Set photo from "Goddesses" courtesy of Eric Westpheling
Since switching over to the C300 I have become a huge proponent of the Zeiss ZE series of lenses. They are small, compact and deliver an image with better sharpness, contrast and detail then my EF lenses could ever dream of capturing. Once we saw how the ZE performed there was no turning back for our team.
The Magical Zeiss APO SONNAR 135mm f/2.0. Photo by Eric Westpheling
Apparently my appreciation has moved up the Zeiss ladder because last July I received an email asking if I’d like to test an early sample of a lens that was to be announced at Photokina in the fall. I jumped at the chance and was rewarded with the opportunity to take the Zeiss APO SONNAR 135mm f/2.0 for a test ride.
The whole team and I were in the middle of two weeks of hair commercials and when I lens arrived we threw it on one of our cameras to see how it compared to the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS vII we had been using. I pretty quickly wanted to throw it in the trash.
The lens uses a Sonnar design which means great contrast and minimal flaring. That means you can throw a lot of light directly down the barrel and only get those big pretty flares us cinema junkies crave. Wide open at an f/2.0 the lens really sang giving me a great focus falloff and oil painting like bokeh that I’m used to only finding in my Leica rangefinder lenses. I was also impressed with the lens close focus performance.Even at it’s 3’ close focus I was able to get the sharp closeups I had only previously achieved with my Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm f/2.0.
One of my favorite portraits taken by Madam Yevonde. Photo courtesy of madameyevonde.com
The team and I saw this gift as an opportunity to make a short film that we hoped would show off the characteristics of the lens better than any lens test. Working with my co-director and editor Matt Kliegman we created an art film inspired by the photography of Madame Yevonde and the artful makeup work of Roberto Casey.
Roberto Casey and Lena V. Photo by Eric Westpheling
I had met Roberto a month before while working with photographer Roxanne Lowit. Besides the beautiful work he created on each model I was mesmerized by his craftsmanship. I gave him a call asking if he wanted to collaborate with us and star in a film and thankfully he agreed. We then contacted Muse Models and found Lena V who would become Roberto’s muse in the film.
Lena V in our "art space" at Factory Studios. Photo by Eric Westpheling
Wide shot of Lena V in our double mirrored "creation space." Instagram by Andrew Wonder
Infinity Lena or the effects of our double mirror set. Instagram by Andrew Wonder
The film was shot in one day at Factory Studios in Brooklyn, NY where we created two sets: one double mirrored room for Roberto to create his beauty and an abstract art space for it to come alive.
The F3 rigged up on a Kessler Stealth Slider in our "creation space." We had to use 2x Red Rock Micro Focus Gears because of the legnth the 135 travels. Photo by Eric Westpheling
We shot the makeup space using a Sony F3 attached to a Cinedeck EX (http://www.cinedeck.com) recording 4444 1920 x 1080 29.97 Cineform. I liked the F3 for this project because of the soft palate S Log provides and how nicely it’s 10 bit output plays with external recorders.
The Cinedeck EX recording 4444 Cineform directly to a 3TB G Drive via eSata. Photo by Eric Westpheling
The Cinedeck EX is one of my favorite external recording solutions because of it’s feature set which is still unmatched. My favorite being that it is the only non-GoPro device that can record Cineform. I have always found that recording S Log to ProRes has a strange magenta shift that I never liked. Charles at Cinedeck told me once I recorded with Cineform I would never want to go back and he was right. The soft neutral palette and beautiful quality to the skin tones worked perfectly for the project and I haven’t been able to look at ProRes the same way since. The other advantage of the Cinedeck is that it can record directly to an external drive via E Sata which means no dumping at the end of the day.
Dream Machine Creative's Dylan Steinberg building a Zeiss 28mm f/2.0 ZE onto the Red Scarlet. Photo by Eric Westpheling
The Art Space was shot using a Red Scarlet from Dream Machine Creative (http://www.dreammachinecreative.com). I wanted these sections of the film to have a ultra high resolution feel to them (like when you suddenly cut to IMAX during a Batman film). I have never been a huge fan of the Red but Dream Machine Creative’s Dylan Steinberg made the process easy and the quality of the 3K 48 fps output made me very excited to work with the camera.
Super Producer Alon Simcha with Co-Director Matt Kliegman. Instagram by Andrew Wonder
Production Designer Grace Yun. Photo by Alon Simcha.
Besides producer Alon Simcha who somehow magically put this all together an excellent crew really made the whole project sing. Most of all I have to thank Production Designer Grace Yun. I came to Grace with a reference photo and a loose idea and within minutes she had pushed the concept to places I could have never imagined without her. After speaking about it for weeks I felt very emotional when I saw the beauty she delivered on set. In many ways this film is as much hers as me and Matt’s and I’m very grateful for all the work she put into making this possible. She also delivered a great team with Nicholas Tong, Kelly Reckert and Taylor Williams.
Director of Photography Smokey Nelson. Photo by Eric Westpheling
At it’s core this is a lens test and would be nothing without a great camera and lighting team. My frequent partner in crime Smokey Nelson owned it as DP creating two looks for our set that are unique but still bring the stories together. I am also forever grateful to him for delivering all the flares I could have ever dreamed of along with his great crew featuring Gaffer/Key Grip Dream Team Fletcher Wolfe and Chad Battinelli and Joe Katz.
Camera Whisperer David "Cobra" Ellis with Camera Assistant Kyle Knudson. Photo by Eric Westpheling
If you notice a lot of poetic long lens camera work in my recent work they are mostly all curtesy of camera and steadicam operator David “Cobra” Ellis. Dave is one of the most soulful and gifted operators I have ever met and know he’d really shine with this lens. All the shots here were choreographed on set and most were captured by Dave’s instincts as the events unfolded in real time with the help of Camera Assistant Kyle Knudson.
Stylist Shibon Kennedy with Co-Director Matt Kliegman. Instagram by Andrew Wonder
Creating a fashion film you are nothing without a great stylist and we were very lucky to have Shibon Kennedy collaborate with us. She not only found great pieces for Lena to wear but her huge gamut of experience in fashion photography really put me at ease when I needed advice on set. He work combined with Nate Bova’s inspiring hair styling and additional makeup by Gina Trello.
The film was edited by Matt Kliegman at his studio in SoHo with the help of Assistant Editor Dylan Greiss. Music created by Bonnie Baxter. The film was finished by Company 3 colorist Rob Sciarratta who was able to take a bunch of Log and Raw footage and bring it to life and Zach Shukan and his team at Omega Darling
Set Photographer Eric Westpheling steps out from the shadows. Instagram by Andrew Wonder
Below you can see some additional stills from the project captured by photographer and the first person I knew to really believe in Zeiss ZE lenses, Eric Westpheling:
And some more gear prorn:
Thanks for taking a look! We hope you enjoy the film. It's a shame we will have to wait so long to use the lens again!