Recently Kees van Oostrum ASC, DoP and President of the ASC, came to Australia and New Zealand to share his experience of using the latest large format camera systems in a series of masterclasses. He was also the guest of honour at the official ANZ launches of the new ARRI ALEXA Mini LF camera.
van Oostrum explained, “ARRI flew in one of the first ALEXA Mini LF cameras in the world along with their new ARRI Signature Prime lenses for the masterclasses and launch events. My job was to explain the benefits of shooting with large format cameras and how these amazing new Signature Prime lenses can truly find a look to suit all tastes.”
The masterclasses and launches kicked off in Sydney before moving to Melbourne, Wellington and Auckland.
van Oostrum continued, “We got straight into the advantages of large format and in particular 2.40 spherical extraction which presents us with a new way to show a widescreen image as opposed to the traditional anamorphic way. We then explored the quality of the new Signature Primes and how to match them with classic lenses to create the look, feel, tones and softness that people want. This includes the adding of lens elements to the back of the Signature Primes which enables you to truly customise the look of the lenses.”
During each masterclass van Oostrum used a variety of old and classic lenses some of which were nearly 100 years-old and many of which were uncoated.
He added, “Part of the masterclass was to help the cinematographers understand how much more control you have with modern lenses. The most extreme example we demonstrated was with an uncoated lens from 1920 which had lots of unique characteristics. That said, we were able to not only recreate its look with the new Signature Primes but we also had the added advantage of now being able to change the new modern lenses at a moment’s notice.”
As a well-renowned cinematographer van Oostrum has worked with his fair share of cameras. So, the praise he had for the ARRI family and its newest addition the ALEXA Mini LF was praise indeed.
He said, “The Mini LF is a large format camera that can shoot full frame 2.40 spherical extraction and is reminiscent of a regular ALEXA or ALEXA Mini shooting with anamorphic without any distortion but a similar depth of field. This is what has helped create, in fact, a new look that’s never been seen before. There’s also much less noise in the image in large format cameras which means you can afford to shoot at much higher ISOs. You also get far better results in highlights and lowlights as the sensor simply holds the image in a better way. This, in turn, also means you can get away with blowing the image up more in post without losing much quality.”
van Oostrum was also complimentary about the Mini LF’s form factor and functionality in a world where doing more with less in becoming increasingly common.
He added, “The Mini LF is a wonderful, small camera that feels like half the size of an ALEXA LF but retains a substantial number of its features. The improved finder on the Mini LF is excellent and gives a much better representation of the image than the previous ALEXA Mini finder. It’s affinity for commercials and high-end long-form features suggest it has a bright future ahead. The sensor has the identical characteristics of those in the ALEXA and ALEXA LF so now you can also shoot a hybrid format production that might, for instance, be predominantly Super 35, but with the Mini LF used for extreme wide or VFX shots.”
ARRI Australia GM, Brett Smith, confirmed that participation by the region’s top cinematographers (if not busy shooting) made all three masterclasses memorable. A free-flow of ideas, particularly over lens ‘looks’, replaced the traditional teacher/student structure, while Steadicam operator Pat van Weeren’s demo of large format on ARRI’s Trinity added a much needed dimension to the format discussions, and ARRI lens guru Thorsten Meywald chipped in to keep the discussions ‘telecentric’.
“Kees’ knows exactly what he wants in a look, but that doesn’t stop the constant exchange of ideas that makes his masterclasses so inspirational.”
Smith said the bonus of Kees’ ANZ visit was the reconnections and new friendships he made with dozens of ACS and NZCS committee and accredited members including presidents Ron Johanson ACS and Simon Raby NZCS. “Kees also had the pleasure of handing over one of the first pre-release Mini LFs in the world to Stefan Duscio ACS for use on The Invisible Man, currently shooting in Australia with the Mini LF and a Cinoptix ALEXA LF camera.”
“Kees squeezes in his belief in mentoring, peer support and celebration of cinematography amongst a hectic schedule that sees him return home to briefly enjoy family time in LA and ASC housekeeping before traveling to China to shoot a feature. The ARRI support team of seven staff from Australia and Hong Kong were left in awe at his passion – and his workload!”
All in all, according to Kees van Oostrum the ARRI large format masterclasses and ALEXA Mini LF launches were a great success and as such he sees a bright future for cinematographers using this technology in Australia and New Zealand.
He concluded, “We showed in the masterclasses that when you start pushing the ISO of a super 35 camera sensor you have to stop around 1600 ASA but with the Mini LF you can easily push it as far as 3200 ASA without any apparent loss of image quality. I saw how far these Australian and New Zealand cinematographers, who are some of the best in the world, are prepared to push these cameras and lenses and all I can say is, watch this space!”