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COMMENT Peter Savage Peter Savage is the chief executive of Azule Finance Getting the film ‘look’ with a digital camera requires the correct lens: and sometimes that means going back in time. OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE OLD For consumers and professionals alike, a digital camera offers convenience and immediacy. But when you’re using one to shoot a movie or TV drama there’s 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’ isn’t 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 it’s 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 50 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 110 FEBRUARY 2016 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 it’s just fine to show sweat running down the face of a boxer or front row forward, but in a romantic drama, it’s 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.