A Strong Optical Personality

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Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:08 -- Nick Dager

Cinematographer Julián ApezteguiaWhen director of photography Julián Apezteguia, ADF (La Asociación de Autores de Fotografía Cinematográfica Argentina — Argentinian Society of Cinematographers) got the chance to work with director Pablo Trapero for the second time, on the director's latest film El Clan — a dark story set in the 1980's about a family of kidnappers and murderers — they used a full range of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses to give the film a “strong optical personality.”

The lens package for the Goya Award-winning Best Foreign Film in the Spanish Language, winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and Argentina's Oscar submission, included the Cooke Anamorphic/i 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm lenses, with Apezteguia primarily relying on the wider lenses. El Clan is the third feature film that Apezteguia has shot with Cooke lenses, and his first shooting anamorphic, using the Alexa XT in 4:3 sensor mode.

Set in Buenos Aires in the 1980’s, El Clan is the true story of the Puccio family who kidnapped four people and killed three, and how they live their lives through these events. Starring Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, and Gastón Cocchiarale, the story demanded that the characters maintain a strong look.

The Cooke lenses "helped build the optical personality" of the film.“We decided to give the film a strong optical personality, and for this we chose Cooke Anamorphic lenses with an Alexa XT 4:3 camera,” said Apezteguia. “I feel the way the anamorphics render perspectives, and the unique way they twerk the out-of-focus part of the image — what’s behind the subject in focus — gives the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses a unique look that is perfect for generating the feeling of a strange place or situation.”

Apezteguia relied on a host of other optical techniques, such as split field diopters, starting or finishing a shot with the image out of focus and even taking the lens out of the camera while recording. All of this helped build the optical personality.

"When using anamorphics it is important to have a full 4:3 sensor to make the most out of the framing and the pixel count, having it on Alexa XT with it's high sensitivity and wide latitude was the best choice,” he said. “I also like the way it processes the image, it looks very "film-like" when compared to other options."

Having used Cooke S4 lenses on two previous feature films, Habi, la extranjera and Dias de Pesca, plus many commercials using Cooke 5/i lenses, Apezteguia is very familiar with the distinctive look that Cooke lenses give cinematographers. “I like the texture they provide; they are sharp but not too crisp,” he said. “I think this works very well with digital cinema cameras, giving you the chance to keep the cinematic feel working with an electronic image. They are also very kind to the actors’ faces.”

Apezteguia is so confident in Cooke lenses that they were chosen without testing against any other lenses. “We did extensive testing with the Cooke Anamorphic lenses so we knew how to get the exact look we wanted,” he said. “One of the interesting things about working with an anamorphic lens is the characteristic perspective they provide that is inherent to the construction of a lens that squeezes the image that will be un-squeezed later. Cooke was the obvious choice because we got the perspective without losing definition and with the plus of getting the Cooke Look for our period film.”