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Dennis Coblentz

Ways to Get this Bokeh Character? The Terminator (1984)

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Hello cinematographers! First post; happy to be here.  I'll be jumping right in.

I recently rewatched The Terminator (1984).  According to IMDB the movie was filmed on 5293 film stock with ARRI 35BL and Mitchell 35R3 cameras that were each equipped with Zeiss Super Speed lenses.  But a particular scene (the repair scene) caught my eye because of its distinctive double-bubble bokeh that I don't believe could have been created by any of the Super Speeds, at least by themselves:


There is only one lens that I know of that produces bokeh that's at least extremely similar if not identical to this - the Kilfitt / Zoomar Makro-Kilar 90mm f/2.8.  An Arri Standard mount adapter was available for this lens and it did see some use in the industry (most notably, Stanley Kubrick apparently had one in his arsenal).  From what I can gather from information online, the consensus is that this particular lens renders out of focus specular highlights in this manner due to a lens element that was "biradially ground" - it's not quite an aspherical lens, but it's a two-step approximation of one.  I know at least some of the Super Speeds employ aspherical elements so in some situations they'll produce onion-rings / bullseye in bokeh balls, but nothing quite as drastic as what's shown above.

I'm pretty convinced this scene was shot with a Kilfitt 90, but there is no documentation of this online that I can find, and I'm also wondering if there are other ways to get bokeh like this that would hopefully be easier to come by -- if I could pop a diopter or filter on a lens I already own to play around with this, I'd be a happy camper!  I posted in the Adapted Lens Talk forum at dpreview but the thread is dying without a satisfying end.

Are there any other lenses out there that do this or do I need to seek out a 90/2.8 Makro-Kilar to be able to play around with this bokeh?

Are there any filters or lens attachments that could indirectly be the culprit? Hopes aside, I ask because Tiffen Low-Cons came up in a previous thread.

Are there any other movies you've seen where you noticed bokeh like this?

Any other theories?

Thanks for your thoughts!

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A mirror lens creates a donut shaped bokeh. They use a catadioptric optical system (like a telescope), and make telephoto lenses compact and affordable. I don't know of any mirror lens in macro or under 300mm though.



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Thanks for your responses, guys!

David, that would make sense.  I take it Tiffen Low-Cons work like most other contrast reducing filters then, i.e. scattering some light as opposed to introducing spherical aberrations, such that they are not to blame for the bokeh structure?

Stephen, thanks for your suggestion.  Mirror lenses certainly have distinctive bokeh and it's fun to try to use it artfully sometimes.  It's possible to use a clear filter with the center blacked out to get a similar look with any lens - attached is what a Tamron 90/2.5 macro does with such a filter in use:

Perhaps it's time to revisit that experiment with a mask made to loosely mimic the background bokeh of the Terminator repair scene.


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Usually with a Low Con filter, all you'd see in the bokeh is sort of a grainy texture/pattern at most.
I just checked now with a 1/8 Fog and an 85mm lens focused close and you could barely see any sort of pattern in the bokeh.

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Good thinking Phil, here's my first attempt at getting a similar look with that approach. I masked out an old Tiffen Haze-1 filter with a bullseye-ish pattern meant to mimic the background bokeh of the Terminator scene.  I just used a Sharpie but being semi-transperent it may be better to use something like paper as you'd suggest. I shot this scene with my Tamron 52BB 90/2.5 with the filter attached.

For reference, these are screws for desktop PC internals lit with a single light source.


The background blur is fairly close.  The Tamron 52BB has very good bokeh on its own (it's ever-so-slightly overcorrected for SA if I'm nitpicking but it's very neutral) so the filter is certainly mucking things up, but not enough hehe.  The lens used in the Terminator repair scene has harsher over-correction of SA which shows up as bright edges on bokeh balls.  The foreground OOFPSF (out-of-focus point spread function) doesn't look to be the inverse of the background OOFPSF like it is in the Terminator scene.

Perhaps a lens with harsher bokeh (due to more overcorrected SA) with the same filter slapped on would produce results closer the scene, perhaps a Trioplan-type projector lens I have (TDC Vivid Trionar Anastigmat 6" f/3.5).


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Thanks a bunch for confirming my thoughts on contrast filters, David.  I've definitely seen that tell-tale speckling / patterning in bokeh before -- watching films/shows has never been the same ever since I got into shooting with adapted vintage lenses, hehe.

Mark - do you recall what old process lens it was? Did it give you something like this 'double-bubble bokeh' I'm looking for?

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