How a Black Mist Filter Can Make Your Videos More Cinematic

Well, we've made it to the final video in Elia Locardi's eight-part video series on using filters for landscape photography. In this final episode, we will take a look at the new Nisi Black Mist filter set and how it can be used to improve your landscape photos and videos. Make sure you enter the final contest to win a set of your own. 

If you've been following along in this video series, for the first six episodes, we took you out and on location with Elia Locardi as he photographed different seascapes and cityscapes on our home island of Puerto Rico. In the last episode, we mixed it up a little bit and showed you some of the video tricks we used to film the entire project, including our use of the new NiSi variable neutral density filters. Today, we explore another interesting and useful NiSi filter, the Circular Black Mist Filter, and how it can be used to give your landscape photos and video footage a more cinematic and film-like look. 

I've personally never used a mist filter before, so I was excited when Elia let us use the full range of kit in his bag. It's hard to describe exactly what these filters do to your image since the results will vary wildly based on the contrast of your scene, the lighting conditions, and whether or not you have a direct light source in the frame or if the light is coming from just out of frame. From our experiences with the Black Mist Filter, in the most dramatic of lighting conditions, it helps mute the dark black tones while simultaneously adding extra blooming and gradients to the highlights in your scene. As you will see in the example footage in the video above, any direct light sources will become more film-like, with a smoother, buttery texture around the highlights. It is almost like you've turned your dry environment into a misty, smoky room with lots of light rays and reflections are present. It's a pretty cool effect, especially if you don't have the budget or production to physically add smoke or mist to your location. 

As mentioned, this effect can vary dramatically depending on the lighting situation in your frame, and because of that, it's important to know just how much of the effect is needed before it becomes too heavy-handed. With the NiSi Black Mist Filter Kit, you have the option of adding 1/8, 1/4, or 1/2 increments of the effect depending on which circular filter you use. Throughout most of this video series, we found the 1/8 filter to be more than enough to give our footage a more film-like feel. This subtle effect made our sterile footage look more organic.

I've always sought after the cameras and lenses that produced the sharpest, most detail-enriching image quality. It was strange to see our raw footage next to the same scene shot with these different mist filters and prefer the slightly softer image quality with slightly less contrast. I'll admit, the 1/2 stop mist filters did start to push the image quality towards a more vintage or "low-fi" aesthetic that I didn't like, but when used subtly, the lower stop mist filters did make our footage, especially low-light and night footage, more appealing.

If any of you have had more experience with softening or mist filters, I'd love to hear your opinions and techniques in the comments below. I, along with Elia Locardi and Lee Morris, want to thank all of you for following us along in this journey, and I hope you learned something along the way.  We all want to send a big thanks to NiSi Optics for sponsoring this video series and letting us use these amazing filters out and in the field. 

If you missed any of the previous episodes, you can watch the entire eight-part landscape series here on this playlist. We also have one last contest that will end on January 17, and for this final contest, NiSi will be giving away a full set of their Circular Black Mist Filters. As with all the previous contests, Elia Locardi and Fstoppers will also be giving away a free tutorial from Elia's Photographing the World series. You can enter that final contest below.

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6 Comments
Indy Thomas's picture

Looking 'filmic" means reproducing low contrast effects created by film stock and vintage lenses.
If you actually look at so many of the low key images the blacks are not truly black but a dark gray.
The softness of low contrast also reduces apparent sharpness.

The flare around the light source also mimics the combination of old lens coatings and film halation. Two things the industry spend millions trying to eliminate back in the day.

One can simulate the effects to a large degree in PP without the irretrievable damage that a filter places on your RAW data.

Patrick Hall's picture

Interesting backstory. It is funny to try to get the sharpest, most high res image and then attempt to make it look more vintage and organic.

Luc-Richard Elie's picture

How is this different from Pro Mist???

Alexander Petrenko's picture

I just keep my lens dirty.

Kevin Harding's picture

I'm using the Kase Black Mist ¼ and I have to say that, regardless of whether one can claim it to look more cinematic or not, at night it certainly enhances bright lights in cityscapes, assuming you like that look, which I do. I also like the look it gives to lights in the frame when shooting environmental portraits.