The telephoto lens

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Daniel J.S., Aug 4, 2003.

  1. Daniel J.S.

    Daniel J.S. Stunt Coordinator

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    I've been watching Kurosawa a lot lately and one of the thing that commentaries have drawn my attention to is his use of the telephoto lens. Since the telephoto flattens the image (makes foreground and background appear closer together than they really are), it allows the filmmaker to place a great deal of information in the frame. An example would be the high angle shots showing the massive armies at the end of "Spartacus" which I'm pretty sure are telephoto. I've been trying to look for it's use in other films and I have to ask: what other visual traits besides the flattened image does the telephoto lens should I look for. Another, possibly dumb, question is do anamorphic lenses have telephoto capability or just spherical?
     
  2. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    You might try PM JohnRice or Agee Bassett. They might know something.

    Or you could try the bookstore and look up a book called Cinematography (I'm not sure if that's the exact title, but the title was pretty plain). They had some excellent photos to accompany the text to illustrate examples.
     
  3. Mark Turetsky

    Mark Turetsky Supporting Actor

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    A telephoto lens is a lens where, using a multielement design, the focal length is actually longer than the lens itself. What this means is, let's say the lens is a 500mm lens, rather than having that lens be 500mm (roughly a foot and a half) long at its shortest length, the lens is actually made shorter by using more than one lens in its construction (these are called lens elements, and are collectively referred to as the lens). However, nowadays, most lenses having a long focal length are referred to as "telephoto."
    Quoting from Ansel Adams' excellent book The Camera:
     
  4. Mark Turetsky

    Mark Turetsky Supporting Actor

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    Here are a couple of examples of the difference between a wide lens and a long lens. First up, a wide lens, used in Terry Gilliam's Brazil:
    [​IMG]
    Notice how close we seem to be to Sam in this shot. His head looks monstrously huge, as if his nose were miles away from his ears. It makes us feel as if we were invading his personal space, and he ours, creating a very uneasy feeling. Also note that everything in this shot is in focus.
    The second example, using a long lens, is from The Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing:
    [​IMG]
    Notice how flat and appealing Tom's face looks. His facial proportions seem to be right. We feel like we are looking at him impassively, that we are not involved or implicated in what's going on, but rather we are impartial viewers to these proceedings. Also note that the background is out of focus, putting our attention squarely on our hero, Tom.
     
  5. Tim Raffey

    Tim Raffey Stunt Coordinator

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    There's also the depth of field thing. The use of the long lense that made Kurosawa a little different (as I see it) was to move the camera far back for a wide shot. Since everything in the frame is relatively close together it's all in focus, however if one were to shoot a medium shot (thighs to head, give or take) with a 200mm lense, anything more than around 10' away from the subject would be out of focus; whereas the same shot of the subject with a 30mm lense would have a deep focus (it would be a completely different shot, too).

    That's just a general rule, though. There are other factors that affect D.O.F. (mainly, aperture).
     
  6. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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  7. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    The best example of the use of the telephoto lense is....well.....a Kurosawa film.

    I see no better film that illustrates this example than Red Beard.

    I read about this example in the book Film Art: An Introduction, but it's an entirely different thing to see it in action.

    A crazy mental patient (not sure who) escapes from her enclosed pen. The whole hospital minus an arrogant and very drunk doctor goes looking for her. When the doctor looks up for one second, he sees a very beautfiul woman standing at his doorway.

    In one shot, the doctor and the woman seem to be on the same exact plane of existance. They seem to be standing no more than a hair's length from one another. But a sideview shot shows they are several feet apart.

    This is an artistic technique that helps develop the sense that while the actual physical seperation between the two subjects is relatively large, nonetheless the doctor "feels" or closely "acknowledges" that presences very closely to themselves.
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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