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Close focus with anamorphic lenses


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#1 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 10:23 PM

I'm about to start prep on a 35mm short we want to shoot using anamorphic lenses. We will do a photochemical finish to get a 35mm anamorphic print. There will be just two or three words of dialogue, so we can shoot it with a MOS camera and add the sound later.

Some shots will be house interiors, but half of the short will show an actor while he's driving a car at night and it's raining outside. The director wants handheld shots inside the car and statics throughout the windshield. We want heavy distorted backgrounds and be able capture the street's lights as hot as possible, so I know that I'll probably will end up shooting wide-open. We won't change distance between the camera and the subject during shots, thus making focus pulling much easier.

What we want, the budget and the logistics tell me that I should choose C-Series anamorphics from Panavision, as they look more "organic", distort while shooting wide-open, tend to flare and are the lightest anamorphic lenses out there, which are our needs for this short. I know they only open up to T/2.3 or T/2.8, but I'll be shooting 5218 (500 T, rated at 320 or 400 ASA) and I will push it one stop if necessary. I think that I'll be using the 50mm or the 75mm on the car but... do you think that I may have problems focusing the driver from the right front seat? I don't think so, but I don't want negative surprises.

Is there a wiser choice than the C-Series? Should I try any other lenses (E-Series, Primos, Hawks)? I don't think JDC and Technovision anamorphics are available here in Spain.

Any other anamorphic advise?

Please, don't tell me that I should stick to spherical SuperSpeeds ;)
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#2 Jon Kukla

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 02:11 AM

You have a couple of options, it seems. First of all, have you considered just using some diopters to shift your focus range? It's not like you're going to be able to see much out of the car anyway, given those stops. Second, if you have an idea of the size of the car, maybe you should try bringing a typically setup camera into a similarly-sized car, and have someone measure between it and where the subject would be, just to get an idea of what your actual distance will be. The CF on the 50mm is 2'6", which may be doable anyway. Depends on positioning, really. Another thought - what about getting the actor's face through the rear-view mirror? Would allow you some extra distance.

Again, though, I don't see that the focus distance is necessarily an issue if you stock some diopters. Then you can main concentrate on getting the glass you want with the stop you want. The midrange E-series lenses, for example, are considerably lighter than the average anamorphic lens - something in the ballpark of C-series weight, with much improved quality. And then there's the PV Superspeeds if you really want some extra stop (though I wouldn't envy your focus puller). The Hawk V-series lenses can do you well for CF and stop, although they are somewhat heavier.

You should ask Panavision as well, because even if they don't have something in Spain, they can probably easily obtain a good range of lenses from the UK office. They also are likely to have a good idea which lens series available are best for tackling these issues, so don't neglect the in-house advice! After all, it is their bread and butter.
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 06:56 AM

You can ceck out the FAQ for the different close-focus of anamorphic lenses. The Hawks V-Series have the best minimum focus, followed by the Close-Focus Primos. Besides those regular lenses I know that Panavision have some close-focus versions of the Es and Cs, but you'd have to figure out a way to get hold of them as there are not a lot of these.

With a 75mm Hawk at 2 feet you should be able to get close enough to get a shot that crops above the actors eyes to just below his chin if my memory serves me right.
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#4 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 01:32 PM

You have a couple of options, it seems. First of all, have you considered just using some diopters to shift your focus range? It's not like you're going to be able to see much out of the car anyway, given those stops. Second, if you have an idea of the size of the car, maybe you should try bringing a typically setup camera into a similarly-sized car, and have someone measure between it and where the subject would be, just to get an idea of what your actual distance will be. The CF on the 50mm is 2'6", which may be doable anyway. Depends on positioning, really. Another thought - what about getting the actor's face through the rear-view mirror? Would allow you some extra distance.


Yes, I know that I should carry some diopters, but I was worried about them being useful for this situation. The problem is that I don't want to limit ourselves to certain camera positions and angles. Perhaps we'll end up avoiding the difficult angles, but I want it to be because of the director's artistic vision, not because our technical limitations with the focus. We don't have a car yet, so the wise choice will be to use a big one, like a 4x4 or something like that.

You can ceck out the FAQ for the different close-focus of anamorphic lenses. The Hawks V-Series have the best minimum focus, followed by the Close-Focus Primos. Besides those regular lenses I know that Panavision have some close-focus versions of the Es and Cs, but you'd have to figure out a way to get hold of them as there are not a lot of these.


Thank you, Max. The FAQ is really useful and I've read it plenty of times. I haven't seen yet the Hawks' performance on a movie screen ("Blood Diamond" will fix it), but even if their look fits the mood of our short, I'm still would be worried about their weight (though combined with an Arri 235 it may be still acceptable). I will have an assistant with 35mm experience, but most of the crew comes -even the director- from a video background and I don't want to overwhelm them with the limitations of a 20kg camera package. Some video people still feel annoyed when they notice you can't zoom a prime lens or when they notice you can't achieve deep-focus effects on night exteriors and I don't want to add another con.
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 07:36 PM

The thing with anamorphic lenses is not the weight in itself, but the fact that they make the camera very front-heavy. You're probably better of with a heavier camera, which can help couterbalance the weight of the lenses. A 1000ft magazine will also help.

Indeed the depth of field will be very small at the distances and stops that you are talking about.

Good luck with the shoot, I'm curious to see the film.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 07:43 PM

It better be a big car if you are going to shoot handheld inside with a 35mm camera with a 1000' mag on the back and a large anamorphic lens on the front...

I'd go with a small camera and the smaller anamorphics, find something that focuses in the 2.5' to 3' range, and use diopters if necessary to focus closer. The C-Series Panavision -- or maybe the JDC Compacts. The Hawk Compacts are not too large, similar to E-Series Panavision lenses.

The JDC Compact anamorphics are really amazing in terms of their short physical length (the 35mm looks tiny), but I don't know what their MOD's are.
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#7 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 09:52 AM

Thank you all. I'll probably keep asking questions while we are doing the prep. :)
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#8 John Holland

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 11:53 AM

Thank you all. I'll probably keep asking questions while we are doing the prep. :)

I go with David on this about J.D.C lenses , hope Mr Dunton can help you get some to Espana , good luck , and have a good new year . John Holland , London .
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