Darius Wolski ASC

Optimo Spherical
Film Exodus : Gods and Kings

Exodus : Gods and Kings

Director

Ridley Scott

Cinematographer

Dariusz Wolski ASC

Shot with

Optimo 45-120, Optimo 15-40, Optimo 28-76

Darius Wolski ASC « Exodus : Gods and Kings »

“[...] What equipment are you using? "On “Exodus” we had five rigs. We have two wide rigs and two tight rigs. That's why those little Angenieux Optimo zooms are basically indispensible. They are the best thing that could happen for us. "”

JON FAUER
What equipment are you using?

DARIUS WOLSKI
On “Exodus” we had five rigs. We have two wide rigs and two tight rigs. That’s why those little Angenieux Optimo zooms are basically indispensible. They are the best thing that could happen for us. We have 15-40 mm T2.6 Optimo zooms for the wide rigs and 28-76 mm T2.6 Optimos for the tight rigs. With that range, we don’t change lenses, which is great. We line up the shot and adjust the focal length.
On “Exodus” we actually went a little bit longer because it was just really a big landscape movie and so we also had a fifth rig that had another set of small Angenieux Optimo zoom: 45-120 T2.8. I was afraid to use longer lenses at first, but when you deal with big landscapes, they actually work pretty well.

JON FAUER
Are the lenses in PL or PV mount?

DARIUS WOLSKI
There should be one universal mount for all cameras.

JON FAUER
That would be nice. Hah!

DARIUS WOLSKI
With one electrical connector, like the Apple MacBook charger.

JON FAUER
Hmm. That may happen when there’s just one RAW format for all cameras. 

DARIUS WOLSKI
It’ll never happen.

JON FAUER
Back to lenses: on your regular movies, not 3-D, are you also using zooms more than primes? And especially on digital shows? 

DARIUS WOLSKI
Not just in the digital world. Using a zoom is just simpler. Even in the film world, I use Optimo short zooms all the time. Why not have a zoom lens that is as small, or smaller, than many primes? Some people have to have a lot of big, heavy equipment, but for me it’s not necessary. When it comes to the quality of the Optimo lenses, they are wonderful.
Of course, you can debate that certain primes made your shot or gave it a look, but, as you know, everything is so sharp these days. Film stocks are sharp, the digital images are sharp, and as long as you treat these zooms well, they’re absolutely beautiful.

JON FAUER
It’s surprising we don’t use zooms more often as “variable primes.”

DARIUS WOLSKI
There is a stigma that goes way back to the 1970s, when the earlier zoom lenses came. Some of them breathed, they were not that sharp, not that fast, and during a zoom, they could go out of focus. There were all those issues. It was a very complicated optical thing. Actually there were two stigmas—the first was technical, that the image was not good enough. The other was artistic. The idea of  zooming in and out made people think of television. But when you look at all the great movies, people used zooms. Billy Fraker and Vilmos Zsigmond used zooms in the ’70s. That’s how it was.

JON FAUER
Vilmos was talking with me about using zooms on “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971).

DARIUS WOLSKI
Of course. And then there was this weird notion that you shouldn’t use them. But you can look at it both ways. For example, you can be on the roof of the building, following a car way down below, and zoom out to establish the scene, as Billy Friedken did in the “French Connection,” and many films.
You can make a statement out of it and make the zoom noticeable. Or you can just do it gently. If we watch various movies, most of us won’t even notice whether a zoom was used or not. Using a zoom has become a classic way of telling a story.

JON FAUER
Right now you’re using zooms as variable primes? 

DARIUS WOLSKI
Yes. Basically it’s a variable prime. But you can a zoom in and adjust the frame slightly during the shot. You can sneak in or out. It holds up, even in 3-D And it totally works.

JON FAUER
Do you remember the first time you used an Angenieux zoom? 

DARIUS WOLSKI
The first time was probably as a camera assistant, in the ’80s. I remember putting them into blimps with all those little strips and gears. In those days, of course, using primes was beneficial: sharper, faster, smaller. But there were certain situations, like, when you went outside, where zooms were indispensable.

JON FAUER
What about matching the two lenses on your 3-D rigs? 

DARIUS WOLSKI
Well, that takes a little work. I don’t do that personally, but we have a great crew. We prepped at  Panavision in LA. And we are supported by Panavision here in Budapest. The reason I use Panavision is that I appreciate their vast network, with their excellent service. When it comes to making movies all over the world, I find that Panavision still has the best service system in the world. They’ll do anything for us. You go to England, you go to Budapest, you go to Australia, you go anywhere, and you’re talking to the same people.
Other rental houses can buy a bunch of cameras. But can they deliver? You can buy 10 cameras and be a rental house, but can you really service a big movie with a lot of equipment changes and additional stuff? That’s why, for me, Panavision is still the best place in the world.

JON FAUER
Do you see continued interest in 3-D? What’s the next phase?

DARIUS WOLSKI
I think 3-D’s going to fade out. I initially had to learn how to deal with it, and I love it. Ridley Scott loves it because he enjoys shooting big movies and epics. I think what we do with 3-D is pretty seamless and good. But at the same time, you can show the same film in 2-D and 3-D. I don’t know how really advantageous it is in the end.

JON FAUER
On this show, are you shooting full 6K? 

DARIUS WOLSKI
No, it’s actually 5K. And the Angenieux zooms cover that image circle.

JON FAUER
For you, what’s the difference between film and digital?

DARIUS WOLSKI
Lately we’re seeing a film reaction to the digital world. It’s like, “Oh, digital is not pure, so to be pure, we’re going to shoot film.” I’ve shot lots of film. It’s not like I’m some new  kid on the block; I’ve shot a lot of movies on film, and I love film. But everyone forgot about bad baths on Monday. And things could go wrong. Was it the camera? Was it the lab? Or was it Kodak? Was it the wrong batch? Everyone forgot about those details.
Remember green dailies? What happened? First, fire the cameraman. But then it was learned that some guy fell asleep at the lab. Everyone has forgotten about those stories.

JON FAUER
And the dreaded phone call from the lab at three in the morning. 

DARIUS WOLSKI
Yes. Racing to the lab early in the morning. Unfortunately, we are losing people with skills to run a film lab. Nobody who is 30 years old wants to be a lab technician any more; they’re all working on their computers, shooting movies on GoPros. Who’s going to be the guy in the lab at two in the morning making sure the temperature in the bath is okay?
Don’t get me get me started on the film vs digital world. I love those last purists who shoot film and they do such a heavy DI manipulation, you wonder where’s the film? Give me three printing lights like we used to do. Then let’s talk about film. It’s a sentimental notion.

 

Exodus : Gods and Kings
by Ridley Scott
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