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Why are panavision lenses so big?


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#1 Nick Centera

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 12:53 AM

I have always wondered why the lenses on most of the panavision lenses are so big. I am used to using a 35mm adapter with SLR lenses so I really have no clue. I want to know because I have seen some set ups using the 35 mm adapters using very large lenses. Thanks a lot.
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 03:45 AM

I have always wondered why the lenses on most of the panavision lenses are so big. I am used to using a 35mm adapter with SLR lenses...

It's not just Panavision lenses. Most cinema lenses are much larger than their still counterparts - Cooke S4s and Master Primes are a handful, 35mm zooms are beasts, anamorphic primes are often as big as spherical zooms. In large part, it's a design choice. Larger glass elements generally perform better optically and allow more light to pass thru the lens, meaning the lens can be made with a large maximum aperture with fewer optical trade-offs. A larger lens housing also makes certain mechanical requirements easier to manufacture - accurate, widely-spaced distance markings for the focus puller, internal focus (no rotating or telescoping front element), uniform size and shape within a given prime lens set, smooth and even movement of the lens gears, etc.

Consider also that portability is a huge asset with still lenses - most SLR-sized camera bodies are used handheld often with only one hand, whereas 35mm motion picture cameras are usually placed on sticks, dollies, jibs, cranes, etc. "Handheld" in film terms usually means resting on the shoulder, which can take more weight than the hands alone. So it's not as critical that cinema lenses be as small or light as still lenses. And if a need for a smaller, lighter lens arises, still lenses are often adapted to fit a motion picture camera.

Finally, there's been a general trend toward larger and larger lens designs in recent years. So as you get more experience in the film world and work on bigger budgeted shows that use the most modern lenses, you'll be introduced to progressively larger glass and the transition eventually won't seem as weird to you - you quickly get used to holding a hunk of glass and metal that cost more than your car (and sometimes more than your house)! I know I look at Super Speeds now and can't believe I though these lenses were so big only three years ago...

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 03 October 2008 - 03:48 AM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 04:12 AM

OK, go tape measure the actor before the take - you are shooting a tight close-up on a long lens at T/2.8, no depth of field to help you, and they are at 5' 7" and they lean at some point to 5' 3"...

... then look at the markings on most still camera lenses and see if you can find enough space between the distance markings to pull accurately from 5' 7" to 5' 3".
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#4 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 05:01 AM

the anamorphic element is all about optical compression, squeezing image down to a tiny amount of film negative takes a big compressor, lot of glass.

bigger is not better, while standard photo lenses don't have the mechanics of beefy anamorphics. their glass tends to be much better. they have to cover a much greater area of film negative without optical distortions.

pull focus is trivial from 5'7 to 5'3 when the equipment is properly calibrated. i set up pull focus with off the shelf nikon photo lenses and gear train with adjustments and trim, i could early get down to an inch resolution, 1 cm was tough but doable but i shoot everything wide open, 1.2 to 2, sometimes 2.8 if needed.

Edited by Glen Alexander, 03 October 2008 - 05:02 AM.

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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 05:21 AM

pull focus is trivial from 5'7 to 5'3 when the equipment is properly calibrated. i set up pull focus with off the shelf nikon photo lenses and gear train with adjustments and trim, i could early get down to an inch resolution, 1 cm was tough but doable but i shoot everything wide open, 1.2 to 2, sometimes 2.8 if needed.


Hi Glen,

Were you shooting on film or or a 35mm adapter on a video camera?. Pulling focus on 35mm at T1.2 is never trivial.

Stephen
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#6 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 06:20 AM

Hi Glen,

Were you shooting on film or or a 35mm adapter on a video camera?. Pulling focus on 35mm at T1.2 is never trivial.

Stephen


Tag Stephen,

Shot on film with VistaVision camera. I tweaked and calibrated the pull focus easily below an inch, I could seperate out different blades of grass.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 07:02 AM

Tag Stephen,

Shot on film with VistaVision camera. I tweaked and calibrated the pull focus easily below an inch, I could seperate out different blades of grass.


Hi Glen,

So you were shooting macro then, thats easy! Often when shooting a face only just 1 eye is really in focus, there is no way on earth you could follow action with Nikon lenses wide open @T1.4, with a moving actor let alone a moving camera as well.

Stephen
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#8 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 07:38 AM

Hi Glen,

So you were shooting macro then, thats easy! Often when shooting a face only just 1 eye is really in focus, there is no way on earth you could follow action with Nikon lenses wide open @T1.4, with a moving actor let alone a moving camera as well.

Stephen


I actually kept the actress in focus as she was walking as well as when a car was going at 30MPH around a curve and straight line on roads.

NO macro shots at all, are you kidding? I shot with 400mm F2.8, 85mm 1.4, 50mm 1.2, 20mm 2.
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#9 Nate Downes

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 08:15 AM

OK, go tape measure the actor before the take - you are shooting a tight close-up on a long lens at T/2.8, no depth of field to help you, and they are at 5' 7" and they lean at some point to 5' 3"...

... then look at the markings on most still camera lenses and see if you can find enough space between the distance markings to pull accurately from 5' 7" to 5' 3".

**Shivves at the horror of that thought.... then pets his Cooke lens set**
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#10 Serge Teulon

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 08:50 AM

**Shivves at the horror of that thought.... then pets his Cooke lens set**



LOL! :lol:
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#11 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 09:27 AM

I actually kept the actress in focus as she was walking as well as when a car was going at 30MPH around a curve and straight line on roads.

NO macro shots at all, are you kidding? I shot with 400mm F2.8, 85mm 1.4, 50mm 1.2, 20mm 2.


Hi,

So in a wide shot you could focus on seperate blades of grass?

Do you have a link to the footage?

Stephen
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 12:01 PM

Sorry to be crude, but after shooting over 30 features in 35mm, and now two TV series, anyone who claims that follow-focusing an actor in a tight shot is easy is talking out of their ass. I've seen this silly, silly, silly argument time and time again on the internet, mostly by people who don't shoot narrative work with actors in 35mm regularly, nor see the results regularly on a big screen, or simply don't notice their own focus mistakes, and often do their own focusing as a DP/director/operator and like to brag rather than be honest or accurate about their work, and mostly are pulling by eye, not by tape measurements.

The greatest focus-pullers in the world find it a challenge.

Also the short barrel travel in a still camera lens makes the focus racks much more graceless, you essentially "pop" from focus mark to focus mark because it only takes a short wiggle of the lens rather than a half-rotation or so.

You won't find any experienced DP or camera assistant who thinks that pulling focus for regular narrative work is just as easy on a still camera lens versus a cine lens. I was just talking to a DP the other week who works for a producer who insists on shooting features on an HVX200 with a 35mm adaptor and the DP said it was an awful way to work in terms of focusing -- it's the worst of both worlds, 35mm depth of field with the worst lenses to try and follow-focus on.

Focusing for still photography or for nature or landscape photography is a totally different experience than focusing regularly during an actor's performance in the close-up.

For me, one version of Hell would be to make narrative features with shallow focus using still camera lenses. For second unit shots, efx plates, landscapes, inserts, etc. they are fine. But they are not designed for acting scenes in traditional shooting situation with a separate operator and a focus-puller who can't look through the lens.
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#13 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:11 PM

Hi,

So in a wide shot you could focus on seperate blades of grass?

Do you have a link to the footage?

Stephen


Blades of grass were used as a calibration benchmark, i did not make a film about blades of grass. No one here posts footage.

My post path is 'old school' all optical, no DI. Are you offering to scan about 400feet of Vistavision at 6k resolution for me for free?

It should look great, it is being processed now at lab in LA>
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#14 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:20 PM

There are those that do and make things happen like me and there are those who CAN'T like you.

They bitch and moan because they can't and don't want to believe any else can. Oh, it's too hard, well piss off, don't pop my bubble.

Other people have much more experience making things happen that are new and innovative then relying on standard techniques. Most focus pullers don't have the engineering, scientific, or mechanical background I have.

Many people have been in business for 40 years and still don't have enough to pay the rent.

Ergo, so what, 30 movies and I can't seem to recall ever seeing any of them at a cinema or dvd. Well take that back, I saw about 10 minutes of Space Farmer because I was captive on an airplane, then I turned it off and slept for 9 hours.

People like Mullen ASC can go bury your head in the sand all you want, others will see and be amazed at the cinematography and more importantly the story. If anyone is talking out of their ass, I suggest you were looking in the mirror.

Edited by Glen Alexander, 03 October 2008 - 01:24 PM.

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#15 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:35 PM

There are those that do and make things happen like me and there are those who CAN'T like you.

They bitch and moan because they can't and don't want to believe any else can. Oh, it's too hard, well piss off, don't pop my bubble.


Hi,

I often used shoot 35mm when my competitors only can afford to shoot on DigiBeta, I prefered the look and always had showreel material I could use. Because I did that for 5 years. Now get jobs with a real budget, I have only shot 1200' with the 3 x 35mm camera packages I own, just because I have access to better kit.

As for David his career really took of a couple of years ago when he joined the union, he is a brilliant DoP, I am sure that everybody here can learn from him.

Stephen
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#16 Glen Alexander

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:43 PM

Hi,

I often used shoot 35mm when my competitors only can afford to shoot on DigiBeta, I prefered the look and always had showreel material I could use. Because I did that for 5 years. Now get jobs with a real budget, I have only shot 1200' with the 3 x 35mm camera packages I own, just because I have access to better kit.

As for David his career really took of a couple of years ago when he joined the union, he is a brilliant DoP, I am sure that everybody here can learn from him.

Stephen


I went to almost every one of the 'heavy' hitters in Los Angeles rental shops, machine shops, optical labs and told them what I wanted to do and shoot, every single one said, "I don't know, it's never been done." That's bullshit. I figured it out, it looked great in the camera, we're just hoping that there are no mistakes in the lab.

You get the best results by having non-traditional people look a problem than ones who see the problem every day.

In the recent edition of the mag Kodak puts out, there is a great artical by an Italian DP, who has similar ideas to me, in fact I had already set up my model for lighting well before reading it. Basically, the guy doesn't lug around 50kW of Fresnel lighting and all of that bullshit, he goes light, uses natural lighting with a few bounce boards. It is well worth the read.
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#17 Tim Terner

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:49 PM

There are those that do and make things happen like me and there are those who CAN'T like you.

They bitch and moan because they can't and don't want to believe any else can. Oh, it's too hard, well piss off, don't pop my bubble.

Other people have much more experience making things happen that are new and innovative then relying on standard techniques. Most focus pullers don't have the engineering, scientific, or mechanical background I have.

Many people have been in business for 40 years and still don't have enough to pay the rent.

Ergo, so what, 30 movies and I can't seem to recall ever seeing any of them at a cinema or dvd. Well take that back, I saw about 10 minutes of Space Farmer because I was captive on an airplane, then I turned it off and slept for 9 hours.

People like Mullen ASC can go bury your head in the sand all you want, others will see and be amazed at the cinematography and more importantly the story. If anyone is talking out of their ass, I suggest you were looking in the mirror.

Glen, we all know you are the greatest, we all know you speak fluently in severall languages, we all know you are going to produce the greatest VV movie ever made, but please please please, come back when you're sober
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#18 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:53 PM

That's bullshit. I figured it out, it looked great in the camera, we're just hoping that there are no mistakes in the lab.


Hi Glen,

With focus it's how it looks on the big screen is what matters, from the sound of it you have not yet seen the rushes.

Stephen
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 02:19 PM

Of course it can be done, it has been done in the past, it will be done in the future (use 35mm still camera lenses on a movie camera.) There are even situations where it can be useful or preferable to put a still camera lens on a movie camera, like when size & weight (or cost) outweigh the mechanical advantages of the cine lens.

It's simply easier to do it (follow-focus using tape measurements in shallow focus situations following actors in tight shots) with a cine lens designed for such shooting situations.

But sure, you can deal with all the difficulties of using still camera lenses in such situations if you want or need to, or have no other options optically.

Honestly, just stop and think about it -- if still camera lenses were just as good and just as easy to use on a movie camera, no one would be spending 10X or 20X the price to use cine lenses instead, we'd all just go out an buy a bunch of Nikkors or something. As much as some people think that all the film industry wants to do is waste money, there is always a serious pressure to find ways of cutting filmmaking costs IF they don't impact production speed or quality in shooting or post.

But for most of you with experience using cine and still camera lenses, I'm speaking to the choir. The focusing problems of shooting live action with actors are very different than the problems of focusing a still camera image and the lenses are designed differently for their different needs and markets.

It's not really a question of the quality of the optics, many cine lenses start out using still camera glass elements.

I'm sorry if I got snippy with Glen, it wasn't his post per se, just that it is one of many lately where people have been pushing the use of still camera lenses on cinematographers, mainly because they don't want to spend the money on cine lenses, so they come up with all sorts of arguments as to why they aren't needed. In Glen's case, using a VistaVision camera, adapted still camera lenses are a common technique since there was never really a market created for cine lenses for large format negatives.

Also, it is not unusual for large format projects to shoot a lot of scenes outdoors in daytime -- where the format really shines -- where depth of field problems are less of an issue compared to interior photography at wide apertures.

My cynical nature sometimes gets the best of me, but I also stand by what I said regarding still camera lenses. Given a choice between focus-pulling on a 50mm Nikkor or Canon off of a still camera versus a 50mm Primo or 50mm Zeiss Ultra Prime, you would be hard-pressed to find a professional focus-puller who would prefer using the still camera lens rather than the cine lens, simply because it's harder to pull focus on the still camera lens, for all the reasons mentioned.

But obviously I could have stated that in a more pleasant way, so I apologize for my lack of control. In my defense, I've been shooting more or less continuously since April, I think I'm on the equivalent of Day 120...
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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 05:45 AM

Also the short barrel travel in a still camera lens makes the focus racks much more graceless, you essentially "pop" from focus mark to focus mark because it only takes a short wiggle of the lens rather than a half-rotation or so.

It's not just still lenses either. A lot of us focus pullers dread working with some of the Canon zoom lenses like the Super 16 7-63 because they don't have witness marks and have a very short travel. I unfortunately got an email from the DP about some soft shots on a Super 16 commercial I pulled on last week - it was just a short walk and talk sequence in a classroom tracking parallel to the lens plane with the camera on a dolly. The actress was moving left to right from 15' - 12' - 8' - 10', where she lands at a desk and then sits on it and leans back, 11' from the focal plane. We shot this same setup on the 7-63 zoom in a variety of focal lengths. The soft shots were at the 11' mark on the CUs, taken around a 50mm. Wide open at T2.6 the whole time, shooting thru a teleprompter. I kept checking my marks and running tape but apparently I misjudged where 11' was on the lens because the DP said it looked like I pulled to the wall behind her (around 16'!). I also had a laser pointer on the rods to make sure the dolly was landing in roughly the same place every take. I just couldn't believe it because the lens has a 10' mark and a 15' mark (but no actual witness marks next to the numbers) and I only cracked it a few millimeters when she sat down, nowhere near the 15' mark. The DP said I should have asked him for eye marks, which I now agree with. But at the time I was sure I had nailed it, so I never bothered to. It was a painful learning experience, to say the least. :(

You won't find any experienced DP or camera assistant who thinks that pulling focus for regular narrative work is just as easy on a still camera lens versus a cine lens. I was just talking to a DP the other week who works for a producer who insists on shooting features on an HVX200 with a 35mm adaptor and the DP said it was an awful way to work in terms of focusing -- it's the worst of both worlds, 35mm depth of field with the worst lenses to try and follow-focus on.

Ironically, that's a setup that I've pulled quite often on (always from the barrel) and I have to say that as long as there's a monitor for me to pull off of I've managed to get a very high percentage of in-focus takes even on wide open telephoto shots often without rehearsals, to my great surprise (granted that the expectations for perfect focus are not as high when working under these conditions). Whether the adapters are reliable or not is another story, I seem to spend a lot of time taking them apart on set and putting them back together just to keep them working...

I think pulling focus this way requires a different mentality from pulling from tape - it's akin to an operator pulling his own focus, viewing the live image and getting a feel for the lens barrel and how each fractional rotation relates to the movement of the objects in the frame. I actually find it a fun, if stressful, way of working. In a strange way, it's more immediate and intuitive - your whole body is engaged and it feels like performance. Pulling from tape alone can feel like more of a intellectual/mechanical operation because you're constantly transposing the view in front of your eyes with a running estimation of distance. For some reason, pulling on handheld feels less mechanical to me than pulling on steadicam, dolly, or sticks. Maybe because there's less time to worry about it, I dunno? Anyway, pulling from tape usually gives me a stomachache until I can see some dailies. :(
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