Has anyone else seen this video by Shane Hurlbut showing the staggering visual difference between the Leica Summilux C's vs. the Cooke S4's?
I was floored by the differences in the image using the same focal length between the two sets and just what importance design and barrel distortion do the overall image. I knew that shooting anamorphic vs spherical made some big visual differences but I didn't expect this big of a difference between two sphericals.
I've watched it a few times and found it extremely interesting. When I first heard about the new Leicas, they seemed like a real lens for the future. Spec-wise as good as it gets. But then as I started to track down and watch productions shot on them I found myself noticing (repeatedly) this strange flatness to the images that somehow felt 'off' to me.
I couldn't begin to pin down what it was about the look of the shows that felt off to me, but after seeing Shane's comparison it became clear to me. The Leicas are just too perfect. In a still image you'd never notice it, but in motion it's there - this almost imperceptible flatness to the image, that seems to rob them of some sense of depth.
I still can't put it clearly into words, but something about the way the Leicas render moving pictures really puts me off. I don't understand why I love the look from Master Primes (which are also kinda 'perfect') and yet the Leicas throw me, but there it is.
I don't think the differences are all that staggering if you turn off Hurlbut's overblown commentary and just look at the images. Cookes are renowned for creating a sense of roundness and depth and for giving flattering skin tones, so there's nothing new being revealed. There are plenty of modern, high MTF lenses around now that give a rather flat image, I'm sure comparisons with RED primes or Sonys would be even worse.
Some of the differences appear to be due to subtle lighting changes that alter the feel, and there are also different apertures used as revealed by slightly different depths of field. A 75mm is compared to a 100mm, which Hurlbut dismisses because he had so many other things on his mind, so the whole test is a bit haphazard. When he starts going on about how even seasoned professionals in the DI screening had never seen anything like this, you really know you just can't take anything he says seriously. As if no one before Shane had ever compared Cookes to more modern lenses. Then later, when a signature Cooke 8-sided specular highlight is on screen, he talks about Cooke needing to change their 5 blade iris to get a rounder bokeh. It occurred to me that, notwithstanding his simple mathematical mistake, he probably has no appreciation that the Cooke iris shape, which goes from polygon to star to circle as it opens, and has done since the Speed Panchro design of the 30s, is also part of the reason Cookes look the way they do, beyond just the specular highlight shape.
It really seems like he makes these videos for impressionable young filmmakers so they will subscribe to his video workshops, or invest in the products he endorses. His IMDB bio is so bloatedly self-promotional it's almost a parody - "Shane Hurlbut is a world-renowned cinematographer who shoots multi-million dollar blockbuster films." Maybe I'm being overly harsh, but he just comes across as a bit dodgy to me.
I always get a bit leery when a DoP has ads for their classes on Facebook, which I get to see daily. I also don't think we should necessarily charge to share what we know and what we've learned, but that's just me.
And of course, well said Dom to all your other points.
I've met Shane a few times and he comes across as an enthusiastic storyteller and it was a pleasure to talk to him. The promotional stuff seems to emanate from education company his wife manages (as far as I can tell). She's just trying to be an effective marketer, but I agree that sometimes it can come across heavy handed. I paid more attention to his website back before he did the whole pay-to-play web-isodes and now the public content is more often feels like advertisements for his website sponsors - an inevitable and disappointing financial reality of his social media success, I guess.
That said, I direct/write/produce...everything except host, a series of web tutorial videos for beginner filmmakers for a local rental company (I'm not an employee - have a barter with them). We give the content away for free on Vimeo and YouTube in hopes that education solves problems, and when people need problems solved in our local market they think of the company. It comes back to business, but in a more subtle way. The downside is that we don't get access to equipment like the Cooke or Leica lenses because no one is sponsoring us to rent this equipment for demonstration. We also have to beg to get demonstration models to stand in front of the camera since there's no budget to hire professionals. Obviously I don't have any type of recognizable name for myself so there's no sense bartering for "exposure."
So I guess my point is that I can't be overly critical of what he and his wife are trying to accomplish. If I had a chance to access high end equipment and hire professional model talent I might think about showing some gratitude to sponsors as well. As for the accuracy of the content, well... we all try our best. I always believe in listening to opinions, but verifying the information myself. There's no shortcut to experience that I've been smart enough to find.