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IIC anamorphic MOS camera


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#1 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 01 November 2016 - 09:45 PM

There's no getting around hiring top of the line silent cameras for a narrative film but I found out the other day George Lucas used an Arri IIC with panavision anamorphic lenses for B camera on the original 3 Star Wars movies (and other films). For instance the shot of the Tusken Raider jumping on the Bantha in the original SW film was shot on such a camera apparently (by GL). These cameras were modified by Panavision and of course used their rent-only lenses. But is it possible to shoot anamorphic on a IIC today, with non-Panavision lenses? What sort of viewfinder is needed to unsqueeze the image? The regular viewfinder doesn't do this? What type and brand of lenses for anamorphic are available and are they all PL mount? Maybe this is all unfeasible and 2 perf IIC is the only way to go.


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 November 2016 - 10:27 PM

Sure you can use a PL-mount anamorphic lens on a 4-perf 35mm ARRI-2C... luckily anamorphic doesn't need a Super-35 gate. I used one for a few shots in "The Astronaut Farmer", though that was a PV-mount Panavision show.

You'd want an anamorphic ground glass though a 1.37 Academy ground glass would work for framing as long as you remember that anamorphic uses a little more area above and below Academy (anamorphic uses a 1.20 : 1 area that is more or less Academy in width but Full / Super in height in 4-perf).

What is much harder to find is a desqueezing viewfinder, most people just operate looking at a squeezed image (which has the advantage of being larger and thus easier to judge focus). You could find a monitor that can desqueeze the image from the video tap, if you had one, just to judge composition easier.
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#3 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 12:36 AM

Thanks David. Great to have such advice, as always. Here are some more questions I thought I would ask anyone out there. What, approximately, do anamorphic lenses cost compared to comparable spherical lenses suitable for 2-perf? Is the difference an astronomical one (not alluding to Lucas' 'Far Far Away' here!). Also, does anyone know if the Pan-Arri 2C cameras were modified to S35 gate? What is the best page/article to go to that succinctly explains Academy and S35? Wikipedia good enough? I will dutifully go there and do my lessons. Just curious. Another question if anyone is motivated to answer: is it easier to find a desqueezer viewfinder for an Arri 35-3? All this is, sigh, probably moot as I will never be able to afford doing any of this ..... however if nothing else it will give me artistic inspiration I hope. You know, that's an important thing, not to be underestimated.


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#4 Kenny Suleimanagich

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 07:41 AM

I've shot anamorphic on a PL-mount IIC through Clairmont, using their house anamorphics and desqueezed with a door that has the switch on it allowing you to go from Closed-Scope-Spherical. If you live near a rental house that carries these cameras and lenses, you can buy cheap short ends from Reel Good Film and ask to shoot some test footage in the checkout bay or parking lot. Anamorphic lenses rent at a large premium, generally from most places around $350/day per lens but you can often find deals and get breaks. 2-perf spherical is by far the cheapest option.

Edited by Kenny Suleimanagich, 02 November 2016 - 07:42 AM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 12:05 PM

Any 35mm cine lens work on 2-perf.  And generally spherical lenses are more common and cheaper than anamorphic, though I suppose you might find an old anamorphic lens somewhere that was cheaper than the most expensive state-of-the-art spherical lens.  Anamorphic lenses are more expensive to rent than spherical lenses from the same rental house.  And of course, you'd want to shoot 4-perf 35mm so your stock costs are higher than if you can shoot 3-perf or 2-perf. (Not to confuse things, but you could shoot 3-perf 35mm with 1.3X anamorphic lenses from Hawk.)

 

There are plenty of charts online if you do a search.


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 12:23 PM

The big question is camera rental. There weren't very many 2 perf movements made, so buying/owning a 2 perf camera is difficult. Renting can also be a challenge, as most rental houses have dumped their 35mm cameras. The best bet for 2 perf is Panavision, but they'd rent you a Gold II package, which is 3x the size of a IIC, though silent.

Where 3 perf and 4 perf cameras are everywhere. As David says, 1.3x anamorphic and 3 perf is the best of both worlds. Save on film stock, but also use the full frame to get 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Of course, those Hawks rent for around $5000 a week. YIKES!

Ohh and yes, S35 gates are available for the IIC, though I'm not sure if there are any other modifications required to make them work.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 12:46 PM

In general, 3-perf is a great format, even for cropping to 2.40 but being able to reframe or create a full-frame 16x9 version, etc. if shooting spherical.  I haven't been able to shoot anything in 1.3X anamorphic yet.  Unlike 2-perf, there are plenty of 3-perf cameras out there though not so much in old MOS cameras like the Arri-2C (whereas there are a few 2-perf ones leftover from the days of Techniscope.)


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#8 aapo lettinen

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 04:28 PM

good anamorphic lenses are very expensive to buy nowadays but you may find good rental options for older lenses. one thing is, these lenses tend to be big and heavy and if you need something light and small for for example handheld use you may be quite limited. 

 

ten years ago you could have bought a 3 lens set of PL-mount modified Lomo anamorphics for about 1k dollars but that is absolutely not possible anymore, you can check eBay for today's ridiculous prices  :ph34r:   

 

anyway, camera bodies are quite affordable nowadays if you can find a good one. If purchasing I maybe suggest for MOS a camera body like 35-3 or pl-modified 2c, even a 235 or 435 might be possible (if renting is not practical) and then renting the lenses if you can find affordable options with good handling properties and look. 

Here in Finland a standard rental price for a single Lomo roundfront anamorphic prime is about 100 - 130€ a day in big rental houses... I'm sure you can find something affordable from indie oriented places. 

 

3-perf + 1.3x would be great if shooting more material per day. Arri 235 + Hawks maybe?


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#9 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 07:46 PM

Will rental companies rent their lenses to put on your camera body. Including Panavision? This seems a cheaper option. Some more questions: are 2C doors easily interchangeable, so that if you need a desqueezer door and find one on ebay it will work on any 2C body? Can PV lenses work in PL mount with an adapter, or vice versa (I suspect not).

 

What is it you see when you look through the 2C lens mount and one of the bow tie 'bows' has a small circular indentation ground out of the actual mirror, on the edge where the 'bow' meets the central ring of the shutter. I'm not talking about the circular metal centre piece of the shutter - I'm talking about something slightly off centre. An adjusting screw is in this pit. You can see this in the YT video, more easily seen in 2nd half of video.

 

 

Speaking of Star Wars (the first one made), I watched some of it the other day and was not impressed at how it now looks. Apparently George Lucas originally wanted a slightly misty-eyed look to the picture but the DP refused. It looks like George got what he wanted eventually however. The light shining off C3PO now looks like you've just spent the last 1/2 hour cutting up onions for lunch. I much prefer the clean, natural look of the original Tatooine scenes.


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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 11:07 PM

Not sure what you are referring too -- the Tatooine scenes were the first ones shot for "Star Wars" and used net diffusion on the lens, they were never clean and sharp.

When the production returned from Tunisia and started shooting on the soundstages, that's when a Gil Taylor stopped using the filters and shot clean, saying that he thought the Death Star and other space scenes should be sharper, but Lucas felt he had caved in to pressure from 20th Century Fox who didn't want the diffusion.

Current digital restorations of "Star Wars" clearly show the original use of net filters on the camera lens -- the only digital diffusion was done to the CGI vfx additions in order to match the softness and flares of the original. Of course to modern eyes, the net diffusion makes the image a bit soft, made worse by the generally overcast weather they ran into in Tunisia that spring of 1976. The contrast of prints back then helped give the impression of better sharpness and of course now the negative has faded somewhat, softening the image further.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 11:37 PM

You can see the cross-shaped glints and flares from using a net diffusion on or behind the lens:

 

starwars3.jpg

 

starwars4.jpg

 

starwars5.jpg

 

This later CGI addition required that ILM develop a diffusion software to simulate the star-shaped glints from a net filter:

 

starwars6.jpg


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 11:40 PM

Gil Taylor used similar net filters on "Dracula" (1979):

 

dracula3.jpg


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#13 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 12:20 AM

Was it just a Gilbert Taylor look or was there a technical reason for using the filters?
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:11 AM

Lucas wanted a slightly diffused look for the movie - this was the 1970's after all!  Most movies in that period were filtered to some degree, sort of as a rejection of the 1960's crisp, glossy studio "Technicolor" look.  Lucas said something to the effect that he wanted a mildly fairy tale fantasy quality but with realistic lighting.  

 

Consider that Lucas' first choice for cinematographer was Geoffrey Unsworth, known for his use of fog filters in the 1970's ("Cabaret", "Zardoz", "Murder on the Orient Express", "A Bridge Too Far"). Unsworth declined because was given the chance to go to Rome to shoot for Vincente Minnelli on "A Matter of Time", starring Ingrid Bergman and Liza Minnelli, which on paper seemed like a good idea... the movie was a disaster though.  Peter Suschitzky claimed he was then offered the job but he wasn't available (maybe Lucas liked the photography of "Lisztomania").

 

Gil Taylor seemed like a great choice, he had already worked with Kubrick, Hitchcock, Lester, and Polanski, and had just shot "The Omen" for Richard Donner in a diffused style similar to Unsworth.  Lucas liked the realistic lighting in "Dr. Strangelove" and he must of liked the soft look of "The Omen".

 

I don't know why nets were used instead of fog filters or other glass diffusion (when Suschitzky shot "Empire Strikes Back", he used a light low-con filter and Alan Hume used similar low-cons and fog filters on "Return of the Jedi").  The problem with nets is that being some brand of pantyhose stretched on a filter frame or over the back of a lens, they don't come in, let's say, five degrees of strength.

 

The main problem back then was doing visual effects if the live-action is filtered, and when "Star Wars" started production, the plan wasn't to use so much blue screen (which requires shooting clean) but to use rear-projection and front-projection, which allows filtering on the camera ("Superman", for example, was mostly shot by Geoffrey Unsworth with fog filters and the flying scenes used front projection so the camera could remain filtered, but there are a few blue screen shots that were shot clean.)  

 

When Suschitzky did "Empire Strikes Back", he used very light low-con filters so you wouldn't notice them missing when there were blue screen shots (and since those ended up being duped through multiple generations, in some ways they ended up matching the softness of the non-vfx shots made with the low-con filters.)

 

Gilbert Taylor did not have a signature look really -- he has hard, sharp movies and soft, diffused movies on his resume.  You wouldn't know that the same guy shot "A Hard Day's Night" and "Frenzy" and "Star Wars" and "Dr. Strangelove".  In some ways, "Star Wars" was one of his less interesting work, compared to something like "Repulsion" for example.  I think Taylor was a real artist and a great technician and probably should be studied more today.

 

What's unclear is why Taylor was replaced on "Conan the Barbarian" -- if Lucas ended up wanting to replace Taylor on "Star Wars" for not diffusing the movie (or really, for not following his instructions), then why did Lucas' friend John Milius hire Taylor for "Conan" and then why did he fire him?

 

One irony is that Lucas wanted originally to hire Unsworth because of his soft style (and apparently he worked well with directors) but 20th Century Fox, when they saw the diffused dailies that Taylor was shooting in Tunisia, got panicked because they just had a big flop with "Lucky Lady", a 1920s period comedy that was heavily diffused... by Unsworth.  They blamed its box office failure partly on the heavy diffusion, which was ridiculous.  So if Lucas had hired Unsworth like he wanted to, he would have gotten the same notes from the studio anyway, it's just that perhaps Unsworth wouldn't have backed out on the diffusion.  Though supposedly Unsworth ran into the same problem on "Cabaret" -- one of the producers hated the smokey, foggy, gritty look and wanted a bright, colorful Hollywood musical.  He complained enough to Bob Fosse and Unsworth that they ended up shooting a few scenes sharper, and when the movie was successful and won the Oscar for the cinematography, this producer felt he had been proven right when in truth, it's the smoky, foggy, gritty scenes in the cabaret that everyone remembers about the movie, not a few exterior scenes shot clean.


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#15 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:14 AM

I'd remember if C3PO looked like that in the original print I saw in Melbourne in 1977 .... as you say contrast of prints could be the key but somehow I think George has fiddled with the image a little bit digitally also, even if those Tatooine shots were filmed with the net filter. Certainly I agree some of the Tunisia scenes were filmed with a definite soft look in camera (jumping on the Bantha shot for instance). Note: wrote this before reading your post above.


Edited by Jon O'Brien, 06 November 2016 - 02:17 AM.

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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:18 AM

I saw "Star Wars" 25 times in the theater as a teenager in the first two years of its release, and dozens of times in the 1980s during re-releases.... so I remember quite well how it looked, and those desert scenes were always diffused-looking.  Besides, you can't put a piece of pantyhose over a lens and not end up with a soft picture!  I think the only "fiddling" has been the opposite, they've been trying to counteract the fading of the negative by goosing up the contrast while doing some grain reduction and then adding some sharpening and saturation.

 

I think people just have a memory of it being a sharper movie than it actually was.


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#17 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:28 AM

Fair enough!

 

I haven't watched it for a long time but I think the Australian film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' (1975) was filmed with at least some shots having an ethereal soft look as well - probably with a net filter or similar. I remember family and friends saying it was "beautifully photographed" and being clearly impressed with it and proud that it was an Australian production.


Edited by Jon O'Brien, 06 November 2016 - 02:43 AM.

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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:31 AM

Besides if Lucas really wanted to add diffusion to the movie after-the-fact, he would have digitally diffused all the sharp scenes, not softened the scenes he shot already with diffusion filters. A lot of the movie is quiet crisp once you get into the Death Star and on the Millennium Falcon, etc.


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#19 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 03:52 PM

Interesting stuff, thanks for the write-up David! :)
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