How I did “COSA RESTA” pt1
Hi all, it’s been a while since I last wrote something. Fact is I’ve been dead busy with lots of projects lately and I did not have a proper chance to sit down and write on this blog.
Well, here I am at last! This post would have been too long to make it into one so I rather have it split in 2 sections, in the first one I will explain how I shot it and in the second part I will explain post production into details.
First you might enjoy having a look at the final version of the video
You might as well wonder why this version bears the “Director’s cut” label. In fact there was a first version of the video I edited strictly edited following the client’s directions but in the end he liked my version better.
All right, now let’s talk technical here. I shot this music video using both an anamorphic adapter and spherical lenses. I would have gone all the way anamorphic but in some instances we were in a real rush and we were mostly shooting exteriors so spherical is a lot faster. It would have been perfectly doable if I had the chance to grab some Hawks or Primos but I guess this was way out of the budget.. so the sought after anamorphic look it had to be all on an adapter: KOWA 16D.
These days the prices of 20+ years old anamorphic adapters has gone through the roof. Anamorphic renders very cinematic footage and lots of Directors shoot only in this format, such as Steven Spielberg, George Luca and Christopher Nolan to name but a few. It’s not just about the way the out-of-focus areas do look, it’s the whole thing about your footage.
Out of focus areas will be oval and that is beautiful to boot with, but you get a wider image on the horizontal plane for a given focal length. How wide depends on the used adapter and on the prime you couple it with. Most adapters are 2x, so for instance a 50mm lens will have a FOV roughly equal to a 25mm one but DOF will be the one of a 50mm. And if you’re on a cropped sensor that is a bonus because as you know, going wide with a short Depth Of Field is either difficult (the wider the more you’re pushing a lens to its technical limits, like distortion) or expensive (wide angle lenses tend to be more expensive, faster ones in particular).
This is what the KOWA 16D looks like btw.
To stick it on a lens you need a clamp, I ordered mine from the nice chaps at VID-ATLANTIC,you can find them at www.vid-atlantic.com. It worked well and it has to be that way. One thing you must know about anamorphic adapter is that if they are not properly set, vertically aligned, they will indeed screw your final footage. There is a way to fix it in post but it’s not highly desirable, more on this in pt2. Thing is: it’s not easy o make sure you have them in place correctly.. you need a vertical line in the scene and if it’s not there, have something at hand like a pen or a ruler and stick it on the front of the lens. Oh well, this is the reason why you want a clamp and not a strep ring (step-up or step-down), because even if you manged to find the right one(s) it won’t manage to keep your adapter nice and steady. One millimeter out of position and you’re done, skewed footage.
It does indeed not help if you (like me) have a LCD field monitor that does not de-squeeze footage to its proper ratio, you cannot properly double check vertical alignment and more over you struggle to evaluate the way you’re composing the scene. A Smalll HD or a TV logic monitor would be better suited for this purpose.. actually some EVF might do as well.
Now, the KOWA 16D. How does this $150 (yes that cheap, but prices are going up) lens perform when compared to the more known KOWA 16H or 8Z. I would say: equally well. In fact it’s a fine lens, sharp, compact, light and it’s got that “vintage” anamorphic feeling. It’s hard to describe but it reminds me of some old western films.. however you wanna put it, it’s very filmic. After a few trial an error tests I found out it worked very well with an Asahi Takumar 55mm 1.8, the only drawback being the reluctance to flare. I tried some other lenses with no SMC coating but again I was not able to produce a typical anamorphic flare. It must have been the coating on the attachment.
One thing I did not like about the KOWA was how it renders out super wide shots, they end looking a bit fake, like in a video-game intro… if you know what I mean.
The other thing to bear in mind is that on a cropped sensor like the GH2 has the KOWA could go as wide as 50mm but coupled with a 35mm Rokkor MD lens it vignetted badly. Probably this is due to the small 43mm back thread and the lens physical size, soon I will put my grubby hands on a KOWA 16H and as a matter of fact I know that I will be able to stick a 35mm lens (a Canon FD would just do) on the back of it and I will super-wide. However I loved to bits the image out this little KOWA.
Another thing with any anamorphic attachment is the double focusing. On a Primo or Hawk this is not happening, they are all one lens, but apart from the well known attachments like the Iscoramas 36-42-54, all the rest of us will have to go through this super pain in the ass.. and again you have to be VERY careful not to screw focusing because sharpening might do little in post. You want to get that right and you need to take your time. The adapter can focus quite close, I would say about 1mt, you would need to stick some diopter in your matte if you want to reduce the MFD. It can be done while you’re indoors but in exteriors you are most likely using some NDs in your matte slots to keep the optimal shutter speed and .. sorry mate, no room left, hasta la vista. Or buy some circular diopters, if I recall well enough Cokin makes them in some sort of +1/+3 fashion.
Compared to the pre-production stage, we decided to shoot alternative locations. Mainly for a logistic reasons, due to the high chance of getting extremely wet on the shooting day. In the end, it did not matter because we got wet as well -it rained cats and dogs! So my personal recommendation is: stick to the plan.. besides being soaked I had to make decisions on the spot which I hate to death when filming.
It comes without saying I had to go spherical, there was little time and the shooting had zero chance to be re-shot as the talent came a long way and there was no coming back. It had to be done there and then, not ideal I know.. but sometimes things are like that and you have to be prepared for it. As you can see from the BTS photo grab we used only natural available light, but I really could have done with some extra help during the close ups, perhaps a Lite Panel would have helped as the weather was dull and contrasts get pretty muted.. and if you do not tweak your in camera setting no matter what you will grab a lot of noise in the footage.
Things got better during the other shots, exteriors again but weather was much nicer. The shot with the dancers in it was taken in the late afternoon, personally I would have liked it to be at dawn but hey, not everyone likes to get up early in the morning unless they are getting paid very well. I also managed to do some night shots, which on a GH2 is not ideal (again!) mainly because of its small sensor (when compared to the massive VistaVision sized the 5DmkII has and to its tendency to over do the red and yellow channel). I wish I had some f0.95 glass like the Voightlander Nokton but F2 was the fastest I go on the LOMOS . Surprisingly enough it wasn’t too bad after all, as you can see from the below pic.
As far as the interiors scenes are concerned, it was a lot easier to deal with any issue that we had to face. There was time, electricity, lighting, tons of gear and .. coffee! Just joking, just to say that it’s a lot easier to deal with indoors as its a controlled environment and if you know what you are shooting because you did a proper pre-production, a storyboard and perhaps a rehearsal on the top of it there is little that can go wrong. So it went smooth. Room was a little tight for a 25mm horizontal FOV from the anamorphic but playing a little with lighting we’ve managed to mask it as you can see from the shot below
On the contrary there was no chance what so ever I could go anamorphic during the shooting in the house of the two protagonists, the room was too narrow so I could not go sufficiently far from the subject and make a nice composition. LOMO spherical again and this time round it was the turn of my OKC 5-18-1 T3.2 for the wides and the OKC 6-75-1 T2.3 for the close ups. I love to bits the way this Russian gems are, not overly sharp, so a little forgiving on actor’s faces but not too soft like some proper “soft” portrait lenses.. well, not to the point you can forget about make up, but still they manage to grab a really nice image as you can see from the frame grab below and there is no CC! Nice & creamy.
Although I mostly prefer the 5DmkII on portrait shots, because of the full frame aesthetics and of its dynamic range, skin tone rendition, I must say I am quite delighted about this portrait. Lighting was mainly provided by 2 800W Ianiro the classic old-but-good red ones.
I guess the great thing about LOMOS is this: they tend to be neutral in color, just in the middle of the pack.. not too warm like the Cooke Panchros SII or SIII and not too clinical like the Zeiss or the Schneider. So in post you have plenty of room to go one way or another and I believe this is a luxury I like to live in.