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The Complexities of Large Formats and Lenses


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I’m currently prepping and testing various lenses for my next movie, BLACK ADAM for Warner Bros. I am constantly reminded and amazed at how much more complicated incorporating lenses of different formats and sizes has become. 

For example, I am employing a brand new series of 1.5x anamorphic lenses that were built for us and our show by P&S Techique in Germany. These lenses are replicating the 1960’s Technovision look that was made famous by Storaro and others years ago but in a modern lens construction. Since it’s only a five focal length set, I need to supplement additional focal lengths with 2x anamorphic and spherical lenses to create a complete set. 

And this is where it gets complicated. I’m tasked to create a cohesive lens set made up of full frame lenses that cover the Arri LF Open Gate sensor as well as 35mm (non full frame) lenses that require a crop factor so we don’t vignette within the aspect ratio of 2.39:1. All of the different lens manufacturers and designs require a different extraction percentage thus changing the effective angle of view. This results in a mathematical change of focal length. For example, my Technovision, 1.5x 40mm has a much wider angle of view than my Master Anamorphic 2x 28mm or my spherical Leica 19mm.  I began with going through almost 200 plus lenses and have now reduced the possible candidates to about 40 lenses. My goal is to have a shooting set of about 20 lenses with the knowledge that we would actually use around 6 or 7 lenses to shoot the majority of the picture. I’ll update this thread as I work through this process for the next several weeks. 
 

G

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Thanks for all the great info!

Sorry to correct you on a historical note, but 1.5X was the squeeze used for the 8-perf 35mm Technirama format, used on movies like “Spartacus”, “El Cid”, “The Leopard”, “The Big Country”... Storaro used the 2X Technovision anamorphic lenses in his 4-perf 35mm movies like “Apocalypse Now”.

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9 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Thanks for all the great info!

Sorry to correct you on a historical note, but 1.5X was the squeeze used for the 8-perf 35mm Technirama format, used on movies like “Spartacus”, “El Cid”, “The Leopard”, “The Big Country”... Storaro used the 2X Technovision anamorphic lenses in his 4-perf 35mm movies like “Apocalypse Now”.

You’re absolutely correct about the squeeze factors. The Technovision was 2x and the only reason ours is 1.5x is to make them full frame. Thanks David!

G

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10 hours ago, Gregory Irwin said:

I’m currently prepping and testing various lenses for my next movie, BLACK ADAM for Warner Bros. I am constantly reminded and amazed at how much more complicated incorporating lenses of different formats and sizes has become. 

I know the feeling Greg!

For years now I’ve been collating a database of image circles for every lens I come across, with caveats about how this lens covers Alexa Open Gate if you don’t stop down past T8, or this zoom covers DXL 8K down to 29mm or this lens series covers Arri LF 1.78 down to the 40mm etc. Some of our Panavision lenses have been modified with expanded optics to allow them to be used on larger formats, or they’ve been individually modded by having a baffle or front mask removed to cover just a tiny bit more. Some lenses cover a larger area than they were designed for but the edge falloff is so bad they may not be acceptable all the way to the edges. Format sizes can go from a 15mm diagonal to a 60mm diagonal, with steps all the way between, depending on camera, recording resolution and aspect ratio. 

The different squeeze factors of anamorphic lenses are just another complexity to be factored in when thinking about format coverage and field of view. In the past few years off the top of my head I can list 1.25x, 1.3X, 1.5x, 1.65x, 1.8x and 2x anamorphics!

We’ve supported quite a few spherical mixed with anamorphic productions,  but I don’t recall ever having to cope with mixed anamorphic squeeze ratios like you’re describing. Perhaps we should be labelling lenses by their field of view angle per format coverage as well as focal length?

I look forward to hearing more about your prep for Black Adam. I’m curious to know more about the P&S Technik lenses too, and what you think of them.

 

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I'm glad someone is making 1.5X anamorphic lenses now, I always thought that was a great squeeze-ratio for digital sensors that were wider than 4x3.  The closest was the 1.65X Ultra Vista Panavision lenses, which are also great but hard to get ahold of.  I think Cooke's idea of making 1.8X lenses for digital sensors because they thought any less squeeze than that wouldn't look "anamorphic" enough was being overly cautious considering you can see anamorphic bokeh even on 1.25X Ultra Panavision shots (though I'd be happy to use the 1.8X Cookes on something!)  It seems to me that 1.5X (or 1.65X) should become more common now.

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14 hours ago, Gregory Irwin said:

You’re absolutely correct about the squeeze factors. The Technovision was 2x and the only reason ours is 1.5x is to make them full frame. Thanks David!

G

I just thought you were mixing up Technirama and Technovision, which is a common confusion... But now that Technovision has 1.5X lenses, people are going to get even more confused!

 

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3 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

I know the feeling Greg!

For years now I’ve been collating a database of image circles for every lens I come across, with caveats about how this lens covers Alexa Open Gate if you don’t stop down past T8, or this zoom covers DXL 8K down to 29mm or this lens series covers Arri LF 1.78 down to the 40mm etc. Some of our Panavision lenses have been modified with expanded optics to allow them to be used on larger formats, or they’ve been individually modded by having a baffle or front mask removed to cover just a tiny bit more. Some lenses cover a larger area than they were designed for but the edge falloff is so bad they may not be acceptable all the way to the edges. Format sizes can go from a 15mm diagonal to a 60mm diagonal, with steps all the way between, depending on camera, recording resolution and aspect ratio. 

The different squeeze factors of anamorphic lenses are just another complexity to be factored in when thinking about format coverage and field of view. In the past few years off the top of my head I can list 1.25x, 1.3X, 1.5x, 1.65x, 1.8x and 2x anamorphics!

We’ve supported quite a few spherical mixed with anamorphic productions,  but I don’t recall ever having to cope with mixed anamorphic squeeze ratios like you’re describing. Perhaps we should be labelling lenses by their field of view angle per format coverage as well as focal length?

I look forward to hearing more about your prep for Black Adam. I’m curious to know more about the P&S Technik lenses too, and what you think of them.

 

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet once pondered, “Ay, there’s the rub”.  
 

I sympathize with what you wrote Dom. I believe in my case, I went into this project thinking I knew the questions that needed answers. Once I arrived in Los Angeles and began my dive into the lenses at Otto Nemenz International,  I quickly realized that in order to understand my goals, I needed to figure out what the real question was! I was a bit dumbfounded for a while that I didn’t already know this! 
 

 With all of the variables that have already been mentioned in the earlier posts, I believe the real question is how do we create a common language, that we can all understand to quickly refer to the effective focal lengths of the different lenses? Is there a way to strip away all of the mumbo jumbo and confusion of different squeeze factors, expander powers, crop factors, spherical vs. anamorphic, etc (it’s now time for my head to explode...) and have a common basis for the nomenclature of angle of view? In your post above Dom, I would propose we speak in terms of “angle of view” as opposed to “field of view” since the latter changes with distance. I’m considering translating all of the above to 35mm terms since we all understand those. 
 

I encourage any feedback! 
 

G

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10 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

I just thought you were mixing up Technirama and Technovision, which is a common confusion... But now that Technovision has 1.5X lenses, people are going to get even more confused!

 

I completely understand what your concern was David. Sometimes my brain goes much faster than my writing and I can be unclear. I need to learn to slow down and be much more concisely understood. 
 

With regards to the new Technovision, 1.5x anamorphic lenses, P&S Technik did a very good job recreating the 1960’s Technovision look. The color, contrast, fall off and bokeh has a beautiful, nostalgic feel to them. And they cover large sensors! I love Larry Sher’s bold idea to go with a period look for a high tech, comic book, super hero movie. Again, gutsy like his decision making was on JOKER. 
 

G

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19 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

The original Todd-AO format listed their lenses in degrees of view. But first we’d have to relearn our common reference 35mm cine lenses in terms of their angle of view.

Ay, there’s the rub. 😊

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12 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

The original Todd-AO format listed their lenses in degrees of view. But first we’d have to relearn our common reference 35mm cine lenses in terms of their angle of view.

Do you have any reference material that may be relevant to me from the Todd-AO way of listing their lenses? I would much appreciate that. Possibly email to me? Thanks David! 
 

G

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20 hours ago, Gregory Irwin said:

Since it’s only a five focal length set, I need to supplement additional focal lengths with 2x anamorphic and spherical lenses to create a complete set. 

What focal lengths did they make? I wonder if they will make them available to the public at some point. 1.5x is very intriguing, it's perfect for vista vision cameras, something I want to shoot with next. Thanks. 

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37 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

What focal lengths did they make? I wonder if they will make them available to the public at some point. 1.5x is very intriguing, it's perfect for vista vision cameras, something I want to shoot with next. Thanks. 

Hi Tyler,

The set is currently comprised of 40, 50, 75, 100 & 135mm. There are also 2 zooms, 40-70 and 70-200. In addition, per our request, P&S made separately 2 close focus lenses, 40mm & 50mm to 16inches. 
 

G

Edited by Gregory Irwin
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6 hours ago, Gregory Irwin said:

Do you have any reference material that may be relevant to me from the Todd-AO way of listing their lenses? I would much appreciate that. Possibly email to me? Thanks David! 
 

G

http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingto3.htm
There is a picture of the lens set: 120 degree ('bug eye") plus 64, 48, 37 degrees for 5-perf 65mm.

Then in the 1960's, Richard Vetter came out with the Dimension 150 lenses for Todd-AO:
http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingto13.htm
150 degree, 120 degree, 70 degree and 50 degree to complement the old Todd-AO set.

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44 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

The thing is that within a day or two, the DP and director are going to get used to the views of whatever lenses you get, they won't need to mentally convert them from one format to another.

Even as that may be, I need to have a comprehensive understanding of the angles of view along with VFX’s need for the same. 

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

What focal lengths did they make? I wonder if they will make them available to the public at some point. 

P&S Technik announced their Technovision lens series in 2018, they are already available to the public:

https://www.pstechnik.de/lenses/technovision-lenses

I think the custom lenses Greg mentioned are just the close focus 40 and 50mm. 

Some history about Technovision and P&S Technik's involvement:

https://www.fdtimes.com/2018/12/18/technovision-classic-anamorphic/

The founder and creative vision behind P&S Technik, Alfred Piffl, died in 2019, but I'm glad to see the company is still continuing his legacy.

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On 2/28/2021 at 6:37 AM, David Mullen ASC said:

I'm glad someone is making 1.5X anamorphic lenses now, I always thought that was a great squeeze-ratio for digital sensors that were wider than 4x3.  The closest was the 1.65X Ultra Vista Panavision lenses, which are also great but hard to get ahold of.  I think Cooke's idea of making 1.8X lenses for digital sensors because they thought any less squeeze than that wouldn't look "anamorphic" enough was being overly cautious considering you can see anamorphic bokeh even on 1.25X Ultra Panavision shots (though I'd be happy to use the 1.8X Cookes on something!)  It seems to me that 1.5X (or 1.65X) should become more common now.

I completely agree! 1.5x is a great squeeze ratio for 1.50:1 thru 1.89:1 native aspect ratio imagers. There is enough anamorphic look there to make it worthwhile. 

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21 hours ago, Gregory Irwin said:

Even as that may be, I need to have a comprehensive understanding of the angles of view along with VFX’s need for the same. 

How extensive will the VFX work be? Would it make sense to work backwards from their needs? Seems like you may be already leaning that way with the angle of view consideration? 

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Posted (edited)

The VFX work on this picture is extremely extensive. In addition to the “traditional “ VFX work, we will also be employing the Volume. 
 

I finally decided on a method for the lens reference. Due to a variety of variables such as  anamorphic vs. spherical, squeeze factors, crop factors, extraction percentages, as well as expander powers, we can calculate the trigonometry to convert the different types and focal lengths of lenses (with the 2.39:1 aspect ratio throughout on the Alexa LF OG sensor) to the spherical, super 35mm focal length equivalents. This will be based on horizontal angle of view. A good example of why this is so complicated, is a 1.5x anamorphic 40mm is much wider than a 2x anamorphic 28mm. In order to get wider than the 40mm, I had to go to the Zeiss, Ultraprime 8R. There may be one other spherical focal length  that was also a tad wider but for now, I can’t remember. After studying over 200 lenses, it becomes a blur. Once I finish with the spreadsheet, I’d be happy to share the results. 
 

G

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Posted (edited)

Here is a portion of my lens conversation chart. This section illustrates 1.5x anamorphic to Super 35 spherical. For example, the 40mm anamorphic would become the equivalent of a 19mm in S35 spherical  terms after calculating crop factor and extraction percentage (crop factor %) based on horizontal angle of view.

491230EB-29D1-4A11-82EE-2C7249037E16.jpeg

Edited by Gregory Irwin
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Thanks for sharing Greg!

So you will be referring to all of your lenses on this show by the effective focal length then? And VFX will use your chart to calculate their angle of view for their virtual cameras and to select the matching lens grid maps? 

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I'd be a bit cautious about creating any system that relies on referring to something as anything other than what it is. We've suffered this already with crop factors on stills cameras, creating a generation of stills photographers who end up going through all sorts of mental arithmetic to express what they mean and risking confusion. Now, was that the actual 50mm we wanted, or the 50mm multiplied by some intermediate factor?

There isn't a straightforward way of expressing this stuff without least three bits of information. Most obviously that's the focal length, the squeeze factor if any, and the size of the sensor. You can manipulate numbers and state these in various ways, but in the end, it's always going to be a three term equation.

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4 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Thanks for sharing Greg!

So you will be referring to all of your lenses on this show by the effective focal length then? And VFX will use your chart to calculate their angle of view for their virtual cameras and to select the matching lens grid maps? 

We will use the effective focal lengths for on-set reference only. Since the “real” focal lengths don’t tell us the entire story of what’s wider or tighter than the other, a simpler and much smaller version of my chart will be laminated and attached to our ID lanyards for quick reference.  As far as VFX is concerned, I would believe that they will use the actual, non-compensated focal length numbers for their purposes. Once I have all of the selected lenses assembled for principle photography, I will map each lens individually on the lens grid during camera prep. 
One note regarding the final set of selected lenses;  before I do anything with them for any purposes for the movie, I will need to detune all of the non-Technovision lenses to match the Technovision lenses. Color, contrast and resolution will need manipulation in order to achieve a matched set. 
 

G

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