Choosing a cine camera and cine lenses for a DCP film

  1. Choose a look like organic or modern
  2. Choose an aspect ratio and and lenses that cover that format.
  3. Choose a cine camera with a big sensor and a high bit rate.

Indiewire makes surveys where they ask cinematographers what kind of look they wanted and which cine cameras and lenses they chose to get that look. The Arri Alexa cine-cameras Mini, LF, and LF mini are popular in the Cannes 2022 survey, the Oscars 2022 survey. and in the Emmy 2021 survey, Some films are shot on 35 mm. Many films are made for 2K DCPs, and some are made for 4K DCPs. Cooke s4 and similar lenses with a organic look are popular.

The Netflix list of approved 4K cameras for original content is a good list of 4K cine-cameras, it also has recommended practices like using a framing chart. The list shows which bit-rate settings are allowed and which cameras are allowed for 4K capture and anamorphic 4K capture.

In 2022 the Arri Alexa 35 was released, it has a new Super 35 4/3 sensor with 4.6K resolution.
It has selectable “digital film stocks” called Arri Textures like G733 nostalgic that can burn in an organic 35 mm look. You can record directly in 4K DCI resolution like c-log4 ProRes 4K 2.39:1 Anamorpic 2x 3328×2790 desqueezed to scope DCI 2.39 (4096×1716).

A digital cine camera usually:

  • Records in a high bitrate raw format like ArriRaw. or semi-raw format like BRAW, or Prores
  • Records in a Log format like C-LOG or Blackmagic film
  • Records in 10 bit or 12 bit.
  • Records in DCI 2K or DCI 4K resolutions
  • Has an anamorphic mode with desqueeze
  • Has framing lines for 1.85 Flat and 2.39 Scope.
  • Have a large sensor like a super-35, full-frame or 65 mm sensor.

To create a cinematic look, Cine cameras are usually combined with:

  • Vintage, tuned, or anamorphic lenses
  • Shallow depth of view/ND filters
  • Warm D60 white point
  • Grain/high iso noise/texture

Choosing a Cine-camera

High bit-rate

All standard 2K and 4K DCPs have a 250 Mbit bit rate and uses 12 bit depth,

Cine-cameras recording in 10/12 bit LOG preserves:

  • Dynamic Range.
  • Shadow detail without noise and banding.
  • High detail scenery like forests and water.

When delivering a film in the high bit-rate DCP format:

  • Film grain can be added without the compression artifacts due to low bit-rate compression on streaming services.
  • You can keep high ISO noise instead of trying to use a denoiser to remove it.
  • Details in dark areas will be visible and not lost in banding artifacts due to low bit-rate compression

Flat or scope aspect ratio, 2K or 4K, spherical or anamorphic

There are 4 DCI DCP resolutions used on films in cinema:

4K Scope 2.39:1 4096 1716
4K Flat 1.85:1 3996 2160
2K Scope 2.39:1 2048 858
2K Flat 1.85:1 1998 1080

Some choose to use another aspect ratio inside one of these containers like 1.33, 1.66:1 2:1, and 2.2:1

Films in scope can be shot on spherical lenses or shot with 1.3x, 1.8x, or 2.0x anamorphic lenses. Films in 1.85 and even 1.33 can also be shot on anamorphic lenses and cropped. When using 2x anamorphic on a normal super-35 sensor some of the sensor size is lost so using high resolution sensor is important if making a 4K DCP.

Example: Choosing 4096×1716 DCI Scope 2.39 in Davinci Resolve when making a 4K DCP

Sensor size

Super-35 is the most common sensor sizes for digital cine-cameras. Many vintage cine-lenses only cover super-35 or 4 perf super-35.

Shooting on 65mm and full-frame/vista vision cameras like the Sony Venice and the Sony FX6 Full-Frame Cinema Camera are becoming more common.
Traditional cine-lenses made for super-35 can only be used in HD with the Sony FX6. But there are a lot of newer cine-lenses made for full frame.
Rehoused vintage photographic lenses are becoming popular because they cover full-frame.

Read more about making a DCP in Resolve here.

Choosing Cine Lenses

Cine prime lenses:

  • are built to handle motorized follow focus systems
  • come in matched sets
  • are often rented

Cooke S4 and Canon K35 cine-lenses are popular because of their organic look.

Cine Zooms.

Angenieux Optimo Cine Zooms are an alternative to prime lens sets. These cine-zooms are parfocal and will keep focus when zooming in and out and can be used with follow focus systems.

Vintage photographic lenses

Vintage photographic lenses from the 60, 70, and 80s are used as an alternative to professional cine lenses. When they are used wide open or near wide open they can add a vintage cinematic character. When they are rehoused they can be used the same way as normal cine lenses with motorized follow focus systems.

Zero optic rehouses Baltars, Canon FD, Canon K35, Canon Rangefinder, Leica, Nikon AI/AI-S, and Olympus OM lenses and has a good description of the different brands.

Vintage photographic lenses:

  • have an organic look, they are sharp but not clinically sharp.
  • can be rehoused, cine-modded, or used as they are.

A budget option is the cheap
Jupiter 9, Helios 44-2, and Mir-1B 37 lenses

Mir-1B 37 flares can also be added to footage with the built-in flare effect in Resolve.

Vintage lenses compared to modern lenses

  • often flare more easily
  • often have lower contrast.
  • may have breathing when racking focus
  • often lack rounded aperture blades and can lose the round bokeh effect when stopped down.
  • can have imperfections like chromatic aberration, vignetting, barrel distortion, and other characteristics that have been removed in modern lens designs.
  • These “defects” are embraced instead of regarded as something to remove.

Boutique lenses

Example: Blackwing makes large format lenses based on older designs and tuned to have a more unique look. The Blackwing7 57 mm lens is based on a Biotar construction like the Asahi TAKUMAR 55mm f/1.8

Anamorphic Lenses

Classic anamorphic lenses

Many consider the anamorphic look with oval bokeh and organic focus fall-off as very cinematic. Many big-budget films and TV shows are shot on rental lenses like the Panavision C-series which have lots of character and flaring.

Textured full-frame anamorphic lenses

The textured Arri Alfa lenses cover full-frame and are made from detuned/modified Arri Master Anamorphic lenses in collaboration with Greig Frasier when he shot The Batman.

Anamorphic lenses that are possible to buy

Atlas Orion anamorphic lenses have a vintage look and are possible to buy in 40-65-100 and 32-50-80 sets and cover super-35 and Arri-LF with an extender.

Example: Blackmagic Pocket 6K G2 with Canon FD/Olympus OM lenses

In this example, the film is a low-budget short film made for 4K scope 2.39 DCP 4096 x 1716 with spherical lenses. A mix of Canon FD and Olympus OM lenses adapted to EF mount are used for an organic look similar to the Canon K35 lenses. These cover the cropped 2.39 super-35 sensor.

The Pocket 6K G2 (1999 USD) has an EF mount and a super-35-sized sensor. One of the advantages of Mirrorless mounts like m43 and sony-e compared to an EF mount is that you can use more adapters for vintage lenses. But you can adapt many lenses to EF mount with conversions kits like the ones from simmod

The Pocket 6K G2 can record in 6K 6144 x 3456 and have framing lines for Flat/1.85 and Scope/2.39, the two standard aspect ratios in digital cinema. The film will be cropped and scaled down to 4096 x 1716 when making the 4K Scope/2.39 DCP.

You can also record in 2X anamorphic mode 3728 x 3104 (3.7K 6:5 anamorphic) with 2x anamorphic lenses

BRAW 5:1 is recommended for digital cinema material.

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