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anamorphic lenses....do they compromise horizontal quality?


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#1 sam williams

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 08:27 PM

hey,

I dont get what anamorphic lenses are for, they squeeze the view horizontally onto the film, right, and then are projected back out with an anamorphic lense so it is unsqueezed. The only reason i can see for doing this is that you would save money, instead of buying wider film stock.

Doesnt this mean though that each tiny section of the film recording the light has now got more horizontal detail to express in the same size space?? and therefore degrades the quality of the image qhen projected?


thanks,


sam
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#2 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 02:35 AM

Actually 35mm anamorphic is the best 35mm image possible because it uses 100% of the frame's available space (which is why I'll be using it to shoot my up coming film Blood Moon Rising) unless you go to an lazy 8 perf VistaVision format which has it's own set of problems, is very expensive to shoot on due to the amount of stock used and the equipment needed and because there is nowhere to show it as no one uses VistaVision as a commercial projection format anymore. Other methods of achieving widescreen projection only use part of the frame and sure 70mm would have a better image than 35mm but it would also be INCREDIBLY expensive to shoot on and there are few venues that can show 70mm movies and it would also be masked off to the proper aspect ratio or shot in anamorphic. As far as compromising horizontal quality the only "problems" anamorphic lenses have is if they're under 40mm, they begin to show barrel distortion and anamorphic lenses may cause a bit of an elongation in some bokeh and out of focus background elements which may actually not be a problem at all and more just a property of shooting anamorphic which it often used to great artistic value. Check out the barrel distortion in Halloween, you'll see what I mean. B)
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 05:25 AM

"Wider" film formats (wider than 35mm cine frame) exist but are rarely used since the heyday of large format motion picture work in the 1950's and 1960's.

So given the 35mm cine format, the largest image area comes from 4-perf 35mm Full Aperture (ignoring the fact that 8-perf horizontal 35mm, i.e. VistaVision, is also a 35mm format). Larger negative areas mean less grain, more detail is recorded, and the image will probably be enlarged less to fill a screen.

Out of all the common 35mm cine formats, 4-perf 35mm standard 1.85, 4-perf 35mm anamorphic, 4-perf Super-35, 3-perf, 2-perf, etc., anamorphic photography uses the most negative area to generate a widescreen image since the anamorphic lens squeezed the image onto almost all of the 4-perf 35mm Full Aperture area, excluding the soundtrack stripe area. Whereas all the other 35mm formats crop a lot more of the negative to achieve a widescreen image.
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 10:13 AM

Hey Sam,

As I understand it, the reason for anamorphic lenses involves some history. Back when TV was starting to cut into film's ticket sales, there was a push to make movies a grander experience as a way to kick TV's tiny screen in the butt. Since the industry was pretty much committed to 35mm stock through-out it's entire manufacturing process, getting the impressive screen presentation by putting something on the front of the camera and projectors was the cheapest, most immediately applicable solution. Hence, anamorphic lenses for 35mm film format. Folks tried other approaches, but "Scope" held out, mostly because it required the least amount of retooling up and down the line.

Those old decisions are still very strong in the biz. At the moment, scope 35 is still the highest quality and most prestigious way to go and remain practical.
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#5 Benson Marks

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 04:01 PM

I'm not necessarily sure what you're trying to say (probably because I'm planning to be a writer/director and not a cinematographer), but I think you could get your answer by knowing the pros and cons of shooting anamorphic. So here they are:

First, the pros.

One of the biggest advantages of anamorphic is that it has one of the largest film negatives of any 35mm film format. This means that James is right and you will have one of the best quality images out there for 35mm. In fact, anamorphic is believed to have a quality that's better than even HDTV! Another big reason anamorphic is popular is because you are using a true widescreen frame, the compositions will probably be more interesting than any other 35mm format still around.

But what about the cons?

The biggest issue with anamorphic is that the lenses are bigger and more expensive(At least, from what I've heard.) than it's spherical lens counterparts. This means that shooting anamorphic will require more light and the cameras will run at a slower speed of frames. This is probably why some people choose to shoot Super 35 instead of anamorphic, because you use standard lenses which are more compact, can go at a faster speed of frames, and require less lighting than anamorphic. Also, one final point I'd like to add on this same disadvantage, if you're making a low-budget or an independent film, I wouldn't pick anamorphic if I were you. The second disadvantage is that anamorphic has fewer lenses than Super 35 does, which could affect the style of the film in a certain way.

Hope this stuff gives you some help with your question.
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#6 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 09:34 PM

Hi there,

A few responses that should be cleared up:


-You don't have to shoot wider than 40mm to create serious barrel distortion; this happens with most 50mm anamorphic lenses and can even be observed with some 75mm lenses, depending on the set and if there are many architectural lines in your frame.

-Of course Anamorphic surpasses the quality of HDTV. As far as resolution, it can compete with 4k capture and has far and away much more tonal and color information than any digital format.

-Anamorphic lenses do cost more than equivalent lenses of their generation, but can be cheaper than many modern lenses. An E-Series anamorphic lens is much cheaper than a Master Prime, for example.

-The format can require more light than spherical photography, but this is due to the established conventions in how it is shot. Many DPs are more comfortable shooting anamorphic at a deeper stop to combat the inherently thin depth of field (since the negative is bigger) and to tame some of the lenses' wilder attributes, like flare, softness at the top and bottom of the frame, general softness, distortion, etc. That said, I have shot a 20 minute film of night exteriors with anamorphic lenses at T/2.

- There is less information horizontally than vertically, but the horizontal information is no less than Standard 35mm 1.85:1 spherical photography. I like to think of it as having double the vertical resolution.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 10:35 PM

I suspect it may be the case that anamorphic lenses, certainly affordable, older types, subjectively look nice but technically aren't that hot in terms of sharpness and so forth. I've not used them, so this is informed conjecture and I would welcome correction. What's certainly true is that if you are projecting scope wider than you would widescreen (and you should), you have less negative area per screen inch than you otherwise would have because you're using more or less the same width and blowing it up more. If we accept (as I think we must) that anamorphic lenses have more complex and therefore more error-prone optical elements, they must have somewhat poorer resolution than a purely spherical lens, so the answer to the original question is pretty unavoidably "yes", at least in an optical sense. Whether the vertical compression of grain offsets this is linked to whether you were using a faster film so as to be able to use your anamorphic lenses at their optimal stop.

Watching it in video form, on the other hand, means that it's constant-width, so it will look better.

This is, as so often, a case of trading off technical excellence for aesthetics. Mr. Frisch recently posted some digitally-originated material here which had been shot with anamorphic lenses, which was fantastically good.

P
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#8 Glen Alexander

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 10:52 PM

Actually 35mm anamorphic is the best 35mm image possible because it uses 100% of the frame's available space
(which is why I'll be using it to shoot my up coming film Blood Moon Rising) unless you go to an lazy 8 perf VistaVision format which has it's own set of problems, is very expensive to shoot on due to the amount of stock used


VV shoots twice as much stock but it is only as expensive as the person creating the images. if you have no clue and shoot more coverage than necessary like the TV show Shark did on its first season, then it is expensive regardless if it is VV or 4-perf land. i shot 3:1 NOT 20 or 40:1. so NOT as expensive as you would indicate.

and the equipment needed and because there is nowhere to show it as no one uses VistaVision as a commercial projection format anymore.


there are a few places that still can project VV and so what if not commercial, shooting VV and optically printing to 4-perf should give a much better quality image than anamorphic original negative. lucas, spiderman,etc, all big sfx shops shoot VV plates NOT anamorphic.


Other methods of achieving widescreen projection only use part of the frame and sure 70mm would have a better image than 35mm but it would also be INCREDIBLY expensive to shoot on


INSANELY expensive



in answer to original poster, yes they compromise horizontal quality. breathing, flares, ellipsoidal artifacts, etc.. non-linear DOF

when you shoot VV, you use the 98% of the available negative, there are about 1 to 1.5mm between frames and top and bottom to the perfs.

Edited by Glen Alexander, 05 November 2008 - 10:55 PM.

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#9 Max Jacoby

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:44 AM

-You don't have to shoot wider than 40mm to create serious barrel distortion; this happens with most 50mm anamorphic lenses and can even be observed with some 75mm lenses, depending on the set and if there are many architectural lines in your frame.

I've been shooting a feature on the Hawks at the moment and I would not consider their 40mm V-Series to have serious barrel distortion. Sure there are some lines that bend, but I don't find it distracting (and I am don't like barrel distortion). What I've found though is that when you look through the viewfinder of the camera or a director's viewfinder, there is more barrel distortion than what ends up on the screen. I guess the optics of the camera/viewfinder add distortion also.

-The format can require more light than spherical photography, but this is due to the established conventions in how it is shot. Many DPs are more comfortable shooting anamorphic at a deeper stop to combat the inherently thin depth of field (since the negative is bigger) and to tame some of the lenses' wilder attributes, like flare, softness at the top and bottom of the frame, general softness, distortion, etc. That said, I have shot a 20 minute film of night exteriors with anamorphic lenses at T/2.

We've been shooting candlelight/fire scenes without any additional light at T2.8 on 500 Asa stock and it looks really gorgeous. Of course it helps that a lot of the frame is dark, so you don't notice the drop-off in sharpness compared to shooting on deeper stops.
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:46 AM

VV shoots twice as much stock but it is only as expensive as the person creating the images.

For twice the price of regular 35mm I can shoot 65mm.
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#11 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 01:36 AM

I've been shooting a feature on the Hawks at the moment and I would not consider their 40mm V-Series to have serious barrel distortion. Sure there are some lines that bend, but I don't find it distracting (and I am don't like barrel distortion). What I've found though is that when you look through the viewfinder of the camera or a director's viewfinder, there is more barrel distortion than what ends up on the screen. I guess the optics of the camera/viewfinder add distortion also.

We've been shooting candlelight/fire scenes without any additional light at T2.8 on 500 Asa stock and it looks really gorgeous. Of course it helps that a lot of the frame is dark, so you don't notice the drop-off in sharpness compared to shooting on deeper stops.



-Interesting - I haven't shot with the Hawks, just Primos and E-Series. I found the Primos to bend more than the E-series, actually but I suppose the priority of design there was sharpness. The Primo 75mm actually does have a little bit of barreling still. They as a set also breathe more than the Es. The 40mm in both cases is quite bendy - I shot on the salt flats in Utah with the 40mm and the horizon curves quite noticeably. This is one area where anamorphic may not aways be the best option for landscapes, even though it subjectively feels 'bigger' as a format.

-I'd love to see that fire/candle footage - you must use some decently large flames. With candlelight scenes, I've so far found myself at 1.4 (spherical of course), rating the stock at 500. In those cases, I've used a tray of grouped (at least 4 to 5) double to triple wicked candles just out of frame, 2 feet from the subject. Wide shots require cheating.


-As a side note, I like the elliptical bokeh of anamorphic - it's sort of magical and to me, one of the great reasons to shoot the format. Rapid focus pulls can be jarring though, especially with lenses that breathe more, ie: Primos.

-For a decently-sized production, I wouldn't call twice the amount of film stock "insanely" more expensive if it gets you to 65mm. 5-perf 65mm is much more efficient than most of the 35mm formats, which nearly all throw away negative area to soundtrack space or widescreen cropping, unless you're shooting 'big TV'. The sprocket-holes are even the same size in both gauges, so eat up proportionally less film for the width in 65mm. Overall, the 5/65mm format gets you more image quality for the buck.

Edited by Jarin Blaschke, 06 November 2008 - 01:37 AM.

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#12 Daniel Porto

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 02:51 AM

Is it true that the focus point with anamorphic lenses curves, in that the centre of the frame will have a different focus point to the edge of frame?

Also I was wondering if anyone could recommend me books which describe the construction of all different types of lenses? I expect a book that by the end of it I will be able to make my own lens... out of paper.


Thanks
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#13 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:52 AM

I was mainly going by my Lomo round front anamorphics. They have an effective 3.3 F-stop. They WILL open up to 2.8 but your DOF goes to poop. The 75 and 50mm don't seem to have any barrel distortion at least none that I really noticed or bothered me in any way however, the 35mm (and it is a 35mm not a 40mm) does have some, although, I'm not sure I would classify it as "severe", it's more interesting than annoying at least to me. My square front 2 piece Lomo anamorphics do breath a bit but that's with all Lomo square fronts. Come to think of it, I don't really remember any barrel distortion on the 35mm 2 piece square fronts although I'm sure there must be some in the 35mm if nothing else.

Lomo made a few round fronts under 35mm (I don't know about the square fronts but Olex's site:

http://www.geocities.com/kinor35/

has a large list of Russian 35mm motion picture lenses including anamorphics) 28, 22 and 18mm if I'm not mistaken. Those no doubt have severe barrel distortion.

I suppose individual characteristics would really come down to the brand and series. I've heard Boush and Lomb are TERRIBLE anamorphics. I've also heard Hawks were incredible. I've never used either as my equipment is Soviet but if I ever change cameras (which is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future as I have 3 complete camera packages, a Kinor 35C Rotovision, a Kinor 35PII and a Konvas-1, ALL in like new shape with both anamorphic and spherical lens sets) I would love to try them out. I must admit OWNING sets of anamorphics is a very cool thing though. I still want to pick up a 100 and 150mm (or anything over 75mm really) to help complete my 2 sets.

I personally LOVE the look of anamorphic and actually love the look of the anamorphic flares if it's not over done. I suppose the choice of anamorphic or spherical is dictated by the project but I can see myself giving the edge to anamorphic most of the time because it is so interesting even if it is a bit more trouble to shoot.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 06 November 2008 - 03:56 AM.

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#14 Daniel Porto

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 05:44 AM

I was mainly going by my Lomo round front anamorphics. They have an effective 3.3 F-stop. They WILL open up to 2.8 but your DOF goes to poop. The 75 and 50mm don't seem to have any barrel distortion at least none that I really noticed or bothered me in any way however, the 35mm (and it is a 35mm not a 40mm) does have some, although, I'm not sure I would classify it as "severe", it's more interesting than annoying at least to me. My square front 2 piece Lomo anamorphics do breath a bit but that's with all Lomo square fronts. Come to think of it, I don't really remember any barrel distortion on the 35mm 2 piece square fronts although I'm sure there must be some in the 35mm if nothing else.

Lomo made a few round fronts under 35mm (I don't know about the square fronts but Olex's site:

http://www.geocities.com/kinor35/

has a large list of Russian 35mm motion picture lenses including anamorphics) 28, 22 and 18mm if I'm not mistaken. Those no doubt have severe barrel distortion.

I suppose individual characteristics would really come down to the brand and series. I've heard Boush and Lomb are TERRIBLE anamorphics. I've also heard Hawks were incredible. I've never used either as my equipment is Soviet but if I ever change cameras (which is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future as I have 3 complete camera packages, a Kinor 35C Rotovision, a Kinor 35PII and a Konvas-1, ALL in like new shape with both anamorphic and spherical lens sets) I would love to try them out. I must admit OWNING sets of anamorphics is a very cool thing though. I still want to pick up a 100 and 150mm (or anything over 75mm really) to help complete my 2 sets.

I personally LOVE the look of anamorphic and actually love the look of the anamorphic flares if it's not over done. I suppose the choice of anamorphic or spherical is dictated by the project but I can see myself giving the edge to anamorphic most of the time because it is so interesting even if it is a bit more trouble to shoot.


Hey James,

About a month ago I purchased a anamorphic lens for my 1M for $150 US... this is what it is:

35NAS4-1 -
square front anam. lens, produced in 1967. It consists of front anam.
block with focusing - 1.5m-infinity and rear block (OKS-1-75-1,
75mm/f2). Rear block is also with focusing and aperture control. This
lens was used on turret Konvas cameras. Optically is mint,
mechanically also OK. Cosmetically is EX++, with all caps (4 pcs.).


Do you know much about this lens? If so, what is it like?

DANIEL
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#15 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 05:51 AM

VV shoots twice as much stock but it is only as expensive as the person creating the images. if you have no clue and shoot more coverage than necessary like the TV show Shark did on its first season, then it is expensive regardless if it is VV or 4-perf land. i shot 3:1 NOT 20 or 40:1. so NOT as expensive as you would indicate. There are a few places that still can project VV and so what if not commercial, shooting VV and optically printing to 4-perf should give a much better quality image than anamorphic original negative.


Well assuming you have the same person creating the image for both formats it will be at least 2 times the cost in filmstock to shoot Lazy 8 than 35mm 4 perf plus the cost of an optical reduction to 35mm not to mention the expense of renting a VistaVision camera and lenses which due to the wear factors and rarity on VistaVision equipment, which will make the cost of renting such equipment not nearly as negotiable as renting standard 35mm with an anamorphic lens package. The final cost will be significantly more than 35mm anamorphic under the best of circumstances. NOW assuming you want to shoot 35mm for reasons of size and mobility as opposed to 65mm which would have even BETTER resolution at nearly the same price tag, is it worth the expense for the increase in resolution? THAT'S up to the film maker but since almost NO films with the exception of VFX plates are shot entirely on VistaVision, I would say most if not all serious film makers feel the increase in resolution is NOT worth the expense or problems associated with VistaVision production which is why it died out in the 50s as a commercial format.

lucas, spiderman,etc, all big sfx shops shoot VV plates NOT anamorphic.


Thanks you Glen, I was well aware that in the recent past, effects companies often shot lazy 8 for VFX plates although most now use 65mm for VFX plates for that purpose which is even BETTER resolution than VistaVision although the real reason they used larger formats in optical VFX work is to reduce excessive grain from layering multiple film images and to help reduce generational loss more so than for higher resolution of image per se' so 65mm is even better at that than VistaVision although VistaVision is still a viable VFX format, in fact I ALMOST bought an optical printer with an optional VistaVision movement for our film lab but decided to wait and see if I could get it at a better price and someone bought it out from under me. I went ahead and recently bough a couple of other optical printers and may look into getting some lazy 8 movements for them at some time in the future.


INSANELY expensive


I completely agree.
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#16 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 06:30 AM

Hey James,

About a month ago I purchased a anamorphic lens for my 1M for $150 US... this is what it is:

35NAS4-1 -
square front anam. lens, produced in 1967. It consists of front anam.
block with focusing - 1.5m-infinity and rear block (OKS-1-75-1,
75mm/f2). Rear block is also with focusing and aperture control. This
lens was used on turret Konvas cameras. Optically is mint,
mechanically also OK. Cosmetically is EX++, with all caps (4 pcs.).


Do you know much about this lens? If so, what is it like?

DANIEL


It sounds similar to the 75mm 2 piece OCT-18 mount lens I got for my Konvas-1, though I haven't checked the number on mine. It sounds like you got a terrific lens, what did you want to know about it, I mean what do you mean what is it like can you be more specific?
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#17 Daniel Porto

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 10:14 AM

It sounds similar to the 75mm 2 piece OCT-18 mount lens I got for my Konvas-1, though I haven't checked the number on mine. It sounds like you got a terrific lens, what did you want to know about it, I mean what do you mean what is it like can you be more specific?


Nothing in particular just your general overview of the lens and the images that it produces...
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#18 Max Jacoby

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:01 PM

-Interesting - I haven't shot with the Hawks, just Primos and E-Series. I found the Primos to bend more than the E-series, actually but I suppose the priority of design there was sharpness. The Primo 75mm actually does have a little bit of barreling still. They as a set also breathe more than the Es. The 40mm in both cases is quite bendy - I shot on the salt flats in Utah with the 40mm and the horizon curves quite noticeably. This is one area where anamorphic may not aways be the best option for landscapes, even though it subjectively feels 'bigger' as a format.

From a comparison test I've seen I don't think the Primos have more barrel distortion than the Hawks, I think it really comes down to individual taste. I just saw an interior scene we shot on the 40mm and although there is some distortion, it doesn't bother me. If you're pointing the camera straight it is less noticeable than if you go low or high-angle, in these cases the lines really start bending.

-I'd love to see that fire/candle footage - you must use some decently large flames. With candlelight scenes, I've so far found myself at 1.4 (spherical of course), rating the stock at 500. In those cases, I've used a tray of grouped (at least 4 to 5) double to triple wicked candles just out of frame, 2 feet from the subject. Wide shots require cheating.

We shot a wide shot with each of the actors carrying candles, no additional light at all, T2.8 and you still see faces. But keep in mind that I like things to go very dark.

-As a side note, I like the elliptical bokeh of anamorphic - it's sort of magical and to me, one of the great reasons to shoot the format.

Same here, the painterly way the out-of-focus feels is amazing.
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#19 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:14 PM

Hmm. I haven't had the fortune of shooting either, but the advantages seem to sway in favor of 65mm over VistaVision.

-A 65mm camera has much better ergonomics without large magazines mounted out to the sides, well compensating for disadvantage of size (if any).

-A better image, as well as more efficient use of film for a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. 65mm has an inherent AR of 2.2:1 as opposed to 1.5:1 in VistaVision, which needs significant cropping(waste) to attain 2.4:1. Even for 1.85:1 photography, a side cropped, 5-perf 65mm frame still has more surface area than the top/bottom cropped VistaVision frame while shooting less film.

-Much more running time on the mag, passing 5 perfs instead of 8 perfs per frame. 8 minutes versus 5 minutes with a 1000-foot mag.

-Optics. 65mm lenses designed by Zeiss/Arri or Panavision, as opposed to adapted still camera lenses designed to looser tolerances.

-Modern cameras and contemporary accessories built by leaders in the industry.

-Sound - few VV cameras are suitable for studio sound production.

-Contact printing for an even better image. 65mm projectors are far from prolific, but it could at least screen somewhere as a beautiful contact print. Scanning or opticals are not absolutely necessary in all cases.


Anyway, getting well off-topic...
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#20 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:27 PM

From a comparison test I've seen I don't think the Primos have more barrel distortion than the Hawks, I think it really comes down to individual taste. I just saw an interior scene we shot on the 40mm and although there is some distortion, it doesn't bother me. If you're pointing the camera straight it is less noticeable than if you go low or high-angle, in these cases the lines really start bending.


We shot a wide shot with each of the actors carrying candles, no additional light at all, T2.8 and you still see faces. But keep in mind that I like things to go very dark.



I suppose if you have the actors hold the candles close to their faces, things get much easier, although the 2.8 aperture still surprises me a bit. Would still love to see images from that!

Here is a shot:

http://www.telltaleh...ghrez/attic.jpg

Behind the pillar is my tray of fire - 4 double-wicked candles and an array of tea lights for good measure. On the wall behind him I had to cheat with a small array of bulbs, individually flickering. As you can see from the softness of the image, I was shooting near wide-open, maybe 1.4 1/2. Upon review, I could have gone a bit darker though, especially since he's wearing white. Standard 16mm to attain 1.33:1 AR, 7218 rated at 500.

It seems to me that the degree of barrel distortion is pretty subjective. I generally find that I try to avoid anything wider than 50mm in anamorphic. I'll try and dig up a still of the salt flats shot.
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