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35mm Lens Adapters 101, Pg. 2

1. When setting up your 35mm lens adapter setup, make sure that all glass surfaces are spotless and dust-free. This includes the lens on the DV camera, the diopter, the lens fittings between the diopter and the ground glass, and the rear element of the 35mm lenses you are using. It’s really easy to focus only on the front of 35mm lens and forget that if there are specs of dust on any of the internal glass, they will show up in your final project. As such, be meticulous when setting up your adapter in the first place so that you don’t have to worry about any lens other than 35mm lens after that.

2. For the most film-like motion, set your camera to 24 fps. Panasonic cameras like the DVX100 and HVX200 both can shoot in a 24PA mode, which is a true 24 fps mode and are edited in a 23.98 progressive timeline. (Granted, DVX uses a special frame-removal algorithm that must be done in post, but, because of the precise coding, the effect is the same.) Additionally, Panasonic and many other manufacturers offer a pseudo-24P mode that looks like 24 fps but is designed to play on an NTSC 29.97 timeline. Personally, I think that true 24 fps looks best, which is why we shot The Message in 24PA mode. (At the time, it was just a preference, since you couldn’t export out the footage to DVD in true 24 fps, anyway. However, now that Blu-Ray recorders are becoming much more prevalent, you can burn films in true 24 fps with this format.)

3. Always use a good preview monitor/laptop. The preview monitor is first necessary to get good backfocus when you initially set up your lens adapter to start the day. (Setting your backfocus with a 35mm lens adapter is making sure your digital video camera is appropriately focused on the plane of glass that the 35mm lens is focused on.) For the rest of the day, you’ll need the monitor to really get a good idea of both light and focus (and to see if any bits of dust get on any of your lenses). As a good preview monitor is pricey, you can definitely use a laptop with good color representation equipped with either OnLocation (PC/Mac) or Scopebox (Mac).

4. Try to use a preset on your monitor that allows you to flip to black and white. You’ll quickly realize that edges are much softer with a 35mm lens adapter than what you’re used to in digital. As such, flipping to black and white is a great way to try to get things truly in focus. We didn’t think this one through when we were shooting ‘The Message’, but have since found out how useful it is. (Just remember to switch back to full color, because you’ll want the full color mode to make sure your lighting looks good.) If you’re using a laptop with a program like OnLocation, you can either desaturate or reduce the chroma of the image to get a black and white image.

Although using a laptop with OnLocation (or DVRack, as it used to be known) was a great choice for our film, the fact that we didn't put a black hood over it meant that we didn't have nearly as much of a grasp on how the light looked withou the ambient reflections!
5. Always use a dark cloth hood over your preview monitor. Half of our shoot was outdoors, but because it was a cloudy, rainy day and we were under a shelter, we didn’t think that a dark cloth was necessary. Wrong! The dark cloth (which should be placed over both the monitor and the DP’s head) allows you to see exactly what you’re recording without the ambient light that’s bouncing all around the place (even when you’re in shade) contaminating what you’re seeing. There were a couple of shots that looked like our light was dead on, which turned out to be not even close when we got to post. This could have easily been corrected on set with a dark cloth hood. (There are a variety of dark cloth viewing hoods that can be bought professionally, or you can get a thick piece of fabric that will keep out the light yourself. The less reflective the cloth’s surface is, the better. Try to find cloth with a texture like velvet and you’ll be in the right area.)

6. Even though you’re using 35mm equipment, you must still white balance your digital video camera. Traditional film equipment doesn’t have to be white balanced because it’s understood that the film will be color corrected after the fact. Because film has much more latitude than digital does, this isn’t a problem. Digital, however, will start to degrade quickly if you have to do a lot of color correction to it. As such, always start with your camera properly white balanced so that, if you have to do additional color correction, it’s minimal. Additionally, you can use the rest of your visual latitude on any post-production “looks” you choose to apply.

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