Jump to content


Photo

the long lens


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 Mark Evans

Mark Evans

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 November 2011 - 04:05 AM

greetings - I'm a sometime reader and interested party to the site so forgive the ignorance of personalities etc . However I am an active participant in film and have always thought of the long lens as an interesting technique for pov shots and more arty texture based representation and human interest style work. I've always considered it something that deserves a conscious mind and forward planning - even moreso than a wide lens. Today I was watching Cinderella Man and found another use - privacy - Renee's character exits out of the hovel when she realizes she cannot feed/care for the kids there's a couple of so so edits but then it goes to a magnificent long lens of her crying in the alley way - works really well.
OK - so what I'm leading up to is the film I'm working on atm has a multitude of long lenses, even establishing shots. The director, a good director, has made a decision that this will be a style that will vibrate through the movie. Can you identify a reason that you would make such a decision? What would you hope to achieve by doing so? I find it an interesting decision you could come to make. I'd love to hear your thoughts

-

m
  • 0

#2 Marcus Joseph

Marcus Joseph
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 404 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney, Australia

Posted 20 November 2011 - 09:05 AM

Well first off the bat, I wouldn't use a long lens for a point of view shot, as the human eye is fairly wide. Unless you're trying to convey a sense of bokeh, particularly in the foreground, maybe to have objects liven up or particular subject matter (snow, rain, dirt etc.), there is not much use for one in that sense. I like the 20-30mm range for POV, sometimes even a little wider.

Then secondly it's a matter of both style and story, does the style require this kind of tighter shot for the character? Do you need to bring the character into the frame and thin out the focus? Is the lighting setup lending itself to this type of lens?

Ask yourself these sort of questions and why would you need a long lens, if the answer is, it would suit the feel and story much better than a wider one in a sense of continuuity and story, then by all means go for it.

Every story and purpose is different, you have to make this decision based on what you're trying to convey.
  • 0

#3 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 November 2011 - 09:42 AM

You use long-lensed POV shots to convey the sense of the person's mind "zooming in" on some small detail that would be lost in a wide shot. However, for the wide POV shot, generally you'd want to match distance from the looker to what he is looking at, and use a normal to wide lens to maintain the correct scale and feeling of distance, and then go to a long-lens for that sense of the mind picking out details in the scene.

By what I mean is that if the person having the POV is only twenty feet from what he is looking at, it may look odd to back up two hundred feet and use a telephoto lens to create a wide POV shot because then it may feel that the person is farther away from what he is looking at.
  • 0

#4 Marcus Joseph

Marcus Joseph
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 404 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney, Australia

Posted 20 November 2011 - 10:32 AM

You use long-lensed POV shots to convey the sense of the person's mind "zooming in" on some small detail that would be lost in a wide shot. However, for the wide POV shot, generally you'd want to match distance from the looker to what he is looking at, and use a normal to wide lens to maintain the correct scale and feeling of distance, and then go to a long-lens for that sense of the mind picking out details in the scene.

By what I mean is that if the person having the POV is only twenty feet from what he is looking at, it may look odd to back up two hundred feet and use a telephoto lens to create a wide POV shot because then it may feel that the person is farther away from what he is looking at.

Yeah, that is a great example of keeping continuity as well. I feel its jarring when it jumps without some context, binoculars can be a pretty cliche context in that example.
  • 0

#5 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 November 2011 - 11:00 AM

Often people can have contradictory theories about long lenses versus wide-angle lenses, in particular, which are more "intimate" -- some directors feel that being physically close to the actors with the camera is more intimate (from Polanski to Spielberg to Malick), others feel that pulling them out of the background with a long-lensed / shallow-focus shot is more "intimate" (Scott brothers).

Some directors, like Kurosawa, just like the compression of space and action that long lenses create in wide and medium shots, not so much about how it makes close-ups look.

For the average director and DP, it's more about which makes the scene and space more visually engaging, they don't shoot every scene one way or the other.
  • 0

#6 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 20 November 2011 - 11:45 AM

Some directors, like Kurosawa, just like the compression of space and action that long lenses create in wide and medium shots, not so much about how it makes close-ups look.


I rather like the width of anamorphic, but with the longer focal length's "compression" of the space.
  • 0

#7 rob spence

rob spence
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 409 posts
  • Other
  • Beaconsfield

Posted 20 November 2011 - 02:13 PM

any ideas what focal length favourites the Scott bros use?
  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 November 2011 - 08:05 PM

any ideas what focal length favourites the Scott bros use?


They tend to shoot on those 10:1 zooms made in the 25-250mm-ish range. Back in their anamorphic days, I think the 180mm Panavision E-Series was popular with them, and of course an anamorphized 10:1 zoom..
  • 0

#9 Mark Evans

Mark Evans

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts
  • Other

Posted 20 November 2011 - 10:19 PM

the question is somewhat an academic one - not my film, just a cog here - but I'm really interested in why you would identify that as a style a film would need. As for a pov and long - if you have a say a spy watching a suspect a long lens, binoculars or not, will provide a sense of voyeurism to the shot. I can think of several of examples - great tool.
going to have to re-watch some Ridley Scott and look for the long lenses more (any excuse will do). Long lens and shallow dof - just trying to picture it. - cheers m
  • 0

#10 M Joel W

M Joel W
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 268 posts
  • Student

Posted 20 November 2011 - 10:31 PM

For the purpose of cinematic language, the human eye is neither wide nor telephoto. I've heard fields of view from 180º to 40º quoted, but it's all meaningless from the director's perspective. From the director's perspective, this is what's important: the angle at which our pupils converge correlates with the distance at which an object we're viewing lies from them and we need a cinematic way to convey that variable distance, but using just one camera. In the case of point of view shots, what we're looking at (distance-wise) is conveyed through focal length. The eyes "select" differently from a zoom lens, but the zoom is the cinematic equivalent of looking at something or honing one's focus in on it. The act of looking at a field then focusing in on a flower can be conveyed, cinematically, with a wide POV of the field with a zoom in to the flower (or a cut to a more telephoto shot of the flower). This can be complemented by a rack focus or pan/tilt if needed. And for this reason, a POV can be wide or telephoto, depending on what its owner is looking at (the entire room, a small object across the room, etc.). Remember, most zooms are found in POV shots or are motivated by subjective alignment with someone looking at something (even if that "someone" is the director, hence the popularity of the zooms in the 70s, an era wherein the presence of the director made itself most felt). Hence, grammar-wise, POVs are focal length agnostic, remarkably so. You can limit your POVs to medium wide angles if you want a natural representation of space or if you like the feel of that focal length, but grammatically there is no need or precedent to do so.

As for the shot in question, a telephoto lens is inherently more distanced than a wide angle lens. It puts the viewer further from the subject, assuming an equal shot scale. There are many kinds of distance: tragic, voyeuristic, comic, Brechtian, etc. In the case of Cinderella Man, which I have not seen but assuming your description is accurate, the director is going for tragic distance with that lens choice. Spielberg and a lot of the other masters will do the same and shoot the saddest moments with a bit of distance (though Spielberg will more often use other distanciation devices than focal length) to make a really poignant moment work without being too awkwardly "close" or too explicitly manipulative. An obvious example of this technique (distance facilitating tragedy) is the "nooo!" shot, in which a tragic character collapses and screams "nooo!" while the camera pulls out (or up).

Edited by M Joel Wauhkonen, 20 November 2011 - 10:35 PM.

  • 0

#11 Tim Halloran

Tim Halloran
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 76 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 November 2011 - 02:12 PM

A long lens shot that I've always found interesting is the one in Hal Ashby's Coming Home, where Jane Fonda is sitting on Jon Voight's lap on the beach boardwalk. The scene is intercut, or preceded (?) with a scene of two surveillance guys watching the couple. So it is implied that the exxagerated long lens close-up could be the effect of the binoculars or telephoto lens on the camera that the guy is using to watch them.

But accompanying the shot you get a clear intimate recording of the dialog from their conversation, dialog that the surveillance team couldn't possibly hear, but that is nonetheless narratively provided for us. It confuses spatiality and the privileging of narrative information which consequently reflects the tense anxiety of the Fonda and Voight characters at that moment. Good work by Haskell Wexler and a nice result.

Tim
  • 0

#12 Deji Joseph

Deji Joseph
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 109 posts
  • Student
  • London

Posted 26 November 2011 - 06:51 PM

I generally stick to focal lengths 50mm and below for indoors due to space and long lenses outside. I think framing decides the focal length.
  • 0


The Slider

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

Abel Cine

CineTape

Opal

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Technodolly

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Metropolis Post

The Slider

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

CineTape

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

FJS International, LLC

Opal