First use of Cooke Anamorphic/I SF lenses on Mark Felt

Cooke Optics has revealed the first use of its Anamorphic/i SF lenses. The lenses are the same as standard Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses but feature a special coating that accentuates flares, bokeh and other Anamorphic aberrations. Adam Kimmel ASC used the brand new Anamorphic/i SF lenses to shoot Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House, a new motion picture portraying the story of Mark Felt, better known as Deep Throat, the whistle-blower FBI agent who worked with journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to uncover the Watergate scandal.

This was Kimmel’s first digital feature and he opted to shoot with ARRI Alexa XTs in ARRIRAW. He and director Peter Landesman discussed a wide screen aspect ratio, but came to feel a true 2:40 frame wasn’t right for this project. Kimmel proposed shooting with Anamorphics but finishing in a 2:1 aspect ratio, a format he felt landed in the right space for this project.

“I shot Anamorphic but cut the sides, using a smaller part of the sensor,” said Kimmel. “I wasn’t concerned with the smaller image size as I wanted a look that reflected the ‘70s period and stayed away from the more pristine and clean side of the digital world.”

As a longtime fan of Cooke lenses, Kimmel looked to the technology of the Cooke Anamorphic/i primes which had everything he wanted for this story. “There’s a theme of paranoia and isolation that I felt the compression and shallow depth-of-field of Anamorphic lenses would serve well, but I was concerned about the newer lenses being a bit too perfect and modern,” he commented.

Specialist rental house CamTec Motion Picture Cameras of Burbank had been asking Cooke to produce a special lens coating for standard Anamorphic/i lenses to add more flare, so Kimmel asked CamTec to run some preliminary tests side-by-side with the standard Cooke coating and the new coating. The tests looked positive, so CamTec sent Kimmel the lenses in Atlanta, and with camera assistant Bobby Mancuso, they took a day to test and compare.

“We looked at older spherical sets as well as the [standard] Cooke Anamorphic/i range, but these modified coating lenses just landed right in between,” said Kimmel. “They looked great in a variety of tests that represented the kind of light I wanted to use and really completed the period look we were after. Peter absolutely loved the images from the new coated lenses saying, ‘That looks like our movie.’ It’s hard to put into words the difference the new coated lenses bring because these are images… so it’s something that has to be seen. I was looking to find the balance between a ‘70’s period film look and something more accessible, but I didn’t want to go as far as vintage lenses — which can be inconsistent within a set. These newly-coated lenses gave me the consistency of a matched set of glass, but without being too sharp or overly contrasty, and also gave me more texture and flare that worked great with the type of softer light I was using.”

Equipped with a set of newly-coated Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses – subsequently branded and launched to the wider world as Cooke Anamorphic/i SF (Special Flair) ­– Kimmel now had the look that he wanted and the tools to help convey a feeling to the audience. The set comprised the 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm MACRO, 75mm, 100mm and 135mm, plus a 2X extender, which Kimmel used on the 100mm and 135mm a great deal.

“Without the Cooke lenses and the SF coating, this movie would not have the look that we wanted for this story,” he added.

In other news, DP Philipp Blaubach used Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses in combination with ARRI Alexa cameras to capture the modern architecture and dazzling night-time skyline of Shanghai, for the up-and-coming Chinese thriller S.M.A.R.T. Chase.

Issue 102 – November 2020

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