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help with choosing lens


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#1 joe garcia

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 09:30 AM

I tried this in the 'lens' section and got nothing
gonna give this a try here.
All I'm looking for your thought process,,, nothing too deep,
just a fast and dirty on what draws you to one lens or another given a situation


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I'm just starting to work with storyboard software that allows for the selection of common camera lens on a set. I'd like to learn what lens and why, or what lens you'd use given a location, or desired effect.

Until now I have been tethered to the fixed lens of my video cam. As a result I don't quite know the difference between a 35mm and a 50mm lens, hence the post.

The software allows selections that include Primes by Zeiss, Cooke and Panavission. This program also allows for Max Zooms and Hieghts outside the scope of Primes.
All that is great but I'd like the 'fast and dirty' regarding the basics to help me select and understand why one would prefer one lens over another given a set or desired effect.

Thank you in advance
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#2 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 07:04 PM

Until now I have been tethered to the fixed lens of my video cam.

Really? I think you're a bit confused. I've never heard of a video camera with a built in lens that wasn't a zoom, so my assumption is that you've been using a zoom. So when thinking about lens sizes, just think about whether you would zoom in or out for a particular shot with your camera. If you would zoom out, then you would probably want a wider lens like an 18mm or 25mm. If you would zoom in a little you would probably want somewhere between a 50mm and a 100mm. If you would zoom in a lot you would want something longer than a 100mm. That's talking about 35mm. When thinking about anamorphic all of the lens sizes would be longer. When thinking about 16mm all of the lens sizes would be shorter.
I hope I'm answering at least part of your question, and hopefully it makes sense.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 05:49 AM

When I'm choosing a focal length, it usually depends on:

1. How much of what I want in the frame.
2. From what perspective do I want the audience to feel (Are they near to or far from the subject)
3. What do I want my depth of field to be (what's in and out of focus in the frame)
4. Which one best suits the performance and ultimately the story.

Watch some films, make a note of when wide angle lenses are used, or when long lenses are used, and try and notice the in-between focal lengths and try to take note of how each one makes you feel and how you can translate that to your own films and lens choices.

If you want a quick reference and lesson in different lens sizes, you can get a director's viewfinder. It'll help you familiarize yourself with them better: http://www.filmtools...nekistdivi.html
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 01:36 PM

A lot of this is feeling combined with practicality. Feeling in the sense that, assuming space is not a problem, you pick the focal length according to the amount of compression/expansion you want in perspective -- and that decision is based on the visual language of the project -- but that choice is modified always by the space you have to work in, and how it handles the action.

You may decide, for example, that you want to shoot your masters on a 75mm, and all your coverage on a 100mm, because that's the look you want -- but then you end up in a small bathroom with unmoveable walls and picking a 27mm lens...

The language of what lenses you tend to pick comes into play after a few set-ups, it's hard to pre-plan that too much in advance without shooting a lot of tests (or doing previz work I guess...) It's just something that evolves within the first few days of shooting.

We use the 35mm lens almost 80% of the time on my current show, for masters and medium shots. Sometimes we use a 40mm instead (when the master is basically a moving medium shot with no coverage often.) Then closer shots on a 50mm.

But sometimes we have to shoot the master on something wider and sometimes the close-ups on something longer. And some directors come in to this TV show are naturally gravitate towards the longer or wider lenses.
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#5 Hal Smith

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 09:08 PM

I suggest you get a copy of Film Directing: Shot by Shot and study it carefully. It'll help you greatly in learning to understand the relationship between storyboards and the camera.

There's an appendix at the rear that shows how to go from a plan and elevation drawing to a three dimensional perspective drawing of that set as seen from a given camera position/height with a specific lens. It's not easy going but if you've had a drawing course that taught two point perspective you can get through it. The method is even shown reversed where you go from a photo image to a plan and elevation, including the camera angle of the original photo. If you know the camera angle of the image you know what lens (!) would have been required to produce that image on a given format (1.85:1 35mm mp frame, S16, 35mm still photo, etc.).
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 11:41 PM

I suggest you get a copy of Film Directing: Shot by Shot and study it carefully. It'll help you greatly in learning to understand the relationship between storyboards and the camera.

There's an appendix at the rear that shows how to go from a plan and elevation drawing to a three dimensional perspective drawing of that set as seen from a given camera position/height with a specific lens. It's not easy going but if you've had a drawing course that taught two point perspective you can get through it. The method is even shown reversed where you go from a photo image to a plan and elevation, including the camera angle of the original photo. If you know the camera angle of the image you know what lens (!) would have been required to produce that image on a given format (1.85:1 35mm mp frame, S16, 35mm still photo, etc.).


Good book. Good suggestion.
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 11:59 PM

But the book has (or my edition has) the most boring blue cover.... but yes; quite useful for getting the theory. Myself; I normally go on feeling with my lenses. It takes some time but you get to know the glass, ya know?
I'd recommend also buying a still SLR camera with a Nikon mount and a wide range of lenses (You can cheap out here) just to get a feeling of it all, ya know? Maybe something like a 35~70 zoom, which comes stock with a Nikon FM10. Then at least you'd know what a 35mm/50mm/70mm would look like. It won't exactly transpose to 35mm film; but hey, it's "normal," "wider," and "slightly telephoto." For $275 or so, and a chance to also learn exposure and the like; well worth it in my book!
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#8 joe garcia

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 07:53 PM

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Really? I think you're a bit confused. I've never heard of a video camera with a built in lens that wasn't a zoom, so my assumption is that you've been using a zoom. So when thinking about lens sizes, just think about whether you would zoom in or out for a particular shot with your camera. If you would zoom out, then you would probably want a wider lens like an 18mm or 25mm. If you would zoom in a little you would probably want somewhere between a 50mm and a 100mm. If you would zoom in a lot you would want something longer than a 100mm. That's talking about 35mm. When thinking about anamorphic all of the lens sizes would be longer. When thinking about 16mm all of the lens sizes would be shorter.
I hope I'm answering at least part of your question, and hopefully it makes sense.


You're right ! I use the DVX100 so it does have a zoom lens,,,pardon my mis use of the term
Thanks for the examples, easy enough for me to understand
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#9 joe garcia

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 07:57 PM

[quote name='Jonathan Bowerbank' date='Nov 2 2008, 05:49 AM' post='257463']
When I'm choosing a focal length, it usually depends on:

1. How much of what I want in the frame.
2. From what perspective do I want the audience to feel (Are they near to or far from the subject)
3. What do I want my depth of field to be (what's in and out of focus in the frame)
4. Which one best suits the performance and ultimately the story.

I'll sticky these to my gear,,, this is a neat lil list to follow
thanks for the link to, they're all out of these right now nut will have to watch for it since the price is right..
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Visual Products

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Opal

Metropolis Post

Aerial Filmworks

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc