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Is there a rule for using multiple lenses in a scene/short/feature?


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#1 scott karos

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 10:12 PM

Most films use multiple lenses, some use very few. How often are they changing lenses in a given scene? I know it all depends but is there any kind of philosophy when it comes to lenses? Mainly when it comes to using many different kinds?

 

thanks

 


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#2 Haris Mlivic

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 07:34 AM

What do you mean by different kinds? are you talking about different focal lenghts or brands or prime vs zoom?
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#3 scott karos

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 06:13 PM

I'm not talking about brands. More so the focal length is what I'm talking about. Prime lenses.

For example, let's say one shot is shot with a 25mm lens. The very next shot is used with a 40mm lens.

Of course that depends on where the next shot is.
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#4 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:05 PM

It depends entirely on the style.  Wes Anderson, for a few films used a 40mm lens almost exclusively.  But his look is extremely signature and not at all an example of the standard way of doing things.  Hal Hartley, when he started out was using a 50mm for pretty much everything and his philosophy was to keep a particular vision and the single lens helped achieve that.  No idea if he'll employ that tactic on his new film Ned Rifle.

 

But for most films, you vary it up.  Establishing shots are typically done with a wide lens of 24mm or greater.  Mediums are done with a 35-50 and closeups typically an 85mm or longer.  But everyone has different preferences and the distance from the camera to the subject does affect this choice because it determines how wide or tight the frame will be with that particular lens..

 

Can you use a 24mm on a closeup?  Sure.  But it will likely resemble an early Terry Gilliam film.  Hope that helps.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 19 March 2014 - 08:08 PM.

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#5 Sean Cunningham

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 01:31 AM

Fincher has typically, since at least The Game, favored a mostly two lens package.  He likes the 27mm for practically everything and then a 75mm for close-ups.  Harris Savides theorized this gives the film a "visceral integrity".


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#6 Nicolas Courdouan

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 11:50 AM

A lot of directors and DPs have their favourite, "signature" focal lengths. Ridley Scott rarely if ever uses anything wider than an 85mm lens.

 

Like so many other things in this business, there are no specific rules. You can pick what you like, or what is the most practical for a given situation. If you have to shoot handheld or in confined spaces, you'll have a hard time with longer lenses...

 

There's an aesthetic choice that can be made, but if you're unsure you can also take a look at your story and identify the shots that would benefit from a certain type of lens in order to better represent a character's journey or state of mind.

 

To isolate a character and make them appear extremely small in a vast open space for example, the distortions created by a wide angle will be exactly what you're looking for.


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#7 Haris Mlivic

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 05:30 AM

I agree. One thing you could do as a starting point (again, its all a matter of taste) is to use maybe only a few lenses. Decide on something like 3-4 focal lengths and the cinematography tends to feel very consistent whatever the focal lengths may be. Decide on your close-ups, and your wides, and don't mix them if you down need to.

 

I recent shot a low-budget short where we only had a 24mm, 40mm and 50mm lens. Worked out great. If you can decide on focal lengths like this you could also save a lot of money for smaller projects. I rather have 4 Ultra Primes, than a whole box of Standard Primes for example :)


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#8 Sean Cunningham

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 11:08 AM

 Ridley Scott rarely if ever uses anything wider than an 85mm lens.

 

 

 

I'd need to see documentation on that.  Having seen most of his films I know it not to be true but I'm curious where you would get that impression.  You might be confusing him with his late brother.


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#9 Fergus O'Doherty

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 02:04 PM

I like to picture the story through each lens and then decide how I want to tell it. We did a doc. with a 50mm and it looked great. We filmed 'Atlantis Down' ( sci fi ) with a variety... 14/18/25/35/40/50/85 can't remember if we used any others, I had a book with them written down and lost the book unfortunately. We did 'Pioneers Turned Millionaires' with few changes. I have a 35mm hand cranked and have about 8 lenses but I'm going to be using mattes and filters/angles/SFX.... not just clean filters but dirty filters which completely change the look of what's coming through the lens anyway. But in that particular shot... it will be a hand in a very close shot looking through a dirty filter.. so the focus in not really on what the lens is doing ... it's the color + dirt (cloudy)plus a hand out of focus... but then when you use a different color filter it changes everything. It is time consuming changing lenses, it is also a liability, you can drop one of them, get dirt behind it when your changing it,it costs time, you might put another one on and not like the look. Directors viewfinders give you an advantage, a forward look... but you won't know how the finished product will look enlarged and projected. I bought a 600mm not sure what I would get when I looked through it... when I got it.. I liked what I saw. But it's a beast, it's inconvenient, it's heavy. When they filmed B&W silent way back they only used a couple of sizes of lenses. The possibilities are endless. But a couple of KEY things are time !( how much time do you have to keep changing lenses because time costs money and you'll need help running... and look EXT/INT ! All that being said...I hope you have time to experiment. (xcuse typos)
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