For the first time ever, New Zealand has officially played host to a President of the American Society of Cinematographers, courtesy of a Masterclass in Auckland, facilitated by ARRI Australia.
Simon Raby NZCS President and Kees van Oostrum ASC President
A group of local cinematographers and camera rental managers gathered for a day and half to learn more from Kees van Oostrum, ASC, about the ARRI Large Format camera system, the brand new Alexa Mini LF camera and the ARRI Signature Prime lenses. Also on hand to collaborate in the session was Thorsten Meywald, Product Manager, Optical Systems, ARRI, Germany, with first-hand knowledge of the development of these lenses, designed specifically for Large Format and digital capture, and Sean Dooley, ARRI Sales Manager from Sydney.
Alexa Mini LF with Masterclass participants
After an overview from Sean, demonstrating the new features of the just-released Alexa Mini LF, Thorsten lead a presentation covering the objectives of the design process for creating the new lenses – specifically: lower contrast than traditional film lenses, a smooth natural fall-off in out of focus areas, the ability to cover the larger sensor area of the LF format, and a new stronger and larger LPL lens mount to replace the 37 year old PL mount system. All 16 lens in the Signature range were together in Auckland for the first time anywhere. Most interesting was the new 12mm (angle of view comparable to 8mm in Super35 format) which has some remarkable design features, including internal rotation of the image to allow for smaller front diameter, shorter protrusion of the back element and a stop of T1.8.
Kees van Oostrum ASC, sets up multi-camera format comparison
The session with Kees began with a practical exercise, comparing a standard Super35 format Alexa Mini, an Alexa Mini LF and several sets of traditional lenses up against the Signature Primes. Some of the objectives of the side by side testing were as follows:
1/ To demonstrate the visual appeal of shooting in Large Format, with reduced depth of field for a given angle of view, and increased resolution, and compare this with Super 35 spherical and anamorphic formats.
2/ To analyse the “clean, natural” look of the Signature primes but then detune the lenses to match the look of various vintage lenses, including Master Primes, Cookes, and Superspeeds. This detuning was specifically achieved with rear element filtering on the Signature lenses with the new magnetic filter holder and a wide variety of nets and standard eyeglass diopters especially cut to fit.
3/ To test the extended usable ISO range of the LF format. More photo-sites in a larger sensor means the noise floor is less apparent when the sensor is pushed to the limits of light capture, and it certainly appears the LF system is faster and can push to 3200 ISO if needed.
One of the highlights of the day was provided when Kees produced his 1919 Taylor-Hobson 110mm, 4x5 stills camera lens (with LPL adapter mount) which produced a surprisingly sharp, if flared out, image. The challenge was to find a rear lens filter pack to emulate that vintage 100 year old look on the brand new Signature lenses – mission achieved very successfully with a #1 Soft rear filter.
100 year-old Taylor-Hobson lens on Alexa Mini LF
The day ended with a demonstration of the Trinity hybrid camera stabiliser that combines classic mechanical stabilisation with advanced active electronic stabilisation – essentially a Steadicam-type system, mated with a gimbal rig.
The second day was a viewing and grading session at the Department of Post, where the true 4K DCI Christie Lazer Projector was used to split screen images for comparison, in the optimum viewing environment, and conclusions were debated and reached on the merits of each test.
Crighton Bone NZCS, Aaron Morton NZCS, Simon Temple, and Simon Raby NZCS check out the Trinity camera stabiliser rig
The NZCS intends to embark on a series of Masterclasses and workshops in our Professional Development Program, in the near future, and it was great to observe how this class ran and take lessons from the experience. It was a real pleasure to have Kees van Oostrum ASC, and the team from ARRI in town and thanks must go to Brett Smith, ARRI Australia’s General Manager, for having the vision to bring the ASC President to Australia and NZ to share his insights into the craft of advanced image capture.
~ Donny Duncan NZCS