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How to choose the right lens/The influence of different factors on lens selection.

2024.5.21

When selecting lenses for a film, decisions are often based on the combined needs of the director and cinematographer. It's akin to choosing the tip of a paintbrush for a painter, where thickness, width, and material influence each stroke. Similarly, directors and cinematographers skillfully utilize the characteristics of lenses to impart a unique feel to their work.

 

Directors typically visualize desired scenes based on the script, collaborating with storyboard artists to plan shots in advance. Cinematographers then join the team to further refine the vision. They develop their own camera and lens selections, considering factors such as focal length and lens style to achieve desired visual effects. Recommendations are provided to the director to ensure the best shot composition.

 

After thorough discussions and brainstorming, the two teams finalize their camera and lens choices. Of course, rental costs are also a consideration, balanced within the overall production budget.

 

  1. Director's requirements:

 

Firstly, when selecting suitable lenses, it's essential to consider the director's requirements. The cinematographer and director should engage in a collaborative discussion about the overall story and plot. The cinematographer then determines their shooting approach based on the narrative and finalizes it with the director. The director may wish to convey specific emotions or atmospheres through the lens, so lens selection should align with the director's vision. For example, in the Korean drama "Tears Queen," whenever the director aims to convey a beautiful scene, they incorporate numerous slow-motion shots and utilize our Vespid Retro lens. This adds dramatic tension and emotional depth to the entire scene. The shimmering light effects give a sense of sophistication and romance.

 

<The Queen of tears>, 2024

 

                                                                                

 

 2. Cinematographer's requirements:

 

The cinematographer also has their own requirements and preferences. One important consideration is color and photographic style. Some lenses can also produce special effects such as fixed or variable focal lengths, wide-screen distortion, anamorphic flares, and aspect ratio choices for playback platforms, which are also factors the cinematographer needs to consider. Next, the cinematographer adjusts the aperture size (depth of field), shutter speed, lighting, and shooting movement trajectories for each shot. For example, in the movie "Pegasus 2," during the scene where the protagonist's team and the opponent's team's race cars collide during a test, lightweight high-speed cameras, large aperture lenses, and a rigging system were used to capture the breathtaking moment as the camera moved between the colliding cars. For such shots, the cinematographer needs to consider the compatibility of high-speed cameras and lenses. They need to be lightweight for easy maneuverability and large aperture lenses to allow more light onto the high-speed camera's photosensitive component, such as our Arles 1.4 large-aperture prime lens.

 

<Speeding Life 2>, 2024

 

                                                                                

 

 3. Other factors:

 

 3.1 Shooting duration and project type:

 

Making a film requires a significant amount of manpower and resources. Considering shoots with low, medium, and high budgets, selecting the appropriate equipment is crucial. For lower budget productions, simpler and lightweight equipment is often chosen. For instance, opting for lightweight zoom lenses with par-focal capabilities can significantly reduce the time spent on lens changes and focus adjustments, thus minimizing the need for additional manpower for focusing assistance.

 

Moreover, the type of film being made also influences the choice of lenses. For outdoor documentaries, cinematographers often prefer large zoom lenses like the Catta Zoom and Pictor Zoom, enabling them to quickly capture every moment. On the other hand, documentaries with more interviews tend to favor high-quality prime lenses, enhancing the overall dramatic effect of the footage.

 

3.2 Location:

 

Choosing the right lens also involves considering the location and factors related to special miniature landscape scenes. In smaller or budget-constrained locations, wide-angle and medium telephoto lenses are often preferred. As the location size increases, there are more options for using long or super-telephoto lenses. Because under the same aperture size, longer focal lengths result in shallower depth of field, leading to more background blur and a more cinematic feel to the image. Some special locations require specific motion trajectories, which also affect focal length selection. For instance, achieving a wall-through effect from high to low in aerial shots often involves using lightweight wide-angle prime lenses and small cameras that can be mounted on drones, ensuring a wide focus range and better capture of dynamic scenes. Then, as the drone descends closer to the ground, the cinematographer can more easily catch and mount the camera on a stabilizer for handheld tracking shots. For capturing special miniature landscape scenes, cinematographers typically opt for wide-angle lenses with small apertures. This approach allows for the authentic portrayal of artificial miniature theaters.

 

3.3 Lighting:

 

Lighting is an indispensable part of photography. Different lenses may have varying requirements for the use of light. Photographers should choose appropriate lenses to meet lighting setups and illumination needs, ensuring ideal visual effects. When capturing night scenes or scenes with minimal lighting, photographers often opt for lenses with larger apertures to increase light transmission, thereby reducing noise and capturing more details in low-light conditions. Arles T1.4 large-aperture prime lens enables clearer capture of high-quality nighttime stories.

 

3.4 Character Appearance Requirements:

 

In film production, cinematographers often employ a visual effect: "telephoto lenses make people look fatter, while wide-angle lenses make them look thinner," to emphasize characters' physical features. By using telephoto lenses, the shooting distance is reduced, making the character's face appear fuller because the lens compresses features and enhances the subject's volume. Conversely, wide-angle lenses capture broader scenes, making the character appear smaller and thinner in the frame, as they increase depth of field and diminish the sense of volume. This technique provides filmmakers and cinematographers with a tool to accentuate characters' physical traits, aligning with the story. However, it's important to note that this is just a visual effect, and audience perception of characters is influenced by other factors. Therefore, factors such as actors' performances, costumes, and makeup are equally important in portraying character images.

 

Of course, these are only some of the factors that lead directors and cinematographers to choose the right lenses. There are many other considerations involved in decision-making. These choices require a combination of team creativity and aesthetic preferences. For example, technical requirements are also important factors in lens selection. Different camera systems and lens interfaces have different compatibility and technical requirements. When choosing lenses, it's necessary to ensure that the selected lens is compatible with the camera system being used and meets the required technical specifications, such as autofocus, optical stabilization, and electronic communication.

 

In summary, selecting the right lens requires considering the needs of the director and cinematographer, project type, location and landscape factors, lighting requirements, budget constraints, and technical specifications. In practice, cinematographers can experiment with different lenses and understand their characteristics and effects to determine which lens best suits their creative needs.