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Tiffen Diffusion Filters and Steadicam

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC


Innovation in Digital Sensor Capture

Tiffen has been one of our blog sponsors for over four years. They have been incredibly supportive of my innovative ideas brainstorms and creative process and have embraced this new digital sensor technology head on. Back in 2009, they engineered a whole new ND filtration for the Canon 5D sensor with me, emerging as the leader in all digital sensor diffusion due to their understanding IR filtration and the power of correction in camera.

Steve Tiffen and I have been friends for many years. His company is top shelf and his team ranks right along with him. They have diversified their product line, created a partnership with Steadicam, and have been forward thinking in so many ways, not just from the glass side of things, but with motion solutions. Their support of our blog is not about plugging their products or seeing click throughs. It is a relationship built on helping one another. They support the HurlBlog because they see it as a resource to be able to educate millions of filmmakers all over the world. We, in turn, do what we do — push the limits of gear, innovate, explore new possibilities and most importantly, we thank them for their support in this endeavor.

Steve Tiffen

Steve Tiffen at NAB

“What’s New”

Tiffen has introduced a whole new line of filters for digital sensors and have shot a very in-depth 4K test that premiered at NAB this year, using the Sony F55 to show the power of their filtration and how each one is unique. I thought the test was very well done. I was able to see it at 4K and loved the results. If you are shooting with any of the Sony cameras, you really need to see this test and run out and buy these filters. It really made the camera come alive. It took that very video look that Sony delivers and softened it in a very graceful way. Click here to go to the Tiffen website for the test in 1080 (registration required to view).

“Let’s Break Down My Favorites”

I am not typically a Sony shooter so my favorites will be based on what I felt looked great with 35mm film, the Red Epic, Canon’s arsenal, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Arri Alexas.

The Black Soft EFX’s Diffusion:
This is an update on the very popular diffusion Soft EFX. I use this filtration all the time when I shoot film. I felt it was superior and delivered a wonderful look. The black addition to the Soft EFX’s dots gives you a little less blooming in the highlights, which I liked. You could go heavier and not get a milky over diffused look. I loved the feel of this filtration and will be adding this to my arsenal.

Black Soft Diffusion Comparison

The Black Satin Diffusion:
This filter was so good, it blew my mind. It is a whole new diffusion filtration technology. Never before have I seen a diffusion pattern look so good and organic. We did tests on Fathers and Daughters and the director loved the feel of this filter. We had done side to side with the infamous Hollywood Black Magic and found their patterns to be very inconsistent. They diffused the outsides of the frame more than the center, which on a 60’ screen, looked odd. The Black Satin gave us this creamy look, with suppressed highlights while at the same time giving us a really nice glow from all of our practical lights as well as a street light glow. There are a good amount of levels of thickness to use with your whole lens arsenal from 14mm to 180mm. Again, I will be adding this to the filter list.

Black Satin Comparison Charts

The Pearlescent Diffusion:
I would use this filter for a period piece that was set in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It has a very glowy feel. To me, it felt like old still photos taken from this era. I loved its consistency and its superior quality, along with all the different levels of thickness. I love the look of a net on the rear element.This came very close to that feel that you get without the stop loss and the painstaking detail in netting your lenses.

Pearlescent Diffusion Comparison

These were the standouts. Tests of all of these will be coming very soon to showcase each of them and the unique look and moods that they create.

“Steadicam Innovation”

Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam and is one hell of an innovator. This man has changed the way all of us make movies and he did it with true grit, intelligence and a vision beyond all of us. We have become very close friends and love sharing stories of our adventures. Look at this Rock Star.

Garrett Brown

This pic is my favorite because back in the day, there were no video monitors to view your image so he attached this periscope thing to his head, which showed him the image. Kind of like the first my view goggles, and he moved the camera with this. How the hell did he do it? He has so many great stories about looking ahead and trying to not kill himself.

Garrett Brown

The second pic is his version of 3D back in the 70s. HA HA!

Garrett Brown

The third pic was with Kubrick on The Shining. Do I need to say more? His credit list will bring you to your knees. Love the man and his vision, which has helped me in so many ways as an artist. Cheers, my friend!

GoPro Steadicam Rig

GoPro Steadicam Rig:
When I put the new GoPro Steadicam rig in my hand, I was surprised! This is beautiful. For all of you who have used their Smoothee or their heavier duty Steadicam products, this gives you the same control and feel. It was extraordinary. The same gimbal feel and touch was all the same. It WOW’ed me!!!!

The Steadicam M-1
I got an advance tour of this device at NAB. Garrett has made so many new additions to this rig. The post is a little smaller but more stable than the thick post version from years ago. The balancing of the batteries and monitors is so quick and effortless. He made the powered baseplate thinner, lighter and more compact, along with newer electronic tech inside the arm and gimbal. This was one finely crafted machine. I love that he never stops. He moves the bar up every time and it doesn’t matter what size the capture medium is – from a GoPro to a DSLR to an Arri Alexa to an IMAX camera. Steadicam and Tiffen deliver the same excellence.


Garrett Brown

Garrett Brown at NAB

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James May 30, 2014 at 8:48 AM

Great article (as always) Shane! I’m upgrading my 5DmII to a 4k camera this summer and I’m definitely considering getting these filters to add to the arsenal. I’m considering the Panasonic GH4, but from what I’ve seen, I like except that the edges of subjects seem a bit too sharp for that cinematic quality. These filters look awesome and like they’d be a great way to slightly soften the edges. Do you know when these new filters will be available? Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the latest 4k cameras being released, such as the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7S. Thanks again for all you do!

Shane June 9, 2014 at 8:12 AM

James, Thank you for the kind words, I have not shot with the GH4 or the Sony A7S. But I feel that Panasonic’s edge sharpening is the downfall of their whole line. I have never really embraced that camera and even now that you have the ability to turn the edge sharpening down it loses all of its snap, so I feel filtration, just like with the F55 is the only way to make these camera’s feel cinematic and to take the edge off. I am not sure on their release date.

Morgan Simpson June 2, 2014 at 1:57 PM


Have you ever used low contrast filters? Do you feel they are effective or do you steer clear of them usually?

Shane June 9, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Morgan Simpson, I have never been a fan of these filters. I would rather use glass that has lower contrast then try a filter. There are so many issues with putting glass in front of the lens with flaring and such.

Willem Rose June 22, 2014 at 9:12 AM

I tried making my own steadicam from the videos on YouTube. It was really more of a pain than it was worth. I ended up getting this one for under 100 bucks. So far so good. Using it with my T3i and Go Pro.steadicam

Jonas Radahl July 13, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Thanks again for a very useful post Shane. I live in a country where I can’t try them, which filter and what strength would you recommend for just taking the edge of sharp HD video? I have a 5d mark III and a pocket camera. Love your blog!


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