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Andrew McLean’s guide to lenses A ndrew McLean, an experienced cinematographer and now vice president of business development at broadcast equipment hire company HotCam, details some of the basic things to consider when it comes to choosing and using camera lenses. and whether or not I can create my own light. These factors will influence the speed of the lens that I need. What’s the first thing you do when choosing lenses for a shoot? With HD video cameras I think differently. They’re so fast that I can get away with a slower lens if that particular lens is beneficial for some other reason like aesthetic or budget. First I consider the creative direction – the aesthetic of the project. Are we doing beauty work or something more industrial? How will the camera be used? Will it be used dynamically such as for crane shots or steadicam or for static setups? Then I will consider the amount of money I have available. This will go a long way to helping me decide which path I take and will usually guide me into one of two categories: high end or low end. After that I will start to think about both the pairing of the lens with the camera body and the environment in which I will be using it, specifically how much light I have. I will look at whether I am going to be shooting interior or exterior scenes 68 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE As an example, if I am shooting outside and I don’t want to (or don’t have the opportunity to) add a lot of light I will choose a fast lens. That way, if necessary, I can always slow it down using ND filters. One of the things I always do is look at the bokeh of the lens and how the lens deals with out-of-focus points of light, anything that is beyond the depth-of-field. Everyone is after a shallow depth-of-field right now for factual and reality type programming, so I look at how well the lens handles that. Some do it better than others. Are there practical decisions to be made? Absolutely. If it’s an interview piece I’m not so concerned with how pretty the lens looks or its functionality. I’m most keenly interested in budget and speed. And in some ways the lens becomes a non-factor. However, if I’m doing complicated dolly shots, crane shots or steadicam work then the functionality of the lens matters a lot because I want more control and I want to know that all the peripheral equipment that we’re going to use, like remote focusing, is going to work well with that lens. There are also logistical issues to consider. Some lenses, like the Red Pro Primes for example, are great lenses but the focus ring is very stiff. That makes it tough to use if you’re doing a lot of handheld work. Personally I like to choose something that has a focus ring that moves freely and precisely. If I’m doing handheld work I try to find a small form factor lens because the focus barrels have less movement. By that I mean that the distance that the focus barrel travels is shorter so it’s easier to focus. Most Cooke S4s, or Red Prime lenses, for example, are so big and they rotate so far that you cannot easily manipulate them handheld. As you can tell, often my lens choice is as dependent on the mechanics of how >>