Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I had an idea that will require suspending a small household object (a flashlight, in this case) off the ground. It weighs only a few pounds but will be part of the shot so I can't put it on top of anything.

My questions: 1. Will fishing line work for this? I'm on a budget so if it will work, that would be perfect. 2. What is the best way to light it to ensure the camera won't pick up the wire? (Best angle, color of light?)

Another way to do it would be to cut a hole in the background and run a bar through the hole to the subject, in effect using the subject to hide the support bar. Not only does this sound like a lot more work, it isn't an option because I'm trying to hide the shadows as well.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'd probably do it with fishing line (or other strong string) and then clone it out after the fact if any is visible in the final shot. As for lighting, I think clear stuff may actually reflect it more and so may be more visible. If you can get a matt finish, similar to the background, that's probably best.

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Thanks for the answer John. I'll see how visible the fishing line is and report back. –  HiredMind Dec 6 '10 at 22:14
    
You could try a spool of cotton, matching either the colour of the object being suspended or the background. That'd be fairly matt and probably thinner than fishing line. –  drfrogsplat Dec 8 '10 at 0:48

An alternative that I believe the pros used to use in the days before CGI was to rotate everything, subject camera and background, so that the camera was pointing directly up. Now the lines from which the model is hanging are completely hidden by the model, but because they are wires and not rods there is no (noticeable) shadow. Of course this relies on not having any kind of natural background.

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Magicians usually use black threads of the requisite strength and then a black background.

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An alternative is a thin stick placed behind the object in the opposite direction of the camera, such that it is fully hidden by the object.

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Fishing line would be easier, large sheet of glass is another option, though you have to be careful with the lighting direction to avoid picking up a reflection from the glass.

If you go the fishing line approach if you light it correctly it wont show up strongly in the images, though it might require minor retouching! The line will produce a strong specular reflection, so if you use a large soft lightsource you can light up your subject whilst avoiding the line lighting up by shining a direct light through it.

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The glass is an interesting variation - thanks. Seems like fishing line is basically a cylinder, so if I light it from the top it should reflect away to the bottom, and vice versa. –  HiredMind Dec 6 '10 at 22:55

I think most of the time these days, lines uses to hang objects in a scene are edited out during post processing. In particular, it is very easy to remove such undesirable content with features such as Content Aware Fill in Photoshop CS5 (or the GIMP equivalent if you can't afford CS5.)

I would recommend against fishing line, however. It is translucent, and will likely catch and refract light, making it more visible than something else. I would say use a dark line if your scene background is darker, or a lighter line if your scene background is lighter...preferably something similar to the primary colors of your scene. It may be that you do not need to do any post-process editing to remove it from your shots, but if you do, having something that naturally blends into the scene will make it easier to get rid of.

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3  
The Gimp equivalent is Resynthesizer (logarithmic.net/pfh/resynthesizer) which works fine and in fact has been available for way longer than the Photoshop feature. However, it's also pretty stagnant, so the Photoshop version both is more slick and more advanced in effectiveness. It'd be cool if someone picked it up again and polished it up. Still, even as is, it's available in Fedora with yum install gimp-resynthesizer, and probably also in Ubuntu via apt-get. –  mattdm Dec 6 '10 at 22:02
    
Thanks for the answer jrista. I was afraid the answer was "clone it out in post," and it looks like that's the case. I'm actually fairly decent at photo editing (it's taking the photos that I'm fairly new at), but I can always tell even if others can't. So I'll try a few different types of line/wires in different colors and let you all know the results. –  HiredMind Dec 6 '10 at 22:51
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That's good to know matt. I'm a long time Gimp user and didn't even know about Resynthesizer (I always clone by hand using the clone brush). –  HiredMind Dec 6 '10 at 22:54

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