Out with the new, in with the old


Peter Savage 2 TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Peter Savage
Issue 110 - February 2016

Out with the new, in with the old

Getting the film look with a digital camera requires the correct lens: and sometimes that means going back in time, writes Peter Savage

For consumers and professionals alike, a digital camera offers convenience and immediacy. But when youre using one to shoot a movie or TV drama theres an extra consideration: the way the captured image looks.

In previous generations, high-end dramas were shot on film. These days, regardless of budget, (and because of the need to shoot quickly) most TV programmes are shot digitally using cameras that produce sharp images. But sharp isnt always the look that is required creatively. To get a look that takes an audience back in time, for example, DoPs are increasingly turning to older, vintage lenses.

Without the lens a camera is just a sensor, and more than anything else its the lens that really defines the personality of a camera. Lens design is a balance of compromises. On one side there are factors like cost and weight. On the other there is speed, resolution, aberrations, flare, all the many distortions that can impair an image.

For some genres, like sport, a high resolution will be called for, with few aberrations. For episodic productions, generally the realistic look is called for, so again, high performance with low distortion. However, for some prime movie production and television drama, the gritty realism of modern lenses and cameras is an anathema. For the audience to become immersed in the story, to suspend the present and enter a world of the imagination, a softer dreamier look is called for. Part of this is the 'film look', a term that defies an objective definition.

As DoPs and directors search for a distinctive style for their latest creation, many hanker after the look of their favourite old movies. Recently I was talking to a DoP about his experience with a new 4k camera. His initial fears were that the camera would be too sharp. His goal was to make the actors look as good as possible. Close-ups in 4k can be very revealing, every skin pore is visible. Now its just fine to show sweat running down the face of a boxer or front row forward, but in a romantic drama, its not appropriate.

We end up with the lens designers designing sharper and sharper lenses, and DoPs using diffusion filters to lose resolution. The film processes naturally lost resolution, with intermediate negs and positives before the final release print, which has a resolution equivalent to around 1000 lines or so. Couple that with less sophisticated lens design, and the look was quite soft and diffused. In the quest to mimic the look of some of the classic movies, DoPs are mounting vintage lenses on the latest digital cameras. Since 1982, when ARRI announced the PL mount, most lenses were supplied with that mount, so they can be fitted easily to a modern digital camera. Older lenses just require an adaptor, easy to buy from specialist film engineering workshops.

Why not fix it in post? So many distortions and filters can be added in the edit. The aberrations of vintage lenses is subtle. Some of the sought-after looks stem from the veiling glare in older lenses, which reduces contrast and shadow detail. Each lens has its own way of reproducing out-of-focus highlights: the bokeh. Another aberration is found in anamorphics. These lenses have a cylindrical element to squeeze the picture horizontally, to be expanded back out on projection. They suffered from a horizontal lens flare on highlights, a signature effect of Wes Anderson. The bokeh are elliptical rather than the circular as with a conventional lens.

In the quest for these many aberrations DoPs are using older optics to get a period look. Favourites are many of the classic Cooke lenses, the Speed Pancros, S2/S3, and S4i sets. Bausch & Lomb Super Baltars are another popular vintage lens, they were used on The Birds and The Godfather.

Many budding DoPs may not realise that Canon made a line of cine lenses back in the 1970s, the K-35, winning an Academy award for the design. Available in focal lengths from 14 to 200mm they remain sought after today. They were notably used on Aliens (1986). In 2015 Azule Finance brokered a £36,000 deal that saw these very lenses bought for use on future digital projects.

Its not just DoPs looking at these old lenses either. Budding DSLR users may find new lenses too expensive, but the demand is pushing up the price of the older classics. They were built to last, and built to be serviced so they are still very much usable today.

4k may be here to stay, but it is a little too sharp for some genres. A vintage lens can provide just the personality to give a production the look the director is seeking.


Tags: iss110 | finance | arriflex | lenses | cooke | pancros | s2 | s3 | s4i | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Azule Finance at BVE 2016

    Azule Finance at BVE 2016

  • Five Arrows Media Finance at IBC 2015

    Five Arrows Media Finance at IBC 2015

  • Azule Finance at BVE 2013

    Azule Finance at BVE 2013

  • Kit Financing with Medialease at NAB 2017

    Kit Financing with Medialease at NAB 2017

  • Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Cooke Optics on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Cooke Optics at BVE 2012

    Cooke Optics at BVE 2012

  • Cooke at IBC2011

    Cooke at IBC2011

  • New Filters from Schneider Optics at NAB 2018

    New Filters from Schneider Optics at NAB 2018

  • BeyondHD - Drones at BVE 2015

    BeyondHD - Drones at BVE 2015

  • Canon on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Canon on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Cineo HS2 at IBC 2015

    Cineo HS2 at IBC 2015

  • ChyronHego Channel Box Prime at IBC 2015

    ChyronHego Channel Box Prime at IBC 2015

  • Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

  • Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

  • Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

  • AES3 to Dante / AES67 converters from Glensound at NAB 2019

    AES3 to Dante / AES67 converters from Glensound at NAB 2019

  • GY-LS300 Camera from JVC at NAB 2017

    GY-LS300 Camera from JVC at NAB 2017

  • JVC GY-LS300 at IBC 2015

    JVC GY-LS300 at IBC 2015

  • JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

    JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

  • JVC at BVE 2017

    JVC at BVE 2017

  • JVC at BVE 2015

    JVC at BVE 2015


Related Shows
  • Paragon Bank Technology Finance at BVE 2016

    Paragon Bank Technology Finance at BVE 2016


Articles
The Making of Zero
Keith and David Lynch

The Brothers Lynch explain how they created the sinister atmospheric world for their new sci-fi short

In a post-apocalyptic world where humankind has emerged victorious in a war against artificial intelligent machines, a young girl dares to venture into the unknown. This is Zero, the new sci-fi short film from acclaimed British writer-director duo The Brothers Lynch which has premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tags: iss139 | blackmagic design | davinci resolve | editing | grading | grade | mk2 zeiss | superspeeds | cinema 4d | molinaire | Keith and David Lynch
Contributing Author Keith and David Lynch Click to read or download PDF
To Remotely Go - TVFutures
Michael Parsons One of my biggest concerns as an academic responsible for the education of hundreds of students is the ‘appropriateness’ of much of the technology we purchase and implement within the curriculum. The last few years have seen tremendous change in all sorts of technologies, and the broadcast industry is just one sector that has seen some significant leaps in innovation.
Tags: iss139 | university | portsmouth | graduation | guildhall | newtek | streaming | pxw-fs7 | ndi | ip | ndihx ptz camera | Michael Parsons
Contributing Author Michael Parsons Click to read or download PDF
Keeping Pace with the Content Revolution
Kevin Fitzgerald These are uniquely challenging times for broadcasters and their technical teams. Not only are they having to negotiate the move to IP-based infrastructures and the introduction of new formats and techniques such as 4K and HDR, they are also having to generate more content than ever before to support OTT and web services as well as traditional linear broadcast.
Tags: iss139 | streamstar | streaming | case 800 | ipx | ipx-3g | Kevin Fitzgerald
Contributing Author Kevin Fitzgerald Click to read or download PDF
Original KVM or KVM over IP
Jochen Bauer Will the technology used in broadcasting solely consist of IP devices? For years, IP has been entering all areas of life. Especially control room applications as they are typically deployed in broadcasting benefit from the IP revolution in many ways. But an “IP-only broadcast world” is not yet here. Nevertheless, the trend clearly moves towards IP transmission, even though a large part of content production still uses traditional transmission paths. And therefore we continue to live in a hybrid world, using both original and IP-based technology. KVM experts Guntermann und Drunck still rely on both original KVM and KVM-over-IP™ to be able to offer their customers the best of both worlds.
Tags: iss139 | kvm | gdsys | guntermann and drunck | kvm-over-ip | Jochen Bauer
Contributing Author Jochen Bauer Click to read or download PDF
The Future of Broadcast Connectivity
Jamie Adkin The use of KVM equipment has been essential to meet the evolving needs of the broadcast industry for many years. Over that time, many in the industry have recognised the importance of using IP-enabled KVM to break down technological barriers and enable real-time access to visuals wherever and whenever they’re needed. These components are vital parts in live production environments in particular.
Tags: iss139 | adder | kvm | ip kvm | Jamie Adkin
Contributing Author Jamie Adkin Click to read or download PDF