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The Nouveau French Wave of Cinematography for Television

COW Library : Cinematography : Claudia Kienzle : The Nouveau French Wave of Cinematography for Television
CreativeCOW presents The Nouveau French Wave of Cinematography for Television -- Cinematography Feature


Hamilton, New Jersey
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The new Fujinon PL 19-90 Cabrio (ZK4.7x19) PL mount zoom lens
The new Fujinon PL 19-90 Cabrio (ZK4.7x19) PL mount zoom lens


HOLLYWOOD
In the early 1960's, a group of French filmmakers rocked the moviemaking world with their use of an avant-garde, handheld shooting style based on lightweight 35mm film cameras. This departure from Hollywood's dependence on large, bulky Mitchell film cameras--by French filmmakers like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard--became known as French New Wave.

Today, Director of Photography Bill Sheehy is ushering in a new French Wave--perfecting a handheld digital cinema shooting style that pairs the lightweight Sony PMW-F3 Super35 HD camera with the new FUJINON PL 19-90 Cabrio (ZK4.7x19) PL mount zoom lens.

Sheehy, who has an impressive array of film credits, was DP on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for ten years. While he used a three-camera, handheld shooting style for "Curb," he had to use HD ENG camcorders and ENG zoom lenses because this new lightweight, Cabrio digital cinema lens was still on the drawing board at the time.


LIGHTWEIGHT DIGITAL CINEMA ZOOM LENS
The lens, which debuted at the 2012 NAB Show, began shipping in early September. With a 19-90mm focal range at T2.9 and weight of only 2.7kg with servos, this lens has the longest focal range available in a lightweight zoom. When Sheehy tested the lens at CineGear Expo in June, he was extremely impressed with its quality and recognized the significance of this technology for his craft.

"This lens is going to revolutionize television and feature film production by enabling a multi-camera, handheld shooting style with uncompromised cinematic quality," Sheehy said. "In a typical production scenario, 80-90% of your shooting takes place in the 19 to 90mm focal range." He was thrilled to get the first two "Cabs" hours after they were delivered to camera rental house VER (Video Equipment Rentals) in Glendale, CA.

His crew immediately affixed them to their F3's and started shooting with them that day--on location for the new BET series "Real Husbands of Hollywood"--using this dynamic handheld digital cinema-shooting mode. "Real Husbands of Hollywood" is a reality television spoof that looks at the day-to-day angst and drama of a group of men who are the husbands of very rich women in Hollywood. The series which premieres January 15 on BET, will stars Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon, JB Smoove, and Robin Thicke among other guest stars.



Joe Keppler (left) and Bill Sheehy (right) on set


EASY, BREEZY SHOOTING STYLE
"Until the advent of this lens, there hasn't been a good, lightweight, cinema-quality lens with this long range zoom capability," said Sheehy. "So it just hasn't been easy or practical to shoot digital cinema quality with a light, agile camera similar to the ENG camcorders used for newsgathering. While HD ENG camcorders and zoom lenses are available in the required focal range, you need to accept a slight compromise in terms of image quality to get the compact portability."

The PL 19-90 Cabrio covers the 31.5mm sensor size on a digital cinema style camera. This ensures that the image captured will cover large sensors for optimal, full-frame resolution. A nine-blade iris helps create the most natural-looking imagery possible. Sheehy says they can't tell the difference in image quality between the Cabrio lens and an 18-80mm Arri Alura when comparing the two side by side. Digital cinema zoom lenses, like the Arri Alura, are available in the focal range the show needed, but at about 15 pounds, they aren't suited to a handheld production style.


Steve Coleman shooting with the Cabrio 19-90 lens on Real Husbands of Hollywood
Steve Coleman shooting with the Cabrio 19-90 lens on Real Husbands of Hollywood.


Digital cinema camera systems like the RED or Arri Alexa offer the filmic image resolution Sheehy needs, but fully outfitted with a lens and accessories, they weigh close to 40 pounds. This heavy package makes them unwieldy for camera operators to shoulder and operate with agility throughout a long shoot day.

By choosing the new Sony F3, which integrates film resolution imaging within a compact, five-pound camcorder designed for shoulder operation, the camera problem was solved. And the new Sony F5 due out next year cuts the camcorder's weight to under five-pounds. But Sheehy still needed a workaround for the lack of a lightweight, long-range digital cinema-grade zoom lens.

To solve the problem, his cameramen would switch between two Angenieux Optima Rouge digital cinema lenses, each about five pounds with zoom ranges of 16-42mm and 30-80mm respectively. Between the two lenses, the cameramen could capture shots with the required depth and distance, but production would come to a halt whenever the lenses needed to be changed.



Wide shot with the Cabrio 19-90 on Real Husbands of Hollywood


PERFECT SOLUTION
This was a way of life for the first four weeks of production on "Real Husbands of Hollywood," until Sheehy got a hold of the first two Cabrio lenses that were shipped to VER in mid-September. Since "Real Husbands of Hollywood" is a three-camera shoot, the production still has the problem of shuffling between the Angenieux Optima Rouge zooms on the third camera until they get a third Cabrio lens.

"Our camera operators love the 'Cabs' and the fact that they can customize the hand-grips," said Sheehy. "One comes from an ENG background and prefers the FUJINON hand-grip controller while the other from a film background prefers to use a [Preston] Microforce pistol grip and Hayden motorized zoom controller."

The FUJINON PL 19-90mm Cabrio features an exclusive detachable servo drive unit, making it suitable for use as a standard PL lens or as an ENG-style lens. It also accepts industry standard wireless and wired controllers, cine motors, and matte boxes. It supports lens data output, such as LDS and /i metadata, which records zoom, iris, and focus position information to accurately repeat lens movements. Also, in low light shooting situations, the barrel markings glow in the dark.

"At a production meeting to discuss shooting the second season, it was unanimous," said Sheehy. "Everyone agreed we absolutely have to have a third Cabrio because it saves so much time lost to changing lenses." By the time they begin shooting the second season of "Real Husbands of Hollywood" in March 2013, Sheehy expects to have that third Cabrio lens.

"I believe we were the very first television show to use the 19-90 Cabrio lens," said Sheehy. "The image quality, zoom range and portability of this lens make it conducive to this new handheld, filmic production style that's dramatically transforming television and feature films. It fills the gap between film and news-style shooting and enables a more spontaneous, dynamic production. As DPs discover this lens, they're going to put it on their cameras and never take them off."






Caludia Kienzle
Hamilton, New Jersey USA


Claudia Kienzle is a freelance writer specializing in media technology and based in Hamilton, N.J.









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