Panavision Helps Take Images Further

LOS ANGELES—Digital technology has taken the cinematography world by storm. It’s required people such as myself to evolve. (I’m a film guy.) Just like many filmmakers, I’ve found that choosing the right lens can help take away some of the artifacts and hard edge of digital imaging, and help match the softness, grit and organic qualities that we love about film. I’m still in love with the beautiful imperfections that film has given us, but working hand-in-hand with Panavision has helped me not only solve some of digital’s shortcomings, but in some respects, to take the image even further.

My relationship with Panavision is one of the most integral aspects of what I do. I’m constantly explaining to advertising agencies that the “look” is just as important as the story, if not more so. Images captivate people. Sometimes stories that are less structured can be incredibly moving if the images are right.

The other day I did a very elaborate job for an important client, explaining to them the importance of the image and how and why images move people. To me, these are really the most important considerations. I referred to a famous still photographer who could deliver emotional impact in a single frame. The exciting thing about film-making is that we get 24 frames per second to elicit a response.

I’m often inspired by classic filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick. He began as a still photographer and understood how the right lens could transform an environment, change the story, or help get the audience into the character’s head. Choosing the right color palette is also crucial to making great images. There are chords and discord in color. When you look at a painting, the combination of colors can create an emotion. It’s the same thing with lenses.

During the past 20 years, Panavision has built a couple of lenses for me. I’m not a technical person, but I can talk to the Panavision folks about my thought processes— about why certain images look the way they do—and then the company develops the tools that allow me to emulate that quality. I think that’s an amazing thing for a company to do. What they do for me is priceless, something I could never replicate.

I recently did a spot for Moët & Chandon champagne which depicted an exclusive party. I used the special lenses that Panavision developed for me and think the results are stunning. There are light effects happening in the images that would have taken weeks of post house work to try and replicate. The commercial is very modern, but the refractions and distortions of the lens really make the whole piece. I’m looking for the perfect imperfection, something that is almost accidental, and incredibly simple. It happens in the moment of photography.

Getting the image right is the best part of what I do. Putting my eye to the camera and finding the right image, that’s why I love what I do. I become part of a process that goes back more than 100 years. And Panavision is a crucial part of that process for me.

Samuel Bayer is an award-winning director/cinematographer and visual artist, known for his music videos and commercials. He may be contacted

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