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Optimum lens beauty distance


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#1 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 09:13 AM

I have been spending quite some time doing tests with 35mm lenses and generally I am starting to notice certain beauty | distance hotspots - ( Irrespective of scene, face, filter, make up and lighting issues - within limits :)

So for the 35mm format on a 16 | 9 frame

16mm lens - about 16 to 18 inches for strong verticals and faces (but quite tough to get that kind of distance on woman beauty) - or else on the floor looking up- about 5ft away
85mm lens - about 4ft and again in the 9ft range - face height

etc

Does anyone else notice this and have recommended distances. I know this is kind of vague - but I often find the Director says "where do you thinhk we put the lens?" and I move to 9ft away with an 85mm and it is a good starting point - without getting locked into formula film making B)

thanks

Rolfe
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 10:09 AM

Not sure I agree since different projects require different moods from a lens, so you may use a lens in an atypical way (like shooting close-ups with a wide-angle or shooting long shots with a telephoto, etc.)

But certainly on every movie, you sort of discover when to use a particular focal length at certain distances for a certain feeling. That's one of the nice things about working with primes -- you get the know the "personality" of each lens.
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 01:50 PM

I'd also like to add that the choice of a lens is also influenced by the face of an actor. Some actors look good on any lens, while others have faces that only look good on certain lenses (and lighting).
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 03:11 PM

Speaking of actors faces.....have you ever worked with an actor that has a "soft" face. What I mean is, it seems like you can never quite get them in focus. You roll the focus back and forth but can never seem to get them perfectly sharp. I've experienced this once or twice and have talked to other people that have, but I'm wondering how common this is. It's a strange thing to experience.
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#5 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 05:00 PM

I have had it with babies and people with amazing natural skin. To be technical I think it has to do with something called SSS (sub surface scattering) which is the multilevel reflection | luminosity within human skin that is so complex to create in CGI - my post background coming through

More about it here SSS

On a steadicam course someone was mentioning (John Ward - I think) about soft focus and how there was this theory was going around that when actors are or become soft focus they only have a short time to live :huh: and it really started feaking this cam op out - so bad he couldn't work (not sure if it is an urban legend!)

I agree about the face | lens approach but just thought I would mention my new sweet spot thing going on with primes :)

thanks

Rolfe
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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 05:33 PM

The one actress I've come accross who has a soft face is Scarlett Johansson. Even if her eyes are pin sharp, her face still looks slightly soft.
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#7 Mike Donis

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 05:40 PM

I'm shooting a picture this summer, and one of the lead actresses has a "soft face". She has the same colouring as Scarlett Johanson, probably very similar skin.
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#8 Ed Moore

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 09:00 PM

The one actress I've come accross who has a soft face is Scarlett Johansson. Even if her eyes are pin sharp, her face still looks slightly soft.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Perhaps it's impossible to take in the entirity of her beauty all at once...
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#9 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 12:13 AM

SSS is about how translucent the skin is - so the lens is focusing on the skin but the eye is getting it's "focus marks" off the multiple dermis layers - almost right down bone level - see SSS link above for more

The only thing I do is pull focus on the eyelashes - or if the head is level and mouth open (speaking) on the gaps (if any) on the back of the canine teeth

thanks

Rolfe
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#10 Sam Wells

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 10:32 AM

I have had it with babies and people with amazing natural skin. To be technical I think it has to do with something called SSS (sub surface scattering) which is the multilevel reflection | luminosity within human skin that is so complex to create in CGI - my post background coming through

More about it here SSS
Rolfe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I've noticed it too although I've never quite believed it.

There is someone I photographed a bit and I simply couldn't seem to get sharp focus on her, I blamed the lens... various (probably ersatz) theories.

Role, this is really interesting, thanks ! Bookmarked to read in depth later.

ps My old Angenieux 9.5-57HEC with certain (typically female or maybe that's what I notice more !) skin and faces is just beautiful sometimes... otherwise not a stellar lens by todays standards - altho quite nice in the 4 - 5.6 - 8 range... - but it has this magic atribute - which I haven't really seen any filter do quite the same thing...

-Sam
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#11 Christian Appelt

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 04:40 PM

Brad Grimmett wrote:

Speaking of actors faces.....have you ever worked with an actor that has a "soft" face. What I mean is, it seems like you can never quite get them in focus.


In his book "Painting with light" John Alton decribes different types of actor's faces to aid in performing "optical surgery", and he says there definitely is such a thing as an "out of focus face".
IIRC he recommended strong crosslighting and using shadow devices to give the "soft face" some different areas - but what may have been good for Alton's 1940s/50s film noir, black&white style may no be a solution for contemporary styles of cinematography.
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#12 Freya Black

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 04:15 AM

I'd also like to add that the choice of a lens is also influenced by the face of an actor. Some actors look good on any lens, while others have faces that only look good on certain lenses (and lighting).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



This is a facinating conversation. I've noticed that I find some lenses to be horrible and others that I really like. Canon made lenses are usually my favourite. This is certainly true of video and Super8 cameras at least. The lens on the PD-150 seems a bit horrible to me. Chinon S8 cameras always seem to be the peak of nasty, except that is for whatever kind of lens it is on my fisher price pxl camera. I like the lenses on Fuji and canon digital still cameras but often not other makes.

I'm wondering if this is just the different looks of different lenses or if some lenses are just better than others. and if the look of lenses is maintained across manufacturer?

The reason I'm wondering is because I'm planning to shoot some stuff on 16mm where I have various old Taylor Hobson lenses. mostly. Are these lenses likely to be similar to other lenses made by the same compay? A lot of people talk with reverance of cooke lenses but isn't there a big difference between say Speed Panchro lenses and other lenses by the Cooke company?

Is what I'm seeing just the fact that better lenses just provide a less distorted image?

[Sorry this is slightly OT with the whole 16mm thing]

love

Freya

Edited by Freya, 25 May 2005 - 04:16 AM.

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#13 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 04:23 AM

Cookes are generally better for beauty (softer and less contrast) - whereas the Ultra Primes are really really sharp and contrasty

Not sure about the older lenses - I did something where my DOP was into using a very old cooke and the results looked great for beauty

As regards general lens issues - you tend to get what you pay for. Standard lens tests will show the differences in edge falloff etc - but sometimes there is a call for a look that can be easily be achived using an old lens

thanks

Rolfe
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 06:21 AM

Cookes are generally better for beauty (softer and less contrast) - whereas the Ultra Primes are really really sharp and contrasty

Not sure about the older lenses - I did something where my DOP was into using a very old cooke and the results looked great for beauty

As regards general lens issues - you tend to get what you pay for. Standard lens tests will show the differences in edge falloff etc - but sometimes there is a call for a look that can be easily be achived using an old lens

thanks

Rolfe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Thanks Rolfe,
It's nice to hear the older cooke lenses are nice.

What I'm noticing from lenses is that the shape of for example faces, can be different with different lenses. It's often a slight thing. I'm not sure if the lenses are just different or if some lenses are just better but as I say, the canon and Fuji lenses look much nicer to my eye. Do you think some lenses have less optical distortion than others?

I'm mostly just afraid that I will shoot footage on film with the Taylor Hobson lenses and not like it, but I guess theres only one way to find out! :)

love

Freya

Edited by Freya, 25 May 2005 - 06:22 AM.

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#15 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 04:06 PM

Cookes are generally better for beauty (softer and less contrast) - whereas the Ultra Primes are really really sharp and contrasty


In comparison tests that I have seen, the Cooke S4s have much more pleasing contrast than the Ultra Primes. The S4s make faces look much more 3 dimensional, whereas the Ultra Primes are really sharp, but kind of flatter looking.

One difference between Cookes and Zeiss lenses is that on Zeiss lenses the plane that is in focus is flat (i.e. if you frame up a wall frontally, the whole wall should be sharp). Wheras Cooke lenses have a slightly curved plane of focus, which is much closer to the way the eye sees. That's one reason why Cookes seem to be more 'organic' lookign than Zeiss lenses.
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