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Working with Vintage Lenses


2018 is starting off great. Most of my gigs have been narrative based, which has been a lot of fun. I recently worked on a new project with longtime collaborator Chris Frint. His new short "Claude" is a drama about a young man who's traumatic experience causes his invisible friend to return.

During the pre production process, Chris and I viewed the classic film "Ordinary People". He wanted a locked off, classic cinema approach as this film was very dialogue heavy. We had planned to block for camera, as well as incorporate some dolly/slider moves. Another aspect of cinematography we spoke about was the look of the film. Both him and I agreed that it should not look sharp and clinical.

I had brought up the idea of using vintage glass. Now the problem with that is that we (as most indie filmmakers) were on a budget. Most Super 35mm vintage lenses are $400+ to rent for a weekend. After a few searches on Sharegrid, I came across vintage Super 16 lenses. These lenses were a fraction of the price to rent, and it gave the same beautiful look as their 35mm equivalent. The only catch is we shot 2k for this film since they do not cover a 4k sensor.

The lenses really helped define the look. We rented Zeiss Super Speeds Mark 2s. They were fast, all at T1.3, which really helped the background fall off. Paired with the Ursa Mini Pro 4.6k sensor, they gave a "crispy butter" look, sharp yet soft. As I mentioned earlier, I shot 2k ProRes 444. That provided us enough flexibility in the image to grade it how we wanted. Once the principal photography began, we ended up going with a handheld approach. The size and weight of the glass really was ideal for that shooting style.

These lenses really helped define the look of this film. To my eyes, it doesn't feel digital. It gives an organic richness to the skin tones, a classic cinema look. I am very pleased with the results, and I look forward to using their 35mm version someday.

CAMERA: Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro

LENSES: Super 16 Zeiss Super Speeds Mk2

CODEC: 2k 16:9 ProRes 444

SUPPORT: Easy Rig 600N

LIGHTING: Natural Light, ARRI 1k, 650, 300.

COLOR: DaVinci Resolve 14

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