Optimo 12X lenses were recently used by Dutch Cinematographer Melle van Essen, NSC and his 1AC, Chiel van Dongen to shoot comedy-drama “Alles op Tafel” by Director Will Koopman, based on popular “Perfetti Sconosciuti” or “Perfect Strangers”. In the following testimonial, learn why they decided to use a long-range lens such as the Optimo Ultra 12X on a “closed-door” set.
For me as a cinematographer, shooting drama with fixed focal distances has always been a basic rule. A set of fixed focal distances force me to make choices in everything that happens within the frame. At ‘Alles op Tafel’I fell away from that belief for the first time.
‘AoT’ is a comedy-drama based on ‘Perfetti Sconosciuti’ / ‘Perfect Stranger’. A group of friendly couples have a nice dinner together where they decide to put their phones on the table and share all messages and calls.
Together with the director Will Koopman, we opted for a vivid realistic visual experience in which the reactions of the actors could be registered as much as possible. More than half of the film takes place at one table with 7 actors. A challenge to capture every moment. The ability to have freedom and to adjust the frame without having to compromise on the quality of the image on a 6K sensor of the Sony Venice is a tricky one if you want to use a zoom lens. But one zoom lens is not the other.
With the help of my regular 1AC, we quickly arrived on the Angénieux Optimo Ultra. After extensive tests on location with various other zoom lenses, the 12x Ultra clearly showed to perform best in all areas; contrast, color and sharpness.
The enormous range gives freedom and the high performance withstands FF largest opening T4.2. We were truly amazed by the 12x Ultra’s brilliant bokeh. For the outdoor scenes we used the Cooke’s S5 series because of the light sensitivity. The match with these primes went well with the 12x Ultra. I didn’t have any problems in the post process afterwards.
Our main location was a spacious apartment where the skyline in the background provided a fascinating spectacle view that was translated into beautiful high lites in a nightly setting. The challenge was to be able to maintain the deep black and a low light interieur to be able to display in all directions. As is often the case during the prep of a feature film, there is always too little time. Even though the camera and lighting team has everything in order: due to a change in planning and / or location, we are forced to make important decisions again, under pressure of a tight schedule.
I’m aware that we expect great efforts from our equipment rental. It is fantastic how Cam-A-Lot Amsterdam has assisted us with their service until the last day of shooting. I would like to have said this. 35 years ago, I shot all over the world with my Aaton film camera and Angénieux Zoom 9.5-57mm documentaries and reports, that zoom lens was my view of the world. After all these years I felt the same relationship on set with the Angénieux 12x Ultra. I need to feel confident with my equipment to function properly on set, I find myself still sensitive to that. It’s a security that is important to me.
When creating an attractive lighting plan for a production, I will always start from a realistic fact that makes it possible to achieve a natural representation. Confidence in the lenses that I use have become a guideline for realizing the atmospheres in my films. A confidence that I also have in my regular 1AC, Chiel van Dongen. Through his research, knowledge, and experience he allows me to make substantiated choices in the enormous variety of possibilities that are camera-technical and optical imaginable nowadays. I wish every DoP such a pleasant collaboration; our teamwork is an enrichment of my and his achievement for the benefit of all our productions.
Amsterdam, May 2021
Melle van Essen NSC
Pictures courtesy of Chiel van Dongen and Melle van Essen