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Underwater Scenes Of ?The Cave Shot With Fujinon LensHa13x4.5 Super-Wide lens captures underwater scenes for creature feature from Sony Pictures (May 31, 2005)
Director of Photography/Producer Wes Skiles, whose credits include work for IMAX, The National Geographic Channel, A&E, PBS, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and TLC, among others, shot all of the underwater scenes for the forthcoming Sony Pictures film ?The CAVE exclusively with Fujinons HA13x4.5BERM HD super-wide-angle ENG-style lens. The film is scheduled for national release on August 26.
?The CAVE tells the story of a team of expert spelunkers who descend into the worlds largest cave system, only to find a group of bloodthirsty predatory creatures waiting for them. Many of the films scenes take place underwater. Skiles, an expert cave explorer himself, was tapped by the filmmakers to shoot these scenes, serving as the productions Underwater Unit Director of Photography.
Skiles shot the underwater scenes for ?The CAVE in a large tank filled with water in Romania and on location in real caves on Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula. Chief among his concerns was maintaining a clear image in this environment. Water contains millions of microscopic particles, nearly or completely invisible to the naked eye, yet easily detectable by the camera. In order to capture a non-murky or blurry image, the cameraperson must shoot from as short a distance from the subject as possible. To accomplish this, Skiles needed to shoot subjects up to seven feet long from only three and a half feet away.
?In order to have apparent clarity, I needed to look through as little water as I could to see an object as large as possible, which of course immediately dictated wide-angle lenses, commented Skiles.
Skiles turned to Fujinons HA13x4.5BERM ENG lens to address the challenge. ?In its class, the HA13x4.5 is the best-performing lens in the market, he said. ?The 13x has minimal focus breathing, holds back-focus well, and is versatile. Plus, Fujinon has always provided excellent customer service. I know if I have a problem with the lens, Fujinon will respond right away.
The HA13x4.5s relative long focal length (for a wide-angle lens, up to 118mm with the lens 2X extender) allowed Skiles to zoom in closely on a subject. At the same time, its wide field of view made it easy to capture the entire length of the subject. ?Because of the super-wide ability, I was able to focus up close on the subject, cutting down the amount of water between the lens and the subject, and yet capture it in its entirety. Its an amazingly versatile lens, said Skiles.
In order to protect the lens, Skiles worked with Amphibico, a provider of underwater imaging equipment, to custom build a protective housing around the HA13x4.5 coupled with a Sony HDW-F950. With the assistance of Chuck Lee of Fujinon and Val Ranetkins of Amphibico, he also designed special aspheric glass, placed in front of the HA13x4.5, to correct the reflection and distortion created by water, improving image quality. ?The front element of the Fujinon lens actually comes right up to the glass of the aspheric [lens], creating an extremely innovative marriage of two optic technologies to produce the best picture quality underwater possible.
Another major challenge for Skiles was changing looks in different scenes underwater. Often, DPs switch between different lenses, but Skiles had the one HA13x4.5 lens. ?Our big challenge here was how to achieve different looks youd normally get using fixed-focal-length prime lenses, he said. ?In many productions, if you want to cut to a close-up, youd do that by switching to a long-focal-length prime lens. To shoot a medium shot, youd change to a medium-range prime lens. We instead changed the apparent look underwater with one wide-angle zoom.
Skiles zoomed in or out with the HA13x4.5 until he got the perfect angle, and then locked it in, using a feature of the HA13x4.5 that allows operators to ?save zoom points. ?After the director and I agreed upon the perfect angle for a shot, I locked the focal point. I could go wide or zoom to any focal length, easily creating a medium or close-up shot, he said.
The team also faced the challenge of maintaining equipment underground in the very hot and humid environments of the Yucatan. ?We typically have a very difficult time in these environments maintaining optimum lens performance. With the HA13x4.5, not once did we suffer any down time over normal daily focus exercises or dealing with breathing lenses.
Skiles credits the customer service of Fujinon with helping him pull off the ?CAVE scenes successfully. ?Fujinon was an important partner in these efforts with us, he said. ?We are always striving to do new types of work and stretch the limits of whats done out there in the field. Fujinon is a very approachable company. When you call them with a problem, they listen and work with you earnestly to fix it. Sometimes, when you are working on a challenging, large production such as ?The CAVE, that kind of support makes all the difference.
Fujinon is a major manufacturer and distributor of optic assemblies and lenses for the broadcast television, digital cinema, and industrial markets. The company's lenses are used in virtually every segment of the broadcast industry, including electronic newsgathering, studio and field production, and high definition television.
For more information about Fujinon broadcast and communications products, call 1-973-633-5600 or visit our web site at www.fujinon.com.
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