Cinematographer Felix Wiedemann chose Anamorphic/i lenses from Cooke Optics, to shoot the action thriller Stratton. The production was Wiedemann’s first collaboration with director Simon West.
“Simon has been directing action films for 20 years (his credits include Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Expendables 2), so clearly he knows what he’s doing, but he is also open to new ideas, and it was a very open and collaborative process,” says Wiedemann.
“The choice to shoot Anamorphic was partly for the aspect ratio, but also because I like the look of Anamorphic lenses and the way they render 3D space into a 2D image. I tested Cooke Anamorphic/i’s and immediately liked what I saw. They give a sharp image that holds contrast and colour where others would go milky or you’d lose a lot of the image. Beyond the sharpness they’ve got ‘soul’ – there’s something beyond the technical performance of the lens, you get a warm feeling from them.”
West and Wiedemann wanted a naturalistic, atmospheric look to bring the audience closer to the lead character, a British SBS commando.
“If it looks real, the action is more impactful and it feels more dangerous and immediate to the viewer,” Wiedemann says. “I kept the lighting very natural throughout the shoot, but with a clear sense of sources and direction inspired by what the locations offered. We had a wide range of shooting conditions, from bright sunny beaches to dark scenes inside a water pipe, which were mainly lit by torches flashing around and lights that we prepared to look like coloured glowsticks. I was really impressed with how the Cooke Anamorphic/i’s held the colour and contrast equally well in each situation. They brought out all the nuances within each shot.”
Much of the production was shot with the 50mm and 75mm focal lengths, but Wiedemann particularly liked the 25mm lens. “It’s rare to find a good wide Anamorphic lens that doesn’t distort too much at the edges. The 25mm handled it really well and we got some epic wide shots,” he says. “I’m looking forward to using Cooke’s new 65mm macro Anamorphic lens. I love close focus work and it will be perfect for that.”
In addition to the Cooke Anamorphics, Wiedemann also used a set of Kowa Anamorphics for a few selected shots; rather than match them to the Cooke lenses, he instead used the differences in look to emphasise specific moments within a scene or the story. Stratton was shot on ARRI Alexa and Alexa Mini. Currently in post-production, the film is due for release in 2016.