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Re: Sensor sizes

locked Re: Sensor sizes

Matthew Williams

On Mar 29, 2018, at 23:46, Geoff Boyle <geoff@...> wrote:

don’t like the rush to FF, it is causing all kinds of focus issues. I can see why it’s likes for some things.

I’ve been following CML closely for years... so thanks to all for the immense knowledge and experiences shared... and to Geoff for his wealth of experience and for the amazing amount of time and effort this has taken him over the years. 

I don’t know how he’s done it really while still working... and its been incredibly helpful. Thank you Geoff. (and I did vote on the Venice test!)

Currently with so many cameras / codecs / etc., and constant updates and changes, it would be impossible to know everything about every camera... and without a reliable professional forum like CML, l’d be behind the curve. 

Geoff hit upon something that I’d like to add a few thoughts to in regards to the “rush” to FF. 

I currently work on a network TV series here in the US (39 episodes so far on this one) so I know that FF focus vs. lighting vs. budget will be an issue with these bigger sensors on this type of production. I already have trouble in certain situations with shallow depth of field shooting on the S35 format. We have multiple sets (an entire interior house on stage... 2 floors) and what it takes in regards to lighting a space that big (let alone the budget) and still having enough light to keep the depth of field reasonable enough to hold 2 or 3 actors in a shot is already tough at times. 

Shooting at a 1.4 in these situations is almost impossible for us and rarely works for the scene. (And I use the amazing Cooke 5/i lenses which are amazing at T1.5 wide open). (I guess newer dual ISO cameras could help get me back to a deeper stop in a pinch, but I have used the Alexa almost exclusively for several years now and I still find it’s ascetic to my tastes and more than enough sensitivity for my normal needs).

I find usually have to be around T2.8 / 4 split to hold any reasonable focus for our various coverage set ups, (as most coverage is done at 65mm / 75mm and/or 100mm for us). Example... an actor in a 3 shot or even a tighter 2 shot let’s say, standing a foot behind the other actors will be soft at a wider apertures. Again, sometimes we don’t want 2 or 3 people in focus... but sometimes it’s mandatory for the scene and for certain directors. Also depth in a scene can be a story telling element and sometimes the mushier look in a given BG might look pretty but it doesn’t always help tell the story. Its all about choice. 

So generally that means I need a decent amount of light even with todays sensors. (That’s light to shape and control the shot, to tell the story, not just having less light and shooting wide open because you can). I appreciate shallow depth when appropriate, but its tough as I’ve stated already in S35 for normal coverage for us unless we are shooting something very stylized. (Let me also say that at times I am also needing an N3 or an N6 indoors depending on the situation with the Alexa at my base of 800 to control the depth of field).

If our show all of a sudden switched to FF camera I’d be a bit concerned... as the reality of what it takes in these situations with lighting and costs... already worries me. 

I am pushing the time / look / cost / depth continuum already. Everyday.
I understand this LF / FF issue because I have extensive experience (6 films) with the biggest full frame format still out there... 15 perf 65mm IMAX... and not just filming exterior pretty pictures, but more dramatic projects with actors and lots of lighting and interiors... the average minimum stops there are 4 / 5.6 and more at times to hold anything reasonable. Get yourself on an indoor set with one of these cameras and you’ll know discover quickly how much more light it takes.

So I didn’t want to start a tense debate here, I just wanted to share some of my experiences as food for thought, as this move to larger sensors, with bigger and more expensive lenses is exciting in one way, but needing more light in certain situations can be a rude awakening for some who might get these cameras into the wrong situations.

I believe its another tool that I would definitely use in the right situation, but I think S35 will have its uses for many types of projects and be around for a long while.

and... speaking of focus... my best tip for all S35 and FF formats.... 

is the game changing Preston Light Ranger 2. 

I can’t say enough about it. It saves us everyday. Personally I don’t really want to do another show without it, so I bought one. It still takes a skilled assistant, but it has proven itself as a life saver... quicker set ups / a graphic scale “to see” your depth of field instantly / changes on the fly / auto focus at times for certain shots with one person. So no more checking the scale, looking back at the scene, looking back at the scale... it reduces the had / eye / checking input time greatly... as its all there, overlaid right on the assistants monitor. Should be really helpful in FF!

Sorry for the length of this post... I tried to keep it short.

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Matthew Williams
Director of Photography

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