IFH 388: The Art of Low-Budget Cinematography with Suki Medencevic, A.S.C

Today I welcome back returning champion award-winning cinematographer Suki Medencevic A.S.C. I brought Suki back on the show to discuss Covid-19 and what Hollywood will look like after it passes, how to approach low-budget filmmaking from the cinematography side, and his game-changing cinematography course Light and Face – The Art of Cinematography from IFH Academy.

This workshop will walk you through how to light the most important and emotional subject you could put in front of your lens, the enigmatic face on a low budget. This workshop is unique in that it will literally guide you through the entire process of making your film.

Suki attended the renowned National Film School (FAMU), Prague, Czech Republic, where he earned a Master’s Degree with Honors in cinematography. Shortly thereafter, he went to the USA looking for his big break. 

Since his first feature film shoot in 1994, he has been working steadily in the film industry, making numerous features and made-for-TV films, television shows, commercials, and documentaries including American Horror Story for FX.

He was involved in several high-profile documentaries for Pixar, ILM, The Hearst Corporation, and he recently completed The History of Imagineering for Disney+.

In 2010, he became a member of the American Cinematographers Society (ASC), the world’s most prestigious cinematographers’ organization.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring this interview to you.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now guys, I want to welcome back to the show returning champion Suki Medencevic and Suki is an ASC cinematographer. He is one of the original top 10 guests I had on the show. He has episode number nine. And I've been friends with Suki over 20 years now. And I absolutely adore him and I wanted him back on the show to talk a little bit about the Coronavirus how he sees production working moving forward, what he's heard about how Hollywood is planning to reopen kwibi and how that whole world and how changing a format and how cinematographers are shooting for that platform, as well as to discuss his new course light and face the art of cinematography. Now I've taken a lot of lighting and cinematography courses over the course of my career. And I've worked with some amazing cinematographers and taken master classes and workshops with some Oscar winning cinematographers. But I got to tell you that this course lightened face is by far my favorite cinematography course I've ever ever taken. I love that so much that I begged Suki to make it part of indie film hustle Academy, and launch indie film hustle Academy with this course in place because I needed to get this information this course to the tribe. What is so wonderful about how Suki teaches this course is he takes you from the very beginning the basic how to light a human face with one open light bulb. And from there he takes you through this journey in the course that at the end of it you're lighting, Blade Runner style scenes all around the face. It is it really is a game changing course. I'm super excited to have Suki on to talk about that and everything else we're going to be discussing in the episode and at the end of the show. I'm going to show you how you can save $400 on this amazing course. But we'll get to that after the interview. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Suki. But then I'd like to welcome the show Suki Medencevic How are you my friend?

Suki Medencevic ASC 4:28
I am very good. Very good. Good to see you my friend.

Alex Ferrari 4:31
Good to see you as well. You are a returning champion, sir. You are. You are one of the first guests of the indie film hustle podcast you were episode number nine. Back in the day when I was just a fledgling, fledgling podcaster You were so kind to be on my show and I never forgot that my friend.

Suki Medencevic ASC 4:54
Wow for you my friend anytime and I'm very happy to see that how indicum hustle has grown and become The Empire

Alex Ferrari 5:03
I don't know about an empire, but it has grown a lot of there's a lot more ears now than there was when you and I first had our conversation about the art of cinematography. But I thought it was a good time to bring you back on the show, not only because you and I teamed up to bring a new course to indie film, aka indie film hustle Academy, which is lightened face the artists in photography, which we'll talk about later, but also, you know, we're recording this during quarantine. We're recording this in a very unstable, unknown known time of what's going to happen in our industry. And I definitely want to touch base on that later on in the episode as well. But let's get I want to get into But first of all, for people who don't know who you are, how did you get into the business?

Suki Medencevic ASC 5:46
Oh, wow, that's a very long story. But in short, my entrance to the business was basically as straightforward as it gets. I studied cinematography in first in film school Film Academy in Belgrade. Back in Yugoslavia, and from there, I continued my education in Prague at funnel, which is one of the world's very prestigious film schools and probably want to, I will take top schools for cinematography. So upon completing my five years of studying on cinematography, Master program of cinematography, I managed to get to the United States, first as a guest of university, so I came to UCLA is what they call a visiting scholar, spend a few years among the students, but mostly doing like seminars and workshops with students, and also learning English because when I came to United States, I really didn't speak any English. And so I felt that was very important thing. And gradually, gradually, I think, I was looking forward and trying to figure it out ways to get in the film industry. Get into university was just my kind of like, entry port of entry, but really, getting in the film business was a whole different game. And when I, when I reached the point, even though I felt I was educated and qualified to do the job, I reached the point that really, to start in a film business, the moment you get the trends, you have to really deliver 100%, this is your moment. And I had also choice in the beginning to choose either going with traditional Hollywood route from like becoming a camera assistant, and gradually make it up to be cinematographer. But in my case, I realized that would be kind of like a waste of time, because I felt that I spent enough time in a film school to get educated. So I wanted to start as a cinematographer, which is more risky, more longer route, but back then that was the way kind of like you have to wait for the opportunity because the traditional way of getting your business was still very present. Like, you know, you've always assistant and go on and on. So, so I eventually got my first film break in 1994. Yes, I did. My Yes,

Alex Ferrari 8:15
I am very familiar. I'm very familiar with that film sir.

Suki Medencevic ASC 8:18
I know and I think that's the that's the You're my biggest fan when it comes down to the movie embrace of the vampire. My first film I did with Alyssa Milano, and the Jennifer Tilly and Martin campy was low budget, vampire horror movie shot in Minnesota in I think 12 days we had, right. And that was it. That was it pretty much from there.

Alex Ferrari 8:40
And you and you launch from there.

Suki Medencevic ASC 8:42
Interesting. The interesting detail is that from the movie, from the finishing the movie embrace of the vampire from the last day, I took a taxi to the airport in in a sample and took the flight to Taiwan to Taipei to do my second feature film called in a strange city, which was as opposite as it can be from the horror film. He was like, the nice lovestory omma with very nice budget, very relaxed schedule. And that was my second feature film. But getting on that film was very unusual because year before I was in Taiwan, doing a series of lectures and seminars so I sever some connections in Taiwan, but I never thought I will be doing film there. And then year later I get invited to do the movie, which was very unusual in many many ways. We can even have a whole podcast or Bravo or meeting Skype meeting just talking about experience working in different country.

Alex Ferrari 9:53
Oh yeah.

Suki Medencevic ASC 9:54
With a with a crew with a crew that doesn't speak English and I don't speak Mandarin or or Whatever the local dialect they speak. So we still managed to make the movie Despite all these barriers, but it was a challenge I have to tell you.

Alex Ferrari 10:06
So So you've been, you know, you've been, you've been, you've gotten a lot of shrapnel over the years working in this industry. You know, you've worked, you've done a ton of movies. What is the biggest mistake that you see young filmmakers make? When they start out?

Suki Medencevic ASC 10:21
Well, things have changed now in, in the last whatever, 20 years since I've been in this business, things have changed because more and more new filmmakers and the cinematographers the accessibility and being able to get in a film business, and make the film is far, far easier than it used to be 20 years ago, now, anybody who has even iPhone or or, or, or any kind of cheap camera, can do something, and, and, and make something make whatever the narrative for me is the mistakes Well, I see some great works by very aspiring starting filmmakers and cinematographers, but I also see a lot of not so good stuff. And I think mistake would be not investing in educating yourself in the language of what you're doing. So understanding visual storytelling, I think when it comes down, just in case of cinematographers, to me is the key element. Being able to point the camera, you will for sure, get it properly exposed, you will for sure with a couple of plugins, easily manipulate the image to look kind of flashy, or maybe even interesting and capture somebody's attention. But mistake is if you think that form will overpower the content is the way that you're going to tell the story that to me is something that it's most commonly and most commonly I see it on on and I see tons of films on on Vimeo on, on all kinds of stuff. I see it on YouTube, people post in their own channels, and you know, but but very, very rarely, I would say I see clear, artistic intent behind whatever you do, even if it's a small experimental film. I mean, I do see, of course, some great short films and some experimental, new things that but to me, a majority of the content that I see on now in the social media, obviously, is something that is more designed to just grab your attention, just to grab somebody, even for a couple seconds, get the click. So you can make extra, whatever money you want to make by somebody visiting or liking your content. And, and that's the goal. I think it's not the goal to be really storyteller. And it's more like, show how many likes you have and show how many followers you have. And and so I think in general in approach and philosophy, why are you doing what you're doing? I think it's the it's the main main mistake that I see among filmmakers and cinematographers.

Alex Ferrari 13:10
Now, you I mean, when you first started out, you started out doing low budget work? And is there any tips that you can have about how you would approach lighting on a lower budget because I know that the gear is a lot cheaper than it was when you were starting out. Now you can get lighting gear, very affordably good lighting gear very affordably. But how do you approach creatively lighting a low budget project,

Suki Medencevic ASC 13:34
You know, I approach every project differently, completely differently. And again, it all starts from the script, it all starts from the story. And if regardless of budget, I've seen some big budget films done with really, really minimum lighting the minimum package because the style calls for something that is very mild, call it naturalistic, something that you want the camera to be very much participating in, in the story, not to being intrusive, not attractive, not attractive, make a make point of being present in the story. So I've seen some really big budget films made that way where you really almost have no lights, and I can just name a couple like new world is it's the one that comes to mind, which was done pretty much without any single light, maybe just like one scene was done. And The Revenant also the the one that chivo lubezki did a few years ago, he is exactly example of that. I think the whole lighting package he had was a couple light bulbs that he used for like one scene or on fire, but that's it. So you really don't need to have a huge lighting package in order to tell the story in order to make interesting visuals. You better understand what is the purpose of the visuals that you're going to use and how you want to support the story. We live in times where it is than ever to make to make interesting in which we have cameras that are now digital camera, they're so sensitive to light that you can if you really want, you can show any field without any single light, basically relying just on the practical light sources. And with very little supplemental lighting. And I think this is kind of the way the filmmaking in general is now going going in a direction that we now because of the just like technical capability of the cameras that we are using, is enabling us now to rely far more on the actual practical light sources that we use to like every light source that you have to augment it, supplement it and and create something that is motivating this time, you can just put actual whatever the light sources and and it will give you what you need to get. So to answer your really your very complex question how you approach in low budget, I think doesn't really matter if it's a low budget or a big budget, it still has to again come down to, to what it is that you're trying to accomplish. And sometimes you might need more help from the art department and set dressing to provide you with the proper type of practicals then you will need from your grip and likely department to bring you all kinds of lights and you might actually ruin the whole thing that you might be able to just capture if it's done well

Alex Ferrari 16:22
Was kind of like you know, chivo if you look at tree of life, or or The Revenant is the kind of shots that he was doing doesn't lend itself to large lighting packages, you can't just mirando around and do these long takes. It's much more complex at cost. So it would cost a lot more money to do that. Am I correct?

Suki Medencevic ASC 16:43
Yes, but there was also another approach which is kind of interesting, you even see on some pretty decent budget films and TV shows that this kind of naturalistic or realistic approach is is very common like you will get on the set and you will have a set B which is built on the stage but it's built with a real ceiling real walls and everything Of course you have flying walls if you needed to. But in general, you still like it as if you are on relocation. And there's something about about studio lighting versus location lighting, it's very difficult for a lot of cinematographers to to switch the mode that even if you're going for very much realistic look it's very difficult to switch to more than that you can actually not turn on the light just because it's there not to turn on all the lights because you have them available I think it's far more interesting not to not even think that you're on the stage they think you are on real place relocation and understand the logic of the light and then create something that looks very much believable and naturalistic in terms of how the light works with the place and let certain mistake to be present. Like if you have let's say sunlight into just like creating some hot streak on the on the on the floor somewhere that you would normally have in location you have to you have to kind of think backwards and say how can I introduce light which is more realistic and naturalistic if you're going in that direction, then making it all perfectly balanced and and controlled and putting backlights where they don't belong and and have a light coming from whatever direction that doesn't really make much sense but again, it all depends what you're going for.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
So if you were if you were going to have one light that you were going to bring with you into battle in a low budget scenario, what would that light what would be your go to light like you like if I'm gonna go shoot and again I know it depends on story. But let's talk generally

Suki Medencevic ASC 18:49
Well I think if there is one light that I will use, I will use two lights. I will I will have I will have to have to obviously do lights, but I will use one or another Sure. And one of the one of them would be would be maybe you know one by one just like one by one light panel but light by the light and there are many manufacturers they make you know the small, Rosco led the LED led led one by one why led one by one I've been so many time in situation that you know everything looks perfect. And all you need to just to get the little bit beautiful light are typically in the close up of the actor but you want to lock it without lighting whole set. Having that light just little light next to the camera will give you that very invisible yet beautiful light which will not affect anything on the scene on the set. And it will it will make people look look look nice without any kind of distracting shadows or something that doesn't make much sense. So that will be that will be my choice because these lights nowadays LED technology has gone so far that they're so powerful and also the color of these lights is now so good that you can easily blend it with Many, many other tungsten sources or anything else you're using. And of course, my choice number one would be very skypanel 60. Probably because 60 is good size. And that that type of bigger, much more versatile light source can give me far more options if I need to light you know, even wider area, I can use it as a just like panel, which is size, maybe like one by two, or I can, I can, I can put like softbox may make it like convert it and turn it into something that is even nicer and bigger and make it beautiful, like soft key light wrapping light. And so it also these lights, specially airy skypanel is designed in a way that has extreme color accuracy, so the skin tone, everything is gonna look right. But also it gives me an option to change the color temperature, easily just pressing the button. Or if I want to create the effect of let's say, I don't know, the candle or TV or, or or lightning even. It's very easy. It's designed, it's almost like pre programmed. So you can just press the button and get whatever you want.

Alex Ferrari 21:13
So can you really can you quickly talk about color accuracy with these LCDs because I know that's a big issue with buying lower quality or cheaper LEDs. And people don't really understand the difference what this era is a CRT? And like what's the rating of it? Can you explain that just a little bit.

Suki Medencevic ASC 21:29
So so the whole thing about LED lights is that I don't want to get too technical about it. But people should understand that you know, not all LEDs are created equally. Why because not everybody needs high end, super color accurate LED lights, which is matching perfectly the whatever spectrum of your regular normal tungsten source. So in the early days, maybe like, six, seven years ago or so when LED is really started, like coming to the market and exploding as everybody is now making ladies, there are so many manufacturers but when you do really very accurate tests and line them up, you will see some of them are green, some of them magenta, some of them are purple, they have very weird color shapes, which we don't see by our eye because our eyes are not so sensitive to the whole this color discrepancies. cameras in our eye very quickly adjust to white balance and we have perfect color balance very quickly. But cameras don't you tell camera, what color temperature is and camera will follow this and if you say this is 3200 and you look at something that slit and looks kind of greenish or whatever. It's going to give you a kind of very strange color rendering. So a lot of manufacturers based on the research and based on the suggestions from Academy of Motion Picture and their certificate department as well as also American Society of Cinematographers motion image Council, we have also one division which is specialized only in research and and product advising. For the LED manufacturers, they developed a system of this color rendering car color rendering index, which basically explained how accurately the color is reproduced compared to whatever the standard standard light sources but color rendering index index is not only one there is there is another way of there's another way of really analyzing good what's the difference between good and not so good LED lights is and then basically you get into individual color and then it shows how each individual part of the spectrum is reproduced in the spectrum of your LED lights. So bottom line is the bottom line is this technology is advancing constantly. And if you are going by some more recognized brands when it comes down to the LED light source, you will be probably doing well. And of course it comes with the price in LED technology definitely get what you pay for.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
Now lenses glasses as it's called on the streets. It is no matter how advanced the technology gets, no matter how beautiful how many K's you're shooting generally speaking, the glass is the glass it is the eye of the sensor in your What is your go to lens or style of lens or manufacturer of lens because I know that's a really touchy subject for a lot of cinematographers. I'm a nice guy. I'm a cook guy, a clear guy, you know, like, you know, what is the lens that you love and why?

Suki Medencevic ASC 24:54
Well, I will tell you just recently I had the opportunity to See a really amazing test of 33 lenses lens sets one of the most comprehensive and extensive lens testing done by the NEA Anwar who is wonderful friend of mine, a member of the AC and also French French society AFC so what he did I think year ago they did this amazing blind test 33 sets of lenses I don't even know that there are 33 different types of lenses but actually they are including some of them never heard of. And so what they did they photographed identical scene by changing glands basically white shot and medium title shot of the same so they did 33 takes of identical simple scene. Yeah, in the girl inside the studio, she walks to the window comes back, they talk, she walks into medium close up. But enough of the setup, it was really well done to show how the lens is handling, wide shot, high contrast flare, sharpness, skin tone, everything you can see in this very short clip that was done with every lens what we did watching this test was we had no idea what we were watching, we have no idea what lens we are looking at, we just had some kind of whatever code and while we are watching we have to give it a grade what we like do we like it we don't like it and and without knowing what we are evaluating and then we watched it three times in random order. So which is which is great way to do it so it's not like you will recognize the pattern so there is no pattern so after reviewing these three times we were given the key and say the lens ACL x y was cook s four and the lens b l for m n was I don't know Zeiss summilux or size or whatever. So it was really amazing because there was a lot of mostly members from the ASC cinematographers and it was very interesting because after the screening we all ended up sitting and having coffee and kind of comparing notes. What was shocking to me to find out that some of the lenses which we will automatically just discard is like are this just you know, these are like no they will don't even bother these are not serious lenses had some of the most highest score I can tell you CP two CP two lenses which CP two is a cheap lenses I mean they're good size made by size but still they're just like steel camera lenses modified so that it can be used in in digital cinematography. All across people love them they're not like highest highest scoring lenses but their lenses they're

Alex Ferrari 27:58
they're like solid they're solid solid.

Suki Medencevic ASC 28:01
So how solid performance CPU i mean i don't even bother deal with them. But But I could change my mind because I looked at three times on three different three different events Yeah, I gave it a very good score of course some of the lenses some of the lenses as expected did really well like cook s five oh yeah. Interestingly enough my favorite was always cook as for and I love to cook as for and caucus for scored well in my test in my brand test that proves that I like cookies for I like the look of it I like the skin tone I like the contrast sharpness all things I like about this lens kukus five scored almost perfect for me which is amazing. But the biggest surprise to me and everybody else because I was not the only one who gave it a really really high not high grade was Russian made lens which I don't even remember the name something digital evolution something I don't know I have to go back to my notes and find out what lens but that lens particularly was almost everybody's favorite. And that really that was scored among all of us probably the highest and to me there was like wow, this lens is like $50,000 or, or even more and this lenses maybe I don't know, maybe like 10,000 or less. Wow. And it did absolutely like perfectly. This is some like it's a new new lens manufacturer. I don't know the name but to me. So this is one that's what a very simple question. What's my favorite lens? You know, it all depends. It all depends. I think that's why we always test because depends on like what we want to be going for if you're going for the film that requires if it's like Romantic period piece. Well, most likely I will not go for super sharp, crisp lenses that Give me this very like

Alex Ferrari 30:01
every detail

Suki Medencevic ASC 30:02
Yeah, everything you know you might have a lens which already held a built in kind of like natural softness in it and that's why maybe I don't know maybe size would be my my size is the classic size superspeed not not the master plan will be probably go choice or maybe going with cook as for Ruby probably because overall that's my February plans and it will it will do to the job interested in that panavision Primo lenses which we always used as a benchmark as the lens that defines the quality score. Okay. Not an open mic. Not on my test but the scored kind of Okay good. Yeah, that's good. No question. It's good lens but nothing amazingly better than I don't know. Let's say a C two. C two CP two.

Alex Ferrari 30:54
Which is amazing. Like when you say that, would you say they like as ICP TIG LEDs versus a pan of vision Primo?

Suki Medencevic ASC 31:01
I know and you're looking at like I don't know maybe $100,000 piece of glass versus $2,000 so it's really it's all subjective that's really what I want to do and no there is no universal lens there is no laser can be perfect for everything. No of course you know and also choice of lenses you know, not only in terms of like, which lens handles skin tone and contrast and flair and you know,

Alex Ferrari 31:26
stuff there's it's a complex question. It's a complex question like

Suki Medencevic ASC 31:29
you know, if you look at the films like Saving Private Ryan, I mean, Janusz Kaminski asked permission to actually completely remove the anti glare in coating so he wanted to get lenses is really looking bad that it has a flaring kind of all kinds of things that we've been for decades trying to get fix now like oh, no, no, we have to now bring me back to that completely kind of roll uncorrected look because that was the only lens that worked. That style of lenses worked so well for Saving Private Ryan, but it will not work for random

Alex Ferrari 32:02
Avengers. It won't work for Avengers. Yeah. For sure. Yeah, exactly. Now do you I know a lot of it because we've we've done some work together. We I know you'd like to write down sometimes your lighting setups Do you like do you do it all the time? Like you actually just like storyboard out your where the lights are supposed to go and give it to the gaffer. What's the process for you?

Suki Medencevic ASC 32:25
Well, the process is actually practices. I would say pretty much like main main mainstream straightforward. If it's location project if it's location show Well, I normally doing the textile during first during location scout, when we talk about what the scene is gonna take place. And when I talk to the director, okay, what is the concept here? Is it more like traditionally Dolly with coverage? Or are we talking camera handheld or Steadicam and we are looking everywhere going inside outside. So depending on what we are going for, will tell me what options I have. If it's a traditionally you know, house living room, and we've all covering the living room, hallway, bedroom, whatever, I will make sure to have enough light that can give me control and it's all about control. Because on occasion, you are always in a way depends on depending on on the situation what's happening outside and very often you might be already losing daylight, but you have to continue making making it look like it was nine o'clock in the morning. So my approach always is try to be as least as possible dependent on a daylight and available light. Because it's inconsistent it changes during the day. So I want to have enough light that I can create my light that will be same from the moment we step in and the moment we are up that requires usually planning and I will tell my gaffer Okay, we will be looking this way sun is coming from this direction. So we have to block the sun or do this or maybe soften the sun and but still get my HDMI lights, put them in the right position. So we know we can maintain this consistent look. That looks perfect eight o'clock in the morning but looks really ugly. No. That's kind of how I approach it when it comes down to interior. When it comes down to the exterior. Well, it really depends. On the show I was going for this the for three seasons called stuck in the middle we've been very challenging. We have been a challenging exterior, because the set was built between two walls of studios two stages. And for the exterior part, we had the window of light that basically goes between nine depending on time of the year but let's say between 930 in the morning until three and that's it. That's the when you have a sunlight and then after three o'clock you're in a shadow and basically everything just like completely overcast so for us to control The sunlight control the daylight on this particular very challenging location was a big deal much bigger deal than anybody would anticipate. Because I had to have my light in the morning when we start to light because we cannot wait for somebody to come out. So I had to light it in the morning with a bit light, airy marks or something on the calendar to give me exactly the light when the sun comes in, that will match at 930 when sun comes up, it will match what I was doing with with my with my light and the same thing in the afternoon. So when light is gone, I can still bring my light and continue continue, I think so. Exterior presents always big challenge lighting, lighting for exterior is always very challenging requires far more manpower, far more equipment. So I think when it comes down to the exterior, it's always much better to observe really well, what works in terms of the angle, how you can take advantage of what sunlight gets, you have sunlight standing by just in case you lose it, usually a couple of big guns, instead of just completely relying on what's out there. Because then we put your you put you in a situation that you have no plan B, when it comes down to studio a whole different situation. I can tell you like for instance, on this, on this big setup we had on stuck in the middle, we had a couple stages with a set in a pre production time. I had my plan via the floor plan and even 3d model 3d diagrams done by the production designer and our department. So they told me Okay, this is what we are looking, this is the living room, this is a stairs, this is a bedroom, this is a hallway, this was a kitchen. So we had all this sets and layout. So based on set and layout, I very, very precisely with my gaffer went. And we talked about what would be the best way to create, let's say, overall ambient light inside this room. How are we going to deal with the exterior, how we want to create that, behind the windows we see we see part of the set that actually is built outside. So we have to match the exterior, on on location with our exterior basically set build on the stage. So to create all kinds of different moods, we had to have a lot of lights, a lot of lights position, never, of course. Never, it never means that I'm going to use all of them. But it like being able to turn off some lights, bring them up, bring them down, it will be I will be able to quickly program different moods, let's say morning, at eight o'clock in the morning breakfast, I knew exactly the amount of ambient amount of my my sunlight effect and I would create something that will be programmed to stop. So it takes time. But very precise planning to get every light properly placed. And programs. So when you get in production, when you really get everybody in the set, you have to be ready to go in five to seven minutes. But that's why to me having everything in place. Even if it's just standing by you never know director my trainers, oh, let's get to me this shot or blocking my change. And all of a sudden you're looking different direction. So you have to you have to be ready to react to react and respond very quickly.

Alex Ferrari 38:26
So Suki we're we're currently as of this recording living in a COVID-19 world. And you know, as of right now Hollywood is pretty much shut down. What do you see production looking like in a post Coronavirus kind of world because we really don't know, it's not going to be what it was. So what what do you think what it's going to be?

Suki Medencevic ASC 38:45
Well, that's a big question that I don't think anybody knows anybody knows the answer? Well, one thing we know for sure things will change at least for for certain foreseeable future. I would say maybe at least for a year, maybe even more because it's not only film business, it's every business. And of course everybody's concerned about, you know, the the jobs and and security and balancing jobs. And safety is well, it's a big deal. You know, economy. I understand everybody's concerned about the economy coming back. But we have to be super careful, super smart about how we're going to do this. So I know they've been a lot of proposals developed by different studios, different production entities, and they try to figure it out. What is the safest way that we can we can go back to production still do what we do, but do it differently. I know there are some proposals. I think by Lionsgate they're proposing basically that entire cast and crew will be in a way created as a kind of like a cluster and isolated for the whole duration of production. So no outside contact you basically just between place of stay and a studio or whatever you're shooting. And that's it. I don't know how this is doable. But you know, everybody's everybody's trying to come up with some kind of solution to get people on the set. I mean, yes, we can have a mask, we can have protective equipment. But how can you be on the set and have your focus puller? Well maybe focus for a kindle the remote focus, but still, you know, somebody has to push the dolly, you have to get in the closeup of the actor? I mean, how can you make them six feet, I don't know, my feeling my feeling, the way I am seeing how things are changing is we will be seeing whole new different types of content that is going to emerge, people will start doing things like q&a now talking and creating something that makes sense. I don't know if we can make everything look like everybody's now in zoom. And we can create things which are kind of like, zoom style show, but that might be one way of knowing things. People might be doing a lot of like, I'm sure like projects, which would be skeleton crew, with very small cast minimum, chromium and lighting, minimum equipment, minimum, everything and still try to get some story. I'm not sure about big productions, how they're gonna do it, like Marvel,

Alex Ferrari 41:23
like, how is Marvel gonna do anything?

Suki Medencevic ASC 41:26
Well, I think they might do it differently they might do now. I mean, I don't want to be like, thinking completely futuristic. But, you know, who knows, we might get in a situation that we can, we can have virtual sets that every be that every, every, everything would be just like visual, they already have it, they use Mandalorian Yeah, Mandalorian use it for a Star Trek. So they use this concept of virtual sets to get into stage everything's LED, get your actors and get the cameras and you're creating show, which is you can place anywhere you want. So that will be one way of doing it. But maybe next step would be while you might have actor whose performance you can just capture and do the face replacement. There is actually a very interesting film I've seen a couple of years ago, which I would highly recommend to everybody to see. Five years ago, it was made his British film, I forget the name of the director, but movies called Congress. And it is with Robin Wright, and Harry katell. As lead but the concept, the premise of the film is Robin Wright is agent actress. And her manager, Harvey cutera is trying to lock the deal that she can be basically Robin right at this age in perpetuity. So she will never age. Interesting, interesting. Interesting. So what they do is they put her in this special kind of like sphere with a motion capturing array of 1000 cameras, and take her to the whole range of emotions and capture them. And from this point on, they can apply this emotion and her expression into any character they do and, and she'd always stayed the way she was at whatever age of 14 whatever she was when the movie was made. It's very interesting, very, very interesting field because second half of the film is animated.

Alex Ferrari 43:28
Very interesting, very interesting, really

Suki Medencevic ASC 43:31
interesting. Where you see now all these characters, including Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt, and everybody's already in that world of so I don't know if it's gonna be futuristic to the point that we don't that that all the actors will just provide the emotions and expressions and and deliver the lines and then they will be later on implemented on 3d models of some avatars. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 43:51
It's going to be it's going to be really interesting. I know at the at the studio level. When I saw the I've been watching the behind the scenes of Mandalorian. And you're just like, this is amazing. Like I heard about it, and I saw some of it. And I heard the rumblings and god knows what James Cameron's is working on right now on avatar, which I hear the technology there is like at another completely other place that we haven't even heard of yet. So the technology for those bigger shows, I think is going to make a big difference in post Coronavirus world but for independent filmmakers, on a lower budget, it's going to be smaller crews. It's going to be you know very minimal, very like you know, kind of like what I did with my last film, you know, three two crew members and some cat and we ran through though I couldn't make that movie now because there's no Sundance Film Festival so I couldn't shoot it.

Suki Medencevic ASC 44:38
You pioneer you pioneer pioneer the concept. I don't think you're a visionary. You're a visionary. Wow, wow. People know people will really Now come back to you in 404 you can you can really consult them and advise them this is how we did it. This is how you can have one person doing five positions and still still make something so I will I will say

Alex Ferrari 44:57
I will send you the check later, sir. Well Be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, there is something new on the horizon or it's not on the horizon, it's happening happening now kwibi and kwibi is is a very unique thing. I'm not sure if it's going to how it's going to survive in the future. But it is something that's going on right now. And I was talking to you off air about how shooting a quibi show is different. Can you talk about how they capture footage on set?

Suki Medencevic ASC 45:37
Well, I have not shot quibi project, I have couple friends, they have done it. And basically, it's, it's a whole new new way of basically storytelling, I would say, which incorporates the new trends of viewing content, as well as new trends of technology that we can use. So I found, I mean, who would think that iPhone is going to become like, all your other mobile phone that you're using will become the almost main way of getting, getting your whatever content is. So they can figure it out. If he if he if you limit the amount of time. So we are not, nobody's going to spend like two hours watching watching movie on on iPhone. I mean, some people will but let's say majority will not. But if you deliver whatever you're delivering in chunks of 10 minutes or whatever, that's something anybody can do while they're waiting in line or riding on the bus or on a metro or in a car or whatever. So that's something you can use your time to watch the content. So to start, that's interesting concept that you are breaking down, even if it's a full feature length film, you break it down into chapters, first chapter, Second thing, whatever you know, and then you have if you splice it all together, you can have a film. But what is most interesting about kwibi is the option that you can change the aspect ratio. aspect ratio is the same, but it's the are you are you viewing it vertically? Or are you viewing it horizontally. So imagine the nightmare now for for anybody who has to frame something that looks equally good in a vertical as well as the horizontal horizontal? Well, it's a challenge. But obviously, they figure it out that you can, if you're shooting with a high enough resolution, let's say 6k, six skaters often is good enough to give you enough of the horizontal as well as the vertical angle. So having the same same height, as well as the width, depending how you're gonna how you're going to orient the image. And all you have to do is while you're doing it, making sure that you know the content that is in horizontal if turned around and vertical will still work for the scene. And so I think that's, that's smart. It's clever. I honestly, I haven't been really getting much into kwibi because I have I still have to catch up with what was the show Game of Thrones, right.

Alex Ferrari 48:03
And Tiger King, obviously Tiger King, but

Suki Medencevic ASC 48:05
that's not that's not. Yeah, you already you already consumed that. Yeah, I haven't behind. But you know what I'm saying? Basically, it's like, yeah, that's new technology. That's a new thing. That's new way. And I think it's just normal thing that we are now seeing, seeing attempts by you know, big companies that, that create the content content creators that are going to use what is available, and just create something that you can watch.

Alex Ferrari 48:31
And they're shooting it with basically a 6k kind of camera and then just doing it all in post.

Suki Medencevic ASC 48:36
Yeah, don't even pause but you want to do it normally when you're if you're filming, you have your frame line. So this is for iPhone 10. iPhone 11 if you turn it around, so you know, this is for Samsung know, whatever, Samsung so they have all those they have all those frames. Yes, they have a spec so you can actually control it and say, Oh, yeah, that's gonna work.

Alex Ferrari 48:54
That's insane. That must be your first and on the tiger for like the free Yes.

Suki Medencevic ASC 48:58
But you know, and I think like everything else, you'll get used to it like okay, that's that's how it is. And you know,

Alex Ferrari 49:05
but you're also one of the you're very unique Suki because you've always been very open to change you've been you embrace change, you embrace, technology changes, you embrace things that are different in the way they're doing it. You're very open minded, where I know a lot of cinematographers who fight to stay the way things are, and they, you know, and they generally don't survive. So that's a big lesson for any cinematographer listening out there that you things are changing. So right I mean, I just remember film to digital, that took a decade for people to finally say, Okay, okay, airy, okay, read, I get it. It took you you were there you saw it, you know, it was it was like 10 years, but now things are changing so fast, so quickly, that if you don't change, you're going to be left behind.

Suki Medencevic ASC 49:51
Well, that's the nature that's nature. I think that's the nature of every business sort of every industry. I mean, it's it's it's non fact that adaptability. theory is key to survival. So if you're not willing and ready to adapt to new, whatever the new conditions while you will be like you will be left behind. And you know, I don't want to sound too philosophical, but you know, it's a human nature, you know, we as humans are programmed in a way that we want to be kind of set in our, whatever the frame of mind is, what gives you, it gives you safety gives you your like, safe zone, stepping out of your safe zone, it's always risky, it's associated with something venturing into unknown, right, no tiger, the tiger, the tiger can eat you around the corner, or something so so it's just by no human nature, we are, we are programmed and coded to stay as you are, especially if you invest a lot of time perfecting something, right and creating something and coming Okay, now I know how to do this analog, by the way that doesn't count, now, we have something new? Well, you have to be able to really, at least try and be open minded about it, you might not necessarily like it, but you have to be open to maybe, who knows, maybe something, something interesting might come out of it. I mean, you think about cinematography, you know, we were shooting black and white for whatever, you know, and then the color came on? Well, there's a technical or so there are cinematographers who just they know how to do technical or they don't care about black and white or black and white who don't know how to do Technicolor and then and then you know, things change and of course the cinematography advance and then we get into a point that we are shooting with only I don't know this lenses or that lenses I'm only politician or I'm only airy, how about the other one, then you have to be able to try different things, because just gives you gives you why the field and gives you better, better understanding of of what you what you really have available for you.

Alex Ferrari 51:53
Now, can you discuss the color, the impact of color on lighting? It's something that's, you know, within either the color of the light or the the production design, and what that does emotionally what that does, and it's a good another large question.

Suki Medencevic ASC 52:12
Where do I start with? Well, in my, in my aesthetics, I would say in the way I think about images, color is extremely important because colors have very, very strong emotional impact in storytelling, we respond to colors, and it's not psychologically physiologically the certain colors evoke certain kinds of emotional response. And for us, it's been known forever. And you know, when you think about in history of art, how certain artists use certain color to convey certain emotion, I mean, if you think about Rembrandt, or Caravaggio, or Fermi, or or I mean, I don't, I don't have to go any further. But if you think about it, not to even get into abstract, abstract paintings, where the it's all about the color, it's all about how you respond to the square piece of whatever the color orange position juxtaposed against blue or pink or, I mean, thinking about just expressionism and modern art or 20th century is just perfect example about bringing colors as a pure emotional way to communicate. You don't even know what you're looking but you're emotionally responding to the color. So in the cinematography, I was fortunate to get to be trained by one of the world's well at the time, you know, he was my my pedagogue at a film school in Prague. And he was one of the ones most worlds and faced in that part of the world most renowned experts on color. Yaroslav, Kuchera, he was the one of the pioneers, at least in that part of the world how to tell story emotionally, just by using the color another great example would be Vittorio storaro. I mean, I'm a big fan of the dodo Serato and his work. And he's one of the big proponents of using course not only lighting composition and camera movement, but the color can have a far bigger impact than no matter what beautifully amazingly design shot and if you look at his some of his films, you know, like conformist going even back into his early work, like conformist or even, I would say probably the best example would be one from the heart film that he did with that which is all about color. And there is a documentary with with storaro elaborates quite a lot about philosophy and aesthetics, and psychology of the color. So, to me, the color is really, really important tool in every time I get involved in project. I always bring up the question of color, what is the color palette, how are we going to communicate, whatever the scene is about and how are we going to support this by properly using color inset in pieces in addressing In the wardrobe, and then in the lighting, because this all has to be synchronized and perfectly, perfectly matched, otherwise, using wrong light color on the wrong type of set or wardrobe can completely negate and cancel, cancel each other. So yeah, color. I mean, there are, of course, some really contemporary great films are out there, which they do think aesthetically. Using the core is a very important part of the storytelling. And so even in the classes which I teach, I always try to remind the students to think also getting one layer deeper, which is thinking about how to use the color to emphasize the emotional impact of danger.

Alex Ferrari 55:46
Yeah, the one the one big example, I could just think of off the top of my head was the matrix, the original matrix, how it uses the green teal, kind of vibe in the matrix. But when you're in the real world, it's completely naturalistic, very D saturated in color. And that's with production design and with the lighting, but it has a very powerful emotion, emotional tie to the story.

Suki Medencevic ASC 56:09
Yes, and if you look at some of the more recent films like neon demon, yeah, sure by Natasha Brier, it's all about the color really, or even john wick, I mean, that. I mean, that's, that's the psychology of color used exactly, to tell the story and support the emotion. So that's, I mean, I'm very happy to see that their directors and cinematographers very strong color sensibility, they understand how to use it and really convey the idea or their films without any color, very reduced color palette. Like if you think about Revenant for instance, like no example there's like black and white almost all it's all gray, gray beige brown against the white and that's it's the world

Alex Ferrari 56:48
and it was stunning. And it was that time period it was that time yeah if you made that very bright and very like Michael Bay super bright colors

Suki Medencevic ASC 56:56
it will it will take you it will take you out of out of the movie without so I can I can I can give you another another beautiful example. Crystal kieslowski very famous bought off the earth whose work I absolutely admire read many, many amazing films he did. He did also three colors red, blue, and white. Which even in the title of the movie, he's using specific color to communicate the emotion that this particular film is so good is presenting. And I mean, that's film I always I love especially Red. Red is my favorite house my favorite selectively coordinated coordinated use of coloring storytelling. It's just just the right it just the right there. And it works really well.

Alex Ferrari 57:39
And in for everyone out there listening, do yourself a favor watch double life of Veronique.

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:44
If you're if you get a chance. Oh, absolutely. A and also one one lesson on film called blind chance.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
Yeah, I remember that one. I remember that line,

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:53
The transsexual American remake of this film, but also, you know, the great hold on to it. arterian collection, all 10 episodes of 10 commandments, just brilliant.

Alex Ferrari 58:05
No, no,

Suki Medencevic ASC 58:05
Very low budget, but very low budget. This is talking about low budget filmmaking with amazing, amazing storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 58:12
Yeah, that was that was also amazing Krzysztof kieslowski. Amazing filmmaker to study. Now speaking of directors, how do you approach working with directors? Because I know a lot of cinematographers out there Look, I've worked as a director I've worked with good cinematographers. I've worked with bad cinematographers. And, and there's always the reason when I work with bad ones generally, for my opinion, is that they're trying to impose their, their, you know, their, their, their want their vision for the for the film, and there's no dialogue, and there's no collaboration, it's just like, it's my way or the highway kind of thing. And that's what I I have a problem with as a director. So how do you approach How do you approach working with directors? You know, this

Suki Medencevic ASC 58:57
very interesting, very interesting question. And this is the, this is a question that doesn't really have straight answer. There is really, there is really no rule. And I will work with the range of directors, which are from, you know, what, just do whatever you want. Just do whatever you want, it's fine. I'll just take care of performance and just let me know you know, and I will be fine, too. On other parts of spectrum I want 25 millimeter right here, Dolly from here, and we go and we boom up and and then and then and yeah, and I want to do it in 10 minutes. That's another extreme. So for me, I have to be able to really adapt to adapt to the new new situation and and how certain directions I find it very exciting. So it's never the same, even with the same director depending on the scene depending on what we're going for, depending on the type of challenges that we have at this point on the set. How director will be able to, to communicate and come up with a solution like, like, you know, one of the directors that I did quite a few projects, he he likes to work very fast. And I understand that he likes to work very fast even when he has a time. Because he needs to be in turbo overdrive mode mentally, psychologically, in order to get creative in order to get things going. And, and he would even get to my case, like, oh, let's go to Scotland to find a week of No, no, no, I would just want to go. So I understand that I understand where this comes from. Some people will probably go crazy and react one way or another, I don't care, like, Okay, let me switch to my turbo mode, maybe we can synchronize and still get things the way the way director wants because at the end, at the end really is as much as cinematographer contributes to the film, but it's directors now. So I'm here to serve director's vision, I'm not here to make my movie, I want to make my own movie that I'm gonna take camera and shoot whatever nature videos or some experimental films or, or just take my still camera and make my still images where I'm the one and only outer of the image and I do images the way I want. But with the director, this is a team process collaborative process. And as a cinematographer, we have to be in a position that we can adopt quickly adapt to the whole method of doing things. Television is specifically a good example. Because like, if you're on episodic television, you'll get every director every week new director. And so in a way, you have to modify and adjust to directors way of doing things. However, as a cinematographer, you also have to protect the, the the style and integrity of visual integrity of the show. So that's kind of very interesting. And, and, and a tricky position to be in. But fortunately, a lot of television directors are aware as they come in as a guest director, well, there is a style that they have to be familiar with, when it comes down to the show. So if the show is designed to be all, I don't know, handheld, and quick, whatever, they cannot say I'm gonna go now static close up, not is not gonna work, right, it will be different, it will be different, different show, you can here and there give your own personal like signature, but it will be always, you know, has to be within the whole the whole big picture. So Suki, we finally got together and put together this course called light and face the artist cinematographer for ifH Academy. And I'm super excited about the course because after being a veteran in this business for over 25 years, I took the course and I learned a lot about cinematography, things that I didn't even know. So it is a wonderful course.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:51
Can you talk a little bit about what made you want to put this specific course together?

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:02:57
Well, I've been doing seminar seminars, I've been doing seminars, and, and workshops for pretty much 20 something years, among the students and and I'm fortunate to go through really, really good proper training academically as a cinematographer. So I always felt that having a structure and a method in teaching and learning is is extremely important is the foundation for anything, not only cinematography, for anybody, in any type of, you know, art, I found out that a lot of people, and some of them quite successful, are pretty good in what they do. But they're missing that missing foundation. But there's some great musicians that I came across. And there are some amazing musicians out there. But if you ask him to play anything, just basically they will not even know what you're talking about. He would ask him to transpose the music they will not understand. So I found out that he's like, if you want to be really good musician, there is a proper method, which is learning the basic learning the scale, learning the harmonies, learning the melodies, and then putting it all together. And then once you reach the point that you really understand what is the core, what is the essence of what you do, then you are far more free to experiment and do things your own way because you know the basics, you know the rules, and then you can break breaking rule just for sake of breaking rules, I don't think necessarily is always productive or creative. Maybe occasionally breaking some rules might bring you something but then how you venture into something different. So I've been teaching cinematography for quite some time in between the projects, doing workshops, and I found out that what students and aspiring cinematographers really respond to is when we go back to basics and when I guide them from very, very basic one single light, starting from the dark. And if you have a concept, okay, this is one single light, what you can do with this one single light image in painting that you're going to paint something, and you say this is one brush, this is one color, what you can create only with these two things. And if you find out what you can do with one brush one color, meaning if you can do the same thing with one light, even if it's a light bulb, in one frame, then you can easily build upon that further, then you can get Okay, I'm going to get now two colors, three colors, more brushes, then I can create masterpiece, big, beautiful, whatever I'm going to go is same thing in the music. Once you understand how the intricacies of each instrument work, what's the difference between violins and pianos and harp and you know, then you can create Symphony, because you understand you can sit down and write and feel completely comfortable that you are what you're writing for, for the violin and for the cellos. And for the clarinet or anything, it will at the end sound really well. So this is kind of my metaphor, explaining why I wanted to do what I did. So I felt there has to be way that somebody does it kind of like the way I always want it to be, I want it to be taught that way. Starting from very, very basic, and then building a building or building up structurally, and then explaining the styles explaining the concept and then really feel comfortable about it. So that's the reason why I really created the show the series, because I felt if somebody is really watching, and applying this knowledge gradually, after each course, doing your own thing and finding out what it takes. If I take light bulb and put it here and observe and get understanding what you can do with like how you can paint and create with light, what's happened if I diffuse the light? What happened if I add maybe one more light, or maybe if I put a color here? How is this image going to be changed how you can again, at the end, it comes down to whole emotional, emotional response. So I wanted to create a course which is comprehensive, but geared towards really understanding the core and basic of cinematography, which is using light from one light adding another one changing the color changing diffusion, changing all this element which gives you ability to to modify still the same tool, which is like and what's the subject is the face? Well, why the face because if you understand how to light the face, and all the details and intricacies interaction between geography and topography of the face, and how the whole things look together, how can you just slightly changing the angle and position on the right you can completely change the appearance of the face, then you will understand what you can do with a different type of light to the set or maybe some other product, you know, like some other object and subject that you're filming. So face is what Face Face is something we photograph. Like 90% of the time in your typical film or television or anything it's all about face. It's about performance is about capturing the performance in you with the light, giving it exactly right kind of mood, the right kind of emotion to enhance what his performance is all about.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:31
Well, I'm excited to bring the the course to to everybody out there interested in cinematography, it is probably the best cinematography course I've ever taken. And I'm very proud to have it as part of the indie film hustle Academy. Now I'm gonna ask you one last question, sir. What would be it advice for an SN a young cinematographer trying to break into the business today?

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:08:56
Well, if you ask me that question. Two months ago, I will probably give a different answer. Fair enough. But in the present day, I think as a young cinematographer, what you need to do, you need to educate yourself, think about what you do as a cinematographer. Think about every image that you're doing, why you're doing why you're doing this way, not that way. And understand the light everything will change cameras will be different lenses will be maybe different. But that one thing that will never ever change is the light. Still at the end of the day, there has to be some cinematographer somebody who would either put the light on on the face or on the set or on the scene or on the subject or taking the light away and controlling it but create something that communicate. So as a cinematographer, you have to understand how to communicate visually, which means invest in educating yourself. Study, study, find out Study painting see what they did and watch the movie I think forever cinematographers you can learn a lot from just looking at the film that's been done and all kinds of amazing cinematography achievements in the last whatever and decades and I think it can be educational can be inspiring can be stimulative. And, and then when you get the opportunity to, to film, whatever it is, don't think about how big or small budget is, think about how you as a cinematographers can give you can give your best to, to support the story. And that will be probably my advice, educate yourself and and get the understanding what really cinematography is all about. And that's going to make a very, really well rounded cinematographer and never give up. educating yourself. There's some beautiful cinematography is a field that is constantly changing. So that's the best thing about it, you'll never get bored.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:00
My friend, I could talk to you for hours about cinematography, but I do appreciate you taking the time out to talk to, to me into the tribe and again, so excited to be presenting lightened face the art of cinematography. I really do appreciate you being on the show and dropping your knowledge bombs, as I like to call them. So thank you again, so much my friend. Stay safe out there. Okay.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:11:24
Thank you, you too.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:26
I want to thank Suki so much for coming on the show and really shedding some light on the whole COVID-19 how we're going to reopen, and all the great knowledge bombs dropped on the tribe today. If you want to get links to anything we discussed in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/388. And in there you will find a link to a limited time offer on Suki his new course light and face the art of cinematography. We are right now in a pre launch, early adopter time period. So up until May 23, you can get his course for $197. It retails for 697. So this is a once in a lifetime chance to get this course below 200. The course will never be offered at that price ever again. So if you want to take advantage of it, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/388 for the show notes, and you can find the link there or you can go just directly to ifhacademy.com. And also check out all of our other courses that we have there to offer you as well. And like I said in yesterday's episode, I will be working diligently to bring you amazing new courses to help you guys on your filmmaking or screenwriting path. And even if you're not a cinematographer, if you're a director, you want to take this course it'll be the best two and a half hours you'll spend during this quarantine it really will give you a real great foundation to talk to your cinematographer about or even God forbid, shoot your own stuff. Thanks again for listening guys. As always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 147: Cinema Lenses MasterClass with Matthew Duclos

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today we are going deep down the cinema lenses rabbit hole. I was lucky enough to sit down and speak to the “Yoda” of cinema lenses Matthew Duclos. Matthew has been working on lenses for most of his life. Most cinematographers in Los Angeles (and around the world) consider him an expert in the field.

I was hearing Duclos’ name on set as far as I can remember so it was a thrill to get to speak and grill Matthew on all things lenses.

Here’s some info on Duclos Lenses:

Duclos Lenses is the premier destination for high-quality motion picture optics. We strive to provide quality service to the industry’s professionals who own and rent top-of-the-line cinema optics. We have the test equipment and experience required to optimize and maintain all of your lenses. We’re a family-owned and operated business that not only appreciates and respects customers in a way only a small business could but also thrive off of our customer’s satisfaction and repeat business.

Enjoy my conversation with Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses.

Alex Ferrari 2:07
So I wanted to reach out to the Yoda if you will the the guru of lenses. This is the guy who all the cinematographers in LA go to when they've got a question about glass or about lenses. His name is Matthew Duclos. Matthew is been his father opened up duclos lenses years ago, and he mentored underneath him and he's become basically the Yoda of of cinema lenses and photographic lenses as you'll hear in this interview, I really wanted to go deep down the rabbit hole of lenses because there's so much misinformation out there about what's good lens what's good what's bad glass what's good glass can you use photo lenses on your DSLR and shoot a movie with a can do you need to buy full blown, you know 5000 10,000 $15,000 primes? Is it going to make that big of a difference? Can you shoot with the rokinon a rokinon set or can you shoot with a sigma art lens like I did this is Meg Most of it was shot on the rochen ons and this and that sigma 18 to 35 which is a gorgeous lens which is under 1000 bucks you know what what's, what is the truth if you will about lenses so I wanted to really just beat up poor Matthew and ask him everything I've ever wanted to know about glass about what's better Canon or Zeiss? What's the difference between Cooke and and sigma and who's doing good glass? And what's the difference with vintage glass and how does light refract and everything so in this episode, we're going to go deep geek. Alright, so if you guys are interested in knowing a lot about lenses, then continue to listen because we're going to go pretty deep into lenses. And by the end of this you're going to it's kind of like a little mini masterclass about about cinema lenses and about photographic lenses and just about lenses in general, and how they can help make your project stand out. So without any further ado, here is my interview with Matthew Duclos of Duclos lenses. I'd like to welcome to show Matthew Duclos Duclos Duclos

Matthew Duclos 4:22

Alex Ferrari 4:22
Duclos Thanks for doing the show, man.

Matthew Duclos 4:24
No problem.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
Appreciate it man. So you know you have you and your company have become very legendary through the underworld of the film industry for being the place to go to four lenses. How is that? How did you guys do that?

Matthew Duclos 4:42
You know, I couldn't tell you we just sort of you know, kept to it kept our noses to the grindstone. You know, did what we do best. I can give you a quick history on, I guess where we came from and.

Alex Ferrari 4:57
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Like I like to know that and then oh, So your personal history of what makes you love lenses as much as you do.

Matthew Duclos 5:05
So, started me on my personal history and the company history started my father. He worked for ingenue back in the late 70s. On the east coast, ingenue had a presence here in the US in New Hampshire. And he worked for them for quite a while started. I can't remember what he said his first job was, but he started basically at the very, very bottom, essentially grinding glass and sort of worked his way up. He liked what they were doing in the service departments that I want to do that it's very hands on very technical. So he moved into servicing ingenue lenses. In about the, I think was the late 90s. The guys at Claremont camera, Denny and Terry moved my dad and our entire family out here to LA to head up the service department at Claremont camera. And that was sort of my intro, I was probably about, I don't know, maybe five or six years old at the time. And I just, I always remember my fondest memories, and I was actually just telling somebody about this the other day, my fondest memories of their old building that they were in, was me and my siblings running around the prep floor grabbing, like 100 foot. They're not even 100 big spans of film space.

Alex Ferrari 6:25
What is what is this film you speak of? Exactly.

Matthew Duclos 6:29
And it was just we thought it was the coolest thing, we hold it up to a light. No wonder why we couldn't see the pictures, whatever. But we didn't understand at the time. So so. So anyways, he did that for a while. And then moved on to working with a guy named Kish, who made it most people would know him from the directors finder, the ultimate directors finder, which both of them ended up getting an Academy Award for. And then after that just sort of wanted to do his own thing. And that's when we started duclos lenses in 2002. I think, which actually, I think this year. Yeah, this year. So just now it's 15 years. Yeah. 15 year

Alex Ferrari 7:07
anniversary. I smell I smell a fire sale on the website coming up.

Matthew Duclos 7:13
Yeah. Parking Lot barbecue, but sure,

Alex Ferrari 7:16
Either either way, Potato Potato.

Matthew Duclos 7:20
But you know, we always we just sort of like to do what we do. We're not really, we're not trying to dominate the industry or anything. All of our technicians love lenses. We're just a group of guys and gals that love lenses and love tweaking them and tuning them and getting the best out of them. And everybody here loves what they do.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
And playing and also just playing around and just tweaking like you said, tweaking them and just seeing what other images you can get out of lenses and things like that. Yeah, exactly. And now what makes a good cinema lens? Oh, I know, deep questions

Matthew Duclos 7:52
for courses. That's my I try to say that I try to instill that as much as possible. A good cinema lens is not really defined by specs. It's, it's defined by the scenario you know what the person is shooting the cinematographer what they want, you know, and what the way the industry is going is a perfect example. On paper, the best lenses you can get like master primes are similar axes. From a technical standpoint, they're the best you can get. But if you're shooting a period piece and you want a vintage look and something very stylized, those aren't the lenses for you. So it's all about what you're shooting and how you're shooting it. I don't think there's a bad lens out there it's just different lenses for different purposes.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
You know, and I think a lot of filmmakers especially indie filmmakers, and young filmmakers they get all caught up in the gear I call it the gear porn you know and look we're both you and I are gear guys you know we'd like gear but that's the thing like I need the best I need the best well that's that's it's a very very variable answer there like you just said like if you're trying to shoot Barry Lyndon, you're not going to grab brand new you know brand new master primes. It might not be the look that you're looking for. So yeah, I think that's a great answer. I'm so glad you said. Now what is what are some of the differences between some of the industry standard or industry leaders in lenses like cook lenses Zeiss and any other major brands of lenses that you can Can you discuss

Matthew Duclos 9:25
a differences in

Alex Ferrari 9:27
personality person because I know you know like you know i this is my just from me working and also listening and talking to DPS. Zeiss has a little bit of a sharper edge than cook cooks a little softer. It's maybe because of the coating I don't know so you you tell me what kind of personalities they have. Because they do have personalities, right?

Matthew Duclos 9:47
So that's been lost over the decades. Not so much with cook cook has really always had their look the cookbook, and they've done a really good job of sticking to it despite the entire industry, trying to make things better faster cleaner cook has really stuck to their guns and they make some absolutely gorgeous lenses they may not test well on a projector or you know MTF charts may not look great but the images that they produce nobody will argue that those are just beautiful images and design advice to they advices is gone a little bit off course they don't know that they would have a defined look especially because of their glass comes from so many different sources these days some of it's still in Germany it comes from Japan it's difficult when you have such a broad range of sources to keep a cohesive look

Alex Ferrari 10:43
so there's cook so in other words this cook all still source all their their glass from the same source that's what kind of keeps their vibe going.

Matthew Duclos 10:51
As far as I know everything that cook makes is right there in Leicester UK.

Alex Ferrari 10:56
Oh really? Okay, so that and then Zeiss used to be that way but now they're kind of like sourcing from all over the place so it's a little harder to maintain your persistency as far as looks are concerned right and any other way

Matthew Duclos 11:09
we have absolutely right there's no doubt that cook and Zeiss I mean if you compare the two sides is always going to be a little bit more contrast II bit more neutral a lot of people like to say that is ice is cool, but it's actually not it's just sort of more neutral than cook or your ingenue the but yeah, it's not it's not that one's better than the other they're just different.

Alex Ferrari 11:29
Right now ingenue is for mine and again, I have a little bit of understanding about lenses but engineered to my knowledge was one of the best zoom lenses you can buy and it might still be if I'm not mistaken

Matthew Duclos 11:40
Ah, from a technical standpoint, yes. Again, we're looking at different lenses for different purposes. Okay, there's no question that 2040 to 90 has been an absolute staple in the industry anybody shooting a feature film or a commercial anything with a big budget you can almost guarantee there's a 2040 to 90 on set somewhere

Alex Ferrari 12:00
right there monsters like monsters I've seen I've worked with them their lenses and those are there but they were

Matthew Duclos 12:07
quiet I think the most accurate zoom you can get these days is probably going to come from fujinon

Alex Ferrari 12:13
Yeah, I've heard very good things about fujinon to accurate meaning as far as specs are concerned

Matthew Duclos 12:18
accurate as far as resolution contrast overall sharpness, edge to edge sharpness for a super 35 pictures those fujinon premiere zooms are about the best you can get

Alex Ferrari 12:31
now canon obviously has a long history of lenses as well and they've kind of made their way into the cinema world now after being in photography for so long. What's your What's your opinion on the pic Canon lenses that are now more cinema lenses versus the photo lenses? Are there major differences between the two?

Matthew Duclos 12:52
There's absolutely major differences in the zooms I think the Canon cinema zooms are among the most underrated in the industry they because they're so readily available and they have the cannon name on them they sort of drop in value real quick and they they get you know they change hands pretty frequently but they really do perform well there's not a whole lot of trickery in them they're just a good solid reliable cinema lens. Anytime somebody says I don't like them they're usually saying that because of the look they'll say oh well they're they're too they're too warm or oh I don't like the way the focus falls off or something like that. But from a mechanical standpoint and an actual usability standpoint, they're great all of their cinema zooms are are purpose built zooms the primes are based on their photo lenses so they're really you kind of know what to expect they do tweak a little bit in the the coatings they add a couple elements to compensate to make them all really consistent lens to lens but yeah those I really do applaud canon for not just taking a 24 to 105 and making it a skinny lens you know slapping some gears on it or whatever

Alex Ferrari 14:06
right they actually did took the time to actually develop their cinema lenses.

Matthew Duclos 14:09
Exactly the zooms Yeah. Now in your opinion which

Alex Ferrari 14:12
cinema lens is out there right now is the best bang for your buck. Because these are pricey things I mean, the stuff that we're talking about are 510 1000 $15,000 lenses, but there's been a whole I mean a whole industry wrapped around now creating affordable cinema lenses like the the view drugs and the Roca nones tokina. What what in your opinion are some of the best lenses best bang for your buck

Matthew Duclos 14:37
for primes? As much as people don't like to acknowledge them, I think the rokinon stuff for what it is and the price that you're getting the price that you're paying, it's almost unbeatable. I have absolutely no doubt that there are flaws. They're not perfect optics by any means. But for that price, they're you know That's hard to beat for a manual operating. Again, it's adapted from a photo lens, but for a fully manual operation that's tough to beat.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
I have a set. I have a set myself. I love that. I love those lenses. Yeah,

Matthew Duclos 15:14
they're certainly going to get the job done. There's no question about it, they're not going to perform. Nobody is trying to compare them to master primes or syllable axes. But at that price, it's almost unbeatable. And the hub offers zooms zooms I would probably have to say the Sigma cinese zooms are the best bang for the buck which again is just a an adapted photo lens. But what you get in those that a T two everyone's got complaints you know the focus breedings not great they're only Super 35 they're not full frame you know whatever but for the price for a T to zoom it's fully manual can't eat it you really can't

Alex Ferrari 15:52
know I just got the the 50 to 100 sigma but it's not the cinema it's the the photo and I yeah same exact glass it's just doesn't have the gears which I can work around for a grand but it's it's stunning that the what is it called the portrait lenses?

Matthew Duclos 16:08
The art series

Alex Ferrari 16:09
yeah the art series oh my god they're gorgeous though. I mean I've put it up on on charts and it really does perform well again for the for the money it's insane. Really hourly is insane. And I think that's a lot of things that filmmakers really have to understand that there you don't have to have at when you have lower budgets look you have big budgets my god if I had a budget I would I'd be using cooks and engineers all day. Yeah, exactly. But for the independent filmmaker I mean there are so many more options even in the last five years than there was i mean i mean you you've been around so you've seen how I mean can you imagine a cinema lens for under five grand

Matthew Duclos 16:46
no way if you told me if somebody told me that 10 years ago there was going to be you know a high quality prime lens for under 500 bucks I would have laughed I said no way no way it's coming from China or whatever Yeah, here we are. It's I really do you think that we are in the next golden age of lenses right now it's still happening it's still evolving, but it's such a booming market it's great.

Alex Ferrari 17:15
What's your opinion on the sigma and the sigma is the new cinema lenses on the segment's and just sigma in general

Matthew Duclos 17:21
I really like what they're doing similar to cook you know we were saying before sick was one of the only guys one of the only manufacturers that they've keep everything under one roof from start to finish I mean the entire lenses are all built in there one factory and I Zoo they don't outsource anything they're not getting components or anywhere else. That to me that's really respectable maybe some people consider that old school but I really do respect that and I think they I think sigma moving forward is going to be setting the bar for the big guys.

Alex Ferrari 17:54
Yeah, cuz I just I just shot with the, the new cinema primes that just came out are not the primes. But the the new zoom the Is it the 18 to 35 cinema and the 50 to 100. Cinema. Exactly. And I mean, it's stunning. It's absolutely and their five grand, like for I think 4500 bucks, something like that.

Matthew Duclos 18:16
I think this is just sigma getting their feet wet. Yep. I think moving forward, they're gonna have a lot of really cool stuff to show everyone.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
And by the way, a free plug for you. So my dp did purchase your case for those lenses. He was like he just make sure he let him know that Austin said hi. So um, you were talking a little bit about breathing before focus breathing? Can you talk a little bit more about, you know, the breathing of like when you're pulling focus on a zoom? What, you know, what's an acceptable amount of breathing? Are there any zoom lenses that don't breathe? Are they do they all breathe? And can you just explain what that concept is?

Matthew Duclos 18:54
So breathing is one of those things that a lot of people misunderstand, especially people that are new to the world of cinema. in photography, nobody really cares about breathing. It still happens but you're taking a photo at a fraction of a second and it is what it is. Breathing is when you rack focus on your cinema lens, and the field of view changes ever so slightly, it gives sort of a for lack of a better term I'm reading effect. So your field of view increases and decreases just a little bit almost as if you're zooming while you're focusing. What a lot of people misunderstand that four is when you rack focus and the lens telescopes in and out, they assume that that means breathing you know physical movement of the lens barrel itself. Which I mean some people do call that breathing we call that non constant volume. So what breathing really is is that optical mechanical flaw of when the field of view changes back and forth. higher costs cinema zooms do compensate for that. And can nearly eliminate it. But it's definitely a consideration when designing a zoom.

Alex Ferrari 20:06
Yeah, I mean, but I've seen breathing in Oscar winning, you know, amazing films. It's just it's, you know, especially the older ones. It just was there and you could see it was even when I didn't even know what breathing was like, What? What happened there, like you just noticed,

Matthew Duclos 20:21
but it's a lot and anamorphic zooms to if you're watching in Anoka any film shot with an anamorphic zoom? Even, I mean major stuff like Star Wars. Oh, yeah. See breathing jaws?

Alex Ferrari 20:32
Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's not something that you have to like, Oh, my God, we've been it's it's just, it's just the nature of what you're shooting? Yeah.

Matthew Duclos 20:39
And there's an acceptable amount. I mean, like you were saying with that sigma 50 to 100. That lens does breathe a lot. It does. It does. But, you know, it's, it's how you use it, there's ways to get around that don't do a focus poll from five feet to infinity. And you

Alex Ferrari 20:58
work around that a little bit because, and that's and that's another great piece of advice is that, you know, when you know, you don't have all the money in the world to buy the best lenses or the best cameras, you work with what you have and just work around and be creative. Especially with lenses, you know, like I shot my feature on on basically the rochen ons and the and the Sigma 18 to 35 I think it is. And I shot my shot on on a Blackmagic 2.5. And it didn't cover the it didn't cover the sensor, because it just couldn't cover the sensor all the way or they're scrapping I mean, it just it was cropping because of of the the sensor and bureau like what do you do? Like, you losing all that crap? I'm like, dude, just, if it's if you don't think about it's not there. reframe reframe.

Matthew Duclos 21:45

Alex Ferrari 21:46
You know, don't don't get caught up in that kind of stuff. Now,

Matthew Duclos 21:49
actor is the topic that I could, I mean, I can't believe in today's day and age of the internet, there's so much bad information out there on the whole concept of crop factor. And people still call me at least once a week that just can't wrap their head around crop factor and how it affects lenses.

Alex Ferrari 22:06
Can you talk a little bit about that? Sure. Yeah. About what crop factor is because I know it's something that is just I agree with you. There's so much misinformation out there it is. And there's so much like negative like, Oh my god, you don't have it doesn't cover the full lens. You're losing, you're losing. I'm like, dude, get over yourself. Just Yeah, the roof. Look, it's Yeah, sure. But you want to go spend 15 grand on on the right lens, or 50 grand on the right camera, knock yourself out?

Matthew Duclos 22:34
Yeah, no, it's, it's really, it became a huge problem because people were jumping ship from stills into cinema. So the guys that came up shooting Super 35 their whole life, they knew, you know, they were used to the focal length they were shooting with like a standard set of primes was 1825 35 5085. Period. Yeah. And then the guy is coming from 35 millimeter full frame still photography into cinema. They, you know, they had it in their head that everything was wider because they had a larger sensor. And they needed to maintain that field of view, for whatever reason. So they had to have all these crop factors in order to achieve the same field of view that they were getting on their five D Mark one or whatever camera they're coming from, right. So that's where that whole crop factor thing came from is everybody is just comparing all the crop factor is is comparing your field of view or your sensor size to full frame. If you get that full frame exists, and you just think about Super 35 that's all that matters. If you're shooting Super 35 Don't worry about full frame just framing for what format you're shooting.

Alex Ferrari 23:43
Now can you talk the difference between 35 and super 35 and full frame?

Matthew Duclos 23:49
A super 35 was sort of the original format for that type of film, you know, 135 film Sure, when you you know in a in a Cinema Camera, it's going up and down. When you turn that film sideways, that's where you get that 24 by 3635 millimeter full frame. So it's the same film it's just 90 degrees to get a bigger picture. So super 35 you know that size sort of preceded full frame 35. These days, the terms Super 35 kind of gets thrown around since it's not really nobody really sticks to that standard anymore. You know, like red new helium sensor, they call it the 8k Super 35. It's not really super 35 it's actually a little bit wider. So that's kind of tricky to talk about because people don't really obey the rules that were put in place a long time ago.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
It's pretty much a wild, wild wild west right now.

Matthew Duclos 24:52
A little bit yeah. Even full frame, you know, reds, new 8k this division. It's really not the same as old school. This division it's again a little bit wider, a little bit shorter. So your your image circle requirements are a little bit different.

Alex Ferrari 25:07
Now, can you talk a little bit about because now you just brought up 8k? I mean, a lot of these vintage lenses and just lenses that are being made today are when will they eventually just be obsolete? Well, you can't use them on these 8k 12k 24k 60k cameras that will be coming out in the next 10 years. What what point did these lenses start becoming obsolete and at what point because I know, the optics have been trying to catch up, or cameras have been trying to catch up the optics or optics have been trying to catch up to camera sensors, since this whole thing started back in basically 2004 2005 when red kind of came on the scene.

Matthew Duclos 25:45
So that's another sort of pet peeve I have 8k so a lot of people always ask about it, you know, is this lens gonna resolve or is this one's going to cover which are two completely different things, there's a huge difference between resolution and sensor size. Again, a whole nother rabbit hole we can go down. But you know, it all comes down to marketing. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the lens manufacturers because they started labeling their lenses 4k or 4k compatible, right? They excuse me, they sort of shot themselves in the foot. To say that a lens resolves 4k, it's a little bit misleading. You always have to sort of specify the sensor size along with the resolution. So for example, 4k on rattles and any well 4k on a full frame sensor. You know, you've got however many pixels, the pixels are what they are, excuse me, you got to cut all that out. So let me start that part over. So 4k on a full frame sensor is a very specific resident a very specific number of pixels. If you take that same resolution and then shrink it down to something like a black magic, which is micro four thirds, you have the same number of pixels, but all of a sudden you're cramming those into half the size, which means 4k on that black magic has a much much higher resolution requirement than it does on your full frame 4k sensor. So to say that a litens resolves 4k is a little bit misleading because you're not really you're not specifying what size those pixels are. Anybody that labeled their lens 4k compatible or 4k ready whatever they just shot themselves in the foot because now that we have 6k and 8k and 10k coming out what do you say to those people now your lens doesn't work? No It works fine you just thought that you were being clever labeling your lens 4k

Alex Ferrari 28:03
right? So Joe do these lenses i mean do the lenses that are being made today will that will that work on an 8k on a 10k

Matthew Duclos 28:12
in terms of resolving power on 8k yeah no problem. I've seen I have never had a lens put on a camera you know and look through the viewfinder or looked at the LCD and thought oh man, that's a bummer it's not resolving, you know you get the picture it's there. You just have varying degrees of micro contrast. It's not like there's a cut off point where it doesn't work its lenses are a completely analog organic factor. So they're they're always going to work they're always going to function, you're just going to have lower and lower micro contrast.

Alex Ferrari 28:48
So the the one thing that we can actually say safely and I have always told us to people if you're going to invest in a kit or in gear lenses are things that that don't go out of style. In other words if you buy a camera today in a year or two in my it will be out of out of out of won't be up to date while if you spend a lot of money on lenses today those lenses will be good prime for the next 1520 years if not longer correct?

Matthew Duclos 29:15
Yes and I I generally don't say that. I try not to do that because it sounds like a sales pitch just sounds like I'm you know selling you the land. Don't do this do that. But that is true. It's the lenses. I mean look at the stuff that's fashionable right now the Superbowl cars in the car was those were from a 750s 60s 70s and you can't you can't find them quick enough everybody wants them.

Alex Ferrari 29:40
Can you talk a little bit about vintage glass because it's as you brought it up because I've actually shot with the Super Bowl cars. They're gorgeous. I mean we shot them on reds, on on reds that would

Matthew Duclos 29:51
say have any lens out there if I was going to shoot something that didn't need to be clinical and clean. The Super Bowl tires are my choice for For a spherical lens, you can't beat that look. It's such a pleasing stylized look that you cannot replicate. I mean you could put stuff through post all you want you're not going to get the look of the Superbowl cars.

Alex Ferrari 30:13
And what does it do? Like what are the characteristics of the Superbowl tires? It's just I mean obviously it softens the image just a bit especially with that harsh read sensor. Sometimes that can be really too clinical. It just sharpens it up especially with actors or actresses faces. They love you for it. But I've shot multiple things with it's they're gorgeous, but what are the things what are the characteristics of the Superbowl stars that they like,

Matthew Duclos 30:37
it's kind of hard to describe because they don't stay consistent. For example, the 35 millimeters super Baltazar no matter what every single 35 millimeter I've ever seen, has been warmer and softer than the rest of the set. So it's hard to put it's hard to put a pin in the entire set but If I had to describe them with sort of a broad stroke I'd say low contrast slightly warmer than most other lenses and just the bouquets when the focus falls off is it's just beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
It is it is pretty gorgeous and you know that's another thing I always tell people to when they're shooting super digital like super digital but like shooting with reds especially the 568 k kind of stuff depending on what you're trying to do because I just saw like clips from the Guardians of the Galaxy we just shot on 8k it's super clinical super crisp super clean makes perfect sense for that kind of story without yesterday

Matthew Duclos 31:34
yeah I don't know what lenses they ended up going with for that

Alex Ferrari 31:36
i don't i don't know i don't know neither but but it looks fairly clinical I mean without without question, there's no soft edges and I think it looks but that's perfect for that kind of movie. But generally when I always because I do a lot of color grading and I do a lot of posts so a lot of DPS a lot of times asked me or filmmakers asked me I'm shooting with the red what lenses do you recommend I go I I always tell them try to find vintage glass if you can, depending on what you're trying to do but if you're trying to do something softer and to take that digital bite off of it those vintage glass that vintage glass will probably help you out do you agree with that?

Matthew Duclos 32:13
I do do to a degree but it's just like you said with that caveat if you're trying to take that edge off Yeah, absolutely just grab an older lens

Alex Ferrari 32:23
and there and I remember that for a while like the 16 millimeter glass started to like just you could give it away almost. Oh yeah. And then when the digital revolution came up they became the hot commodity because they're a really amazing glass and can you talk a little bit about 16 Super 16 millimeter glass and what a bargain It is especially if you're shooting with let's say a pocket camera like a Blackmagic Pocket camera or or some of these smaller sensor digital cameras

Matthew Duclos 32:53
I think it's still underrated I think people have still haven't quite caught on like they did with something like the super speeds 16 formats still sort of the the I mean always has been but it's still sort of that Oh, you couldn't afford 35 millimeter. Right? It's always it's it's unfortunate because it's such like you said there's so much good glass out there. affordable. Yeah, that's one of the lenses I actually cut my teeth on was the Canon eight 264 It's a great zoom lens. It's phenomenal. It gives you that super wide angle that you need to compensate for the crop factor. And it's just a great sharp lens it's nice it's not too heavy. It's not too bulky. Even 16 format super speeds that stuff is out there and it's it's attainable but people are so wrapped up in bigger is better. They want full frame they want this division they want Alexa 65 but everything else is getting thrown by the wayside because of that,

Alex Ferrari 34:01
but you know, or they could just focus on telling a good story.

Matthew Duclos 34:06
Exactly. horses for courses I mean it's it's the same with every factor of cinema lenses, you know the right tool for the right job.

Alex Ferrari 34:15
Right right now how do you test set? How do you test a good lens to see if it's any good?

Matthew Duclos 34:20
Oh, where do I begin? here at our shop, there's a couple of tools that we use so we do testing all day every day. That's like I know we everybody sort of knows this now for selling lenses. Our primary business always has been always will be servicing lenses, making sure they're as good as they can be. Testing lenses I'd say our primary tool for doing that is our test projector. So we're literally is a test target or reticle, if you will, at the film plane and we're testing how the lens performs essentially backwards as it would be. Instead of putting a picture at the film plane we have a picture of the film plane, we're projecting it on. While and that's sort of the bread and butter. There's a whole bunch of other tools we use a T stop bench to measure light. We have several Carla meters for checking flange depth, not just landed up, we also use a column meter for axial alignment, we have a vertical lens, we can check how well the optics are aligned on their own axis. There's a whole bunch of tools we use.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
Now is there anything that the independent filmmaker can do to test a lens on their own, just, you know, either with charts or any, any any basic tests that they could just go ahead and make sure this is a good night?

Matthew Duclos 35:38
Um, so no, you could turn on a camera and see what it does. Um, I usually I mean, that's sort of step one, if you're getting a picture, you're getting a picture, right? But you know, when you're testing lenses on a camera, you're not just testing the lens, then you're testing the camera, you're testing the recording format, then you're testing the monitor. And if you're, I can't stand it when people say, Oh, I saw this lens test on YouTube. While I definitely understood the value of watching test results on YouTube, or looking at what the lens did, then what the camera did, then what the codec did, then what the export did, then what the upload compression did, then with the monitors, it's like, there's so many layers between the lens and how you're viewing it on your monitor. There's absolutely no consistency to it at all.

Alex Ferrari 36:29
Right? If you really need to see it by eye as opposed to

Matthew Duclos 36:32
Yeah, and that's why we use our test projector. Some other places use MTF benches, which are very, very useful. And we can we actually have sort of a makeshift MTF bench here. But it's not you know, I've seen lenses the MTF are really really high, and then they suck on the camera, they just don't, they don't produce a good picture. And vice versa. I've seen lenses the MTF really low, and they make absolutely stunning images.

Alex Ferrari 36:58
It basically at the end of the day is throw it on a camera record, okay, record it and see what it looks like. It's that good. That's step one. And then you can get into the nuances or have someone like you or or another repair shop actually tested for you to make sure we're good on it. Now you do a lot of repairs and maintenance on lenses. As you've said, Can you tell me a story of the world's craziest case of what someone sent you to fix or repair?

Matthew Duclos 37:26
Ah, I wouldn't say that it was sent to repair. It's actually one of the lenses we have here in our lobby, okay. Anybody that's in LA remember the the there was a fire on the back lot of Universal Studios out five or six years ago. And customer of ours. He's been a customer for a long time. We service his stuff many many times. Very, very low key cinematographer does a lot of commercials very, very quiet. His stuff was all on the soundstage prepping for a commercial the next day. Everything went up in flames and he talked to the fire department afterwards said can I go pick through that the rubble after they bulldoze to try and find my stuff. And he found his 24 to 290 and a couple other I think it was a superspeed and an ultra prime. Oh, no, sorry, s four. And he brought to us Hey, can you fix these and they're just they're they're so far beyond send metal. I would say that's probably the strangest obviously he was joking. He didn't expect us. He gave it to us because we had service that lends probably a dozen times throughout its life. So it's kind of sad to see that all that hard work was just gone.

Alex Ferrari 38:39
Right? I'm sure hope you had insurance. Oh, yeah, absolutely. So that's it's in your in your lobby as it has a good resting place. I have to say

Matthew Duclos 38:49

Alex Ferrari 38:50
That's a good resting place.

Matthew Duclos 38:51
I would say that the coolest one was probably probably a Kubrick lens. Everybody knows that famous Kubrick lens. customer of ours brought one in completely original unmodified,

Alex Ferrari 39:06
but it actually wasn't an actual Kubrick lens.

Matthew Duclos 39:09
Yeah, so the story behind it was he Kubrick bought all of them that NASA didn't buy and they converted a bunch of them for use on that particular camera. And then they kept one lens completely untouched. In case one of the other lenses that they modified broke because they couldn't get spare parts from Zeiss since they were all gone, right. So this one lens that wasn't modified ended up in our hands. And it's I mean, I don't I don't think even Zeiss has one

Alex Ferrari 39:37
that's pretty and that sits in your lobby as well.

Matthew Duclos 39:40
No, that's it that's locked in the vault that doesn't ever leave the vault.

Alex Ferrari 39:43
Have you shot Has anyone shot with it or is it just Ah,

Matthew Duclos 39:47
we've kind of shot with it. It's the distance from the rear glass. The rear element to the film plane is about four millimeters. So you can't use it on any camera that has an O LPF. Because you just don't have enough space.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
What does an LLP Say that again, low pass filter, okay, okay.

Matthew Duclos 40:06
Because even the distance from the low pass filter to the sensor, that's probably five to 10 millimeters somewhere in that range by itself. So you can't have anything at all in front of the sensor. So I've put it on photography, I shoot with Fuji stuff. And they don't use a low pass filter since they have their x trans sensor. And I put it on there and it's it's pretty interesting.

Alex Ferrari 40:30
It's an interesting look to say the least. Yeah, how wide How wide is that one?

Matthew Duclos 40:35
It's a 50 millimeter.

Alex Ferrari 40:36
It's a 50. And what's the what's the F stop?

Matthew Duclos 40:39
It says 0.7

Alex Ferrari 40:41
cheese's. Now, Ken since we're on Kubrick and I'm a Kubrick fanatic. I and everyone listening to this podcast knows that I absolutely adore Kubrick and I've read everything about him. Can you talk a little bit about that glass that he used in what was so important specifically about the Barry Lyndon glass which is the legendary glass that he used and I'm assuming you went to the Kubrick exhibit when it was here at the LACMA Of course and did you see that that yeah that the how lens Oh

Matthew Duclos 41:09
yeah, so that was a that was a trip for me I'll usually I'll go to museums especially stuff at LACMA at the Getty that sort of thing and it's always you know, it's cool stuff photography or short form or another but this one was like it's like someone built a museum exhibit for me Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 41:30
The lenses were laid out and the piece discussing how you use them

Matthew Duclos 41:36
I'm looking at all this exhibit and like I've taken that lens apart 10 times I've done that one 1000 times I just it was beautiful it was so much fun for me

Alex Ferrari 41:43
So can you talk a little bit about what made those Barry Lyndon glass that glass I'm Barry Lyndon so revolutionary for its time

Matthew Duclos 41:51
well the speed was the primary thing just having that 0.75 aperture that was like if they even to this day I don't think it's really been done for that format size you can find some really weird obscure stuff that's meant for like x ray machines but doesn't even cover Micro Four Thirds sensor I think that was the most unique part about those was just that that ultra shallow depth of field of a point seven five lens

Alex Ferrari 42:19
now how what what was what was the next level up or what was the next fastest lens available at the time? A give or take like a too late

Matthew Duclos 42:29
All right, I think they had the super speeds out so you'd have like a T one three.

Alex Ferrari 42:33
Okay, so but that extra that extra What is it point five?

Matthew Duclos 42:38
I don't whenever t stopped the Kubrick lens I don't know what it actually I don't know how much light was actually coming out the back of the lens because there was an F point seven five so it was probably like maybe a T one or 1.2 we'd have to actually test it

Alex Ferrari 42:54
I'm glad now i'm sure after this after this interview you'll you'll go and play with it.

Matthew Duclos 42:59
I don't know that's you know our T stop bench we nicknamed The Heartbreaker because everybody thinks they have you know the T one three or T one four speeds and then we put them on and we say well you know the manufacturer is stretched a little bit it's more like a T one seven. So I don't want to I just want to leave that Kubrick lens as if that's history I don't want to test it

Alex Ferrari 43:19
oh that's fine but and then also the the film of motion back then was just not able to to wasn't as sensitive as film today or even digital. So that was what made that's how he was able to light basically by candlelight.

Matthew Duclos 43:36
Exactly. Yeah, you needed a fast lens to do it that back then

Alex Ferrari 43:39
is such a gorgeous you need a fast lens to do it now too. But also the the resolution of these cameras. Have you played with the Sony A seven s two. Oh, yeah. That that's a sick camera. Yeah, that sensor is pretty. You can see in the dark.

Matthew Duclos 43:55
Yeah, it's it's almost not fair.

Alex Ferrari 43:59
I have one of those. It's just I was just doing a test with it the other day and I wasn't even looking under the couch where there's no light and I'm like, damn it I see everything under the couch. It's like it's pretty. It's pretty insane. Now can you talk a little bit about coatings, coatings on lenses, the coated versus uncoated because I know you sell some uncoated lenses and why do DPS want uncoated lenses as opposed to coated and what's what is a coat in the first place.

Matthew Duclos 44:29
So coatings The primary purpose of a coating really is to to increase or maintain really light transmission. The purpose of the coating is to allow light to pass through the glass as efficiently as possible. a byproduct of the coating is characteristics of the lens like the color, sometimes how the focus falls off sometimes sort of weird obscure bouquets that you get depending on how the Polish In the coating pair up. But the primary purpose of the coatings is to make the lens more efficient to increase that tea stop reading.

Alex Ferrari 45:10
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show

Matthew Duclos 45:21
uncoated lenses where we strip the coatings that's actually a huge misconception. For example, the Super Bowl tars people think that the coatings on those that there are no coatings that they just shipped them without coating, which is completely untrue. They just, they were shitty coatings back then. Right. And a lot of times people will call us to remove the coatings from their lenses to give them a more vintage look. And they'll call us and say, you know, I want all the coatings stripped, and I say No, you don't. If we strip all the coatings, it just won't work you'll have so, so much light loss, so much image quality loss, you're going to be left with garbage, right? So anytime we do pursue that it's a very, very meticulous, very tedious process where we, we start, we usually start with the front element, which is a mistake. It's all trial and error. We're doing one project right now for a company who I cannot talk about came and talked about the lenses we're doing. It's a essentially, there's a recipe. Anytime we're taking the coatings off of a lens, it's certain surfaces of certain elements. And we thought it's all trial and error, we go back and forth, then we replace the element with a brand new one. If we go too far, go to the next element town. I think the project that we've been working on right now, probably about maybe three months in and we're still winning them still getting the right recipe. So it's all trial and error to get a specific look. And that look is usually increasing the flares, giving a little more character increasing how highlights bloom, that sort of thing.

Alex Ferrari 47:00
Now you use I don't know if you still do I remember a while ago, you used to sell the rokinon a set of the primes uncoated. Is that did you guys still do that?

Matthew Duclos 47:09
I pulled the plug on that, that. We did it for a couple people. At the time, it like I said that recipe that we had for each lens, which I still have, I probably should do it again. Okay. But the the labor involved in getting into each of those elements and the time it takes to polish them. The cost to do that uncoding process ended up costing more than the lenses did themselves.

Alex Ferrari 47:37
Gotcha. So if there's anybody out there who still has those very valuable

Matthew Duclos 47:44
I think the one set that we did initially was for a company in Australia and they were stolen. I don't know where they are now. And when we call they call back to say can we get more I said sorry, I don't, we're not gonna do anymore. All right, I think there was one other set that a private owner had I have no idea if he still has them. But yeah, they're, they're unique, they're definitely unique. And then I'm I might actually pull that recipe out and use it again because now they have the rokinon ziens which are the same glass. So I use that same recipe and it would probably in the case of the ziens it may end up being worthwhile because they're priced higher than the regular rochen ons were right

Alex Ferrari 48:23
of course of course now is the Are there any other uncoated because I know a friend of my dp a friend of mine had a set of cooks uncoated cooks Are there other manufacturers actually making uncoated lenses?

Matthew Duclos 48:37
Yeah cook does that now Oh cool. They do that for the they started doing it with the mini s four is where you can buy a replacement element that was uncoated. And I think they're they announced it I don't know if they're doing it but they worked with camtech here in LA to get a essentially what I just said about you know a recipe they have a specific recipe where certain elements are uncoated. And I think they're doing that with the regular s fours

Alex Ferrari 49:07
now the basically so familiar from what you're talking saying is that lenses basically have a combination of a few different elements to create the actual look of that lens, whether it be where the glass is manufactured, how its manufactured, how it's put together. And then on top of that, then you throw the the mysterious coating on that. If it varies in the batch that they make it could adjust the look of that lens though obviously you pay those high prices because everything is systematic on cooks or Zeiss or things like that. Give it you know, generally speaking, but there is there's various variables of making lenses. So just because you buy two of the exact same lens doesn't mean you're going to get exactly the same looks correct. Right? Unless you're paying those high end prices for like those, you know, a full prime set of cooks. All are going to have All are going to be balanced all are going to be same color temperature and so on. Correct? You know,

Matthew Duclos 50:04
that's, that's actually now that I think about it, you know, the look of a lens, the consistency, even in something lower cost like a rokinon. You know, we'll have some customers that want to buy broken arms, but they want sort of a tailored set, they weren't color matched, which we'll do because we keep a ton of them here. So we'll sort of cherry pick and find the best ones. And even within rokinon, something as cheap as that, we only find like, I think the most I ever saw was like a 5% variants and colorshift,

Alex Ferrari 50:37
which is you can't even tell basically,

Matthew Duclos 50:40
you can you can definitely like if you're shooting a white wall, a completely blank white wall or something where the color is very neutral or supposed to be neutral, you will see it but it's so minor. My point being the guys that are the manufacturers that are really taking that into consideration. It's a big deal. Like they have to go through a lot to get that extra couple percent.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
Right to make it but when you're spending, you know, a set of cook supers was as far as what are the most expensive primes out there as a cook?

Matthew Duclos 51:12
No. Most Expensive primes? Probably master and a morphix.

Alex Ferrari 51:21
Maybe, okay, and they I'm assuming they all match perfectly. Right? They better I don't think

Matthew Duclos 51:29
I don't think I've ever done the color test on those. But I've actually never heard anyone complain. So either they think they're good or they are good, right? It's like

Alex Ferrari 51:38
when you buy when you buy a Mercedes or Ferrari no pun intended or, or a Lamborghini like it drives it drives fine. Because you just spent 180 grand on it.

Matthew Duclos 51:48
Exactly. You expected to perform.

Alex Ferrari 51:50
Exactly. Now can you talk a little bit about the magical thing called speed boosters, because that's something that's come up lately, you know, with these adapters, which you can turn a PL mount into a cannon mount and put those glasses on but also boost the the T stop or the F stop on those. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Matthew Duclos 52:13
Yeah, it's it's actually nothing new. Really. It's been that product. I can't remember what it used to be called. A It was a number because it the factor. Anyway, can't remember the concept of a focal reducer is nothing new. It's kind of cool in practice, meta bones did a really good job of marketing it. Yes, they did. I think originally they were saying that it increases sharpness. And this and that, which I don't know about that. That's kind of stretching it. But it is a cool product, I think it's great for for what it is.

Alex Ferrari 52:50
So if you throw a throw so basically what from what I understand what it does is just focuses more of the light onto the sensor through the lens.

Matthew Duclos 52:58
Yeah, you're basically condensing the the image that you would have had into a smaller area, which is going to increase your light transmission.

Alex Ferrari 53:07
So you you put a nice fast lens on that through a speed booster through the a seven s and you basically could shoot

Matthew Duclos 53:13
at night. Yeah, exactly. With no

Alex Ferrari 53:17
lights anywhere in the middle of the desert. Right. Now, um, can you talk a little bit about anamorphic? And the concept between because that's something that's starting to come back from what I'm seeing and hearing. Yeah, definitely. It's starting to come back a little bit more. And then of course, all those beautiful lens flares that JJ created, and is known for in his movies. I'm assuming those are anamorphic ones I'm not, I'm assuming they didn't do that post. Right. So can you talk about the concept of anamorphic lenses and why they're so relevant today.

Matthew Duclos 53:52
The concept of them is what's most intriguing to me, which I feel like has been lost over time. The reason anamorphic came to be originally was to increase the field of view, you wanted a wider picture with the same lens. It all came down to the field of view these days. It's very, very, very rare to find somebody that's looking to increase the field of view, instead of looking for the anamorphic style. These days, anamorphic has become a style choice. Not so much of utility. In fact, I think Zeiss experienced that pretty severely when they had their master anamorphic 's they were essentially anamorphic or sorry, they were essentially master primes with a two times squeeze. So they were these beautiful, super sharp, super crisp lenses with a two times squeeze, which is what anamorphic is all about. But they didn't produce flares. They didn't produce any unique characteristics. They were still very, very clean. I can only imagine how much the engineers at Zeiss were crying when they said, Okay, well, this is too good, you need to make it worse, we're going to come out with this flare set. So it's like that with that flare set, we replaced the front and rear element and basically undid all this engineering that they had put into. Right? Because people said, hey, there's a great but I want more style, I want more flair, I want more character. So for better or worse, however you want to look at it anamorphic these days has definitely become a style choice.

Alex Ferrari 55:33
And, and getting those lens flares. You know, do I've been on set they actually throw sometimes they'll actually throw a light a light into the lens just to kind of flare it out.

Matthew Duclos 55:45

Alex Ferrari 55:46
And and what's your what's your What are some of your favorite anamorphic anamorphic lenses?

Matthew Duclos 55:53
Personally, I am a huge proponent of the vintage colors, okay, they're, they're like, they're so small compared to modern anamorphic. They're fast. They're just a service liability, because they are going to break down sooner or later. And there's very, very few parts for those left.

Alex Ferrari 56:13
Right? Yeah. Do you guys create parts? Do you guys can you know manufacture parts?

Matthew Duclos 56:18
Yeah, if it's something like that, actually, just a couple weeks ago, somebody, somebody sent one in, that had been dropped and the chassis of the lens was bent, which is like the main core of the lens. Sure. So the only option you have at that point is to find another lens and salvage the parts, or for us to make a whole new part. So we made we manufactured the core, the chassis of that lens and replaced it all. And from what I'm told it's working great in the field so far. Same thing with Iris blades on those the iris blades tend to fail when the lubrication dries up, they can sort of they can bind in either kink the iris blade or snap off of it. So we manufacture Iris blades for those because they're so hard to find. Class though, no way, forget about it.

Alex Ferrari 57:07
You guys aren't in a glass making business.

Matthew Duclos 57:10
Well, it's not just that it's that the materials they use back then are outlawed. Now you can't use LED, you can't use you know, some of the stuff that has become radioactive now. You just you can't use it. It's illegal. Now you're not allowed. And that's actually a funny loophole that pan ivision found, I forget where I read this, it might have been like fd times or something. Pan envision gets away with it, because they don't sell their equipment. They only rent it out. Yeah, they only rent it. And you can't use those materials and anything that you're going to sell. But since they have no intention of selling anything, and they can still do it.

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Can you talk a little bit about pan of vision glass because I know that's also legendary Lee good glass. A lot of a lot of filmmakers and cinematographers really love that glass. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Matthew Duclos 57:54
Um, I know some bits about them. We don't usually see a lot of panoramas and glass here. Anytime we do see a Pan American lens come in, we call them up and say Why is this not at your shop? Right? because nothing's really supposed to leave panda vision. Sure. And we usually get weird answers like, Oh, well, you know, that serial number, it looks like ours, but we don't have a record of it. And we have to kind of assume that it's okay. Right, your vision doesn't say something's wrong, and you just wait to say that something's wrong. All right. But painted vision stuff all stays in house, so I don't have a whole lot of experience diving into their lenses. I have a lot of friends that work at penta vision lens Tech's but their stuff is it's unique. They'll say that at the very least,

Alex Ferrari 58:39
it's a very unique proprietary system that they that they've created for their lenses. A lot

Matthew Duclos 58:45
of the stuff that they did, you know, in the 80s 90s was it was produced at the same factory as some of the stuff like Leica in Canada. So it's got that sort of unique, classic style. But for their new stuff, I have no idea where it comes from who's making it where they source the stuff, but their vintage stuff. That's where they're making bank right now. And that's they cornered the market on the vintage glass and they do it really really well.

Alex Ferrari 59:18
I mean, even you mean vintage glass is that the stuff that they've already created or they're actually creating the vintage

Matthew Duclos 59:25
both the stuff that they already have that was just sitting on the shelf for decades and they were like hey, we can use this like all the The Hateful Eight stuff. Yeah made bad. Yeah, let's use that. Sure. Why

Alex Ferrari 59:36
not literally found it in a corner somewhere? Exactly. Yeah. And then seen it and see lightened like since 1950.

Matthew Duclos 59:43
Exactly. They've got cabinets full of vintage stuff like that, because they don't sell anything. They don't get rid of it. That they can just sort of pull stuff off the shelf and say well let's put a current mount on this and see how it looks and still work well for them.

Alex Ferrari 59:57
Now you also you guys also have a A line of lenses yourself that you use with Leica lenses. Is that correct? No, no, no, I saw I saw I saw duclos. I saw duclos lenses and then like on it, what are those? Your lenses are? I'm not sure what you're talking about on your, on your website. If you go to the lenses section and it says duclos you click on it to buy and then

Matthew Duclos 1:00:20
oh, that's probably our you're probably talking about the 70 to 180. Yes, yes. Okay, that's just a lens that we rehoused. Oh, it's a, it's a like a 70 to 180. It's an R Series lens from, I think that was like the mid 90s. But that was sort of a pet project of mine that took off. I had one of those lenses A long time ago, which was almost new at the time, I think I was the second owner. And I absolutely loved that lens. And I always told myself, if I had time, I'd do a conversion, make it beautiful, make it a cinema lens. And they just sat on my shelf for like, maybe almost 10 years. I didn't do anything with it. And then like I started producing all their skinny glass, you know, the super like C's and the sumo currencies. And a bunch of people were asking us to do some kind of zoom that would match those, and has got this 70 to 180. Let's try it, see how it works. And everybody have I showed it to loved it. It's not a perfect lens. It's that, you know, personality. Yeah, it's got the typical vignette that a Leica has a really shallow, not shallow, it's really subtle might fall off. It breathes, it's got, you know, character flaws, but it's just a beautiful lens, and it matches really well with those. So I was finally able to put that into a city housing. I sat down with our engineer here, and we went over it for like, probably a couple months. And it really it started as just a pet project and then became something that people actually wanted. So it worked really well.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
Now, can you talk a little bit about your you guys do something called cinema mode? Or cinema? Yeah, city mode or cinema modification? What? What exactly is that? Because I know a lot of people have these photo lenses and they want to transfer over to to cinema mode. Can you Scott that discuss that a little bit?

Matthew Duclos 1:02:11
Sure. That was something that started I'll give you some history on it. We had a customer that was doing stereo scopic macro work. And he had the original Zeiss Zf lenses, not this was before the Zf twos. And he had to have them, like inches, not even millimeters apart, they had to be as close as possible. And he needed to be able to drive the focus on both of them simultaneously accurately. So he asked us, we could put some gears on it and take the quickstarts out of the aperture. And a couple other things. We said sure, why not? And so he shot that project is I think he was doing something like bugs or something really macro. And he showed some guys, they showed some guys and we just sort of kept doing it. You know, we ended up calling it the cinema between eydap trademarking. And honestly, we never thought that it would be something that the entire industry would want, but we've done it if I had to guess I'd probably say we've done in the realm of 10s of 1000s of lenses, of

Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
course. And that makes absolutely sense because people want it they have, they've already spent the whole lot of money on glass. And if we can make

Matthew Duclos 1:03:25
it cheaper options out, you can get zip gears you can get you know, you can watch a huge tutorial on how to de click your lens. Yeah, but we just kind of, you know, we don't ever try to sell people aren't like ours is better, or is it better? But, you know, if you want it done, right, you kind of go through us.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42
And last last last technical question want to ask you, because it's something that a lot of people always ask me about lens mounts, and what the industry standard is and why, you know, pls and ETFs and things like that. What can you talk a little bit about lens mounts? And what is the industry standard?

Matthew Duclos 1:04:03
Uh, the industry standard is PL Okay, I think that's pretty firm. Even Pan ivision does a lot of PL stuff now.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:11
Because they have their own pen. Everyone has their own mounts as well, right? Yeah, exactly.

Matthew Duclos 1:04:16
But canon is definitely coming up. It's not anywhere near as robust or reliable as PLM out. But the fact that there's just, I mean canon has all their ads and everything up will show you it's like, I forget what the number is like 10 million EF mount lenses in the wild, like that date, right? So just the fact that there's so many lenses available and EF mount it's just sort of became the second option that works well. But it's not a cinema mount. It's not meant to perform as well as a PL mount for cinema. The EF mount itself, unless you have that positive lock feature like the new red stuff, or I think even the new canons, the C 500 and the The C 300 mark two has it where you actually lock the lens into the mount. The EF mounts just not reliable it's the only thing holding the lens in there is the bayonets and a little leaf spring

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
that's the thing. That's the thing that people don't understand is that the reason why the Pl mounts so reliable that's because it's a workhorse I mean you could juggle that camera all over the place and that lens is not moving. But the EF was meant for. For photo It was not meant for cinema.

Matthew Duclos 1:05:29
Exactly it was meant to hold like a pound or two at most. And every almost every EF mount out there is made of nickel plated brass which is really soft. Really, really flexible. A proper PL mount you're gonna find in most cases either stainless steel or titanium right the only company I can think of that makes a PL mount lens not out of stainless steel is canon themselves like their their cinese rooms they again use brass nickel plated

Alex Ferrari 1:06:03
yeah and again it depends again it's depends on what you're using it for. I mean obviously there's so many EF mounts like my my friend just bought the Sigma cinema lenses in EF mount because the cameras are EF mount because now the manufacturers know that there's so much EF glass out there they're like well we have to create an EF mount before it was I didn't never heard of canon in cinema it's

Matthew Duclos 1:06:25
sort of evolved naturally when when digital cinema became the main thing you know, the mainstream option. Everybody had all their canon glass already and they really just wanted to use that canon glass on whatever camera was out there. So when read you know they got pressured to do it and Eric got pressured and Blackmagic jumped in and said okay, well we'll do EF mount too and Canon obviously wants to put EF mount on theirs. It just sort of evolved that way where they said well, why not? You know nobody makes a camera that's EF only it's always an option for digital like the airy it's PL or EF or the canons PL or yes red is PL or yep but the default is almost always PL

Alex Ferrari 1:07:06
right on the on the higher end cinema cameras yeah absolutely like Blackmagic doesn't I don't think Blackmagic I think the new one might have PL the the Ursa mini but all the Blackmagic cinemas were all EF or micro four thirds thing before Yeah, exactly. So And one last question before I go into my standard end of end of the episode questions. What's your favorite lens?

Matthew Duclos 1:07:32
Ah that Kubrick lens No No,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
exactly. Dude, I seriously I would sleep with that thing honestly like right next to me in a pillow. In a case

Matthew Duclos 1:07:42
cinematography wise, I have massive massive loads of respect for cinematographers. I don't think I could ever claim to be a cinematographer because of how much respect I have for them and what they do. So I for me, my lenses, the ones that I own personally are mostly photography lens, they're still lenses. And this may sound silly because I have access to probably just about anything you can imagine. But the lens that I have on my camera which like I said earlier I'm a Fuji guy I love shooting Fuji film. The lens that I've had practically glued to the front of my camera is a medicon 35 millimeter f point nine five, the version two to be specific. It's this cheap Chinese lens I think you could find them on eBay for like four or 500 bucks. But it's just it's this cheap, fully manual lens the iris gets stuck every like 10 turns it's horrible, but the images that it produces are just awesome. I love them

Alex Ferrari 1:08:47
really is that and I think that's a really great a great story and analogy for what you should look for in a good lens is the image quality and yeah, it might not be the highest end it might not be perfect there might be a couple little character flaws but at the end of the day what does it look like when you throw it up on the camera?

Matthew Duclos 1:09:07
Exactly and that's honestly that's what I think that's probably the message I've been trying to get across because people call all the time with that question that you started the entire list of conversation with like what's a good lens right and people get so caught up in brand names and MTF charts and what the lens is designed for but the end of the day you know forget what's written on the side of the lens forget what country it's made in. Just use it and shoot it with it see what see if it's going to work for what you're shooting

Alex Ferrari 1:09:39
and at the end of the day that's all it's a matter I mean obviously story is more important but a close second is the image quality. Yeah, yeah. So um, so I asked my all of my guests these last few questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or lens industry or in life

Matthew Duclos 1:10:00
Oh, the lesson that took me the longest to learn. I would probably say patients only because I started doing this so young, I think I was about five. Well, no, no, when I started servicing lenses, I think I was about 12.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:18
You say I wasn't that far off? Yeah.

Matthew Duclos 1:10:22
I would say patience, you know at that when you're that young, it's a concept that just completely escapes you. And you just want to do everything quick and you want instant results. And I've seen I've seen companies completely fold because they try to do something fast and they try to beat others to the market. I think a good solid pace and patience are are not not characteristics that people learn quickly.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:50
Which is that there's the oxymoron. You can't learn patience quickly. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Matthew Duclos 1:11:00
Oh, man, I hate it when people ask me.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:03
Any three any three that feel that you feel like answering today? It's that I'm not gonna hold you to this?

Matthew Duclos 1:11:08
Honestly, it depends on what you know what else is coming out when you asked me that? Oh, man, if I had to pick three Wow. I'm going to say Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:20

Matthew Duclos 1:11:21
Yeah. Alien gotta go with an alien.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:24

Matthew Duclos 1:11:26
Uh I don't even know what's what will be the third one. You gotta warn me. You know what I probably have to go with Lost in Translation as odd as it sounds.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:44
Wow. That's a that's a that one I haven't heard on the show before. I mean, I love this. I love the movie. I think it's I think Sophia did an amazing job on that movie.

Matthew Duclos 1:11:51
Yeah, yeah, Sofia Coppola. The story itself is awesome the cinematography if you just watch that film it's gone you can you you can mute the entire movie and just watch it for the cinematography it's

Alex Ferrari 1:12:00
great it's a it's a moving piece of artwork yeah saying it's a moving painting because of all the colors in the in Tokyo backdrop and all the lights and and Bill Murray Of course. Yeah, yeah. Now where can people find find you and contact you if they need something?

Matthew Duclos 1:12:19
Ah, email is probably the easiest way always Matthew at duclos lenses calm. Pretty simple there. Were all over the internet though. So Instagram and Facebook. All that stuff you can always find is pretty much any social media as slash duclos lenses.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:34
Right? And of course duclos lenses calm. Yeah, exactly. All right, Matthew. Man, thank you so much for taking the time out and geeking out with me on lenses.

Matthew Duclos 1:12:44
Always, always happy to talk about lenses.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:46
Thanks, man.

Matthew Duclos 1:12:47
Take care.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:48
I told you we're gonna go deep into the lens geek world. And Matthew did not disappoint. He is a wealth of information. When it comes to lenses, optics, glass, everything. It's remarkable. So if you guys have any questions in regards to glass lenses, they sell every kind of glass imaginable. So definitely check out duclos lenses.com and I'm gonna put all the information to get ahold of Matt and duclos in the show notes at indie film hustle.com forward slash 147. Done you guys buying good glass is well worth the investment I've still got a set of my rochen on set that I bought three or four years ago and I still shoot with them all the time. And and now my I've upgraded to an also an applicant about added to them with the the Sigma art series, which I have an 18 to 35. And I just got the 50 to 100 which is gorgeous. It's remarkable, really, really good stuff. And I will be growing, I will be going up to the cinema level glass. I think the sigmaz are the Sigma cinemas are insane as we talk a little bit about in the in the interview. So I'm going to be probably getting myself a set of those for my next film as well. Now I wanted to give you guys an update real quick I know a lot of you have been hitting me up after the world premiere of mag for to find out when you guys can buy it when you guys can see it. And what I'm planning to do hopefully is I'm going to be going through distributor and we're going to be showing you guys the entire process of how I submit to some distributor, our marketing plan everything and it's going to come out in a series of videos that I hope to be working on with this stripper in the next month or so. And as we keep going through it we're going to be talking a lot more about distribution and a lot more about how we're going to release this puppy in the future but we're hoping that we're going to be releasing it in the summer sometime on iTunes first and that's going to be our plan and then after that, we'll see where it lands but it will go to all the major out Let's book for the first month or so at least, iTunes will be the place to get it. So stay tuned standby. It's coming, I promise. Alright, thank you guys so much for all your support I greatly appreciate it. And don't forget to head over to free film book calm that's free film book calm to download your free filmmaking and or screenwriting book from audible. As always keep that hustle going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.



  • Duclos Lenses
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IFH 018: Don’t only hire DPs because they own a RED Camera!

Now before I get a bunch of hate mail please let me explain. I love cinematographers. You can’t make a movie without one and I don’t take their craft lightly. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast. Being a DP is by far one of the toughest positions on set. The pressure is immense.

With that said the explosion of low-cost cameras (RED Camera, Black Magic, Canon 5D, Nikon, iPhones, etc) and lighting gear has thrown a huge amount of “cinematographers” into the marketplace.

This podcast is a warning to young and inexperienced filmmakers not to hire, not only a director of photography but any top-level crew member solely because they own some of the latest cool gear.

This advice also goes for the sound department, editorial, lighting, visual effects and definitely color grading. When hiring any top-level positions on a film production it should be based on resume, demo reel, credits and/or reputation.

Related: Why filmmaker SHOULDN’T Shoot 4k

It takes a lot of time to learn a craft as complex as cinematography so don’t be fool by someone who happens to have the new 12K Camera that hit the market. Owning a RED Camera or equivalent doesn’t make you a cinematographer, years of working and learning your craft does. BTW, that 12K camera doesn’t exist yet just in case you were going to google it.

Now if you have two cinematographers in the running to shoot your first indie feature film, short film or film project and one has a full RED Camera (DRAGON) or Arri ALEXA package and the other one doesn’t then, by all means, hire the great DP that owns gear (only if you can handle the post workflow).

Listen to my podcast: Understand Post Production Workflow of DIE! for more on that.

Owning your own “kit” or gear is almost a must to work in the film business today. Hell, I own my own gear and I package deals all the time that would cost a ton if you would have to hire a colorist and a separate color grading rig.

All I’m saying is don’t hire a crew member just because of the gear he or she owns. You’ll thank me. Take a listen to this episode to hear the horror story that cost.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today is a an episode, I think that's long overdue. It's something that a lot of first time filmmakers make mistakes. And this is kind of in my series of pitfalls and things to kind of look out for. It just is just based on my experience as a filmmaker and as a post guy as well seeing it from other filmmakers point of view. But today's story, and today's topic, is something I learned the hard way at the very, very beginning of my career is not to hire a cinematographer, based on gear and gear alone. And that is a mistake a lot of first time filmmakers or filmmakers in general make because they get glassy eyed when a dp shows them a new red or I have an Alexa or this and that. So I want to talk to you a little bit about what a cinematographer is, and I'm sure I'll go over it really quickly. I'm sure most of you know what a cinematographer is. But I have the utmost respect for cinematographers and cinematography, it is a very difficult job. As a colorist, I see what they do. I see a lot of times people see the final image and they don't realize how difficult the day of the shoot was or that production didn't give them the lights that they need or their assistant cameras up that day or a million other things. But the DP gets blamed for it, especially in the color room because all you see is the final image. So it's the DPS job to make sure that final image looks as good as possible, regardless of the problems. But it's a lot of times a thankless job in many ways. It's great, they praise you when you do good and they destroy you when you do bad. So it's a tough job. So I have the utmost respect for cinematographers. Now with that said, the explosion of low cost camera gear and lighting gear has exploded the number of quote unquote cinematographers in the marketplace all around the world, not just Los Angeles, all around the world. I had this happen to me in Miami, but as well as other places as well around the world as well here in Los Angeles as well. So the problem is that nowadays people say well, if you bought a red, does that make you a dissonant photographer, because let's say I have $150,000, burning a hole in my pocket, and I go out and buy a full blown dragon system, full set of lenses, the best money can buy. And then, you know, I also have a $50,000 grip truck with every piece of lighting known demand, you, you would assume that someone who has purchased all this gear would know what they're doing. But time and time again, I've realized that that's not necessarily the case. So when you hire a dp, you must look at their work, you must interview them, you must understand it if they understand the kind of budget level you're at, because you can get an Academy Award winning dp but if they're used to playing with very big toys and your budget is $100,000 it's not a good fit. So that's a side note but I'm gonna tell you the story of what happened to me when I first first got in the business shot my very first big big thing I was shooting back in the early 90s I was shooting on film 35 millimeter film, believe it or not, and I knew this this company that happened to have film cameras, lighting, lighting kits, they had a whole business shooting a bunch of different things. They have a soundstage everything all in Miami and these guys wanted something new cool stuff on there real so I tell them look you know if you guys jump on board, you know I'll give you a copy of it for your real and you know, blah blah blah and we all kind of work together. But on the outset it looked like these guys knew what they were doing. I mean they had a full business doing it. What I didn't realize is the business that they were in was a kind of like, infomercial, kind of lighting and corporate video kind of stuff. They had no idea how to do a high end fashion, Nike commercial, which is what I was doing and I was doing actually did three commercials with them. And, and I was shooting 35 and they had 35 millimeter cameras. And it cost me about $50,000 to do my demo reel which was about three what ended up being five commercial spots. When I was all said and done, so I package them all out to do them in like five days and you know it tried to do it is, you know, affordably as possible. Because there was no digital anything back then it was like I was barely able to edit this on on an avid back in the day. But anyway, so we want to start shooting and I didn't get one dp, I got to DPS and now my crew was top notch I had a good producer who was working with me. And she basically inherited these, these the IPS and all their gear if she didn't choose them, she didn't know she was a seasoned professional. After day one, the crew that day one excuse me, our one the crew walked off the set from from from them because they said we're not working with these guys, these guys are idiots, they have no idea what they're doing. So the producer had to talk them back blah blah cuz the crew was actually a professional film crew. But these guys were complete idiots. And what happened is, if you ever are on a set with two DPS you need to run away. There's no reason for to DPS ever. at all, there is a dp there's a grapher that's that standard, but to actual Director of Photography is with core edits as director photography's both of them talking about how they're going to light the scene is absolutely insanity. The crew members, four years later after I worked with him and many other projects, they kept referring to them as the two monkey DPS. Because they would just jump all over the set. They used to use a light meter and they wouldn't light and they would check the light meter 50 times a minute to see how their lighting was and they would pull out 400 lights from their massive grip truck to light this scene. And the crew was like what are these guys doing? So I was pushing the envelope I was shooting very unique stock of film, I actually gave them a booklet that I created on how to shoot the stock a film it was called reversal film stock to get some very unique looks. And I because I I even felt that they didn't know they've never shot anything like this before. So I did all the research to have them understand it. And then I was on top of them a lot of times because I'm technical. So I was always like what's your what's your F stop? And you know, how is it it and what are you doing and all this kind of stuff. So fast forward to the entire the end of this thing. One of the commercials came out so so horribly, horribly bad that I literally burned the negative, I didn't give it to them. I actually went outside of my house opened up a big metal pan dumped to the 35 millimeter negative they're embarrassed it because I would never I never wanted to let anyone see this, let alone them get their hands on it. Because they they would have promoted it as their work. And I didn't want my name attached anything like that. So I had to then reshoot a bunch of stuff with another dp who was actually a real dp, who had also had his own camera, but I saw his work and he came highly recommended and so on and so forth. But that experience taught me that you never hire a cinematographer. Based on the gear that he brings. The gear that he brings is a huge plus nowadays, these owner operators are becoming the norm, because you can hire a dp who owns a red camera, and that's just part of his day rate, or owns an Alexa or owns his own lens packages. And those are those are costs that you don't have to incur. And the DP is doing that because that way he gets more work or she gets more work. And that's wonderful. And there's a lot of DPS. You know, I did I did an interview with my good friend Suki who's in the ISC amazing cinematographer, he owns his own Alexa camera, you know, because he wants to own his own Alexa camera and it makes him a more valuable dp because he has his own camera. Because now every every almost every dp has his own packages, even the even the biggest DPS will have you know, I was talking to get model Toros DPS, right hand man who's a good friend of mine, and they they own 20, Alexa's and, you know, 15 or 20 reds and, and they rent it out. And it's just part of their business plan now so there's nothing wrong with a dp that owns their own gear, but you can't hire them based solely upon the gear that they bring to the table. And that goes with anybody with anything a sound guy that has all the greatest gear. I've had bad experiences with that as well. You know, you can't hire people based on the gear that they bring, you have to make sure that they can do the job, right. I would rather hire someone who doesn't have their own gear who could do the job right and rent the gear somehow. or hopefully find someone that has both together. So I'm a word of warning. don't hire people based on their gear, look at their work, interview them. Ask for references. Because I'm telling you, you will get burned. You will get burned badly and I did it on A small, you know, commercial shoot, you know, $50,000 not small to me, but comparatively to a million dollar movie, half a million dollar movie and or feature, you know, smaller I did 32nd spots. So if I would have done a full short film with them been with these guys for three, four weeks on a feature, I would have shot somebody, literally I think and I think the, the crew would have done the job for me. So don't hire monkey DPS. No, I'm joking. You know, just just like I said before, hire people based on their merit and on their, on their skill on their reel and on the personality if they mix with you or not, because the DP is your right hand guy, as a director as a filmmaker. If they, if you don't mix with your dp, it's gonna be a long, long, long, long shoot. So make sure and it's kind of like dating, you know, before you jump in to marriage, you should date them, talk to them, really get to know them, make sure you're making the right decision because it is a relationship that you will have an intense relationship you will have for the duration of the shoot, whether that be a few days, which is not that big of a deal. But if you're on a feature, could be extremely detrimental to your final product. Or absolutely beneficial if you hire the right person. Because a dp can also save your butt. If you're not a technical director and compose shots for you and you can handle the actors and things like that there's a lot of things a good dp brings to the table. And it's imperative to have a good dp when shooting a feature film. So I hope this story word word of warning helped you guys I hope that you will hire people based on their merit and not on the gear that they bring to the table no matter how beautiful the gear is. Don't care what new Reddit is don't care what Alexa it is don't care. Anything and Same goes for posts just because a guy owns a full blown color system, make sure he does he knows what he's doing. Make sure he's colored a bunch of movies, make sure he understands how to deal with your kind of file format. I mean, it goes with every crew remember that brings gear or has gear to bring to the table. Alright, so I hope it was helpful to you guys. Thanks for listening. Remember, head on over to iTunes. You could just go to indie film, hustle, calm forward slash iTunes. And leave me an honest review on the podcast. It really helps us out a lot to get these reviews and helps us get the word out on indie film hustle. So thanks again for your time guys. Keep hustling. Keep making movies, don't let your dream fall to the wayside. You got to keep going no matter what. Alright, thanks again guys. Talk to you soon.




  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)