New Robert Altman Pic Lensed With Fujinon HD Glass Exclusively

January 9, 2021

by -- Fujinon Inc.

Famed director Robert Altman's new feature film, "A Prairie Home Companion" was captured exclusively with three Fujinon HAe10x10 (10-100mm T1.8) and two HAe5x6 (6mm to 30mm T1.8) HD zooms on Sony F-900 HD cameras. .

Central to the decision to employ the Fujinon HD lenses was director Altman's shooting style, said the film's HD Engineer, Ryan Sheridan. "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show creator Garrison Keillor is also captured on-stage during readings of the series. "We did lots of very long, fluid moving shots," explained Sheridan. "It was the perfect mix of live performance camera work and dramatic theatrical cinematography. Because of the Fujinon HD Cine Style lenses, our DP Ed Lachman, ASC, was able to capture everything from extreme close-ups to extreme wide shots with two lenses and sometimes with just one. Because of the low-flare characteristics of the lenses, we had a lot of shots that were looking directly into lights that didn't flare or wash out the image."

The director wanted to be able to shoot for 30 minutes straight without re-loading. Scenes in the film range up to 23-minutes in length. Some of the environments, such as on the stage and backstage make-up rooms, involved lower lighting levels.

Camera Operator Robert Reed Altman cited the lens' optical quality and functional design as stand outs during the shoot. "The director wanted the shots always moving. If we weren't panning, we were zooming. We needed great zooms. These lenses are optically better than any others for HD production. With other lenses we've used if you shoot wider than 10mm, you'll get a fish-eye effect. With our Fujinon glass, we went to 6mm, and the shots still looked great. Our camera assistants also appreciated the barrel size and numbers for the markings which were very film-style in operation."

DP Lachman also commented on the Fujinon HD lenses filmic approach. "They're built more like film lenses," he said. "There's a feeling of depth and warmth. The Fujinon lenses respond in a more filmic way. They cover more of the frame than an ENG lens. The resolution and contrast is corrected up to the edges of the frame. There was more of a feeling of shape and depth to the image than with the other HD lenses we tested."

After a side-by-side comparison with all other HD lenses available, Sheridan noticed more of a three dimensional presence to the subjects being captured with the Fujinon lenses. "The subjects seem to have more of a presence compared to their backgrounds, much like the visual feel a 35mm film lens has," explained Sheridan. "Thanks to this phenomenon, the lenses have a perceived reduction in their depth-of-field making them inherently more filmic and graceful."

Two large 20-inch Sony monitors were used to capture both A and B camera footage. Clairmont Camera also provided an Evertz fiber optic cable system that connected each camera to a centrally controlled engineering station. All signals were sent through fiber optics, instead of the traditional camera cables.

The fiber optic system was a huge improvement over the cabling set ups of past productions. "We could run a camera outside and down the street, keeping it centrally controlled the entire time," said Camera Operator Altman.

Clairmont Camera also provided three Sony SRW-1 VTRs, which records with little compression and at 10-bit 4:4:4 sampling (in the case of "Prairie Home Companion" at 4:2:2 10 bit). "The combination of the Fujinon lenses and the Sony tape deck really enhanced the color nuances we captured," said Camera Operator Altman. "For example, the differences between skin tones were very clear. Because of the VTR's compression rate compared to the camera's on-board recorder [with 7x compression], we can capture much more color information. For example, more of the color nuances that exist between red and white are shown. Because of the level of detail this provides, we get a more filmic look in our images."

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