

After this you pretty much just hit record and put the drops in one by one. It all takes a bit of trial and error before you know how the ink reacts and behaves but this is a lot of fun and no drop looks the same. So keep at it. Here’s a few tips:

  • Ink dissolves/spreads quicker in hot water, and slower in cold.
  • Ink tints the water after a while – keep putting clean water in before each take.
  • You can swirl the water around with your hand before you put your ink in to make the trails rotate a bit more.
  • Mix colours! Start with something light and work your way up to darkness (i.e. Red – Blue – Black.)
4

Mixing colours looks great – but make sure to time it so that it really shows – check your screen when shooting to get an idea of where and when to put in your next drop.

I’m going to edit my footage a bit before I use it. I plan on doing some colorgrading, mixed speeds and see how it looks inverted. If it comes out the way I want it too, I’ll put up a link so that you guys can download it and use in your own projects. But I really do recommend shooting your own, simply because it’s so much fun. Stay playful!

 

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