Master Anamorphics at -20°C

For the music video of London-based recording artist Kwabs' song PERFECT RUIN, cinematographer Steve Annis combined an ALEXA camera with MA35, MA50 and MA100 ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphic lenses. Shot in the Swedish village of Lulea, just within the Arctic Circle, the promo tested the lenses -- and the crew -- under punishingly cold conditions.

Why did you choose the Master Anamorphics?

When I first used the Master Anamorphics I was absolutely wowed by them. The more you push them, in terms of how extreme the light and contrast is, the better they perform. For Sweden I felt they were the only choice -- it was going to be cold, we needed to be fast and we'd have a lot of wides with flat horizons. When I show people stills taken with the MA35 they can't believe it, because with any other anamorphic lens there would be a curve on that horizon.

The promo looks like it was shot entirely at dawn and dusk; is that right?

It looks that way because we only had sunlight between about 10 am and 4 pm, and even at noon the sun was very low in the sky. But the light was somehow extended and accentuated, giving it an ethereal quality. Magic hour in the UK at the peak of summer might last half an hour, but there it would last for 90 minutes. It's an amazing part of the planet.

Were you shooting wide open?

Yes, pretty much the whole thing was wide open, at 2,000 ASA. The speed of the Master Anamorphics does set them apart, especially the MA100 and MA135. Almost all other anamorphic 100 mm lenses out there are T3, so for the tighter Master Anamorphics to be a stop-and-a-half faster at T1.9 is incredible. In those kinds of situations, it's a huge advantage.

The speed of the Master Anamorphics does set them apart, especially the MA100 and MA135.
DP Steve Annis
What's your view on the lack of flaring with the Master Anamorphics

Every shot in PERFECT RUIN is natural light and if I'd had a lens that flared very easily, with all those light sources, you wouldn't have seen anything; the whole image would have been a series of vertical lens flares. I enjoy the fact that within the world of anamorphic these lenses have their own character -- one of no lens flares and no distortion. I think it's a good thing, because they're unique.

How did you use the different focal lengths?

I like using fewer focal lengths -- it speeds up the decision-making on set. The majority of the promo was shot on the MA35. We used the 50 mm for just a few of the closer shots of Kwabs' face, as it gives a very natural perspective. And we only used the 100 mm once or twice, when we wanted an extreme close-up.

What is your opinion on the construction of the lenses?

The consistency between focal lengths and the fact that you can swap lenses without having to adjust the iris or focus gears is very helpful. Then there's the modern engineering; if we'd have had any other anamorphic lenses in temperatures of --20°C, they would have packed in. These were the only lenses for the job; it was really, really cold, but nothing stuck -- the lens gears stayed loose all day.

How well did your crew cope with the conditions?

I had a dream team really. The Swedish Steadicam operator was a guy called Néstor Salazar and he was amazing, not just in his work but in his attitude and enthusiasm. It was the same with my focus puller and my grip -- everyone was in great spirits and that kept us going; I'm hugely grateful to the crew. When you're in those extremes you need local crew who shoot in similar conditions all the time.

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