Out with the new, in with the old


Peter Savage 2 TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Peter Savage
Issue 110 - February 2016

Out with the new, in with the old

Getting the film look with a digital camera requires the correct lens: and sometimes that means going back in time, writes Peter Savage

For consumers and professionals alike, a digital camera offers convenience and immediacy. But when youre using one to shoot a movie or TV drama theres an extra consideration: the way the captured image looks.

In previous generations, high-end dramas were shot on film. These days, regardless of budget, (and because of the need to shoot quickly) most TV programmes are shot digitally using cameras that produce sharp images. But sharp isnt always the look that is required creatively. To get a look that takes an audience back in time, for example, DoPs are increasingly turning to older, vintage lenses.

Without the lens a camera is just a sensor, and more than anything else its the lens that really defines the personality of a camera. Lens design is a balance of compromises. On one side there are factors like cost and weight. On the other there is speed, resolution, aberrations, flare, all the many distortions that can impair an image.

For some genres, like sport, a high resolution will be called for, with few aberrations. For episodic productions, generally the realistic look is called for, so again, high performance with low distortion. However, for some prime movie production and television drama, the gritty realism of modern lenses and cameras is an anathema. For the audience to become immersed in the story, to suspend the present and enter a world of the imagination, a softer dreamier look is called for. Part of this is the 'film look', a term that defies an objective definition.

As DoPs and directors search for a distinctive style for their latest creation, many hanker after the look of their favourite old movies. Recently I was talking to a DoP about his experience with a new 4k camera. His initial fears were that the camera would be too sharp. His goal was to make the actors look as good as possible. Close-ups in 4k can be very revealing, every skin pore is visible. Now its just fine to show sweat running down the face of a boxer or front row forward, but in a romantic drama, its not appropriate.

We end up with the lens designers designing sharper and sharper lenses, and DoPs using diffusion filters to lose resolution. The film processes naturally lost resolution, with intermediate negs and positives before the final release print, which has a resolution equivalent to around 1000 lines or so. Couple that with less sophisticated lens design, and the look was quite soft and diffused. In the quest to mimic the look of some of the classic movies, DoPs are mounting vintage lenses on the latest digital cameras. Since 1982, when ARRI announced the PL mount, most lenses were supplied with that mount, so they can be fitted easily to a modern digital camera. Older lenses just require an adaptor, easy to buy from specialist film engineering workshops.

Why not fix it in post? So many distortions and filters can be added in the edit. The aberrations of vintage lenses is subtle. Some of the sought-after looks stem from the veiling glare in older lenses, which reduces contrast and shadow detail. Each lens has its own way of reproducing out-of-focus highlights: the bokeh. Another aberration is found in anamorphics. These lenses have a cylindrical element to squeeze the picture horizontally, to be expanded back out on projection. They suffered from a horizontal lens flare on highlights, a signature effect of Wes Anderson. The bokeh are elliptical rather than the circular as with a conventional lens.

In the quest for these many aberrations DoPs are using older optics to get a period look. Favourites are many of the classic Cooke lenses, the Speed Pancros, S2/S3, and S4i sets. Bausch & Lomb Super Baltars are another popular vintage lens, they were used on The Birds and The Godfather.

Many budding DoPs may not realise that Canon made a line of cine lenses back in the 1970s, the K-35, winning an Academy award for the design. Available in focal lengths from 14 to 200mm they remain sought after today. They were notably used on Aliens (1986). In 2015 Azule Finance brokered a £36,000 deal that saw these very lenses bought for use on future digital projects.

Its not just DoPs looking at these old lenses either. Budding DSLR users may find new lenses too expensive, but the demand is pushing up the price of the older classics. They were built to last, and built to be serviced so they are still very much usable today.

4k may be here to stay, but it is a little too sharp for some genres. A vintage lens can provide just the personality to give a production the look the director is seeking.


Tags: iss110 | finance | arriflex | lenses | cooke | pancros | s2 | s3 | s4i | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Azule Finance at BVE 2016

    Azule Finance at BVE 2016

  • Five Arrows Media Finance at IBC 2015

    Five Arrows Media Finance at IBC 2015

  • Azule Finance at BVE 2013

    Azule Finance at BVE 2013

  • Kit Financing with Medialease at NAB 2017

    Kit Financing with Medialease at NAB 2017

  • Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Cooke Optics on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Cooke Optics at BVE 2012

    Cooke Optics at BVE 2012

  • Cooke at IBC2011

    Cooke at IBC2011

  • New Filters from Schneider Optics at NAB 2018

    New Filters from Schneider Optics at NAB 2018

  • BeyondHD - Drones at BVE 2015

    BeyondHD - Drones at BVE 2015

  • Canon on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Canon on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Cineo HS2 at IBC 2015

    Cineo HS2 at IBC 2015

  • ChyronHego Channel Box Prime at IBC 2015

    ChyronHego Channel Box Prime at IBC 2015

  • Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Samurai Blade at BVE 2014

  • Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ronin at BVE 2014

  • Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

    Atomos Ninja Blade at BVE 2014

  • AES3 to Dante / AES67 converters from Glensound at NAB 2019

    AES3 to Dante / AES67 converters from Glensound at NAB 2019

  • GY-LS300 Camera from JVC at NAB 2017

    GY-LS300 Camera from JVC at NAB 2017

  • JVC GY-LS300 at IBC 2015

    JVC GY-LS300 at IBC 2015

  • JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

    JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

  • JVC at BVE 2017

    JVC at BVE 2017

  • JVC at BVE 2015

    JVC at BVE 2015


Related Shows
  • KitPlusTV summarise the Broadcast and Pro Video News 22nd March 2021

    KitPlusTV summarise the Broadcast and Pro Video News 22nd March 2021


Articles
The Future of Broadcast Technology
Sebastian Richter

Spotlight on Sebastian Richter, Vice President Media Systems at Rohde & Schwarz.

We are currently in the middle of a transition phase with migration to several new technologies, from the move to IP-based infrastructure and the shift from linear to video-on-demand (VOD).
The question for all of us is how long that transition phase will last; it is going to be faster for some customers then for others – national broadcasters, for example – it will be a slower process.

Tags: broadcast | 5g | 5g broadcast | rohde and schwarz | Sebastian Richter
Contributing Author Sebastian Richter Click to read
Spotlight on James Gilbert, Director of Product and Solution Management
James Gilbert

Over the next eight years we are going to be in transition, and within that there will be vastly different rates of change among content owners and media organisations. As a technology provider the onus is on us to be flexible and adaptable to meet this wide range of requirements from our customers.

Tags: | James Gilbert
Contributing Author James Gilbert Click to read
Spotlight on Karl Mehring, Director of Professional Services, Broadcast, Amplifier and Media
Karl Mehring

How has the role of Professional Services evolved in recent years and what vision do you have of the broadcast technology business? Covering new opportunities that the move to remote brings, new technologies such as 5G broadcast & the impact on the broadcast industry, and the challenges for broadcasters and how can they overcome them.

Tags: COTS | cloud | remote production | distribution | 5g broadcast | Karl Mehring
Contributing Author Karl Mehring Click to read
The Future of Broadcast Technology
Manfred Reitmeier

Now that OTT and VOD have become more mainstream, many commentators talk about traditional broadcast methods, like terrestrial transmission, being a thing of the past. With so many new platforms and non-traditional content services carving out a growing slice of the market, you can be forgiven for thinking that linear over-the-air television is on its way out. The reality is that the industry must strike a balance between meeting consumers’ shifting habits and the business and operational needs of content providers.

Tags: Rohde Schwarz | 5g broadcast | Manfred Reitmeier
Contributing Author Manfred Reitmeier Click to read
A switch in time: how KVM can unlock the future of broadcasting
Chris Smeeton

One of the major changes for broadcasters during the pandemic has been the shift towards remote production; by no means a new phenomenon in an IP environment, yet accelerated under lockdown to accommodate travel and gathering restrictions. A 2021 report found that almost 40% of broadcast professionals now employ remote production, up 9% on the previous year.

Tags: KVM | ARGOSY | GDSYS | KVM Tech | Chris Smeeton
Contributing Author Chris Smeeton Click to read