Dan Sasaki of Panavision delivered a very interesting seminar about the anatomy of lenses. I was worried It was going to be an incredibly technical lecture that would just fly straight over my head but Dan spoke so clearly about, not only how different motion lenses work and a the maths behind them, but also about the importance of picking the right lens for the right story and how best do this.
Dan spoke about lenses being like the human eye, and said that a lens is made to program depth markers in the same way our eyes do; in regards to texture, size, occlusion e.g. perspective optical, illusion, contrast and geometrical perspective.
He discussed laws of physics such as relative motion and how perspectives can be changed e.g. a flat image can be changed and given dimension with movement.
“Different lenses tell different stories”
Modulation Transfer Function or MTF is the commonly accepted measure of lens performance. Dan spoke a lot about how the combination of new digital cameras and new lenses can create a very clinical and synthetic look, which lacks in depth and detracts from the story. He said film naturally has a lower MTF so using new cameras and lenses works really well on film but now we find that a sharper image and lower MTF lens can actually balance out an image. Which is why so many people are using vintage lenses with new cameras and sensors. Finding the perfect balance is essential for finding the correct look of a story.
Dan spoke about the customisation of Panavision lenses to fit your story perfectly, an example of why cinematographers may choose to customise their lenses is to increase vignette without increasing distortion