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General rule of thumb for interchanging lenses?


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#1 Spalding Hamsun

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 09:59 PM

I've come from a DV background where I've never had the luxury of interchangable lenses? I wondered if anyone had any tips and or advice on how to appropriately mix focal lengths. I'll give you an example.

1. Establishing shot (Wide): Joe walks into a large bar room. The camera pans with him as walks through the crowd toward the bar.
2. Joe sits up at bar (M.S): We can see people moving behind him in the background
3. Talent's POV: Bartender walks from the other end of the bar to serve him.
4. Talent orders a drink (MCU)

In this situation I would be thinking medium/wide lens for shot 1.(perhaps 24mm - 4/3 sensor), then shot 2. I might use the 24mm or perhaps a 35mm, then shot 3. the same as shot 2. because it's a reverse situation, then shot 4 I would maybe use a 50mm because it's close and I would want a shallower DOF for this shot.

My background is going to be compressed in shot 4 compared to shot 2 if I use a longer lens: is the audience going to think this is weird? or is this normal.

I know people say it's good to mix up your lenses to keep things interesting, but I find that I use my 24mm lens in about 85% of my shots. Maybe I'm being lazy, but it just always feels like the right lens to use.
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 11:03 AM

Maybe I'm being lazy, but it just always feels like the right lens to use.


No, you're being an artist and your sensibility is what counts, not some book's "rule".

But you might have a look at Sidney Lumet's "Making Movies". He's got a chapter where he talks about the "how" and "why" of his use of different lenses. He's talking about lenses on 35mm movie cameras but you can always convert those focal lengths to whatever format you're using.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 07:32 PM

I think for each film we tend towards a "favorite" lens. The short I just did was almost entierly shot with a 16mm Optar Illumina (S16mm film), except for circumstances that needed another lens (such as a 9.5 mm lens for some selected close ups, and a 12~120 zoom, normally shot around 50~80mm for certain shots where we really wanted to separate the main character, or had to set up far away.)

If I ever were to coin a theory about lenses it would be go with what you feel is right. The only real way to know what you "feel," is to play around with lenses.
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