(December 7, 2012) Director of Photography Colt Seman is always looking for the latest tools to enhance the variety of high-profile projects that come to his Long Beach, California based company, Sweatpants Media. When Seman and partner, Director Jonny Zeller, heard about Schneider’s new line of Cine Xenar III lenses, they had to put them through their paces. “We chose a variety of projects, with a variety of challenges,” says Seman. “We did a 30-second spot for NBC and “The X-Games” in LA. We also do an ongoing series for Red Bull, where the lenses have to keep pace with a racecar driver. We also did a spot for mophie juice pack PRO, where they went one-on-one with a machinist’s sparks. And, when we went to Nicaragua for a Panasonic launch they had to endure the endless rainforest. In every case, the results were outstanding.
“Jonny and I are extremely tough on our gear, since we rarely shoot in a studio and are almost always on location,” he explains. “Plenty of equipment doesn’t last a day with us, let alone a month. So, when we pushed the abilities and durability of these lenses to the max, we were extremely happy with the results. They took everything we threw at them and got us gorgeous pictures too!”
For a Toyota shoot, Seman and Zeller needed to capture several different locations with varying lighting situations. “The Cine Xenar IIIs performed excellently,” says Seman. “We used the 18mm to get great interior shots of the cars. The close focus is so much closer than what we’ve used in the past. We got such a pure image!”
For traveling to remote areas in Nicaragua, the team needed a lens that was portable but also built like a Sherman tank, says Seman. “Hands down, the Cine Xenar III lenses are built to take a heavy beating,” he adds. “We were in environments like the rainforest and we didn’t have to worry about moisture getting into the lens and making it stick. On this shoot, there was a downpour twice a day every day, and we never had any issues. It isn’t waterproof, true, and you don’t want to take the lenses swimming, but they handled a Central American rainforest without any problems.”
Red Bull shoots are always high profile. And Sweatpants Media’s NASCAR series “On Pace with Pastrana” is as high profile as it can get. “We need lenses that can stay on pace with his lifestyle and fast driving,” explains Seman. “Since all the inner workings of the lenses are just that--inner--the barrel never changes size. This means that even with a lens change, we don’t have to adjust any of our accessories. Because each lens body has the same physical dimensions it allows us to change lenses fast, so fast that even the NASCAR pit crew is impressed!”
Sweatpants’ recent Panasonic shoot took the lenses to an even more challenging location – a dark, greasy motorcycle shop. “We wanted to see the bokeh of the lens with some sparks flying at it from a metal saw,” Seman explains. “I mounted the 50mm lens at T2 and set our frame rate to 96 FPS. That turned out to be an amazing decision. So good, we went tighter on the 95mm lens (and threw on a polarizer to protect it). I faced off with world-renowned bike builder Roland Sands in a classic showdown; me with my camera, and him with his metal saw. When I pushed record he started spraying sparks everywhere. It totally destroyed the polarizer but the lens was protected by the Chrosziel mattebox. The sparks didn’t phase the system! The results were so beautiful that it looked almost fake.”
The team’s final shoot was probably the most challenging. It was for mophie phones – in really low light. “The close focus ability of the lenses was key to the success of the shots,” Seman explains. “We mounted the camera to a motion capture rig to get precise camera movements. The studio was almost totally dark, with three 2Ks lighting it. We threw water, dirt, and at one point a jet of flaming hairspray, all of which needed to be captured at an extremely high frame rate. The low T-stops, all the way down to a 2.0, allowed us to do just that.”
Seman and Zeller are so pleased with the high-quality images produced by the Cine Xenar lenses that they say this Schneider equipment is now on the top of the list of must haves on future shoots. They’ve even created a web piece that can be seen on vimeo (vimeo.com/4986423) about how Cine Xenar III lenses allowed them to up their creativity on these recent projects.
For more information: contact Schneider Optics, 7701 Haskell Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91406, telephone (818) 766-3715; fax (818) 505-9865; or at: 285 Oser Avenue, Hauppauge, NY 11788, telephone (800) 645-7239/(631) 761-5000, fax (631) 761-5090; http://www.schneideroptics.com