The director Filip Jan Rymsza and I knew we wanted to shoot anamorphic for our film A Girl and A Gun. We had the amazing opportunity to be the first full feature to use the Hawk Vintage ’74 anamorphic lenses. Fate took hold however, and we ended up pushing the film at the last minute. But not before I had a chance to extensively test these beautiful lenses from Vantage and get all intimate and up close with them.
So What are the Hawk Vintage 74s? They are 2x anamorphic lenses based off the V-Lite optics, with a front coating that provides lower contrast, creamy skintones and flares of the older 1970s anamorphics. Why would you want this? The “problem” stems from current digital cameras. The image sometimes feels too clean and too sharp and contrasty when used with the newest generation of lenses such as Master Primes and Ultra Primes etc.. Lenses such as the Panavision E Series, Kowa Anamorphics, Lomo Anamorphics, Zeiss Super Speeds, Super Baltars and Canon K35s have become popular again because of the way the old glass looks when matched with these newer high res cameras. It makes the imagery feel more organic and natural at the higher resolutions. The Hawk Vintage ’74s beautifully provide this vintage organic look mixed with modern mechanics and sharpness of the current Hawk lenses.
How did they do this? There was no secret laboratory that held coatings from 1974 on ice, deep in the mountains of Germany. In my conversation with Peter Martin and Wolfgang Baumler (owners of Hawk Vantage) I learned that they researched how the coatings of older 70′s lenses were made. Then after two years of research and design they discovered how these coatings could be recreated and applied to their Hawk Vintage 74′s. Let me tell you, their research and design really paid off. The lenses mechanics are as amazing and precise, and the coating and optics gives the camera an organic, beautiful look. I can say hands down, the Hawk Vintage 74′s make the red Epic look the best I’ve seen, more organic and beautiful then any lens out there, spherical or otherwise. A frequent comment when viewing the footage is “wow, I thought that was shot with an Alexa.” That has a lot to do with preconceptions about how Epic footage looks, but also is a testament to the look of the beautiful look of the Hawk Vintage ’74s.
THE HAWK VINTAGE 74′ LOOK
The current set of Hawk Vintage ’74 lenses includes 35, 45, 55, 65, 85 and 110, and later will include the 28 and 140mm (at the time of the test these were not available). I’m told by Vantage, that within a year the Hawk Vintage ’74 45-90 zoom available and then later a longer zoom. The zooms have 20 elements inside (as opposed to the 10 elements of the primes) so they are more complicated to make. Although we did shoot formal tests, that was not our full interest (nor what I’m showing here). The “look” was of primary importance to me and how the lenses worked, paired up with the Red Epic, the camera that we were shooting the film with. Yes charts and more scientific test have their place to learn the exact properties of the lenses and we learned from them. But more importantly we wanted to know how it handled highlights, skintones, color rendition, flares and how when paired with the epic it looks/handles low light. We did three seperate tests, two of which I will talk about here.
without further ado, here is a compliation of some of the test footage.
INDOORS -APARTMENT & HOTEL TEST
We wanted to see the different exposure ranges, highlights to shadow area, color rendition and otherways the lenses preform in relation to the camera. A Girl and A Gun is a modern film noir, so testing the underexposure and shadow area was important (check out my other post on the influence of older Japanese Noir). We wanted to see how far we could stretch, push the underexposed areas and highlights. Because it was rather informal we only had a couple lights to use, but they were perfect for the scene. The hot streak across the actress (the amazing Sarah Butler) is supplied by the HIVE plasma wasp Par which is a great single source 400 hmi equivalent. The bounce fill comes from a Creamsource Bender LED (provided by the great film gear company Maccam), a high CRI bi color big LED array that’s equivalent to a 575-800 Hmi. (A little more on those lights later. )
You can check out the Hi res still and red raw R3D still frames here (coming soon)
The results were quite beautiful. The lenses give the Epic a beautiful organic, but heightened feel that I haven’t seen with other lenses. At 35mm length, you have some of the normal quirks that are associated with anamorphics wide open (such as slight background bowing of the vertical elements), however the lenses still looked great and the edge to edge when the subject is in focus. As you stop down the lenses performed even more accurately and beautifully. The 45 and 55 were great wider lenses. The 65 was a great beauty/portrait lens as was the 80. The 110 was incredibly sharp and also a beautiful portrait lens. Optically they all performed as you would expect from Hawk. For anamorphics there aren’t better lenses out there that you can use the whole stop range from 2.3 to 5.6 and higher. Wide open I was amazed throughout each lens and stopped down the lenses are incredible beasts.
Hollywood DI was onboard to help us with the dailies and they projected and colored the various tests in their DI suite. They were extremely helpful in going over and interpreting the various shots and introduced us to a great dailies system called Copra, that allows you to view the shots on your ipad. Definitely a great tool once we get into the shooting schedule but also great reference for the tests we had shot.
OUTDOORS -GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY & DOWNTOWN STREETS AT NIGHT
We then took the camera down to Griffith Park observatory. Being a central location to the story of A Girl and A Gun we wanted to see how the camera and lenses performed with just the natural light and architecture of the observatory. It was night time when we started and with a meter there is no exposure reading on her face. Hollywood DI did the color on the Davinci and was still able to bring out definition on her face. It was dark when we shot this, so to get any definition at all on her face was pretty impressive from the Epic. I love how the lenses look in this situation. If we just had a little bit of fill light (in a non clandestine operation), we could have balanced out the background cityscape perfectly. Not sure if the screen grabs do this justice but when viewed projected the results were quite stunning.
You can check out the Hi res still and red raw R3D still frames here (coming soon)
A Test with Anthony Mackie
As we were checking the camera package out at Radiant Images, we got a chance to do a brief test with lead Anthony Mackie. Anthony is also a pleasure to work with, the guy is hilarious but can turn it serious in a second. We were testing the wardrobe here as well as makeup and again the Hawk Vintage 74′s handle skin tones naturally and beautifully. The lighting setup was simple, with the Hive Wasp par hitting that hot streak wall in the background, an overhead skylight providing the key with a little bit of bounce fill from one Creamsource Dopio, and another Creamsource Bender providing the back edge. Again loving the combination of the Hive Plasma lights and Creamsource LED’s. The setup was all done in Radiant Images back storage area (note the techno cranes in the background).
You can check out the Hi res still and red raw R3D still frames below…
DOWNLOAD ANTHONY’S R3D RAW STILL FRAMES HERE
I love how the Hawk Vintage 74′s render skintones here. Again very naturalistic and organic. Also you’ll notice the blown out highlights in the background are very pleasing with the epic, feeling very natural. I wanted the hot streak on the wall and the window in the background to see what happens when uncontrollable light effects the image. It’s amazing how the little Hive Wasp Par can provide such a long streak down the wall. I love being able to use smaller and more efficient lights such as the Hive and Creamsource. Because we couldn’t bring in a lighting crew it was just my assistant, the “note taking wizard” wunderkind Edward Salerno (as well as his protege Collin Oh) and I setting everything up. The Creamsource with its dimming 0-100% and the Hive with its efficiency and power allows us to be mobile, shaped and easy with our lighting.
a few pics of the creamsource and hive from another test.
THE CAMERA CHECKOUT
As we reached the camera prep and checkout stage for the feature, we setup the Hawk and Epic with a few great accessories. My incredible crew spent a few days at Radiant Images putting it all together.
The prolific Dan Kanes was onboard as our DIT, and he brought with him his prototype Paralinx Arrow Plus wireless HD transmitters to allow multicasting. This is an amazing new feature set to his wireless transmitters and allows one camera to go to up to 4 receivers. I’ve been using the Arrows for a while now and love how they are super compact and light weight and have only 2ms latency. The arrow is one of those great accessories that keep getting better and allows cinematographers to shoot and show in a lightweight capacity that wasn’t even possible two years ago. I love how technology is evolving in the camera world to smaller, cheaper, faster, better.
We had it hooked up to the new IKAN MD7 - 7″ High Brightness 3G-SDI monitor which is a fantastic, robust monitor. I use it both as a directors monitor or for my AC’s pulling focus outdoors when we are run and gun. Really love this monitor, capable of 1100 NITS of brightness it allows you to pull focus outdoors without a problem. The screen features a resolution of 1024×600 and works well with the IKAN monitor support. The great handgrips feel solid and well built, makes me want to hold the monitor closely all day. The IKAN MD7 also features Waveform, Vectorscope, RGB Parade, VU Meter, 3G-SDI x 2, HDMI and HDMI input to SDI output conversion and some great focus features.
FILTERS & MATTE BOXES
Until recently, the question of what filters to use for the Red Epic didn’t seem to have a great answer. Certain other IRNDS have a heavy green cast that isn’t entirely correctable. Abel cine recently did a great video on ND filters for digital cameras which showed each filters set and its advantages for different camera systems.
The Formatt ProStop IRND set came out as the clear winner for the Epic and I was lucky to get my hands on one of the first sets. There is a huge reduction of color cast of the blacks with these filters when battling infrared light. They call them “the world’s most neutral ND filter” and from all my tests that appears to be true. The great advantage of the Formatt ProStops are that you can switch to higher density IRNDS such as 1.8 and 2.1 without disrupting the color balance too much. This is a problem with high a density range on most other IRND filters. I use the Formatts for most situations, and then when there is high heat on the subject I switch to Hot Mirror IRNDS which tend to mitigate the problem. (High heat on blacks cause excessive IR pollution). Formatt is a company that has been making filters for a while now, and with this set they’re taking IRNDS to a higher level, greatly reducing IR Contamination without the huge shifting ofcolor cast.
I also just started using the Bright Tangerine VIV matte box. These matte boxes are incredibly well built, are completely customizable and are extremely light weight. You can switch from 2-3 stages easily, 2 stages rotate, and the matte box can switch between a clip on or to rods of any configuration. They will also soon have a swing away option for the VIV which is amazing for such a lightweight matte box. Bright Tangerine has come out with a great versatile matte box right out of the gate. Excited for future products and accessories from them.
Vantage expects to ramp up production (meaning making a few sets) very shortly for the Vintage 74′s so expect to see a couple sets stateside soon. Also keep an eye out for their T1 spherical glass, which as of now is the 65mm but will be a 3 lens set by the summer and then a 5 lens set soon after.
By Eric Koretz - twitter: @theimagehunter