Latest teaser for an ongoing project.
Shot on Red Epic with Lomo Anamorphic lenses.
Latest teaser for an ongoing project.
Shot on Red Epic with Lomo Anamorphic lenses.
One of the biggest things that seperates the big guns from the amateurs when it comes to cinematography is speed. You need to be able to light, make things relevant to the story, maintain a level of consistency and at the same time do it as quickly as possible. Time is money on set and the more ways you can eliminate set up time the better. Reading through ASC cinematographer Shane Hurlbut’s website I came across a great idea of mounting a reference monitor to the top of a pelican case. This made the monitor extremely quick to set up and also very agile. So I recently set out to design my own set up building on the hard work that Shane and his team had already put in.
I started by choosing my monitor. There are so many different options and budget levels out there that it can quickly become overwhelming. After going through all the specs and testing out a few I decided that for my needs in the color suite and on set the Flanders Scientific CM240 was the one that ticked the most boxes. It is extremely accurate and is at home on set and in the color bay. It has all the professional bells and whistles while not being a beast to lug around. One of the best parts of the FSI is the control panel that is free to customize for each user. I can set up waveforms/false color/focus assist all with the touch of a button. Little features like that speed things up immensely.
Once I had my monitor I had to come up with a way to mount it to the Pelican case without actually piercing the outer shell. I wanted to keep the case weather proof/bomb proof and you can’t do that if you crack the outer shell. Luckily for me the Pelicans ship with a pretty beefy handle that I was able to incorporate in to the design so that it could take the majority of the load.
So here is what I came up with. The CM240 is mounted to a vesa to light mount that I got straight from FSI. Although a little pricier then some of the options out there this thing is rock solid. No shifting or sliding to speak of. You set it and forget it. Then I went down to our local Home Depot (Bunnings here in Australia) where I found a mental joint normally used for roofing applications. I took the baby stem desktop mount from FSI down with me and they measured up perfectly.
As I said before the main thing I wanted to accomplish with this build was speeding up the set up and tear down process. That meant that this had to be a tool less operation. I permanently fixed the Baby stem to the plate I got from the hardware store with a series of bolts and then for attaching the mount to the case I drilled two holes in the Pelican handle and used two thumbscrews to secure the mount to the case. It works fantastic. The weight of the monitor counters the pull from the mount and the whole system is rock solid with not additional support.
From arrival to set up takes a few seconds as everything is neatly stored away inside the pelican. I attach thetwo thumbscrews, mount the monitor, and attach the V-lock battery and away we go. Shaving minutes off of set up time means I have that little bit extra to finesse the set up/lights/creative.
This post continues on in the series of lighting breakdowns from a recent short film that I shot. We were short on time, equipment, manpower, and everything else that is commonly missing from indie film making but we were fighting to maintain a high production value to help tell this story.
In today’s scene we are taking a look at fighting the sun while shooting daytime interiors. The entire film was shot on location with a large part taking place inside a working cafe. The cafe was covered in floor to ceiling windows on two sides and dark blue/black walls on the other sides. We were scheduled to be shooting in the location for an entire day and we needed to maintain a reasonable amount of continuity between the shoots as the dialogue was only supposed to occur in movie time over a matter of minutes.
Our tight schedule meant there was no time to wait for the perfect angles and then shoot, shoot, shoot. We had to make do with what we had. The lighting kit was small to say the least. We had an Arri 1.2k, a couple of 2×2 Kinos, a single 2×4 kino and that was it for daylight fixtures. We had a few more tungsten weapons but considering we were on location and restricted in terms of output none of them would be of any use to us.
After our location scout I did a bit of research and started pulling looks together. I wanted a natural look that had a bit of sidelight to it.
Here is the plan that we came up with:
The scene started with a wide master shot and then punched in for a medium two shot and a few dirty OTSs. We blocked out the positioning of the action so that the actors would land at a seat that had the most exposure to the naturally soft, overcast light coming from the sky. I was hoping to light it to a T4.5. I added the 1.2k HMI in to the mix to give us a bit of consistency if the sky dropped too much. I had Joel Crane, the gaffer extraordinaire, bounce the HMI into the white awning just outside the window and that gave us a nice soft light that added nicely to what the sky was already doing. It was really just boosting the levels.
Starting there looked OK but when we went in for the singles we needed the key light to wrap a little further around the actors face. We were losing the eyes a little as they talked back and forth. To solve that we took our sole 2×4 kino and place it just off to the left of camera and cut out two of the bulbs and that gave us just enough fill to keep everything together.
So in the two shot (50mm) you can see what looks to big the big sky source pouring in camera right. That is almost all HMI as the sky at this point in the day was getting very dreary. Then you can also see on the camera left side of the actors face the little bit of fill provided by the kino camera left.
In the wide shot (35mm) the main actors are looking pretty good using what was essentially the same set up. We did shuffle back the kino a little bit and turned on another bulb to give it a bit more juice. The real problem here, which we couldn’t quite get right, is the left side of the frame was starting to fall off as it got away from the HMI spread and you can see the drop off in exposure. When we do the final color I will be able to push a little bit of exposure back on that side. We tried, in later shots, filling it in but all we had left to do the job was the two 2×2 kinos.
It is a little bit difficult to see from this shot (80mm) as the actor on the left has turned his face a little bit more extremely than what it is earlier in the clip. That makes his lighting a little bit flatter. I could have killed the Kino and brought in a little bit of negative fill to add some contrast but I think it would have been a bit too extreme to match the previous shots in the sequence.
You can see that we are getting a nice even exposure with minimal lighting and we were able to keep that look over the course of the day thanks to a little luck with our overcast weather.
The background in the male actors single was pretty dark as it was buried in the corner of the background and the wall itself was black. To fight that issue we just shuffled in one of the kinos and shot it into the ceiling just out of frame.
All things considered I am pretty happy with the way things turned out considering the time and equipment constraints we were under. Check back for more lighting set ups from the short soon.
I recently wrapped up a short film that had been going over the last few weeks and I wanted to share some of the different lighting set ups we used in the piece.
The film was shot on the RED Epic at 5k Anamorphic which meant we were using my Lomo 2x lenses. One of the strengths of the anamorphic frame is that you can really show off set design as so much outside the main action is still in frame. This can be a blessing or a curse. On this film we were, like most short films, short on time and money. We were begging and borrowing every location we could get our hands on and we had to make do with what we could find.
The story is about the relationships between the three main characters and one of the main scenes takes place in a bathroom in the middle of the night. When I read the script the first alarm bell that immediately went off in my head was 99% of the time bathroom location = small work space. Small work space means it is difficult to get motivated sidelight. The inevitable compromise is lighting it from above and that leads to either a low contrast flat shot or an over the top feel. It turns out that our bathroom location was even smaller than anticipated and to make matters worse it was covered with brown, highly reflective tiles.
I did a bit of research and came up with a few frame grabs I liked the feel of.
These are great shots but we didn’t have the same location and we had a lot less space so we needed to go in a slightly different direction.
We, gaffer Joel Crane and myself, were going to have to come up with a way to make it interesting and keep the look in line with the rest of the piece. So here is what we came up with.
We started by blocking out the action with the director and deciding on all of the camera positions and eye lines. Then we hung a Polecat in between the two walls parallel to the bathtub. The majority of the action was taking place inside the bathtub so we decided to hang an ETC Source 4 750W on the polecat and shoot it directly across the room and bounce it off a piece of foam core hanging on the other side slightly lower and angling downwards. The foam core was wrapped in unbleached muslin. We were using a T4 shooting stop as anything lower compromised the sharpness and contrast levels on the Lomos. That combination managed to get us a key light that was reading T4.5 on the subjects key side. The only problem was that because the tiles were so reflective we were getting stray bounce from all over which was then lifting our fill side to high.
We were aiming to keep a 3:1 ratio on the males throughout the film and a 2:1 on the ladies. To achieve the 3:1 ratio we hung blacks on all the walls out of frame so that we could kill the levels with negative fill. I used my Sekonic 758cine lightmeter to dial in just the right amount of fill so I could be sure we were being consistent. We also added a small 2×2 kino for a hairlight for the female leads reverse shots.
You can see the size of the space in these BTS stills:
You can see on the back of the foam core we had some black wrap keeping the light off the rear wall behind the main actor. You can also see the negative fill on the side walls.
Here is the final image with a quick pass inside DaVinci Resolve:
I will be posting a few of these lighting breakdowns on this project as I get to see more of the final footage.
Early anamorphic lenses breathe. If you shoot a project with them there are certain things you will come up against and it is undeniable that rack focusing has never been a strong point for vintage anamorphics. The design of the Lomo 2x Square Fronts is the root of the problem and the source of the beauty as well. You take the good with the bad.
The good is the wide aspect, the shallow DOF, the unique flares and the bad is breathing. Essentially, breathing is the slight appearance of the lens to zoom in and out while changing focal planes. As seen in the examples below the square fronts do suffer quite a bit but there are ways around the problem for the camera/post savy.
Lets start with the 35mm. In the first shot the focus is on the dollar bill and the color chart in the foreground. Take a look at the exit sign on the upper left side of the frame. As the focus shifts to the dummy in the background the FOV magically shifts.
This example is pretty easy to spot as the shift is so great. Will your average viewer notice? Maybe, maybe not but I bet if they don’t notice exactly what the issue is they will notice something is off if it is used repeatedly. The key is planning shots with this in mind and doing everything you can ahead of time to eliminate it.
Finally the 80. The background doesn’t provide as easy a target as the previous examples but if you look closely you can spot the shift occurring.
Anamorphic flares are the quintessential aberration that anamorphic photography is known for. Flares a an intrinsic part of the anamorphic look and no anamorphic lens test is complete without showing off how these lenses flare.
Square front anamorphics are the most famous of the flarers. They started it all. The long horizontal streaks slashing across the width of the frame. They are notorious for the lack of flare resistance. The design of square fronts has the anamorphic element at the very front of the optical pathway which is why they are so prone to create the typical anamorphic flares. Modern anamorphics have eliminated part of the flares by rearranging the place ment of the optical elements and thereby reducing the chance of flaring.
In this test I used a tiny household LED flashlight to see what I could get.
The 50mm gives a combo flare with an added source. The multiple source flare can be seen bouncing around at prett much every angle. Even at T2.4 you can see the individual LED bulbs inside the flashlight in the flares.
Once you make the source a little bit more powerful and move it just off frame you get a unique bloom. I’ve only been able to produce these flares on the 50mm. The 80 and the 35 seem immune to the blooming side flare.
Overall, if you are going to work with these lenses they will eventually flare. Some people embrace them for their abilities and some curse them for it. I’ve always liked the look and as long as it doesn’t become all about the flares I don’t mind peppering them into a piece.
One aspect of anamorphic lenses that can cause the occasional headache on set is their close focus capabilities. Due to the increased optical elements needed in front of the spherical lens to create the 2x squeeze and all of its goodness the lenses lose the ability to focus on things within a meter of the sensor. This has always been an issue with these lenses and it isn’t unique either.
Leica M lenses in the stills photography world also suffer from a lack of close focus capabilities. To get around this problem cinematographers employ diopters to enlarge the image and basically trick the lens into focusing closer than previously possible. There are all sorts of diopters ranging in size, price, and quality. I purchased a set of round diopters in +1 and +2 strengths. The +1 is great on the 50mm for close ups while the +2 is really only for ECUs on the 50 and quasi macro stuff on the 80. Neither of the diopters will fit on the square front 35mm as the front glass area is too large to cover. The diopters go on the lenses by screwing onto an attachment ring that connects directly with the square fronts. It is extremely easy setting it up and swapping them out and takes no time at all.
In this test I wanted to see if the glass in the diopters held up and matched the lenses without the diopters. First up is the 50mm. All of these shots were undertaken at the lenses minimum focus distance and apart from adjusting the color temperature inside of DaVinci Resolve no color correction has been applied. All the shots are Redcolor3/Redgamma4.As you can see the 50mm without a diopter is nice and neutral. Sharpness is good and the image looks as we would expect under these lighting conditionsThe +1 diopter and +2 diopter both looked great on the 50. The diopters actually appeared to increase sharpness.The 80mm has a minimum focus distance of 1 meter and without the diopter it creates a nice CU with all the color and sharpness you would expectThe +1 diopter gave off a nice feel and the +2 was getting in to macro territory. Overall I am very impressed with the diopters on both of these lenses. The sharpness is great and there don’t seem to be any adverse effects with flaring or light fall off. Next up in our testing is lens breathing.
This is the first in a series of 5 tests we recently conducted for an upcoming short film
:TECHNICAL INFO: —————————————————————————————————
Camera: RED Epic-MX
Optics: Lomo Anamorphics Square Fronts (1975)
ISO: 800 CT: 3200 Kelvin
All shot at 5k Ana at 6:1 compression and finished in Resolve. No grading just adjusting the RAW color temperature to match the WO shots to the T5.6 stuff due to the color shift when dimming the Profoto Tungsten Air. Finished at 2k. The focal point is 6 feet from the camera unless otherwise stated.
I had my Lomo anamorphic set serviced and I wanted to test the sharpness vs. what I was accustomed to before. Vintage anamorphics are often bashed for being unusable wide open or below T4 but I haven’t found that to be the case (maybe I just got a good set). In this test we take a look at the sharpness of all three lenses (35mm T2.9, 50mm T2.4, 80mm T2.5) at wide open and at 5.6 for a reference of just how well these can perform.
So now lets take a closer look at each lens. The 35mm performed very well WO. There was a bit of overall softness but nothing like other anamorphics I have used. Even at 35mm we are seeing nice fall off and there is also a bit of halation on the light sources in the frame. You can also see the distortion in the lens if you look at the pillar and the walls on the edges of the frame. (click on the photos to see 2K 8 bit jpgs)
Once we stop down to T5.6 this lens is spectacular. Great sharpness here and yet still retaining the 3D quality I’ve come to expect from anamorphics. You have to remember that using 2x anamorphics means essentially you are doubling your width FOV. The 35mm is actually more like an 18mm in the width department. Generating nice DOF at 18mm is why so many people love anamorphics. Wide aspect coupled with nice background separation.
The 50mm is the real gem of the set. Both WO and at 5.6 the lens performs well. At 5.6 it is incredibly good. The 80mm was a bit of a mixed bag but come to find out it was (as usual) operator error. The 80 looked slightly softer than the others at WO and after trying to track down the reason I realized I had actually past the maximum aperture which caused the image split and ghosting to creep into the results. At a true T2.5 the lens performs somewhere between the 35 and the 50. At 5.6 the lens was perfect. Up next we are going to be looking at flares on each of the lenses across the aperture range and and varying intensities.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been prepping a project and with that comes the usual barrage of tests with camera/sensor/lens/diffusion combinations.
I decided to edit a few of the clips from the testing together just to get a feel for them as a whole.
We are also playing with various levels of grain and brightness levels.
In this test we looked at the Epic running the latest firmware and the Lomo Square Fronts. We used Diopters for the close ups and Pro Formatt filters for the ND.
I really liked the look but viewing the RAW footage the RED almost looked too sharp to my eyes. That could be because I was tired or because the Lomos were just serviced and are in fact pin sharp now. For some projects that works and I am glad they came back in great shape but it might not fit with what we are trying to do here. Then again we can always knock the sharpness back a touch.
I got my Lomo set serviced by Dom at Cameraquip in Melbourne and he did a great job. The visual improvements are noticeable even looking through the EVF. They came back better than I imagined. I guess that goes to show that servicing a lens set once every decade can actually help. Who would have thought.