ZEISS provides ‘perfect tool’ for visual effects

Digital technologies have transformed traditional filmmaking with innovative technologies in both production and post production, paving the way for a more versatile, cost-effective and advanced workflow. The ZEISS Compact Prime CP.3 family is the latest offering from ZEISS to support creative and progressive filmmaking with an affordable, future-proof and premium quality lens set, while providing metadata-capable technology. Visual-effects specialist, producer and director Scott E Anderson, who tested the CP.3 XD lenses for his CASE 10-86 project, reveals more.

What are your thoughts on the quality of the images created by the CP.3?
Scott E Anderson: The images the ZEISS CP.3 lenses create are pretty amazing. When I first talked to ZEISS we were talking about the new blacks, the sharpness improvement and what we would see. I have always liked the ZEISS look, and have shot a lot using ZEISS lenses from various eras on my still cameras. I even retrofitted some of my favourite ZEISS lenses to work on my modern digital cameras. I like the look — it has that signature look and feel.

In the Compact Prime line, it stepped way up from where the CPs started. There is nothing we did on CASE 10-86 that I was not just pleased with in the ability of the lens to capture the range of looks we were trying to get. We could only do so much in a couple of minutes of footage, but we tried to show the colour, the contrast and a couple different tones. The lenses just definitely delivered and the actors look great. As a director I was picturing something specific in my head and I was very happy with the final result.

Does the quality of the metadata meet your standards?
Anderson: The metadata seemed to deliver exactly as promised. We show the lens distortion on set, even pop it on and off through our monitor. For me, this was more out of curiosity as I know what I will see. But it definitely helps when having a client on set, or a creative who does not know lens characteristics like I do.

To me, having the combination of the focus information and the digital grid — the de-warping information — is going to be the most critical thing. Having that lined up and synced up perfectly is great for us. Seeing how it is laid out and our ability to get it from shooting into post is a tremendous workflow improvement. I am looking forward to when it gets plugged in through all the different connectors and all the different manufacturers. But I think we are off to a good start.

How does the eXtended Data technology in the CP.3 XD help to save time?
Anderson: On independent film productions, where they really do not have the time or the resources, having the eXtended Data available makes a big difference. It also makes it much more efficient for me to walk in and quickly help them out. I know that we do not need an extra half a day of measuring that they do not have.

It will also help us with fix-it-shots. A lot of time on some of the films we see, they were not planning on a shot or a new idea came up and they want to add something to a shot or a plate that was not really on the original target list. Having that lens info in the metadata is a safety net, one that helps us in ways that are not obvious to everyone on the day.
As Case 10-86 was a test project, we tried to follow a process that would match that of the ZEISS CP market. We had a smaller crew, and a very limited VFX (visual effects) team.

Here, it was a great advantage having the metadata captured by our onset DIT (digital imaging technician), and fed to VFX.

In VFX, the data for the foreground plates would be used in our camera tracking and in making the other elements fit into the foreground better. In looking at our shots, our hero element will drive the lens distortion, and any lens shading. As before, that affects both the digital imaging and compositing. Because we have the metadata and from that the characteristics of the lenses, we can apply that in reverse to our elements that are going in our hero composition, making it frame-accurate and just easier to do.

It gives us more time to work on the creative side of things. The creative aspects of filmmaking are where we want to put our time and efforts, not on the technical aspects that no one sees.

How was the overall experience directing and managing the VFX for CASE 10-86?
Anderson: Creatively, it was a lot of fun. We basically went from shoot to NAB in seven days. As far as the technical workflow for the film, there are a few more details.

We got the metadata both through a combination of our camera stream and the Ambient MasterLockitPlus. I think, eventually we will be able to get everything through either of those. This is great, because we can have the metadata included into our DPX files or RAW files via either system, depending on the camera set-up. It was also nice that a lot of the different grading tools were already showing the ability to de-warp and control the shading on set. This is great when you have questions to be able to quickly double check.

What we are trying to do with CASE 10-86 was to create something on a level of an independent production. Not a lot of productions have a huge budget for the type of work that I am known for. For this project, we were also working on a very tight time limit. We were therefore working with a lot of composites; we wanted to match the characteristics from lens to lens and make our elements within one shot all fit together.

It was great fun. It is the kind of filmmaking I got in the business for. It is the kind of film a lot of our clients do and I think we really got to play some great new hardware — ZEISS CP.3 Lenses. I got to play with some fellow filmmakers here at ZEISS and got to put together a piece that was both creatively interesting and really demonstrated a lot of what we are hoping to achieve with these lenses.

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