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Lens Choice for Arri 35-3


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#1 Matt Lofgren

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 05:20 PM

First post, but hopefully not the last. I recently acquired a beautiful Arriflex 35-3, 3rd generation camera package, actually the very last serial number of this model, or so I was told. We (my wife is a major part of the new career!) also purchased an extremely nice Cooke Varo Panchro 20-60 zoom. We have, as most of us do I suspect, a limited budget for equipment but would like to get one or two primes to mostly complete the package. My thought is to obtain a 14mm as much of our first film will be shot on/overlooking a mountain here in Northern California near an astronomical observatory and then perhaps a reasonably fast 85mm. Renting is not much of a problem in our area, and we plan on renting a sync sound camera, but would still like to have "the basics" on hand. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.
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#2 Tom Jensen

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 06:06 PM

The Arri III is a work horse. Mostly used for 2nd unit and high speed shots. A set of primes is always good but if you can rent them easily, you're fine. A longer zoom like a 25-250 is good. So is a 150-600. Zooms are great because when you shoot second unit it is so much easier to adjust the lens than it is to pick up the camera and run a couple hundred feet. Plus you may have only one vantage point from where you shoot. If you get 2nd unit feature work, your lens selection may be what first unit is willing to give up. Inserts will be done on primes. Commercials may never need synch sound so you'll need primes and a zoom for that. Lenses are an expensive investment. I always recommend renting as opposed to buying because the responsibility of the gear being in working condition, free of flaws. If something breaks down, it's all on you. When you rent gear, you just send back what is broke or doesn't work and get a new one. If you have a wide angle lens where the depth of focus is off, nothing is going to be sharp. If your camera flange is off, your lenses will be off. If something breaks, it comes out of your pocket unless it's insured. I love Arri III's though and BL's. They are work horses.
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 02:37 AM

Nice, congrats on the purchase! I guess the question it, what will you be shooting for these personal projects? Narrative, doc, experimental, etc.? How much crew do you expect to have on these shoots? What's more important, fast lenses, big focal length range, reliable marks for your 1st AC?

For commercial and 2nd unit jobs, I would think you'd be renting the best glass available. You're right, there's plenty of available glass up here for those purposes. For super-low budget personal projects though, I would possibly look into getting adapted still lenses for their small size, weight, and moderate cost, especially if you're going to be shooting by yourself with maybe one AC/loader and pulling your own focus. Luckily, there are a lot of companies coming out with relatively cheap 35mm glass for the Red market right now. Maybe you can make a trip down to Cinegear next week in LA and check out what's available. The Digital Cinema Society is having a seminar on the 6th where the manufacturers will be presenting their latest 35mm glass, I'm probably going to be there.

Anyway, good luck and let us know how it goes. :)
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#4 Matt Lofgren

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 03:10 PM

Thanks for the comments! And not that this has too much to do with the initial post, but: Our film company's (TwoCan Films, LLC) intent is to shoot high quality/high production value 35mm full length (narrative) feature films, strictly in the Christian/faith-based/family genre, a genre were "good Christian movie" is something of an oxymoron, I hate to say and this genre tends to be outside the Hollywood norm, yet is a significant market...

In my "real" job world, I have been a tooling engineer in injection molding for most of my professional career (after an eight year stint in the military). Too many trips to Asia - 41 in the last 3 years (!!!) has motivated me to make a pretty dramatic change, though filmmaking has always been a passion of mine since I was a kid. Making the switch at the ripe old age of 50, but I think it will work out great. At 50, us old guys tend to have a bit more business experience, are a tad more realistic in our goals/expectations, the kids are usually out of the house and we hopefully have a bit more disposable income with which to personally invest. I did a tour of duty at Film Arts Foundation as an intern when travels allowed, and I have a library of books regarding the craft larger than FAF did (okay, so I may be exaggerating, but not by much!).

We do have a film in the early (early) stages of production, and getting equipment seems something like putting the cart before the horse, but I do have a "thing" for all things mechanical in nature, and this Arri 35-3 is pretty cool.

We were going to go digital, but after really looking/thinking things over, film seems like the best approach, at least for the next 5-10 years, and we do want to be taken seriously, which was certainly also part of the decision making process (no disrespect to anyone going the digital route, believe me). We will be looking for a professional crew during the shoot as well. Having some of the basic equipment on hand and taking time to learn it thoroughly (even if I will not ultimately be the operator, I have another passion which is to learn as much as I possibly can about the entire process!). We do have 8,600 feet of old (1 year) 5217 Kodak film coming in just to do some camera/lens testing and hopefully to develop (no pun intended) a good relationship with a processing lab.

After putting the Cooke 20-60 zoom on today, and having a good idea of the additional equipment we will be requiring (and also having a really great rental company close by), I think we will forgo the prime lens purchase for now. Our next big equipment outlay is a Sachtler 7+7 studio head and a set of Cartoni sticks. As most of you know, this stuff is NOT cheap, but then again, being in the molding/tooling business most of my life, you definitely get what you pay for...

Anyone interested in getting their hands on an Arri 35-3 for some free real-live testing and live in the Bay Area either in late June or early/mid July, please feel free to email me! Thanks again - Matt
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:03 AM

Our next big equipment outlay is a Sachtler 7+7 studio head and a set of Cartoni sticks.

Good idea. I suggest that you get the beefiest head you can afford, since you will at some point want to mount all kinds of accessories and maybe a huge lens like an Optimo someday soon. Also, I recommend that you pick up a matte box, a follow focus, and a baseplate/rod system. A zoom control would be good to have as well. If your camera has a video tap, an onboard LCD monitor is a good investment.
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#6 Matt Lofgren

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 12:28 PM

That was the really terrific thing about purchasing this as a "package" instead of going the piecemeal route. It came with an Arri Matte Box, French Flags, follow focus with whips and speed crank, support plate, rods, CEI crystal electronic base, video tap with Sony color camera, eyepiece heater, breakout box, mags (3 - 400'), custom batteries with charger, flight cases, etc, etc. Really complete though I have since added 3 - 1,000' mags, the aforementioned mentioned Cooke 20-60 zoom, a fairly complete Tiffen filter package, and now getting the Sachtler 7+7 studio head and Cartoni sticks. Also got a number of items from FilmTools (which I have now deemed it to be our new replacement for that other money pit, "The Home Depot"). I also will be getting a different ground glass (for 1.85 framing) as this one installed is TV only - the camera was only used to shoot commercials and never full length feature films. Anything else anyone would recommend in the way of essential "kit?" Oh, I am also getting a small chest freezer for film storage, but will be purchasing fresh film for the actual shoot.
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