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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old November 22nd, 2007, 08:37 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Paul V Doherty View Post
LOL... it's common knowledge "cine" lenses are repackaged.... mostly Nikon glass - even if it's just the top 0.1% of factory Nikon SLR glass, it's still SLR glass.

Obviously I'm referring to digital production. I haven't heard of a white balance setting on a film camera, doh!
Gee, after 30 years of shooting film, you would think I would know a thing or two about the glass I use.

I guess I should probably throw out my rubbish Zeiss primes,
since they are just repackaged Nikon SLR lenses.
I'm glad you were here to set me straight.
You are a wealth of information on the subject!
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Old November 22nd, 2007, 09:19 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Paul V Doherty View Post
LOL... it's common knowledge "cine" lenses are repackaged.... mostly Nikon glass - even if it's just the top 0.1% of factory Nikon SLR glass, it's still SLR glass.

Obviously I'm referring to digital production. I haven't heard of a white balance setting on a film camera, doh!
Even just looking at the basic specs of cine lenses, you can tell that they're not straight SLR lenses. There aren't that many T1.3 SLR lenses for a start that you could build a set of primes from - not that many SLR lenses go to f1.4 below a focal length of 35mm.

Zeiss cine lenses go down to focal length of 16mm and a max aperture of T1.3. Their focal lengths are different: 16, 18, 21, 25, 27, 32, 35, 40, 50, 65, 75, 100mm (All T1.3).

However, there is glass from SLR lens manufacturers (not just Nikon) in various cine lenses, e.g. those made by Panavision. That doesn't mean the lenses are the same as the SLR lenses. The "repacking" also involves a lot more expensive mechanics than found in SLR lenses, which tend to be rather poor in this regard.

I've also heard of SLR elements being used in Cooke lenses, but they're part of their overall optical design, not a repackage.

The usual straight SLR lenses used on film cameras are the telephoto lenses. Also specialist SLR lenses that have been modified like the 8mm Nikon.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 04:34 AM   #18
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Nikon lenses on hollywood films for long time

Star wars effect sequences were shot on Nikon lenses too.
it was revealed in a nikon printed ad.
SLR lens are in lower QC standards, means the resolution and other performance may varies from this lens to another, but it doesn;t mean u can;t get a great lens as good as cinematic lenses.

also they are for full frame 35 (means 24mmx36mm) not cinematic, and if a lens is for cinematic they tend to be built for higher resolution ( only tend to be)
if u put a hasselblad lens on 35mm and u may find it's very bad in low in resolution, as they tend to build for 6x6 medium films.read the review and u see sledom large format lenses are beyond 100line/mm in resolution.

if u put a very expensive cinematic lens and compare to SLR lens at 1/10 of the price, they may perform the same or differently. this is really depend on the film and other factors.
T stop and F stop is rather an accurate setting vs estimated
u may calibrate a SLR lens to tell u the T stop.

i think the catch is u can afford it or not.
I m shoting DV/HDV now and personaly none getting any close to SLR lens.
but consider 2 different format is hard. as CCD/CMOS are just few mm by size and film are 18x24 or SLR camera takes 24x 36 or even bigger.

jy
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 06:32 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
Gee, after 30 years of shooting film, you would think I would know a thing or two about the glass I use.

I guess I should probably throw out my rubbish Zeiss primes,
since they are just repackaged Nikon SLR lenses.
I'm glad you were here to set me straight.
You are a wealth of information on the subject!
LOL, it seems everyone is an "expert" on this subject, perhaps I've just hit on a raw nerve :)

It's natural that people who have been forced to sacrifice large sums of money for quality cine lenses over the years for *film* production are now peeved that the problems of colour mis-matches can now easily be overcome with digital imaging technology and less precisely matched lenses.
I'm not disputing that proper cine lenses have other advantages such as longer throw on the focus ring and more rugged housings, but in terms of bang for the buck some SLR lenses such as Nikon's legendary 85mm f1.4, 50mm f1.2, 28mm f1.8 and Canon's monster 50mm f1.0 seriously challenge the optical quality cine lenses ten times the price.
In fact the discontinued Nikon 28mm f1.8 now fetches ludicrous sums on ebay, putting it right up there with cine lenses! how ironic!
In terms of resolution, all are roughly in the same ballpark.
2/3" HD digital lenses don't even have the same resolving power as traditional 35mm film SLR lenses - yet another reason to choose SLR glass for HD primes.
Sure, SLR primes are generally not colour matched - but that's what white balance is for, assuming there are no outlandish spikes in the colour cast of any given lens.

Stills photographers have been scientifically and instinctively colour-correcting their "inferior" SLR lenses in post for years - only in relatively recent times have cinematographers/videographers had access to the level of sophistication in colour correction afforded to photographers through common software, due to exponential leaps in computing power enabling profitable processing speeds for moving images.

I hope this clears a few things up - I don't deny the superior build and quality control of cine lenses, but I do maintain that carefully chosen and executed use of SLR lenses can equal the performance of overpriced cine glass, abiet at the expense of ease of focus-pulling and fewer choices in wider focal lengths. For some people a ten-fold difference in price makes the choice for SLR glass obvious.
Any technological development which democratises the cinematographic process away from corporate mass-produced eye candy is a good thing, even if it means a whole truck load of mediocre rubbish being made by over-zealous Red users - it will also mean those who cannot afford or do not want to participate in the corporate farce of Hollywood et al have a chance to realise their vision in world-class standards.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 06:53 AM   #20
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I don't think anyone said that all SLR lenses were inferior, just that motion picture lenses weren't all made from Nikon SLR lenses.

High end SLR lenses are excellent and many are quite expensive. The point to remember is that the market for SLR lenses is much larger than that for motion picture lenses, which tend to manufactured in smaller quantities, so there's no scale of production to reduce unit costs.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 07:49 AM   #21
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having been a commercial still photog for more than 20 years shooting mainly 4x5 and 8x10 format until 6 years ago with the advent of hi megapixel backs for my hasselblad, I can assure you that color correction with cc filters infront and behind the lens is critical with every box of film... and every set change.

in fact... its not unusual to put 2 pts of magenta in front of a f900 or genisis from what I here.

as for nikon glass... nikon makes lenses for many markets... from microscopes to satalites.... and so do ziess and schott. grinds, coatings, and arrangements can be special ordered to specs by anyone willing to pay the fees involved.

I often put my hassy ziess 110mm f2 on my canon 5d and it is very sharp even wide open. those nikon noct f1 and canon f.97 lenses are not very sharp unless stopped down a bit. the $300 canon 50 f1.4 is actually one of my sharpest lenses.... why? because its design is simple and has few elements thus a cleaner light path. for 8x10, my favorite lens is a 75 year old red dot dagor.... not sharp by modern standards, but produces an incredible 3d like quality.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 09:11 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by John Yamamoto View Post
Star wars effect sequences were shot on Nikon lenses too.
it was revealed in a nikon printed ad.


jy
The Star Wars effects were shot on Vistavision cameras. The SLR lenses would cover this format, while the 35mm motion picture lenses wouldn't cover the larger frame size. I expect there was a lot of testing in selecting their lenses.

However, the lenses would be well stopped down to maximise the DOF on the models, so they wouldn't be shooting wide open.

I've used Contax lenses on my 16mm Aaton and I'd put the quality in between that of the my Zeiss zoom and my High Speed Distagons. They're really good lenses and would be excellent on a 35mm camera if you could fit them. However, they wouldn't be as good as the current Master Primes.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 10:25 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Paul V Doherty View Post
LOL, it seems everyone is an "expert" on this subject.
The internet has a magical ability.

It can take someone who has never shot with motion picture lenses,
and with the simple purchase of a prosumer camera,
an add-on lens converter, and a handful of Nikon still lenses,
it can magically transform them into an expert on motion picture lens construction.

Gotta' love the internet!
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 03:06 PM   #24
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David - bingo!

If "performace" were universally measured by MTF test charts, and that were the only factor, I'd imagine that very few cine lenses would exist. Thankfully, scientific resolution is not the only feature in play. It's likely that someone who has never seen a cine lens would conclude that because a cine lens may use much of the same glass as an SLR lens, the cine lens is simply more expensive for marketing sake.

Simple experiment - take your SLR lens, and from an arms length, pull the focus to 3'. Now pull it to 3'6". Now pull it to 12'. Now to infinity. How far did your hand move between 3' and 3'6"? And from there to infinity? Do the same with a cine lens, and you'll understand why a simple "rehoused" SLR lens can be more than meets the spec sheet. Hunting for focus during a shot has become an indy "look," due to nonexistent AC's, or AC's trying to pull accurate focus on lenses that have limited throw. Now attach a follow focus motor. Now attach motors for zoom and iris for jib use.

Cine lenses among families often have matched front diameters, internal focusing, and fairly even weights. All these things make them easier to switch among while working on set - and set time is expensive time. In the low/no budget world, taking 10 minutes for a lens change to make the mattebox fit and rebalance the tripod head is probably cheaper than renting proper lenses that are all of the same size and front diameter. In a world where people are paid by 10 hour day rates, this time gets expensive quickly.

The point is - yes, SLR lenses often can have fantastic optics. And yes, in certain instances they can be the right tools for the job. However, optics aside, cine lenses have a lot of very desirable features that simply are not found on still lenses. If you ever use one, it will be instantly obvious, and you'll have a hard time switching back unless for those "focus hunting" shots (which were the look of bourne).
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Old November 24th, 2007, 10:47 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Paul V Doherty View Post
LOL, it seems everyone is an "expert" on this subject, perhaps I've just hit on a raw nerve :)
You've not hit a raw nerve, you're just missing the point. Quite a few points in fact. But you are making me laugh, which is nice:)

And just for the record, white balancing will only improve some of the mis-match in color rendition between different SLR lenses; there's a whole lot more to it than that.
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Old November 24th, 2007, 11:03 AM   #26
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Personal jabs aside ...

The valid point hid in the hyperbole is that there is nothing feature-wise about cinelenses that account for the extreme cost difference. Yes, they do have unique features and advantages as compared to still lenses, but the cost premium is because of the small audience for the products, not that these features cost that much extra to include. And, most importantly, many of these features can be hacked or worked around with cheaper workflows for nearly identical, or at least serviceable, results.

For an indie film-maker on a tight budget, you have to decide where to spend your very limited funds. What will have the most impact on what ends-up in front of your audience? Is your money better spent renting cinelenses for a small improvement in PQ, or is it better spend buying that junker car that you can crash for your spectacular car chase ending?
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Old November 24th, 2007, 12:47 PM   #27
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The valid point hid in the hyperbole is that there is nothing feature-wise about cinelenses that account for the extreme cost difference.
Unless you enjoy seeing the lens breathing during a simple rack focus,
or enjoy the lack of smooth unnoticeable iris change, or could care less about wonderful edge to edge sharpness, or could care less about having the color and contrast match between lens changes.

The thing that most people who have never used nice Cine glass seem to forget, is that Most Cine glass was designed for shooting motion,
and that SLR lenses were designed to shoot still pictures.

Sure, it makes no sense for a no budget indie basement film to rent nice cine glass. The same way it makes no sense for for a $5Mil picture to shoot with a consumer camera, a lens adapter and used Pentax lenses.
The right tool for the job!
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Old November 24th, 2007, 01:31 PM   #28
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Joseph - you did hit on one important thing - most modern cine lenses are built in very small scales, and by hand. But the economies of scale dictate that these extra features DO cost a significant amount, due to the limited numbers and the amount of time spent by hand on each lens. The materials themselves are not terribly expensive, but the time invested in research and assembly as well as the money invested in tooling are not insignificant. And David's point is absolutely spot-on. Cine lenses are intended such that EVERY frame in between can be used, not just point A and point B. It sounds like a simple task, but as in my example of pulling focus, and David's point of lens breathing - there is a LOT of engineering that has to happen to make these things work smoothly.

My personal feeling is that we have a bizarre situation in low-end production, where companies from Sony to Redrock have made everyone feel like they need to OWN everything on earth. There are certainly situations where owning a full compliment of lenses, a 35mm adapter, camera, full lighting package, full grip package, full support pacakge, and so on may be beneficial, I think its more a case of gear lust than necessity in most cases. In a learning capacity, it can certainly be nice to have lots of tools on hand to play with and familiarize. But, as Joseph pointed out so eloquently -

"For an indie film-maker on a tight budget, you have to decide where to spend your very limited funds"

Absolutely! If you're shooting more than about 10 films a year with 0 budget, this is a hobby and it's probably not worth investing thousands of dollars to own lenses. Rent or borrow for those projects. If, on the other hand some of these films have money, then it makes sense to rent real lense kits, which can be had for as little as $150/day! that's NOTHING! Let's face it - if you have a 35mm adapter and kit of lenses, you're probably never making full rate on renting your gear to production, so it is probably taking you 3-5 years to pay off your investment. Plus - what happens when something breaks on set? If its your gear, you're responsible for upkeep and backups. If its rental gear, and it's no fault of your own, you can usually swap out the defective piece in no time flat. It's usually production's job to weigh the pros and cons of renting vs. buying, but if you sit down and make an honest and complete list of every expense and profit you'll make off this gear in a 1 year period, it's sad but you'll likely find that renting makes a lot more sense.

This is not an attack on anyone who owns gear by any means, just trying to stop people from making assumptions on the quality of gear that can be expected for bottom barrel prices. Even though the upfront cost may seem so cheap relative to the "big boy toys," there are a lot of reasons. I used to own a 35mm adapter and full kit of lenses. It was a terrible investment, as the market is so flooded with them, I could not make full rental off it. It became basically my gift to production every time I used it, being that nobody would pay for it. Had I owned the adapter alone, and asked them to rent lenses, my own investment would have been 1/3 of what it was, and they would have picked up the entire lens rental in addition to a small rental on my adapter. When I sold the whole kit, after my rental fees, I basically broke even. Granted I didn't have it long, and I was never happy with the quality... but the moral of the story is sometimes, no matter how much we think a piece of equipment can be the magic bullet to our problems... we often need to just sit down and act like line producers to see if it even makes sense.
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Old November 24th, 2007, 01:42 PM   #29
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...we often need to just sit down and act like line producers to see if it even makes sense.
True, true.

The other benefit of owning a basic kit, for an indie at least, is that you're not just buying the equipment itself:

1) You're buying the time to get comfortable with the equipment, which translates to more efficient time when it matters.

2) You're buying the ability to shoot on the drop of a hat. If you can arrange the perfect location and get the actors on their mobiles, you can shoot in 15 minutes if need be. Sometimes, without a budget, this is priceless.

So, for me, all things considered, it made sense to own a basic kit of fast Canon FD primes. They were inexpensive, and give me the creative freedom that my projects require.

Would I turn-up my nose at some Zeiss glass and a true follow-focus, hell no!
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Old November 25th, 2007, 11:53 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
The Star Wars effects were shot on Vistavision cameras. The SLR lenses would cover this format, while the 35mm motion picture lenses wouldn't cover the larger frame size. I expect there was a lot of testing in selecting their lenses...
Which begs the question:

"Since cine lenses can't fill a 24mm by 36mm frame, how can they really just be repackaged 35mm SLR lenses matched for color and given a longer throw?"
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