Episode 7 - Lens Choice (8 replies and 5 comments)
In this episode, we talk about lens choice. What are your considerations when choosing lenses for a project. The aesthetics that different lenses bring. Why you would choose one lens over another. Primes vs. Zooms.
We also talk about how we test lenses and what we look for. Why we chose certain lenses for specific projects.
Lenses are a very important part of telling your story visually. It’s a great exercise to watch a movie and consider which lenses the cinematographer chose and how they helped tell the story visually.
Please post comments and questions to this episode below.
(Reposting my comment here)
Loved this episode! The bit about focal lengths reminded me of this excerpt from the 2006 Cinematographer’s Style documentary. I thought it provides a great visual example for what Roger was saying about using wide vs long lenses.
Starting from 1:30 mark
Absolutely loved this episode!
Roger and James, great podcast episode! Thank you for making these!
I was wondering if you would clarify something for me. When you talk about using a 27mm on certain films, are you using this with crop sensor cameras i.e. making a 27mm the focal length equivalent of roughly a 40mm? Or is this a true 27mm field of view?
Because of the super 35mm crop on so many cameras, I'm always curious if the focal lengths described in various blog posts and videos are equivalent focal lengths or if there's an additional calculation that needs to be made.
No additional info. A 27mm might be different on an Large Format camera or when shooting anamorphic but I am referring to shooting a standard 35mm frame.
Thanks Roger! Much appreciated!
I'm really enjoying the podcast! I'm a writer/director who is in the process of trying to get my independent film off the ground, but I'm trying to teach myself as much about cinematography as I can so that I can communicate better with my DP. I listened to the episode about lens choices, and I was wondering if you could explain something for me regarding the wide and the long lens. I understand there are different focal lengths, but would you explain what psychological effect a wide lens creates for an audience, and what effect a long lens creates?
It is only my opinion but I see lens length simply representing the audience's relationship with a subject. Just in the same way that we talk to one another at a 'comfortable' distance, for the most part, I want the audience to feel the same relationship with a subject. When a camera is 'uncomfortably' close to a face on a wide lens the shot becomes threatening as if someone is messing with my space. This is why the technique works so well in a film like 'Touch of Evil'. When a shot is taken on a longer lens it becomes more observational as that is how we humans 'observe' things. For instance, I'm seeing someone walk by outside the window (without a mask) and I am focusing in on them as if on a 'long lens'. If I were outside and close to them, the shot would be making an entirely different statement. So, when a director shoots a close shot of a character on a wide lens and then cuts to the person they are talking to using a long lens, but keeping the same head size, it makes no sense spatially for the viewer. Of course, there may be a specific reason to do this lens change. Maybe the next cut is to another character and they are observing the conversation from a distance but that is the choice you make.
So basically you are saying the framing should be how a third party/audience would see the subject in that particular state of being on a given shot or scene. Then the shot can be stylised depending on the theme.
Thank you Roger and gricholopez! Those insights really help a lot. I'm going to take another look at "Touch of Evil", one of my favorite Welles films.
I am saying that where you put the camera, what lens you use and how you frame a shot all send a message to the viewer. A cinematographer should consider what message he/she is sending.
Great episode! When you talked about systematically changing focal lengths throughout a film for a specific effect it brought to mind some passages from Sidney Lumets ‘Making movies’ where he talks about his ideas for doing just that. I guess the most famous example is 12 angry men where they shoot with increasingly long focal lengths to communicate that the characters are increasingly at odds with each other. I believe he had some similar strategies for ‘Serpico’ too.
Master roger why do we shoot wide lenses if the movie is one character perspective? Suppose if the movie is only two character(Hell in the Pacific) perspective what focal length do you prefer!
Could you consider my question master