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.
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.
Went out the other day on a recce for a TVC shooting next week. Always fun driving around your city trying to see it with new eyes. The shoot is going to be an all day affair so we had to come up with plans for when and where to be to take advantage of what the light might give us.
The forecast looks good so all we can do now is wait and see.
Brought the camera along to check framing and light.
Shot a music video recently with my newly acquired Lomo Anamorphics. It was a first test to see if these lenses could handle the rigors of a production environment with schedules to follow and focus to follow as well.
All in all they performed great. I was very happy with the images coming from all of them. They certainly have their own personality and once you get to know the quirks they are pretty easy on production as well.
I’m looking forward to another anamorphic project starting at the beginning of next month. Should be fun.
It is always a challenge trying to balance production value and time on any film set. There are so many people with so many different priorities that it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. For a cinematographer this means picking your battles and using quick tricks and techniques that are easy to incorporate and are quick to set up.
One of my favorite techniques to add some quick atmosphere in a sequence is through haze diffusion. The idea is simple enough, using a haze making machine (hazer) you can fill a location with a small amount of still fog or haze. Now you can go crazy with it for certain effects but I prefer putting just enough to not notice it. What it does is compresses the contrast in a shot allowing for the perception of added dynamic range. That is the technical stuff but in real world terms having a bit of haze in a shot adds atmosphere or a certain analogue feel to digital capture.
Click here for a more detailed article on using smoke machines and hazers by Shane Hurlbut ASC . He goes into great detail about the different reasons and scenarios where using atmosphere can help a cinematographer tell the story.
Here’s an example of the haze effect on a recent project I was shooting on the Red Epic. The set up for the shoot was pretty basic. We had a small crew which meant we were going to have to be very efficient if we were going to get through it on time. I needed to be quick and agile with my lights and set ups.
On the tech scout of the location I knew we were going to have to battle balancing the levels between the large windows and the fairly dark interior. The budget didn’t allow for crazy amounts of G&E so I made do with what we had.
What we had was a small 1.2k HMI, some negative fill, and a DH50 Hazer. The day was fairly overcast and we wanted the light to be a motivated single source hence the HMI bouncing through the window. The DH50 was there to add some mood and highlight the incoming daylight while the negative fill was used to spice up the ratios where we needed to.
I got the production designer to incorporate some sheer curtains into the set so that we could still see out the windows but it would knock down the light and also create a giant diffusion panel over the windows. We could open and close the sheers to our liking for exposure purposes. Quick and easy fix.
Here is a diagram of the previous shot:
In the next shot we wanted a silhouette of the main character framed within the window frame.
We employed the same technique with the hazer and the negative fill to cut down on light that was coming in the room and bouncing all over the place. This shot is light 100% by natural light but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any shaping going on. If we hadn’t played with the negative fill and the haze this shot would have had a very different look.
In the final shot we blasted the HMI through the sheers, walled the camera left interior with black sheets and hazed till it eyeballed nicely. The glow is a combination of the bounced light, the layer of sheer diffusion and the haze effect. It feels very analogue to my eye and that is exactly what we were going for.
Here’s the diagram:
As you can see you don’t need a 5 ton grip truck to get the feel that you are going for. You just need to plan ahead and communicate with other departments and then execute on the day. Oh and never leave home without a hazer.