Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses bring cinematic look to Doctor Who

December 5, 2018
BBC / BBC Studios – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses have brought a new cinematic look to latest series of BBC1’s Doctor Who.

Cinematographer Denis Crossan BSC and director Jamie Childs shot the first episode that set the look and feel for the new series, which began its run on 7 October 2018.

“I had worked with Jamie before on Next Of Kin, we got on really well and I liked his ideas and approach,” said Crossan. “He asked me to shoot the new Doctor Who with him, and suggested we shoot on Anamorphic lenses to give it a more filmic look. The reboot of the series provided a great opportunity to push the visuals and style in a different direction.”

Crossan previously used the same ARRI Alexa and Cooke Anamorphic/i combination on Asher, a feature he shot in 2017. He had access to the full range of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses from 25mm to 300mm, which were supplied by Films@59, along with other camera equipment.

“In the past I have used a wide range of Anamorphic lenses, but was very happy to shoot with the Cooke Anamorphic/i’s again,” he said. “I’ve always liked Cookes, and the Anamorphic/i’s have the same intrinsic feel as the S4/i’s which are sharp, punchy, but never too harsh, and the tones blend nicely into each other. The Anamorphic/i’s definitely have those qualities, with the added effect that you can get really nice background fall-off and out-of-focus ellipses on light sources. They don’t give as much flare as other Anamorphic lenses and have a cleaner look across the entire frame, which I thought would work well with the material we were shooting – mainly location-based with a lot of night shoots and practical effects.”

Shooting Anamorphically also added drama and interest from a framing perspective.

“Usually with Anamorphics you end up using two or three lenses for the majority of the shoot, and we mainly used the 32mm, 50mm and 75mm, plus diopters for anything close,” Crossan noted. “With four to five key cast members in almost every scene, the Anamorphic/i’s meant we could place them all within the frame and let the scene play – even 2:1 you have those options, and if you want to make a point you use a big close-up.”

The first episode featured a lot of exteriors and night shoots, with some challenging locations. “I liked to throw the background way out of focus – we had great cityscapes with lights in the background, as well as practical sources and effects lighting. Shooting exteriors in October and November, the dampness in the air, especially at night, softened the image and made it slightly more atmospheric. We wanted to capture the adventure/fantasy aspect, but have it rooted in reality,” Crossan concluded.

Crossan and Childs also shot a further episode together, and the Alexa-Cooke Anamorphic/i combination was used across the whole series to maintain the same look.


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