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Tunnel Effect on "The Assassination of Jesse James..."


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#1 Seung Han

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 01:36 PM

Hey Guys,

I was interested in the "tunnerl effect" in The Assassination of Jesse James, so I did a search on the board and found this post by Jamie Mcintyre:

The 'tunnel' effect as you call it was created in camera in two different ways. I had in the past shot through a wide angle front lens element using a 50mm macro lens to get a 'keyhole' type of effect and we did a similar thing for 'Jesse James'. Secondly we simple removed the front element of an old wide angle lens which gave us the colour fringing and the vignetting you see in the film. Both quite simple ideas really.

I was hoping to explain this to a Korean DP but since I am not a DP I am not exactly clear on what Jamie is explaining in the two ways he achieved this effect. Also, my Korean is not that great, so I feel like I have to be extra clear to get my points across.

On the first method, is he attaching a wide angle lens in front of a 50mm macro lens? Is there an adaptor for this?

On the second method, what is the front element of a wide angle lens? Is it one of the glass and also does it have to be a specific type of 'old wide angle lens' or can any wide angle lens achieve this effect?

If anybody can clear this up for me I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

- Seung
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#2 Thomas James

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 02:10 PM

Actually so called "tunnel" vision is the future of cinematography. However if resolution is going to be space variant it should be more blurred to the peripheral areas of human vision. The range of human vision is aproximately 150 degrees horizontal by 120 degrees vertical. The IMAX Tilted Dome format provides a spherical triangular aspect ratio of 180 degrees horizontally by 120 degrees vertically. The 3 corners of the spherical triangle are 120 degrees each which is twice that of a flat triangle. So what we have is the ultimate wide screen and tall screen hybrid since the image extends past the zenith as well as the periphere. The problem with convetional wide screen cinematography is that tall trees are chopped off. Advanced machine vision systems also employ rapid eye movement in order to scan the image since the resolution in concentrated at the fovea and further concentrated at the sub fovea in a theoretical infinite progression. This technology would require an increase in frame rates.
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#3 Seung Han

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 09:50 PM

I guess my question was more specific to how those shots in "The Assassination of Jesse James..." was done.

I was a little confused by your reply... :unsure:
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#4 Matt Read

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 12:31 PM

American Cinematographer interviewed Roger Deakins when "Jesse James" opened in theaters. He gives a full explanation of exactly how they achieved the vignetted look here. It's the last question on the bottom of the page.

On a slightly unrelated topic, I completely disagree with Thomas's post about tunnel vision being the future of cinematography. First of all, the tunnel vision Seung Han was referring to is something completely different from what you are talking about. Secondly, IMAX theaters are few are far between compared to standard theaters. Theaters capable of projecting images as you describe would require nearly total renovation of existing theaters, as well as a decrease in the number of screens per venue or dramatic increase in the size of the venues to maintain the same number of screens. On top of that, IMAX film and cameras are extremely expensive. Digital cinematography has not yet reached a point where it can record images of quality comparable to IMAX film. The cameras themselves are extremely large and cumbersome. From a strictly financial standpoint, what you discuss is not feasible on a mainstream scale in the foreseeable future. It would cost too much to convert all our existing systems to support a new system as you describe. Let's not forget that the people that run the movie industry are business people. Why spend a whole bunch of money when what they're doing now is making them plenty of money?

From an artistic standpoint, I would think what you describe would be an unattractive option to most cinematographers. The system you describe would do away with the concept of the frame almost entirely. Throughout the vast majority of art history the frame has been a tried and true method of composing images, whether the medium is paint, still photography or cinematography. To do away with it or create a sort of fuzzy, organic edged frame would represent an extreme paradigm shift within the artistic community and society as a whole. Also, I get annoyed when people say that current widescreen formats "cut off the tops of trees" or "you don't have to built a ceiling on the set." This is completely untrue. Widescreen formats are entirely capable of showing the tops of trees or a ceiling, it simply requires that you use a wider lens or move the camera back. Spherical formats are equally capable of cutting off the tops of tree or not showing ceilings. In fact, if a widescreen camera were to be placed so that the tops of trees were being cut off and then the camera replaced by a spherical lens camera, using exactly the same focal length lens as the widescreen camera, the tops of the trees would still be cut off.

Finally, let's remember that people are quite happy with the way they view films now. Yes, people do go to IMAX film occasionally, but no one laments the fact that they can't see "Confessions of a Shopaholic" on an IMAX screen.
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#5 Thomas James

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 12:18 AM

As I have said many times one cannot serve 2 masters. One has to decide whether or not one wants to be an artist or a businessman. Of course IMAX is the higher art form and because it is more expensive it will definitely cut into your profits simply because the average consumer will only pay a small premium such as 3 dollars over the price of a regular movie ticket. But this will not be an objection to a true artist because a true artist hates making a profit if that means sacraficing his art.

That being said I am sure the producer will balk and may even deny funding unless he can be assured that he will be using a format that will generate the most profits which of course will be 35mm film. However during the production of the latest IMAX film Batman the Dark Knight the producers agreed to allow 30 minutes of the movie to be filmed in IMAX.
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#6 Seung Han

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:12 AM

Thanks for the link Matt. Much appreciated...
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:16 PM

Basically, he used groups of lens elements that mimic types of lenses in use during the period of the movie. The front element of the wide angle lens would make something like a simple meniscus and, even though I don't know what macro lens they used, the wide angle adapter on the macro lens sounds suspiciously like a little petzval.
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#8 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:42 PM

Basically, he used groups of lens elements that mimic types of lenses in use during the period of the movie. The front element of the wide angle lens would make something like a simple meniscus and, even though I don't know what macro lens they used, the wide angle adapter on the macro lens sounds suspiciously like a little petzval.


Actually it sounds like they're putting a negative element in front of the macro to create a home made retrofocus/inverted telephoto lens. It would be like the Zeiss, Switar and Century wide angle attachments, but not well corrected.

Using a very cheap afocal wide angle adaptor might give a similar look, but they'd probably be too small to use with a pro 35mm cine lens.
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#9 Mike Simpson

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 01:10 AM

Actually so called "tunnel" vision is the future of cinematography. However if resolution is going to be space variant it should be more blurred to the peripheral areas of human vision. The range of human vision is aproximately 150 degrees horizontal by 120 degrees vertical. The IMAX Tilted Dome format provides a spherical triangular aspect ratio of 180 degrees horizontally by 120 degrees vertically. The 3 corners of the spherical triangle are 120 degrees each which is twice that of a flat triangle. So what we have is the ultimate wide screen and tall screen hybrid since the image extends past the zenith as well as the periphere. The problem with convetional wide screen cinematography is that tall trees are chopped off. Advanced machine vision systems also employ rapid eye movement in order to scan the image since the resolution in concentrated at the fovea and further concentrated at the sub fovea in a theoretical infinite progression. This technology would require an increase in frame rates.


This is the most hilarious response to a question asking for simplification ever =p
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#10 Jozo Zovko

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 07:16 AM

Hi Seung -
I spoke to a few of the lens techs at Otto Nemenz (Deakins's rental house) and they let me try out the lenses they modified for the film. One lens was the old Kinoptic 9.8mm without its front lens group. The second was a 50mm Zeiss macro that they added different wide angle front elements to. One of the front elements being from i think a Nikon fisheye lens. But basically what you got was an image whose center was relatively well defined but whose edges were wildly distorted, out of focus, and full of chromatic aberrations.

I hope this info was helpful.
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#11 Thomas James

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 01:55 PM

It is not just lenses that give the tunnel vision look but electronic sensors have also been designed to achieve the same effect.
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#12 Gus Sacks

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 07:44 PM

I had the pleasure of 2nd ACing on a RED shoot for MTV that was using the 'Deakenized' set of lenses used on the Assn of Jesse James. It was a set of lenses and front elements that were mixed and matched to make 6 corresponding lens lengths, from I think 18mm to 45mm or so.

One was a lens with no front element at all.
One was a 50mm Macro
One was a 60mm Macro

and there were 3 front elements used in front of the Macros to get the effect when not using just the one lens (called #1) that required no front element.

It was a lot of fun and interesting to use the set from Otto Nemenz.
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#13 Seung Han

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:29 AM

You guys are great. Thanks for breaking it down for me, so I can understand. I met with the DP and he seemed like a nice guy, but our conversation didn't get as technical as I was worried it might. I'm hoping to get into it further with him in the future.

Thanks again guys!
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