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Color matching lenses no longer a thing in cinema ?


stephen
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Last trend in movies is to use 2 or more different set of lenses from different manufactures including stills photography lenses. Using a set of cine color matched lenses from one manufacturer is no longer a rule. Just look for example at technical specs of Joker, No Time to Die, Tenet on IMDB. Joker is the most revealing in this regard: Arri Prime 65-S, Prime DNA, Zeiss Compact Prime, Vintage 765, Leica R, Canon CN-E and Nikon Nikkor Lenses.

Is it because they need/want to do different scenes with different visuals and atmosphere. Or because technically in the past when analog film was used cinematographers didn't have the tools to easily color match different lenses or film emulsions. Now it is easy to do it in post production. What do you think ?

Using completely different lenses from different manufacturer all the time is probably not a good idea as it will create more work for the colorist. But bottom line for me is that occasionally it can be done and there is one rule less to worry about. Especially if you are the colorist and have the time, patience and skills to do it 🙂

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My guess is it's a little bit of both. The digital workflow makes it easier to match shots and create the stylized look that they want no matter the lens. I mean, I can set up two cameras in my living room, put two different lenses on them, and as long as I white balance them correctly I can get them pretty close in camera. Often times I don't even need to tweak them in post.

Films these days also often have a bunch of different "looks", where back to back scenes could have completely different visuals and colors, so using a lens that gives a warmer look in a scene where you use warm colors probably isn't that big of a deal. 

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5 hours ago, stephen said:

Last trend in movies is to use 2 or more different set of lenses from different manufactures including stills photography lenses. Using a set of cine color matched lenses from one manufacturer is no longer a rule. Just look for example at technical specs of Joker, No Time to Die, Tenet on IMDB. Joker is the most revealing in this regard: Arri Prime 65-S, Prime DNA, Zeiss Compact Prime, Vintage 765, Leica R, Canon CN-E and Nikon Nikkor Lenses.

Is it because they need/want to do different scenes with different visuals and atmosphere. Or because technically in the past when analog film was used cinematographers didn't have the tools to easily color match different lenses or film emulsions. Now it is easy to do it in post production. What do you think ?

Using completely different lenses from different manufacturer all the time is probably not a good idea as it will create more work for the colorist. But bottom line for me is that occasionally it can be done and there is one rule less to worry about. Especially if you are the colorist and have the time, patience and skills to do it 🙂

Feature films with decent budgets often have the most resources for a colourist compared to other types of productions (eg, reality tv shows, documentaries, other types of tv shows).  

As I'm sure you're aware, there are aspects of the image that can be adjusted in post and aspects that must be done in-camera.  This means that the colour and contrast differences that can be adjusted in post might be left to the colourist, whereas the lenses might be chosen for the characteristics that must be captured in-camera.

I'm in a number of social media groups about vintage lenses and these are full of cinematographers building sets and modding / servicing them for cine use (and often for rental) and these guys still care a great deal about matching.  It's common for someone building a set to take years and buy several copies of each focal length in the series and then choose the best / sharpest / best matching ones and then sell the rest.  

It's also worth mentioning that in big budget features the colour will be heavily stylised in post anyway, so matching things becomes a much smaller task in the overall amount of things to be done, whereas if you're keeping a very neutral look and operating on a tight budget then matching would be of much higher importance (or should be!).

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My guess is that every scene doesn't need to be color matched... the story, the look, the mood, the emotions... different colors invokes different moods and emotions... I think they discuss this and story board it - color and style should be discussed here, the colorist has to give his input here too and the cinematographer needs to choose wisely to match that...

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22 hours ago, mkabi said:

My guess is that every scene doesn't need to be color matched... the story, the look, the mood, the emotions... different colors invokes different moods and emotions... I think they discuss this and story board it - color and style should be discussed here, the colorist has to give his input here too and the cinematographer needs to choose wisely to match that...

Absolutely, colourists often talk about colouring scenes differently to match the emotional tone of the scene.

Increasingly colourists and post-production in general is getting brought in earlier in the process to advise and help craft the final look, so they may have some small input into lens choices from that perspective, although it's relatively easy to bump the WB or contrast levels for a scene in post.

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The only situation where it really matters is within the same scene, but even then it's 1) often easy to match lenses in post (which was not so easy with film) and 2) not uncommon for one scene to have different styles of shots cut together. ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES is one that comes to mind, but plenty of films do it to some degree.

In general, though, I have a set of primes (from the same lens line) and one or two zooms (of the same line) for any given project. And then I have speciality lenses, like a Helios or old Baltar or a tilt-shift or an ultra-wide, if I want something a bit more stylized. I think that's probably how most people do it. I doubt many people shoot films with ten random different brands and vintages of lenses - most have a set of some kind that they use for 90%+ of the shooting.

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1 hour ago, M_Williams said:

The only situation where it really matters is within the same scene…

Yeah… everyone has different requirements… 

As an example there are a ton of examples where the whole movie was shot on a 35mm lens… the one lens gangs…

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5 hours ago, mkabi said:

Yeah… everyone has different requirements… 

As an example there are a ton of examples where the whole movie was shot on a 35mm lens… the one lens gangs…

@mercer and I have had many discussions that revolved around a two-lens setup - normally something like (on FF) a 50mm for the majority of shots where everything is 'normal' in the plot, and a 24mm wide for location/establishing/emphasis shots and those wide close-ups where the shit has hit the fan for a character.

It seems a lot more flexible stylistically to have a couple of lenses so that you have some dynamic capability to change the perspective during moments of emphasis or when you want to change the mood in some way.  It's also more practical being able to do wide shots with a wide lens, otherwise you have to shoot them from far far away - something that a low budget might struggle with, so it's a practical choice too.

In todays crazy market for vintage primes it's not too much of an ask to get a 24 and 50mm from a set, even the most sought-after sets are affordable if you're not chasing the fastest primes.  For example just getting a 2.8 of each focal length should be enough for the DoF but shouldn't break the bank for most.

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2 hours ago, kye said:

normally something like (on FF) a 50mm for the majority of shots where everything is 'normal' in the plot, and a 24mm wide for location/establishing/emphasis shots

Wow. You guys have read my mind. I’ve got a 50mm (actually 45mm) and in order to keep things somewhat affordable I’m thinking of a 20-24mm fast prime, and then just juggling back and forth between the two primes, for the exact reasoning you mentioned. 

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I would think a 24mm manual focus lens would distort, especially involving Architectual shots. Seems too wide to me to use Willy Niley. 

On big time movie sets they use a set of lenses that are pretty amazingly close to each other stair stepped from like 19 to 85ish then pretty big jumps up to around 135mm. You wouldn't need that many, but 2 lenses seem pretty damn limiting.

Sure, indoor shots 2 would probably work, but for outdoor not so sure.

 

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2 hours ago, FHDcrew said:

Wow. You guys have read my mind. I’ve got a 50mm (actually 45mm) and in order to keep things somewhat affordable I’m thinking of a 20-24mm fast prime, and then just juggling back and forth between the two primes, for the exact reasoning you mentioned. 

I think once you get to the point of understanding the focal lengths and what they do emotionally and how you can work with them (composition vs distance vs distortion vs human perception of faces) then choosing focal lengths simply becomes a matter of choosing the style and content of a production and selecting accordingly.  

I think the fact we're thinking along the same lines just means that we've all gotten to a level of understanding where the answers become pretty self-evident.

2 hours ago, webrunner5 said:

I would think a 24mm manual focus lens would distort, especially involving Architectual shots. Seems too wide to me to use Willy Niley. 

On big time movie sets they use a set of lenses that are pretty amazingly close to each other stair stepped from like 19 to 85ish then pretty big jumps up to around 135mm. You wouldn't need that many, but 2 lenses seem pretty damn limiting.

Sure, indoor shots 2 would probably work, but for outdoor not so sure.

https://noamkroll.com/many-iconic-directors-have-shot-their-feature-films-with-just-a-single-prime-lens-heres-why/

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15 hours ago, kye said:

@mercer and I have had many discussions that revolved around a two-lens setup - normally something like (on FF) a 50mm for the majority of shots where everything is 'normal' in the plot, and a 24mm wide for location/establishing/emphasis shots and those wide close-ups where the shit has hit the fan for a character.

It seems a lot more flexible stylistically to have a couple of lenses so that you have some dynamic capability to change the perspective during moments of emphasis or when you want to change the mood in some way.  It's also more practical being able to do wide shots with a wide lens, otherwise you have to shoot them from far far away - something that a low budget might struggle with, so it's a practical choice too.

In todays crazy market for vintage primes it's not too much of an ask to get a 24 and 50mm from a set, even the most sought-after sets are affordable if you're not chasing the fastest primes.  For example just getting a 2.8 of each focal length should be enough for the DoF but shouldn't break the bank for most.

Ron Howard does that - I know he shoots a 50mm (on Super35 though - and he does it to get that tight, portrait type shot) and 24 to 35mm for most other shots.

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13 hours ago, mkabi said:

Ron Howard does that - I know he shoots a 50mm (on Super35 though - and he does it to get that tight, portrait type shot) and 24 to 35mm for most other shots.

Yeah, I read a number of articles that talked about films shot on only one lens and one of the favourites was the 24-28mm on S35 combo, which was a ~35-40mm equivalent.  It's wide enough to get a wide, but not so wide that it distorts too much on close-ups, so it's a good middle-ground if you're only going to use one lens.

I ended up settling on 16mm, 35mm, 85mm equivalent focal lengths for my own work, and that was before I really read a lot about lenses and understood the implications around them.  The 35mm focal length is great for environmental portraits, which is perfect for the work I do (family and travel) which is primarily about my family and friends being in and interacting with interesting places.

The 85mm focal length is a great second option as it can give the impression of being far away.  So a wide on an 85 seems very distant emotionally, a mid at 85 seems like a normal gaze at a normal distance, and a close-up at 85 indicates a combination of being relatively close physically with a very very keen interest emotionally (intense focus on that person).  It's a great compliment to the wide/mid/close emotions you get from a 35mm.

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On 7/4/2022 at 5:34 AM, kye said:

It's all about a controlled setup (let alone production values, genre, etc.) versus when not... ;- )

In one of our latest productions, we've had... 7 (!) different focal lengths:

 

Without mention, it's funny how press tends to put their emphasis on the director when the DoP has actually a determinant role on the choices of the glass to bring in order to couple (A) the director's vision and (B) the story.

The way the so-called specialized press aka film critics (it's a former and award-winning one BTW who writes these lines) are often used to spread such narrative is beyond me. That's a collective craft for Christ's sake! :- )

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13 minutes ago, Emanuel said:

It's all about a controlled setup (let alone production values, genre, etc.) versus when not... ;- )

In one of our latest productions, we've had... 7 (!) different focal lengths:

 

Without mention, it's funny how press tends to put their emphasis on the director when the DoP has actually a determinant role on the choices of the glass to bring in order to couple (A) the director's vision and (B) the story.

The way the so-called specialized press aka film critics (it's a former and award-winning one BTW who writes these lines) are often used to spread such narrative is beyond me. That's a collective craft for Christ's sake! :- )

Yes, I agree about it being a team effort.  I think the main thing is Auteur Theory (https://indiefilmhustle.com/auteur-theroy/) which is the culprit and has perpetuated, especially around directors who were popular when the theory was popular.

I can understand the rationale for it, being that the director is sort of the head of the creative side of the film (as opposed to the Producer being head of the logistical side of the film), and it could be argued that the director makes the single largest contribution creatively, but that doesn't mean that they're the only ones that contribute.

Yet another example of humanity trying to over-simplify something just because they don't like how complicated it is!

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Well... if you look at the best directors of the best films, they were very much in control of the visuals of the film. They ARE the filmmakers. It's their singular vision and the collaboration lies in the crafts that support their vision.

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49 minutes ago, mercer said:

Well... if you look at the best directors of the best films, they were very much in control of the visuals of the film. They ARE the filmmakers. It's their singular vision and the collaboration lies in the crafts that support their vision.

But not enough to handle all the technical aspects of their work. Most part of those you mention have no clue how to differentiate distinct focal lengths other than a wide-angle, normal and teleobjective lenses. Maybe you think they are members of camera forums? LOL : )

While a portion of them take credits of talent coming from someone else... And not only as far as cinematography concerns. Scriptwriting is a fine example of it. Kye is pretty accurate on his observation :- )

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