Stefano PasottiStefano Pasotti is an Italian filmmaker specializing in post-production and 3D graphics. For the stunning visuals on his most recent project, a short film entitled Ex Nihilo, Pasotti focused on creating the majority of his special effects in-camera. Using body paint, blacklights, a Lensbaby Control Freak with Double Glass Optic and a Lensbaby Macro Lens Kit, Pasotti was able to create a surreal, otherworldly experience.

The film’s Latin title, Ex Nihilo translates to Out of Nothing in English. In the film, Pasotti loosely interprets the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe.

Did any unusual challenges arise from working with such unique materials and light sources?

The biggest difficulty I had throughout the project was the weakness of blacklight bulbs. Even when they reach full brightness and are used very close to the subject, you have to shoot with the iris fully open and pump up the ISO. Blacklight makeup has a completely different look when seen under non-blacklight sources. So, makeup application and (of course) shooting had to be done in almost pitch black, which made everything harder. After 20 minutes, blacklight starts to be very sickening to look at.

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The model’s makeup viewed under normal light and blacklight.

Which Lensbaby products did you choose to use for this project and why?

This was the third time I used my Lensbaby Control Freak for a video project. Previously, I had used the Lensbaby in free mode to achieve a sense of distress and unease, while in Ex Nihilo I used it in locked mode for more thought-out compositions. The ability to shoot in both modes with the Control Freak is extremely valuable; it makes the lens more flexible and suitable for different projects. The magic of blacklight makeup is to transform human skin into multiple light sources. Out-of-focus lights create bokeh and Lensbaby controls bokeh. The Macro Lens Kit let me get close focus shots.

How did the Lensbaby add to the story or emotion you were trying to create?

You could say I controlled my human subject through the lens by tilting it to create a galaxy of falling stars. The first part of the video had to be completely abstract, and the model had to be unrecognizable as a human being. Lensbaby made this possible in a very unique way. It’s not until the shot of the model’s eye opening that viewers realize this isn’t CGI; it’s a real person! The lens played a key role—first by drawing the attention of the audience inside a compelling aesthetic that seemed like nothing other than computer-generated abstract brush strokes—and then by revealing the features concealed behind it. I don’t think I could have ever used a better tool to accomplish this.

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Bokeh effects created with the Lensbaby Control Freak and Macro Accessories.

You might be the first person to put a Lensbaby on the C500 – why did you choose that camera for the project and how did it go? How did you find the Lensbaby footage cut with your Zeiss CP.2 50mm?

The Canon C500 is the best low light camera on the market. So, choosing it for Ex Nihilo was a no brainer. All the shots were extremely clean and noiseless considering that ISO settings where 2500 for the Zeiss CP.2 at T2.1 and 3200 for the Lensbaby with an f 2.8 Aperture Disk. Thanks to the great form factor of the C500, I was able to get all the shots I needed in no time. In this video, each lens had to tell the story in a completely different way from the other. The Lensbaby had to show abstraction in its pure form and, afterwards, a distorted version of the universe girl becoming self-aware. Zeiss, on the other hand, was used when the girl had to be shown in her entirety, and to show the richness of her skin’s texture.

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Videos stills from Canon C500 with the Zeiss CP.2 at 2500 ISO (top) and the Lensbaby Control Freak with Macro Accessories at 3200 ISO (bottom).

Nostalgia time – tell us about your first camera!

The early videos I made when I was 14 were shot with a Sony compact camera that had a video feature. It shot crappy quality video with no audio. I started playing with this new craft with a couple of friends, and in every video we always found an excuse to start a shootout. Every time I spent hours and hours on what I found to be the most fascinating aspects: editing, color grading, and visual effects. Still after all these years when I watch my early videos I think – they’re not so bad after all…

Ready to incorporate Lensbaby into your next video shoot?

Check out the Pro Effects Kit for DSLR cameras or the Movie Makers Kit for PL mount professional motion picture cameras. Learn more about Lensbaby lenses for filmmaking in the Movie Studio.

While the Control Freak has been discontinued you can achieve effects like the ones in this film using the Composer Pro with Double Glass Optic or you may be able to find a refurbished Control Freak in our online shop – check the refurbished shop section for availability.