Academy Award-winning cinematographer John Seale AM ACS ASC (The English Patient, Mad Max: Fury Road) talks to us about a new lens he’s been using on George Miller’s latest film – by James Cunningham
Rarely would a camera lens generate so much buzz, but such is the case with the new FUJINON Premista 19-45mm wide-angle zoom lens. It was one of only two in the world and was recently being used by Academy Award-winning Australian cinematographer John Seale AM ACS ASC on the new George Miller film Three Thousand Years of Longing which recently wrapped production in Sydney. We can’t go into details about the film due to non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality, however we can tell you about the lens and how this lens ended up on Seale’s camera.
Seale loves Zoom lenses. He’d heard about the Premista 19-45mm and Miller wanted one particular, very specific shot for his new film. A shot that required great technical expertise. The shot had been storyboarded and designed using previsualisation software and Seale wanted to try out the new lens just for this shot. At first, FIJINON was reluctant to let one of these lenses leave the United States, but when they heard that it was Seale who wanted it, they changed their minds and the lens was flown to Sydney.
Miller’s new film is shooting on multiple ARRI Alexa Large Format cameras and Seale was immediately impressed with the new 19-45mm lens due to it being able to compliment the full-range of the ARRI sensor. “It’s a light lens,” says Seale. “It’s got a lovely cinema look with a softer edge.”
It is one of very few lenses that not only supports large-format sensors but also delivers outstanding high resolution, natural and beautiful bokeh and rich tonality with high dynamic range. Perfect for Miller’s new film, which features a lot of interior Technochrane choreography flowing through rooms, going from wide-shots to extreme closeups.
Originally the production had the lens on loan for three days, however after using it for a short time Seale and Miller decided to keep it for the entire production “We’ve shot well over 50% of this movie with the lens,” says A-camera focus puller Ricky Schamburg. “The zoom cogs are precision perfect, and it matches up with our signature primes. The lens is clean without being sterile.”
In recent years, there has been an uptake of cinema cameras equipped with large-format sensors capable of delivering high-quality and richly-expressive footage. When shooting with prime lenses, it is often necessary to change lenses depending on the scene, and there is a growing demand for zoom lenses capable of shooting high-quality footage that requires less replacement.
“It’s hard to find good full-frame lenses for the large format cameras,” says Seale. “But this lens achieves an astonishing level of edge-to-edge sharpness.”
Schamburg adds that Miller’s visual effects team were thrilled with the lens too. “Metadata!” he exclaims. “The FUJINON lens speaks fluently with the ARRI technology, saving potentially thousands of dollars in post-production.”
Miller’s film was still shooting at the time of writing this article, but I’m sure we’ll sit down with the Oscar winning cinematographer for a more comprehensive article, when the time is right.
John Seale AM ACS ASC is a multi award-winning Australian cinematographer. He earned the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1996 for his work on The English Patient.
James cunningham is editor of Australian Cinematographer Magazine.