Cooke Optics Gives Cinematographers A Full Frame Anamorphic Option

Behind the Lens talks to Les Zellan who is the Chairman, Cooke Optics. He discusses the firm’s Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus range and how the lenses are designed to cover the full still frame of 24×36.

Cooke Optics recently launched its Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus range which gives the best results for full frame anamorphic. How does this range give the image a greater anamorphic feel?
With the growing appetite for large format production, and the continuing popularity of the anamorphic look, the next logical step for us was to give cinematographers a full frame anamorphic option. After a great deal of research and discussion, we believe the 1.8 squeeze of the Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus range gives the best results for full frame anamorphic. At 2x you would lose too many pixels, and at 1.6x (the correct ratio to use every pixel) you will not get enough of the anamorphic character. Our solution at 1.8x gives the image a greater anamorphic feel at the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 whilst capturing 90% of the pixels, therefore keeping this format well within industry resolution standards. However, because these are Full Frame Plus lenses designed to cover the full still frame of 24×36, you can elect to use 100% of the pixels which will result in an aspect ratio of 2.70:1.

Cooke’s anamorphic/i lenses were used to shoot the BBC series of Doctor Who. This gave the programme a more ‘filmic’ look. Can you explain how this was achieved?
There is a growing trend for high-end drama to utilise the anamorphic look that is more often seen in cinemas to bring a filmic quality.

Denis Crossan BSC shot the first episode that set the look and feel for the new series of Doctor Who. As well as the characteristics that anamorphic lenses bring, like the oval bokeh, they also offer more choices in terms of framing – as Denis said, “With four to five key cast members in almost every scene, the Anamorphic/i’s meant we could place them all within the frame and let the scene play – even 2:1 you have those options, and if you want to make a point you use a big close up.”

The anamorphic/i lenses don’t give as much flare as other anamorphic lenses. How did this benefit when you were shooting Doctor Who?
Denis noted this, and also that they have a cleaner look across the entire frame, which he thought would work well with the material he was shooting – mainly location-based with a lot of night shoots and practical effects.

Are the full range of lenses currently in production?
The full range of Anamorphic/i lenses is in constant production at our factory in Leicester, where all our lenses are hand crafted. As for the Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus range, the first four lenses – 40mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm – should be available for delivery around NAB 2019, with the other lenses – 32mm, 135mm and 180mm – to follow over the coming year.

The firm also recently presented the Panchro/i Classic 65mm Macro and 21mm lenses – a modern redesign of the vintage classic. How did you recreate the same look and feel of the original lenses?
People still love the look they get from the old Speed Panchros, but they are hard to find – and if you can find them, you have to remount them for today’s cameras. In response to this, we took the original design from our archives and created a new housing to fit a PL mount, plus of course new glass – but they retain the look and feel of the originals. The addition of the 65mm Macro and the 21mm focal lengths give film-makers more choices when pursuing that ‘vintage’ look.

With regards to attending trade shows, these seem to be very important to Cooke Optics?
We attend a lot of trade shows and events around the world, as we like to meet our customers and film-makers who love our lenses. As well as being able to show them our latest products, these events offer a great opportunity to discuss their upcoming projects and the challenges they face to tell particular stories. All of our lens families are developed as a result of conversations with knowledgeable, creative and passionate people who want more choices to tell their stories.

Can you tell me what product innovations Cooke Optics is currently working on?
I could tell you but….you know the rest!

And finally, how does the firm always stay ahead of the competition?
With over 130 years in the business, we do what we have always done – talk to the people that use or hire out our lenses – people who are on the coalface of production. We listen and discuss their needs, keep our ear to the ground regarding nascent formats and trends, and use our experience to decide which direction to take our development. It’s all about giving people interesting ways to tell their stories.