“Rich images with a round look”: Cooke S7/i Full Frame Plus Prime lenses fulfill large format ambitions for Lyrebird

Remi Adefarasin, OBE BSC captures a more immersive experience for WW2 film
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Good things come to those who wait, as Remi Adefarasin, OBE BSC will testify, following his recent large format shoot with Cooke Optics S7/i Full Frame Plus Prime lens range on the period feature film Lyrebird. Imperative Entertainment’s Dan Friedkin is directing the film. Imperative is also producing alongside Ridley Scott.

Pre-production began just as the full frame resurgence was beginning - prior to the availability of the S7/i Full Frame Plus lenses and the ALEXA LF large format camera system - and Remi and Dan were keen to take advantage of the format.

Remi Adefarasin with the ALEXA 65 and Cooke Optics S7/i Full Frame Plus

Remi Adefarasin with the ALEXA 65 and Cooke Optics S7/i Full Frame Plus

Remi shot some early tests with ALEXA 65 using many different lenses. “Dan is a great collaborator and said from the start that he wanted great visuals but not mannered or false. Although we loved the large format, no lenses [available at the time] did what we hoped for,” he said. “Many of the current ranges are stills lenses adapted for movies, but they did not have any cinematic quality or consistency. Great for plate shots but not kind to faces, and they breathed badly with the slightest focus pull.”

Remi and Dan decided instead to shoot with ALEXA SXT with Cooke S4/i lenses. Then, just as this had been decided, ARRI announced the ALEXA LF.

“This camera fulfilled our large format ambition – but, like the Cooke S7/i lenses, it was not yet available and wouldn’t be until our shoot began,” recalled Remi. “It was a massive frustration knowing that the equipment we wanted was just around the corner and out of reach.”

However, thirty minutes past call on the first day in Amsterdam, a brand new ALEXA LF and a set of gleaming new Cooke S7/i lenses were delivered to the set.

“We shot open gate 1.85 and the results blew us away,” said Remi. “We were shooting mostly at 800 ISO but at times went to 1280 ISO without any loss in image quality. We could shoot wider shots that had a closer feel, and the viewer could choose what part of the frame they were interested in, giving a more immersive experience.”

The film called for a variety of lighting conditions: on location and on sets, interiors and exteriors, day and night.

“It was always the intention for the lighting to look natural yet interesting. Dan and I never wanted it to look glossy or ‘lit’,” said Remi. “We mostly shot with HMI and tungsten but also used a lot of modern LED lights – indeed, some sensitive locations would only allow us to use LEDs – and we used IR Nd’s in bright conditions. The Cooke S7/i’s performed superbly at every challenge. We had some shots where we panned through the sun and the results looked wonderful. From candle light through LED to Mole Beams and HMI and then sunlight, I was happy.”

Remi’s early frustration of having to wait for the right equipment for full frame paid off in the end. “We never wanted to shoot big close-ups for this film. Too many movies resort to close-ups when they don’t have a decent background, or to get lots of quick cover. That misses out on the experience of seeing a film. You lose body language, sense of place, relationships. Full frame gives you rich images but with a rounder look… the image rolls off smoothly into the background.

“I’m so pleased with how the Cooke S7/i’s have captured this - practically every frame exalts the virtues of these delicious lenses,” he concludes.

The S7/i Full Frame Plus lens range has been designed and built from the ground up to cover the latest full frame cinema camera sensors up to the full sensor area (46.31mm image circle) of the RED Weapon 8K, and also partner superbly with the ALEXA LF and the Sony Venice. The lenses offer superb optical and mechanical performance, control of flare, distortion, veiling glare and spherical aberrations at full aperture. The award-winning cam-type focus mechanism allows for smooth focus adjustments.

Like all modern Cooke cine lenses, the S7/i lenses come equipped with /i Technology for frame by frame digital information capture, which was employed on this feature for the few VFX shots as well as providing information to the director.

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