Come see me on June 6th at Sim Video in Vancouver, B.C., where I’ll co-present a session on ARRI Signature Primes with product manager Thorsten Meywald. Francois Gauthier, technical sales rep for Canada, will give a presentation on the new ARRI Mini LF. And yes, we’ll have a prototype Mini LF on hand.
We live in an age of lens choice. Because of this, we also live in an age of lens tests. Done properly, such tests are hugely valuable. The best way to ascertain a lens’s contribution to an image is to shoot the same subject, at the same distance and exposure, with several lenses, and directly compare the results.
I do a fair amount of this in my new job (Cinema Lens Specialist at ARRI, Inc.), as I did in my old job (freelance cinematographer for 26 years). Such tests are difficult to do well, but I’ve gotten reasonably good
Large format is no longer out of reach of the average filmmaker, but the look is difficult to quantify. Naturally, that means I’ll give it a try.
I’ve heard a lot of theories as to why large format looks different from traditional S35. As best I can tell, it boils down to reduced depth of field. To match the angle of view between a large format camera and an S35 camera, the large format camera will require a longer lens, and this results in an apparent reduction of depth of field. In the case of an ARRI Mini vs. an ARRI
I’ve always been a little different. That’s the only explanation I have for cutting gels out of Rosco and Lee swatch books and putting them behind video lenses.
As a camera assistant in the bygone days of film, I spent many nervous hours attaching nets to the backs of lenses using nail polish and/or rubber bands. I took things further when I began shooting video. Most of these jobs lasted only a day, so attaching a net to the back of a lens wasn’t feasible. After some experimentation, I settled on plastic cut from transparency film slide holders. I had
Not to give away any of PVC’s thunder, but Production Hub interviewed me a few weeks ago and the result is now live. You can see it here.
I think this is the perfect time to share an image crafted by Adam Wilt, who sent it to me upon learning of my new job at ARRI. Those of you who are familiar with the 1960s counter-culture TV series “The Prisoner” may appreciate it.
These completely out-of-context snippets from the series will do nothing to help you understand this meme. Enjoy.
Accidents yield interesting truths. This is especially true in lens and camera tests, where it’s hard to know what to test for but there’s always something interesting to find if you look close enough. (And it’s nice when these accidents happen off the set instead of during production.)
Recently, while shooting some lens tests at a rental house, I happened to notice something out of the corner of my eye. My Alexa LF was parked in a prep bay next to a Sony Venice, and when I panned past it I noticed the quality of the Sony logo varied
Some people take time off during the holidays. I borrow a half million dollars worth of camera and lenses and shoot whatever comes to mind. It’s a sickness, but an enjoyable one.
In this article, I wrote about the experiments I carried out in my living room with an Alexa LF and three kinds of lenses: ARRI Zeiss Ultra Primes, ARRI Signature Primes, and a single ARRI Zeiss Anamorphic Master Prime. In this article, I’m going to start out in the same place but travel further afield. The goal: shoot a variety of settings with three different types of lenses
I’ve worked with a lot of cameras, and I’ve always come back to ARRI cameras whenever I’ve had the chance. It’s just my artistic preference. I’ve been more agnostic about lenses, as one can put any lenses on any camera, and I’ve always felt that, in the digital realm, the camera makes a huge difference—possibly more so than the lenses.
I’m slowly changing my mind.
I still think the choice of camera is hugely important. It defines the look of an image at a very basic level. How a manufacturer builds their sensor and interprets its signal has everything to
There was a time in the distant past when I thought of lenses as transparent glass. Film and digital sensors have dynamic range, but lenses are merely optics. Right?
After 31 years of freelancing—five years as a camera assistant and 26 years as a director of photography—I am now an ARRI employee specializing in cinema lenses. This has its perks. For example, for several weeks over the winter holidays, I suddenly found that I had a half million dollars worth of camera gear and lenses parked in a corner of my home office.
Sensors and lenses don’t always get along. In the HDR and UHD world, it’s important to test, test, test.
Recently I shot a diffraction test meant to determine whether there was any advantage to some sensors having larger photosites than others. There should be some benefit, as it’s known that sensors with smaller photosites fall prey to diffraction at wide f/stops. When I compared an ARRI Mini at 3.4K to an 8K RED Weapon Monstro and a 6K Sony Venice—both of which have smaller photosites than the Mini—I saw no benefit when the larger Monstro and Venice images were
For nine months I’ve been working periodically as a trainer for the ARRI Academy. Recently we added an Alexa LF to the class, accompanied by a set of Signature Primes. These lenses are, as best I can tell, the next big thing. My eyes tell me how they differ compared to other lenses, but my brain wants to know exactly why.
At a recent Alexa LF workshop, held at ARRI, Inc. in Burbank, the students captured two sets of images on an Alexa LF positioned in front of a standing set. The goal was to examine in detail the differences
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with ARRI’s senior color designer, and I asked him the question I like to ask all camera manufacturers: “Why?”
No two cameras look the same. Sensor hardware supplies the signals that eventually become color, but color itself is an incredibly complex mathematical construct. Someone not only has to do the math, but they must examine the results and determine what looks “right.” Every camera company has someone on staff who makes this decision, and I find it fascinating to learn how they came to make their signature look.
Old glass and large sensors need a lot of testing. The results may surprise you.
In this article I took a look at how older S35 lenses performed on a full frame RED Weapon Monstro. Scaling the sensor window to fit older lenses yielded some amazing and weird results. There was more to learn from this experiment, and it relates to lens design.
Jim Rolin, video engineer and co-owner of rental house Videofax, told me something curious: he’d found there were lens “breakpoints” where the illumination circle of a lens in a set would shrink. For example, the 20mm,
Many years ago I wrote about the simplest interview lighting setup ever. Here’s my modern take on that same setup.
The TL;DR version is: I still use it.
I don’t shoot a lot of small talking-head interviews anymore. I work with bigger crews, and while I still shoot interviews the scale tends to be bigger. Generally, though, I use variations on this same theme. There are many ways to light faces, but to do this right one has to study those faces to get a sense of how they take light. When you’re shooting someone you’ve never met before, it’s
The ARRI Academy isn’t only about learning how cameras work. We also teach how to use them.
I’ve never seen a class as motivated as the one we had in September. My co-instructor is Nico Fournier, of MTL Grande Studios in Montreal. We’ve been trying to make the ARRI Academy as much about artistry as technology. We use cameras to create art. It helps when our tools make it easier to capture our vision, but it’s all about the vision. Technology is a facilitator, not the goal.
We’ve split the course into two core pieces. On day one, Nico covers
This is a story about a lens family whose soft focus backgrounds were consciously designed, and the lens mount that made them possible.
For the last six months I’ve been working part time as a trainer for the ARRI Academy’s Camera Systems class. Every month or so I travel to either Burbank or Brooklyn and work with a c0-trainer on a 2.5 day intensive workshop covering all of ARRI’s current cameras. Recently we’ve added the Alexa LF to the lineup, and it’s been a treat to work with. To be honest, it’s not terribly different to the SXT when
The film look is an elusive thing. Everyone has their favorite flavor, but there are two basic, yet opposite, techniques in vogue right now—and I think I’ve figured out why.
When the film-to-digital transition commenced in earnest, back in the early 2000s, the biggest complaint about digital was that it had a “video look.” Over time the general consensus was that it boiled down to two things: over sharpened detail, and very saturated and hue-distorted highlights. Early HD cameras (I’m looking at you, Sony F900) only gave us about two stops of overexposure latitude above middle gray. Highlights clipped
Yes, it’s true: your camera has no color gamut. Don’t believe me? Good, ’cause I’m going to try to lay it out for you. I’m not sure I’ve got it all down yet, but let’s see how far I get.
Ready? Brace yourself.
A camera is a measuring device. That’s not sexy, but it’s true. It’s basically a piece of lab equipment that we use to capture images. It doesn’t have a native color gamut. “Color gamut” doesn’t even apply, because the only things that can have color gamuts are things that can display color.