Cinematographer Felix Wiedemann has shot the upcoming actionCooke Stratton Felix-Wiedemann
thriller Stratton on ARRI ALEXA XT Plus and ALEXA Mini with
Anamorphic/i lenses from Cooke Optics.

Cooke Anamorphic/i Lenses Bring a Soulful Look to Thriller ‘Stratton’

CinematographerFelix Wiedemannhas shot the upcoming action thriller'Stratton'on ARRI ALEXA XT Plus and ALEXA Mini withAnamorphic/ilenses fromCooke Optics. “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,” Felix said. “I tested the Cooke Anamorphic/i’s and immediately liked what I saw. They give a sharp image that holds contrast and colour separation. But beyond the sharpness and technical performance, the lenses have soul. You get a warm feeling from them.”

Cooke Stratton Felix-Wiedemann

Felix and the director Simon West wanted to create a naturalistic, atmospheric look to bring the audience closer to the lead character, an SBS commando. “If it looks real, the actions and the stunts feel more dangerous,” said Felix. “I kept the lighting very natural and was impressed with how the Cooke Anamorphic/i’s held the colour equally well in bright beach shots, dark moody scenes and underwater scenes. They brought out all the nuances within each shot.”

We used twoALEXA XT Pluscameras as A and B cameras, and anALEXA Minifor specialised shots, mainly on aDJI RONIN 3-axis gimbal rig. The RONIN can be handheld or mounted to tracking vehicles. The crew used it to achieve dynamic camera movement in single and dual operator mode - to pan, tilt and roll independently of the Ronin’s movement - or sometimes just as a stabilizing device.

Cooke Stratton cooper

"We were also hoping to use the ALEXA Mini on drone shots but because the camera was still so new, the drone companies we worked with in Italy and England preferred to use their own RED Epics. When not on the RONIN we used the Mini as an additional camera for stunts and action scenes," Felix said.  

"The ALEXA XTs were used in 4:3 mode, but at the time of the shoot, the ALEXA Mini software didn't allow for 4:3 recording yet although it already had its 4:3 sensor. [A temporary beta test of 2x anamorphic de-squeeze in-camera was included in the ALEXA Mini SUP 3.0 in November 2015.] So on the Mini camera, we shot in 16:9 mode. Depending on the situation we sometimes shot spherical 1:2.39 crop or 2x anamorphic in 16:9 mode and adjusted the rushes in post to fit with our 2K anamorphic delivery. But apart from the conversion of the 16:9 material, the workflow is the same.

Cooke anamorphic horizontal-rear

“For most of our footage, the rushes need to be desqueezed by a factor of 2 and then cropped on the sides to 1: 2.39 aspect ratio, because unsqueezing the full recorded image results in a slightly wider aspect ratio of 1: 2.66. We deliver the film in 2K with the aspect ratio of 1:2.39.

"Material shot spherically in 16:9 mode on the Mini needs to be cropped to 1:2.39 aspect ratio. Material shot on the Mini with anamorphics in 16:9 mode, however, needs to be desqueezed and then cropped to the aspect ratio of 1:2.39. Both these methods of using the 16:9 mode on the Alexa Mini result in using fewer pixels for the final image than shooting anamorphic with a 4:3 sensor, so there was a slight loss of resolution, but we found it acceptable for the shots we were using it for."

Cooke Stratton cooper2

Felix used the complete set of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses, but 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 said.

“For me the decision whether I like a lens not only depends on the technical characteristics – sharpness and the ability to maintain contrast and colour separation - but also on whether the lens renders the world into textured images that you connect with on an emotional and artistic level. It’s a gut feeling that you get when you look at the images in relation to the visuals and the atmosphere of the project you are shooting.

Cooke Anamorphic set

"In the case of the Cookes, I knew they would have the right feel for the film. I’m also looking forward to using Cooke’s new 65mm macro anamorphic lens – it hadn't been released when we shot the film, but I love close focus work and it will be perfect for that.

“Anamorphic lenses tend to have a minimum focus distance that is further than a lot of the spherical lenses. This means that to get close to the subject for details or extreme close-ups, you need to resort to dioptres - close-up lenses placed in front of the camera as a magnifying glass, to bring your minimum focus forward - or macro lenses more frequently than on a spherical shoot.”

Currently in post-production, ‘Stratton’ is due for releaseearly in 2016.