Frank Dewaele

Drift is a short film Kelly’s Heroes shot as a test/demo project to try out some of those new possibilities in aerial filming. Drone shots have been around for a while now, but the technology is growing and so are the drones. Bigger drones mean bigger payloads which result in a wider variety of different possible set-up’s. Kelly’s Heroes wanted to fly a set-up that allows us to do something new, something different. They came up with the idea to fly anamorphic zoom lenses and try some aerial retro zooms ( travelling in, zoom out).

Drift is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Kelly’s Heroes and Angénieux

Frank Dewaele accepted to answer our questions

 

Who are Kelly’s Heroes ?

Kelly’s Heroes is a Brussels based camera-collective that specializes in documentary, corporate and advertising. Since last years legislation on flying drones came thru in Belgium we started an Aerial division. The challenge now is to test the new possibilities with high end drones in drama, action sports & multicam.

 

Why  Retro zooms ?

With retrozooms  you have the possibility to add drama to a shot. The spectator doesn’t necessarily  see the effect but feels that something is changing which creates a special atmosphere. You feel that something is about to happen.

In our short there are 2 scenes shot at  a small island on a lake where the two kids get together. In the first scene we fly around the island in a smooth traveling shot with beautiful autumn colors in the background. In the other scene, we have the exact same situation & location but this time we did a retro zoom towards the island in the other (contre-jour) direction. In the synopsis I talked about Oscar who has to make a choice, a choice that will turn his world around. The retro zoom announces that point of no return.


What did you choose for equipment on Drift ?

We fly the Aerigon Drone by Intuitive Aerial that carries a 9Kg payload. So we started to put the puzzle together to find the right set-up within this weight.

Set-up was the Arri Alexa Mini with the Angenieux Optimo Anamorphic 30-72 A2S  and  56-152 A2S  ( 5.3lbs/2.4kg and 4.8lbs/2.2kg), RT-motion Motors & Paralinx Tomahawk Transmitter.

 

Is it risky for the equipment to use drones?  

There is a big difference in flying high-end drones and consumer/prosumer drones.

Most of the consumer/prosumer drones have different ‘safety’ options programmed for when things go wrong during a flight (such as coming home etc..) and pilots flying these drones often rely on these options. Most crashes with drones happen when a pilot let’s the drone decide what to do.

That’s why most of the high end drones don’t use these options. They put the responsibility in the hands of the pilot. He is in charge of taking the right decisions. Knowing when to come home when batteries are down, never losing line of sight with the drone, making sure weather conditions are safe to fly etc.. Pilots flying these drones are trained and must succeed theoretical and practical exams before they become certified pilots.

Camera-equipment can only be insured when flying a registered drone with a certified pilot.

 

Are there different models of drones for high-end cinematography ?

There’s a wide variety of brands and models on the market but for heavy payloads there is only a few. American brand Freefly is most know with it’s Alta8, then there is the Aerigon by the Swedish company called Intuitive Aerial, UK’s Shotover U1 and the Dutch Acecore NEO.

 

What are your main criteria to choose your equipment on drones ?

The set-up depends on the job. In drama this heavy payload allows us to stay close to the set-up that the DP  uses. In combination with Alexa Mini/F55 or Red we can work with lenses around +-2kg.  For action-sports we prefer a small and compact set-up with small primes for more dynamic shots and movements. Also, there’s a multicam set-up with a Grass Valley LDX with a standard or wide broadcast lens.

 

Which camera / motorization / lens solutions did you find ? Why ?

Intuitive Aerial developed a controller for the camera-operator (called dominion) that communicates with RT Motion lens control. There’s a joystick, focus ring and zoom knob on the controller that controls the gimbal and two lens-motors. This gives the camera operator full control over the movement of the camera (gimbal), zoom, focus (or iris) and start/stop.

 

And what about our lenses , the 2 Angenieux anamorphic compact zooms Optimo 56-152 A2S / Optimo 30-72 A2S? how did they  behave ?

I believe both the anamorphic zooms as well as the spherical Optimo’s are a perfect match with the Alexa mini and the Aerigon. They’re just under the max payload (with 1 or 2 motors) and make a perfect balance on the gimbal.

To be able to mount Anamorphic Zoomlenses on a drone allowed us to take aerial filming to another level: Shoot anamorphic Retrozooms. Being able to add that optical trick gives these shots so much more value and meaning. We were absolutely blown away by the result.

The 30-72 also gave us some really nice wide scenery shots with very little distortion and a clean, sharp lovely image. Especially the scenes in the park with the warm autumn colors came out looking really nice!

Flying the 56-152 we were surprised with the stability on long focals. We were able to keep a clean stable shot up till 100mm and I think with some fine-tuning and post stabilisation it’s possible to use the whole focal length of the lens.

And last, the nice thing about having a zoom (wether it be anamorphic or spherical) up in the air is the possibility to change focal during the flight. Find the right position in the air and then being able to adjust the frame just how you want it. Or, also, being able to get your shot and do a second run on a closer or wider focal length during the same flight without landing, changing lenses and losing battery/flight time.

 

About the specific point of the use of the full aperture on the whole focal range?

Most droneshots were shot with an aperture around 8 or higher to keep a large depth of field in the wide shots when subjects are at a certain distance. Since we were on a tight schedule and really focused on getting the retro-zoom effect right, we had little or no time to test long focals with shallow depth of field but that’s something we want to work on in the future.

When shooting handheld I went looking for that shallow depth of field with close focus, fully open at 152 mm.. Love it!

 

Do you like the result ?

I absolutely love it!

 

Would have it been possible without Angenieux anamorphic compact zoom lenses to make the scenes you shot on drones ?

No

Do you plan to use Angenieux lenses again ?

 Absolutely ! I’m convinced that these lightweight zooms (both Anamorphic and Spherical) are the perfect match with the Alexa Mini when it comes down to aerial filming for Drama or Advertising.

Artur Zurawski PSC

–         What were the artistic choices imposed by Ali Abbas Zafar to shot your last feature film, Sultan? What kind of look did you particularly look for?

The main goal was to portray the main character in more natural way. The indian audience is familiar with Salman Khan specific look but this time  director wanted to portray him as a real guy walking on this earth.
So we decided to avoid typical bollywood grammar whenever it was possible. For me the average bollywood film is very bright, colors are usually very saturated  and ultra slow motion and super wide angle is the part of this language. In Sultan  basically I desaturated some colours and the contrast did much more tuned down. The  composition of the frame  was mostly not central and by doing it  our lead character was better associated with the environment.  Also camera was doing only the most necessary movements without being the another running hero.

 

–          Could you please explain us why you have decided to shot Sultan in anamorphic?

After first reading of the script I was very determined to shoot on anamorphic. I wanted a rich image filled with the maximum amount of data and covering the full sensor. Also there is something that by default gives you a more cinematic look. The audience is very experienced now and they feel that something bigger is happening when watching anamorphic images. And this film was designed as a big, epic movie.
Before each movie I am testing all the lenses I have in mind. Even if I was testing them before I am doing it again to compare them and check how they work for a new film.
So this time I was testing few different anamorphic sets: the newest and the older ones. During the screening I explained to Ali what and why  is my choice and he liked it.
There was only one concern about wide angle view. In my set the widest lens was 35mm and it was a little not enough. I started to  convince the producer about the necessity of buying a new lens and finally he agreed to buy Ultra Wide Anamorphic Zoom 19-36. After two month just few days before the shoot happily I got the brand new lens from Zeiss.
Its very important for me to get full understanding from the director about all technical issues. If he or she will know all limits we have to work within all creative process is more conscious.

 

–          Can you let us know more about your approach between prime lenses and zoom lenses?

It depends  for what you using the lens. The difference between prime and zoom sometimes is quite significant. Always I am just thinking about the look on the big screen and then I am trying to find the best glass to achieve this desired feel. So, mostly  the prime lens is just better because his focal lenght is fixed and the light power (f-stop) is big. I may work with the depth of field very precisely and control it according to the shot. All decisions about placing the camera should be very conscious because all factors like distance from the actor, background, foreground makes your image unique and special. And of course the primes are much smaller in general.
And there is something not clearly explainable with primes. When You have zoom it looks so easy to change your frame and suddenly you trying to play with it. With prime you have  to decide and be fully confident. After that I am just working with light and designing all elements in frame not having the desire to change the focal length … just a little or maybe wider or maybe not really….
. I like quick decision and not rethinking because I feel its stopping the filming process.
But there are shots or entire scenes where I have to use zoom. Sometimes because I need to keep changing focal length during the shot to achieve some required feeling of movement together with moving camera on any possible device. Or I need very long lens and mostly the long zoom is the best choice for technical (and economical reason).
Another reason is just flexibility during production and this also push me to adapt myself with the final look which gonna be just different because of zoom. When for example during some remote shoot my assistants can’t carry many prime lenses because of size and weight of the luggage – the only option is to be equipped with 2 or 3 zooms covering all needed focal lengths.

 

–          You have been one of the firsts to shot with this new anamorphic lens in India. Could you please give us your impression regarding this lens?

My first impression was that this lens is so small. Extremely tiny and very light weight. 2.2 kg only ! Additionally there is no breathing during focusing.

 

–          What are the main advantages brought by the Optimo 56-152 on the set? What are its limits? Is there any particular scene that you feel you could not have done without this zoom?

The main advantage was the size and weight. I could easily use it even with steadicam when the very quick changing of focal length was necessary.
The only limit is the light power. 2 f-stops darker than my prime lenses.
And another advantage is amazingly short the close focus distance – 0.63m. With this feature I was treating this lens also almost like macro lens.
All very close/ macro shots I done with this glass.

 

–          Which equipment have you used with the Optimo 56-152? Camera? Primes? Other zoom lenses? Adapters?

My basic gear was two bodies of Alexa XT. Additionally all aerial shots I did with Red Dragon. Some ultra high speed shots with Phantom Flex 4K.

My prime  set was  Zeiss Master Anamorphic lenses: 35, 50, 75, 100. Additionally I was filming with Optimo 24-290 with anamorphic adaptor.

For one scene exclusively I change the format for spherical and used Leica Summilux-C.

 

–          What were the most extreme condition you had to face on the set and how did the Optimo 56-152 respond to that? What particular moments will you remember most from the shooting of Sultan?

There were many quite extreme conditions while this shoot. Physically there was dust coming from mud during working on kusti-wrestling scenes . I was really worried how it effect our gear. But after every day cleaning this lens still was working without any issue and I could’t hear any voice of crushed dust between the rotating pieces.
From other hand there were risky moments when shooting in studio on high speed mode. I had to keep this lens full open. I was very afraid about the focus. My focus puller Srini Vas is very precise but when I was giving him so extreme task in action shots it was also matter of luck to have sharp images.
But really I may say that this lens is very good in full open f-stop also.  One interesting feature is that it gives you the green tint when you bumping it with Master Anamorphic. But this  is easily adjustable during the grading.

 

–          You’ve already shot few years back Jackpot then Mardaani, two Indian productions. 

All these 3 film were different in terms of story and look. And always my approach was unique and dedicated only for specific requirements. When I am starting new film I am trying to forgot about all my experiences from the past. I am treating it as my first film ever. Asking myself the basic questions again and again.

 

–          What are your links with this country? You must have learnt many things from these Indian experiences, mustn’t you? 

In India I have many friends from industry but also many not involved in film making at all as well. It gives me perspective of the local audience and brings closer to the everyday indian life.
I am also quite close to Prithvi Theatre and all those people makes my indian experience deeper and wider.

 

–          How would you qualify the Indian cinematic touch?

Always this question looks easy to answer but then I am trying to find another reply because maybe this is not so obvious for me like before.
I must’t  generalise about indian cinema because it is a just huge phenomenon and the countless number of films are being released every year.
From one side after watching the main stream pictures with big heroes one may say it is fully saturated, filled with colours, movement, sound and music stuff. Full of incredibly good and always innovative action, great and not reachable out of india dance sequences filmed on fairy tale gorgeous monster back drops.
And from another side there are great independent films having no space for screenings because all of them are occupied by block busters.
During the shoot of Sultan I was invited for special screening Ram Singh Charlie dir. Nittin Kakkar. Great intimate story about circus artists with Kumud Mishra as the lead character. Small budget. Filmed very simply. I liked this story a lot but probably because of low budget and lack of huge promotions  this movie will be not known for bigger audience. I believe that it will jump out on some festivals.

 

–          What are your next projects? Still in India or back to Poland?

I am based in Poland and I do want to make films in my native language. Now everything depends how the next projects will be progressing. I am reading some scripts from different places and from India as well and lets see which one will be the most interesting and closer to be finalised.

 

–          Will you attend Camerimage this year?

I am going to attend Camerimage this year. My Polish Society of Cinematographers is preparing some special events as usually. The festival is a very good and only and easy going place to meet colleagues from all the world and the best directors as well. Chatting personally and exchanging experience with other cinematographers is the best way to improve your craft and relations with people. Also you may meet many other guys from industry: camera and light vendors and check the newest equipment they are showing.

Stephan Duscio

“I shot Jungle using Optimo anamorphic zooms, but I used them with Cooke Anamorphic primes. On Arri Alexa XTs in ArriRaw.

I used the 30-72mm and the 56-152mm zooms. I’ve used them quite a bit before in commercials and love them. I’ve used the 15-40 and 28-76mm spherical zooms for years as well and have them on almost every shoot.

The 56-152mm in particular was used a lot, such a versatile and lightweight lens, especially considering it is anamorphic I used the zooms in a mix of handheld, crane and Steadicam situations where we needed the flexibility and speed they provided. For example, there was a big scene where our four main cast were white water rafting down some rapids in Colombia, and also performing dialogue. I was attached to their wooden raft on a rubber camera boat, and the conditions were rocky, difficult and slow to reset. So we used zooms so I could achieve multiple frame sizes and setups in one river run.

There were other times like this when I was on a Technocrane, or a GF8 Crane and didn’t want to be stuck on a prime lens that I couldn’t adjust to the actors movements. So the zooms were used again. Steadicam was also helpful to use the wide zoom so we could flexible too.

Yes they are quite ‘perfect’ looking compared to the imperfections in the Cooke Anamorphics. So I decided when we shot a scene, we would shoot them in completely primes, or completely zooms so you wouldn’t be immediately cutting between lenses and looks.

I’ve shot a few commercials on the zooms, and especially on car TVCs, they are fantastic. I use them on Russian Arms, cranes etc and they fact that they are such a ‘flat’ anamorphic look is great for cars, because you can be assured their is no distortion to the vehicles with is extremely important.”

Pawel Dyllus

During the preparation of Mirziya, what were the constraints, the requirements and the artistic choices that were imposed by your Director? What kind of look did you particularly look for?

It’s always hard to say at the beginning of a project what you are looking for. It’s much easier to say what you are not looking for!
The pre-production process of “Mirziya” was very interesting. The period of elaborating your inspirations & the vision of the film should last for a substantial amount of time, otherwise it’s impossible to make decisions in conscious way. During the pre-production process everything needs time, and this includes giving time to choosing the correct lenses as well.

Therefore after reading script & after a few talks with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, I asked the ROMP Production to organize lens tests for me. In next few days I had in front of me almost 30 lenses – anamorphic & spherical and 2 cameras to test.
During the initial discussions with Rakeysh Mehra, we agreed that “Mirziya” should be shot in 1:2,35 aspect ratio. We were sure that we wanted to create a special look for our movie. After that statement I started testing lenses for the movie.

Immediately after shooting an Armenian movie “Bari Luys”, I came to India to prepare “Mirziya”. In Armenia, with the director Anna Arevshatyan, we had also decided to shoot with an aspect ratio of 1:2,35 but we achieved this using spherical lenses. The effect with spherical lenses is passable, but something inside you is constantly screaming that there is full 4:3 sensor in your camera, which is waiting for anamorphic lenses!

 

Could you please explain us why you have decided to shot Mirziya in anamorphic?
After my previous experiences of shooting two features on spherical lenses with a 1:2,35 aspect ratio, I was very interested in finding a new cinematic quality of vividness for my photography in digital format. I’ve always found spherical lenses, especially new lenses, being too sharp for my eye. That’s why usually I prefer to use older lenses, which give a little bit of natural softness by themselves. For example, in my digital still camera, I have an old Schneider-Kreuznach bayonet lens which has only a 4 aperture leafs.
However, old spherical wide lenses can be very problematic because of their unpleasant aberration on the edges of the frame. The same problem sometimes is even worse in anamorphic lenses.
Since the first time that I used anamorphic lenses for one of my Polish film-school short films, I have fallen absolutely in love with the bokeh of anamorphic lenses. The horizontal gleam and extraordinary film look is magical!
In today’s digital world, for me the anamorphic format is a salvation for filmy look.
Mirziya, in its full glory, seemed like a great opportunity to use full frame and anamorphic lenses, to give the story distinctive filmy look.

 

In general, what are the main criteria that define your choice of lenses on a project?
As cinematographer I try to approach to every movie in a different way. Of course I have my favourite “settings”: for smaller-films, I like to open the aperture as much as I can, especially in interior scenes. I really like wide open bokeh and vividness. Of course this is nightmare for my focus puller, but he is used to this now! For high-budget films when fewer cameras are used and turnaround of the work needs be faster, I look for lenses which give me as much vividness as I can get with 4-5.6 apertures. In this case, zoom lenses are indispensable.

 

Can you let us know more about your approach between prime lenses and zoom lenses?
Long time ago I learnt one key principle: no matter which lens it is – new, old, fresh adjusted, zoom or even prime, you have test it yourself otherwise the shoot can become a nightmare. I use this principle with every lens: whichever primes and zooms that I want to work with.

Honestly, I have had many bad experiences with zooms that I have rented. I have found a lot of them to be in very bad conditions quite often. Problems with changing focus during zooming-in and out, bad parallax adjustment are some of the problems I have encountered with zoom lenses – all of which can kill your project. Therefore generally, I prefer working with prime block lenses, however the comfort of having one good zoom lens is invaluable.

To find these lenses, I reiterate that my approach to testing the lenses before a shoot, is extremely important.

 

You are the first to shot with this new anamorphic lens in India. Could you please give us your impression regarding this lens?

When I first tested the 56-152 lens, I was very surprised that it was possible for an anamorphic zoom to be so light! It was hard to believe that it weighs only 2.2 kgs – less than the other anamorphic prime block lenses. I was also amazed that an anamorphic lens with such a wide range of 56-152, could have the ability to focus at a close distance of (MOD) – 63 cm (2 ft. 1 in.)! When I used this lens in India (October 2014), I couldn’t even get a block anamorphic lens with such close Focus.

When I started to shoot “Mirziya”, I was really in love with the 56-152 because of one more reason: there was no breathing during a change of focus. With anamorphic lenses, “breathing” is generally quite a big issue. Due to the manner of construction of this 56-152 lens, this problem has been almost completely eliminated, which is great.

 

On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst and 10 is the best, could you please rate the Optimo anamorphic 56-152? Could you please develop your point of view, and tell us what would you change/add/remove on this lens to improve it? Perfection is in details!

I would mark 56-152 at 8 points.
Big advantages of that lens are: light weight, really close focus, no breathing and the most important thing for me – amazing vividness of an anamorphic lens.
Initially, I thought that the minimum aperture of that lens, which is 4T will be a problem. Of course it would be great to have at least 2.8 T, however, shooting scenes on a focal length longer than 80mm with less than 4.0T does not make sense for me when I shoot anamorphic. Instead, of more wide open than 4.0 T aperture, the Angénieux 56-152 lens provides no aberration and no distortion in the frame during any aperture value of the zoom range.

 

Have you faced any issue with this lens (even minor)? Could you please give us your point of view regarding this Angénieux anamorphic lens compared to other anamorphic lenses? Is there any specificities you particularly enjoyed?

No, it was great to work with that lens.

In the other anamorphic lenses that I have worked with, the biggest issue has been distortion and aberration.
It would seem that distortion is an issue mostly in wide lenses, like 25, 35, 50, but few days ago I tested a brand new anamorphic prime block lenses where a 100mm lens had major problem with barrel distortion. After such a good experience with the 56-152 lens, this came as a big surprise to me.

 

What are the main advantages brought by the Optimo 56-152 on the set? What are its limits? Is there any particular scene that you feel you could not have done without this zoom?
“Mirziya” has quite a lot of long Steadicam master-shots. The 52-156 brought a lot of comfort when we were shooting this film, especially in helping ease the weight of the equipment for the Steadicam operator! For my Polish crew: focus puller Radek Kokot, Steadycam operator Adam Mendry & camera operator Przemek Niczyporuk, it came as a pleasant surprise that an anamorphic zoom could be so light and easy to use.

This lens was also our number one choice, when we were taking shots that required a longer focal length than 100mm.
During the jimmy jib shots, the 52-156 lens was a crucial requirement for me. It was so convenient to just put one lens on jib and shoot the same drama with different focal lengths!

 

Which equipment have you used with the Optimo 56-152? Camera? Primes? Other zoom lens?
During the time of the shoot, I didn’t have too many options of lenses. In October 2014, there were only a few sets of anamorphic lenses available in the entire country.

The film “Mirziya”, is a story that takes place in multiple storytelling dimensions. Therefore, after my lens tests, in the first part of the story I decided to use a set of 4 Hawk V- Lite block prime lenses – 35, 55, 80 & 110. For some cases, I also selected the 24mm Anamorphic Elite lens. However, if something wider than 35mm anamorphic was needed, then most of the time I used Ultra Prime Spherical Lenses. I did this because of the huge distortion that you get in anamorphic wide lenses. Distortion is not the best thing to have if it is not required in your cinematic storytelling.
Apart from this, I wanted to be sure that if there would be a requirement of shooting in very low light conditions then I would have the option and means to be able to shoot such shots. That’s why having an Ultra Prime lens set as backup was something that I found was absolutely essential.
For some scenes I also used the Hawk Zoom 300-900mm and Otto Nemenz 300-1200 Anamorphic zoom.
To shoot the second part of the story of “Mirziya”, I have chosen a new set of Master Prime Zeiss Anamorphic lenses: 35, 50, 75 & 100mm. Angénieux 56-152 is looking amazing with that anamorphic block set. This shoot is still pending.

 

What were the most extreme condition you had to face on the set till now and how did the Optimo 56-152 respond to that? What particular moments will you remember most from the shooting of Mirziya?

We had a lot of extreme shooting conditions during the shoot. A few of them, such as shooting in Ladakh – which is a critical part of the movie, is still yet to start. Up till now we have had a lot of rigging shots: the steadycam on an ATV was our main equipment during that part. The Optimo 56-152 respond very well to our needs of quick steadicam & ATV work.