what are common lenses used in animated films?

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Old 06 June 2012   #1
what are common lenses used in animated films?

hey folks!

I've been thinking about this for a while, because I think it's a part of animation that gets left out quite often - using the proper lens lengths in animation.

In my own experience as a camera man, directors would use the equivalent length lens as they would in live action, but I don't know if that's actually true or not because I have only worked on a few animated films.

Most live action directors like to use normal range lenses (30-50mm) for most shots, but is that also true in animation? I've noticed that a lot of animators, who are put in the directors seat, like to use lenses in the upper ranges (100mm) so as to get that exaggerated DoF and FoV, but I think this is the wrong approach, often leading to hyper exaggerated DoF. My guess is that they do this because they don't always know how lenses work in real life or are simply not trained in film making / camera operation.

Am I wrong on this? I'm writing a report on the cinematics for our project at work, so I need some "official" documentation on this topic. I work in videogames and I would like to start bringing real-life techniques into games. I'm getting tired of game cinematics looking like... games.

The best example that I could find so far is in the making of Wall-E. They really tried to imitate real life lenses. But they also did a lot of research specifically for that film. I wonder if that's the norm now.

Thanks for the help!
 
Old 06 June 2012   #2
most animators on feature films do not choose lenses. they simply animate the scene.in most cases lenses are set up by the director and come from layout. and the lenses used are any size needed to make the shot work. same as real world.
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Old 06 June 2012   #3
Yeah with CG animations, they have the same visual language as any other film. The same rules, guidelines, bending of rules, breaking of rules etc.

The main difference is that in CG you can have nearly any possible lens from 1mm to 80,000mm. This is jarring for people and generally not used in such extremes. You can have lenses with zero distortion, and with no chromatic abberation etc. Often these things are added in anyway to get the cinematic look that people expect though.

The DOF thing, is often a fake, in which the lens is not really a 300mm, but using depth maps the DOF is exagerated, to get a "look" of a 300mm DOF, but on a 45mm lens. It's a gimmick and a tired one in my opinion, because it just looks wrong.
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Old 06 June 2012   #4
Yeah, I agree that the director is the one that choses the lens for the cinematics, but in games that's not always the case. A lot of companies don't see the necessity, foolishly, in having a director on the project and put that stuff in the hands of the animators. This often doesn't work out - obviously.

I'm glad that I was at least was on the right track. But just to be sure... do you guys know if there's a norm for lens use? Is it actually 30-50mm? I read that it usually depends on the film stock being used or emulated. So in our case, we're going for a 35mm film look. If that's the case then I need to convince our director to stop using 100mm lenses! It's driving me crazy! I really hate characters being framed in a closeup with 100+mm lens. It makes everyone look like they're super small in comparison to the world.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #5
I am a little confused by your last comment. A 35mm film is not a number relating to the mm of the lens. That is just the size of the filmstock in an analog camera. It affects the look in the regard of the resolution and the size of the filmback, which does affect the apparent wideness or longness of the lens.

I don't think there is a "normal" range of lenses for any medium. Movies often use 50-70 for closeups, use 15-30mm on wideshots, 300-500mm for telephoto shots, some directors mix it up, for dramatic affect, using 12mm or 8mm lenses on closeups etc.

The miniature effect isn"t coming from the choice of lens, but from having inappropriate DOF, like making it so that a 45mm lens has an unrealistically narrow focal plane (which you can fake in CG but not with a real lens), then it feels like a longer lens that is closer to the subjects like a macro lens and makes everything tiny feeling. Like the tiltshift lenses people were using for timelapse in the last couple of years, made live footage look like weird miniatures.

I think anyone dealing with cameras in any pipeline, should watch the video series Hollywood Camera Work this really nails down all the traditions and rules and the language moviegoers and gamers innately understand, then once you know the rules you can make concious decisions to either bend or break them, instead of unintentionally breaking or bending the rules for no good reason.

Does this help answer your question?

-Chris
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Old 06 June 2012   #6
Originally Posted by csmallfield: The miniature effect isn"t coming from the choice of lens, but from having inappropriate DOF, like making it so that a 45mm lens has an unrealistically narrow focal plane (which you can fake in CG but not with a real lens), then it feels like a longer lens that is closer to the subjects like a macro lens and makes everything tiny feeling. Like the tiltshift lenses people were using for timelapse in the last couple of years, made live footage look like weird miniatures.


Do you mean the "miniature DOF effect" like in last year's Eurovision broadcast, or the rowing race scene in The Social Network?

Whoever discovered that effect, I can't stand it being used all over the place.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #7
Originally Posted by csmallfield: The miniature effect isn"t coming from the choice of lens


Yes it is, look up tilt shift lenses. Though very easy to fake in post.
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Old 06 June 2012   #8
sorry, I should have posted what I was talking about. I know that 35mm is the film size. But according to the wiki, the way directors used to decide what was the proper lens to use was by measuring the diagonal of the film size and double it. So a 35mm film has dimensions of 18.0 ◊ 24.0 mm. This gives a diagonal of 30.0 mm, x2 = 60 mm lens. That's what the term "normal lens" came from. I won't post everything here so here's the link .

Thank you very much for that link, I'll most definitely be watching those.

Maybe the lenses being used on our project is just what our animators prefer. You can just ignore that point.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #9
I donít think that there was much difference between traditional and animated films, since the inspiration of the latter is coming from the former or/and from still photography plus old paintings, comics, etc.

The focal length used is also a matter of style, which has to get coordinated by someone. There are periods in film history with the preference for certain FLs. And some directors are known for the use of more extreme FLs, but the majority is keeping it normal (equivalent to the FL of the human eye respectively). The used FL depends in films not only on the desired perspective, but also very much on the needed movement of the camera - both, extreme wide and tele angles can make the viewers feel dizzy, the problem even more acute with 3d projections.

100mm is somewhat unusual indeed, but the idea shouldnít get turned down on principle, because it could add to a special style... while its distortion is certainly an issue, escpecially at long shots of characters together with interiors.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #10
When people talk about "normal" lens length, they are usually referring to an angle of view which approximates that of the human eye. For 35mm film, the 50mm lens is considered "normal." If you were shooting 16mm film, the 25mm lens is considered standard.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #11
Originally Posted by zokana: 100mm is somewhat unusual indeed, but the idea shouldnít get turned down on principle, because it could add to a special style... while its distortion is certainly an issue, escpecially at long shots of characters together with interiors.


I agree 100%. This is not the case though this time. Most of the shots really look bad and read worse. We also have a bunch of massive special effects moments that feel underwhelming because the shots are so tight and close up.

Anyway, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you guys answered my question for me and I really appreciate the help!

Thanks again folks!
 
Old 06 June 2012   #12
Originally Posted by Ktread20: When people talk about "normal" lens length, they are usually referring to an angle of view which approximates that of the human eye. For 35mm film, the 50mm lens is considered "normal." If you were shooting 16mm film, the 25mm lens is considered standard.


Yeah, that's what I got out of the wiki as well. In the url I posted they have a bunch of the standards listed and their equivalent normal lens.

I think the problem that we're having is that we have not standardized what size film we are trying to go for so the guys are using their favorite lenses.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #13
The whole lens thing in CGI cinematrography hardly makes any sense.
There is no such thing as FStop and correlated problems, there is no limits to light going in or not and how it eventually reaches the sensor, there is no distortion, vignetting, breathing, focus, fringing, minimum distance, weight, swing, mount issues or anything else.

Cameras in CGI literally have one parameter, the angle. End of story. Everything else (film back, DOF, distortion, vignetting, mis-alignment, bokeh etc.) is artificial and, unlike real optics, completely decoupled from the "lens", therefore lenses are chosen purely based on framing, and everything else is decided based on story needs, something cinematographers on set can only dream they would be able to do.

Most people don't know or don't care about the tradition of cinematographic language, hence you will see some short lenses at distance from the subject on a bright outside with a shallow DOF, or long lenses close to the subject in a portrait at night yet hyperfocal. Some times it works better than if you had the constraints of real optics, some times it doesn't, but the only issue, if there is one, is lack of people caring manipulating those cameras.

On large projects you have layout, pre and post animation processes, and a final lensing department taking care of such things. Some times the DoP will want a certain look (the director is hardly ever involved with the nitty gritty details of the focus pull other than subject dominance), and it will be close to what a real lens would do, some other times it won't be.
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Last edited by ThE_JacO : 06 June 2012 at 10:28 AM.
 
Old 06 June 2012   #14
Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: The whole lens thing in CGI cinematrography hardly makes any sense. [...] Cameras in CGI literally have one parameter, the angle. End of story.




Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: There is no such thing as [...] distortion [...]

When photographers talk about "distortion", they mainly mean the difference of the perspective compared to the human eye.


Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: [...] therefore lenses are chosen purely based on framing, and everything else is decided based on story needs, something cinematographers on set can only dream they would be able to do.


I really donít think so. Iíd believe in these advantages of 3D when seeing a growing number of outstanding camera settings on renders, proving that all those options offered in 3D applications were making sense.(apart from selling the software by looking scientific) But what one can see is people dropping those terms, writing pseudo-scientific tutorials, and getting confused by all those settings - the results are overkilled pespective corrections, artificial linear distortions(!) on interior renders, awful macro DOF fakes, etc., etc... because of the lack of experience with lenses in reality. 3d isnít an independent medium, where virtual experience was enough to create a new and wonderful visual language. Canít see a single option of 3D camera settings which would make a real camera operator happy... (while there are a lot of comfortable possibilities with lighting in 3D..)
 
Old 06 June 2012   #15
Anything goes. Good practice is to limit yourself to a set range and stick with it. Just avoid the ultra wide and and ultra long unless you really need it for some particular affect. I bet on a given film I will only use about six lens to cover 95% of all the shots I will create (and as a layout artist I am creating hundreds of shots.)

What the_Jaco said about the real life properties not being relevant in CG is true but I still like to those rules anyway as I believe the viewer can still feel it even if they're unaware. You often see student work use lens that are too wide and even though there is no actually distortion in the render it still will have a weird perspective to it.
 
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