about two months ago i was contacted by the producer for an upcoming byu-produced television pilot to dp the project. i eagerly agreed after reading the script and consulting my wife, and with only a month and a half before principle was to commence, i began my portion of pre-production. initially the director and i agreed to use the fujinon premiere 18-85 t2. the zoom would help facilitate quicker setups and the glass is of the highest quality.
unfortunately that ended up being outside the realm of what the production could afford, so we settled next on a set of zeiss ultra primes. then, through a series of misunderstandings and frustrations, i found myself holding a pelican case full of sony cinealta t2 primes. i was not pleased. i was downgraded from one of the finest cinema zoom lenses in the industry, to using a cheap ($20,000) set of 6 sony prime lenses. the following few days (3 days until principle) was filled with conversations from various utah production houses showering me with pity that i was going to have to use ‘cheap, plastic, s*** lenses ‘. i was not excited.
but they were all so, so very wrong. it turns out they had all confused the latest sony lenses with the first set sony offered with their f55 a few years ago. those lenses, were in fact, terrible. these lenses… these lenses were rather remarkable. i’m not going to say they have the cleanest optics i’ve ever seen, or that the don’t breathe… but i’m actually quite glad we got them instead of the ultra primes… here is why: first is the price. i’m still at a stage in my career where i can’t demand the best glass on every project i shoot. but here is a set of primes that are around the same price as cp.2’s or canons cinema glass, and with a set t2 aperture across the range with minimal breathing and quite sharp at 4k, they’re the best option in the group. second is the housing build quality. these are hefty lenses and felt quite nice to pull on while secured to the front of the epic. third, the optics are wonderfully clean. across the range from 20 mm to 135 mm there was no noticeable distortion, no softening around the edges at the widest (even shooting at 5k), and remarkably sharp wide open or closed down. conversely, the set of zeiss super-speeds that were briefly considered, while faster (and more expensive), offer much more distortion on the wider lenses at 4k+ resolutions.
the other piece of equipment we decided was needed during pre-production was the red dsmc motion mount. the motion mount offers a variety of shutter options, and built-in nd. This would be important as we were planning on using a movi and drone, so having a bunch of filters in a matte box (for the nd) just wouldn’t be practical. oddly, this piece of equipment also received a bit of backlash before it was even used on production. a well-known glide-cam using u-tuber remarked that he hated using his, and offered us to use his free of charge (unfortunately he uses the canon mount on his camera, so we still had to rent), and with his review in the camera crews minds, the value of the mount was in question.
after production, i’m not sure i’ll ever not use a motion mount in conjunction with the standard pl mount on a red epic. the built in nd was invaluable (we regularly used 4 stops) keeping our lmb5 matte box free for a pola (when needed) and hollywood 1/2 black magic. also, as we often were using drone (cine-chopper) and movi shots, not having to rely on stopping all the way down on the lens to keep exposure optimal was fantastic. using the global shutter for car shots and the drone kept our motion very cinematic, without having to worry about rolling shutter. there is a downside: you always have at least 1.5 stops of ND on at all times, which is why we kept the standard mount in one of our AC’s bags to switch out at a moments (night shoots) notice. with only 4 torx screws holding it on, its one of the easiest pieces to change on the epic. here is a picture of a cinealta lens connected to the motion mount: