Filmmaking Basics/Camera Lenses

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Table of contents for All about camera lenses:


The camera's lens distorts the picture. Therefore, you can use your camera lens to create a mood for a scene.

In this lesson, you will learn that:

  1. A wide angle lens creates a mood which is cold and distant.
  2. A telephoto lens creates a mood which is very warm, comfortable and close.
  3. A neutral lens (half way between a telephoto and a wide angle) creates a neutral, almost boring scene.

When you create the 3D storyboards for Seduced by the Dark Side!, the camera must help you create many moods. Therefore we need to learn what moods are possible with lenses.

A quick overview

The complete range of focal length

Look at this excellent set of photos by Kevin Willey. He went into the field and created a photographed a complete range of pictures of a car with a barn in the background.

It only take a few seconds to look at this wonderful set of photos. I think you will enjoy it and find it amazing how the lens changes the look of a picture.

Notice this:
  1. Look at the frame 24mm. That is very wide angle.
  2. Look at the frame 50mm. That is what the human eye sees.
  3. Look at the frame 80mm. That is a very gentle telephoto
  4. Look at the frame 135mm. That is a portrait lens.
  5. Look at the frame 200mm. That is the strongest telephoto which is practical. Even with this lens, you must lock the camera down as any movement of the camera would make people seasick.

Remember that these focal length numbers are for a 35mm STILL film camera, not a motion picture camera. For a motion picture camera which has a smaller image sized (because the film runs vertical on a motion picture camera, not horizontal as in a 35mm STILL film camera), the focal numbers for the same shots will be different.

An example of different lenses

Photographs of the car

As you look at these photos, notice the distortion at the two extremes.

Yet, in all the frames, notice that the car is always full frame in the picture.

How did he do that?
He moved the camera (or the car.) Which do you think?

The car did not move. Obviously, the camera was moved between each shot (and not the car.)

Did the barn move?

But then notice the relationship between the car and the barn in the background. They seem to move yet we know that the car and the barn did not move. So how do the car and the barn seem to get closer?

This is the impact of the lens.

Note that the focal length numbers are for a still 35 mm camera. Don't use these numbers for a motion picture camera or a video camera or a digital still camera. These cameras have a different image size (film frame size) so the numbers are different.

Setting up FrameForge 3D Studio lenses

Compare focal lengths

Motion picture cameras have their own focal length numbers. When you work with FrameForge 3D Studio, you will see a different set of numbers.

Setting the frame size

I prefer to set the frame size to 35 mm motion picture film. I use the normal (slightly) wide screen aspect ratio of 1.85.

I like this because I can get the feel of working with real motion picture film (without the expense.) It makes me feel good.

An example of different lenses

35mm motion picture camera

When working with FrameForge 3D Studio, I like to limit the lenses that I use. I prefer prime lenses (fixed lenses) rather than zoom lenses because they have much better control over the depth of field. That is because there is more glass on a prime lens (glass diameter) than on a zoom lens.

In the lower left, I select a prime lens set. I selected the Panovision Zeiss Lens set.

Adding to FrameForge 3D Studio lens set

Add extra lenses

I like wide angle lenses so I add additional lenses to the Zeiss collection of 35mm motion picture camera lenses. Halloween Contacts Lenses Thyromine Reviews

I add a 10mm and a 16 mm lens and same this set with a name like "My lens set".

An example of different lenses

My lenses

  1. I use a 10mm wide angle lens when I get super extreme on my wide angle shots. (I cannot afford such a lens in real life.)
  2. I use a 14mm wide angle lens for extreme wide angle. (On my still camera, I purchased a lens this wide for very special portrait shots. I can see the person plus their entire environment and belongings in the background.)
  3. I use a 16mm wide angle lens for very wide angle shots. Most good still cameras can go this wide.
  4. I use a 24mm wide angle lens when I don't want a wide angle shot. (Cheap cameras have wide angle lenses this wide.)
  5. I never use the 29mm lens. This has no distortion so it creates boring shots.
  6. I use a 35mm lens for simple telephoto shots. It has a slightly warm feeling.
  7. I never go beyond a 85mm lens because the camera would have to be totally locked.

Let's take a quick quiz

The next page

Before we study lenses in depth, Click here take a very short pop quiz.

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this filmmaking class is Robert Elliott. You can email me by clicking here.