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Changing focal length VS moving the camera (5 replies and 6 comments)

JakeWest
10 months ago
JakeWest 10 months ago

I know that there is a difference in perspective between switching to a longer lens and physically moving the camera closer, but which technique do you prefer to use in a scene?

For example going from a medium shot to a close up would you keep the same prime lens on and just move closer, or would you switch to a longer focal length? I understand the different effect this would achieve, but i like the idea of limiting myself to one lens to avoid distractions selecting focal length and changing lenses between each shot. Would a scene edit together more seamlessly if it was all shot with one lens, or would it be more distracting with the perspective constantly changing ?

simon m
10 months ago
simon m 10 months ago

Apparently "Call Me By Your Name" was shot entirely with one lens.

David M
10 months ago

I’m pretty sure Ozu shot most of his films on a 50mm lens. Personally I like the interplay of how different lenses affect the picture and the notes you can string together with them in the edit. I don’t think either approach alone will make a sequence edit together more seamlessly.

Wouter
9 months ago

That's cool, now I think of it, yeah it seemed it was all shot on a single lens.

That film is brilliantly shot. So simple but so effective.

amofilm
10 months ago
amofilm 10 months ago

choice of lens ultimately is about story telling. In this interview starting @ 2:27 Roger explains it best
https://vimeo.com/24937742»

umbrella
10 months ago
umbrella 10 months ago

This is something I would definitely like to hear Roger answer.

 

I always feel like when I switch lenses it is very distracting, even when going from something like a 28 to a 35 or 50. Not sure if there are any techniques to keep it more subtle, or perhaps I'm the only one who notices.

dmullenasc
10 months ago

h if the wide shot was done on a 21mm and then the director wants an ECU, which might look a bit distorted or unflattering on a 21mm. You have to take into account how close or far the camera physically gets when you want certain shot sizes and certain focal lengths. Yes, it helps to work within a narrower range of choices of focal length if you want to be subtle, and I like filmmakers who use only one or two focal lengths, there is a sort of visual precision to the sequences when that happens. But not every shot or situation allows for that, and some movies use the differences between focal lengths as part of the dramatic language of the movie -- for example, Sidney Lumet's "The Murder on the Orient Express", where the flashbacks at the end to the interviews that Poirot conducted with each suspect were shot with a wider-angle lens more from Poiret's POV than the original interview scene used.

Wouter
9 months ago
Wouter 9 months ago

I agree David! I like that sort of visual precision/consistency as well.

I personally shoot all of my projects on a single lens, unless there is a very specific effect I'm trying to achieve, when I deliberately want a shot to have a completely different feel from the uniformity of the single lens.

One lens seems to keep things simple.. more room to let your mind focus on things that matter much more. Also: the lens becomes second nature and you can literally see the shot in your head without having to use a director's viewfinder or camera to frame things up. It also saves time on lens changes.

In terms of the virtual spacial rendition and orientation of the viewer's experience, I feel it also helps a lot because the "perspective" (it's actually the FOV, not perspective)  stays consistent. The only thing that changes is the placement of the camera. To me it feels less distracting.

And the consistency of the DOF rendition, that's a big one as well.

JakeWest
9 months ago

I agree, everything seems more natural that way.

Roger Deakins
9 months ago
Roger Deakins 9 months ago

I tend to shoot a film within a shallow range of lenses but seldom with a single lens. I love the 'purity' of the idea of shooting with a single lens but I find it too restrictive. If I want a wide shot in a small location a 35mm will be to long. If I want a large close up of an eye a 35mm will not give me that. There are particular films and particular styles of film making that lend themselves to shooting on one lens. 'The Revenant' was all shot on very wide lenses if not one single lens. Personally, I found the distortion distracting. Maybe I will try using a 35mm or a 40mm exclusively if the right project comes up.

JakeWest
9 months ago

I think it is more the idea, and an excuse to not have to think about lens choice that is attractive. I will try limiting the range a bit more instead. I agree about The Revenant, I couldn't finish watching it due to the distortion and lack of cuts.

Wouter
9 months ago

Roger shooting a project on a single lens. Why does this idea feel so satisfying?

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