LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM—Cooke Optics has announced that his lenses were used on the Netflix thriller “End of the Road,” which recently bowed to the streaming service, and that a set of his Special Flair lenses “dominated” the time screen during Netflix movie.
“I’ve used Cooke lenses a lot,” said cinematographer Ed Wu. tests to determine which lens I wanted. With Cooke’s anamorphics I knew what I was going to get, plus I have a good encyclopedic knowledge of anamorphics in my head. For End of the Road, Cooke’s anamorphic S35s completely met Millicent [director Millicent Shelton] style of shooting, which called for different focal lengths, and the S35s have all the prime lenses we’d need…without compromise.
When it came down to whether to use the Cooke Special Flair version of the Anamorphic/i S35 prime lenses, that’s where testing came in.
“First, let me say that if it was a single shoot, the special touches would have been 95% of the movie,” Wu said. “But even as a multicam and split unit movie , they are still on screen 70-75% of the time. My A camera has always had a special style, whether it’s close, medium or wide.
Wu had heard of Cooke’s Special Flair lenses and how they dramatically improved reflections, and had always wanted to try them.
“For End of the Road, we tested and compared special flair to no special flair, making the exact same comparisons with the majority of wide lenses up to 75mm,” he said. “I was sniffing around with a separate off-camera and on-camera flair created with a hard tungsten fresnel, an unfrosted bare bulb on camera, and an on-camera flare of a flashlight that would move around the barrel. After seeing the tests and what the horizontal flair looked like on the flashlight, as well as the nice milt of the special flair, you could just feel the excitement of the image. With lots of practical lights in the frame, highly saturated colors, car headlights, and more subtle light from cell phones and more focused sources, I knew a special flair was the way to go.
“Mil and I talked, and she mostly wanted to lean towards flair,” Wu added. “Just because a flair doesn’t occur naturally doesn’t mean it won’t lean towards naturalism and styling to create emotion in the viewer. Plus, we had non-special flair lenses to fall back on if flair was too much.
Wu would have a total of three sets of Cooke Anamorphic/i S35 primes for End of the Road. This would include an Anamorphic/i S35 SF lens set consisting of the 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm MACRO, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 180mm and 300mm lenses and two standard sets not flair each with 25mm, 32mm, 40mm. , 50mm, 65mm MACRO, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm and 180mm first. These lenses, along with four RED RANGER Gemini bodies were supplied by Keslow Camera, with a RED Komodo supplied by 2nd DP Unit and B-Cam Operator, Benji Dell, primarily for car rigs. Additionally, a DJI Inspire 2 drone was used. For the 4K required by Netflix, End of the Road was shot in 2.39 at 5K with a compression of 5:1.
Wu used the 65mm MACRO as a straight 65mm. “I used the macro for a few shots, to get closer and then get a wider shot,” he said. “That width is like a spherical 35mm. With most lenses, you’re so limited in how far you can go. I always want to go further and closer. I’ve always been limited by what I could get, and with a diopter I couldn’t go back for a wider shot, so these 65 macros are just perfect.
“Mil has a background in television and is very fond of multicam,” Wu continued. “She likes to film two or three cameras at a time. What I like is two or three wider, which you can’t really do with one camera job. I love the 32 and 25 for my widths. I am amazed by the absence of radial distortion and the sharpness of the edges. It’s so clean…it’s amazing. For characters, I used 50 and 75 for medium and 75 and 100 for close-ups, with an honorable mention at 40. But we threw away all the lenses for filming. It’s pretty impressive how many Cooke anamorphic lenses you get in the lineup. You get the wide focal length you expect, but other lens makers end up at 100, Cooke going all the way up to 300, that’s pretty amazing!
End of the Road is an action-thriller where a cross-country road trip becomes a highway to hell for Brenda (Queen Latifah) and her family. Alone in the New Mexico desert, they must fight for their lives when they become the target of a mysterious killer. Shot outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico between June and August 2021, the conditions Wu and Shelton wanted in the film were exactly what they had in real life.
“As for daytime outdoor shots, we lit with the sun,” Wu explained. flat sunlight. I also used a fly swatter to avoid the direct midday sun on our actors’ faces. We had to stop several times to avoid heatstroke, but it was a tough shoot that wears its fruits in front of the camera.
It was important to Wu and Shelton that their visual theme for the location not be the typical desert which is a dry, desaturated world with no color. “We would push a dynamism that we haven’t seen in a desert landscape and a small town,” Wu said. “Mil let me push those boundaries on the camera and lighting side.”
Besides being an action/crime drama, End of the Road is also a drama about a family recovering from loss, Wu explained. summer in the desert. We see this playing out in the language of the characters… sweating more, with me opening up the exposition, exposing warmer on the tone curve and about to blow out the high end. And for the night I wanted them to stay in that heat so I used a moonlight purple – cyan or blue is typical – but purple is a warmer shade, continuing the idea of warmth in history.
“We also wanted to show beautiful views, but how desperate you can be in this isolated world,” Wu continued. “You are nobody compared to the elements, climate and geography. Anamorphic helped isolate the characters. There’s nowhere they can go but forward. So there is a lot of negative space on the wider end of the lenses.
Shooting as wide open as he was, Wu used 1/8 black mist pro throughout the shoot, given the more extreme bloom the soft frost adds.
One of the surprising aspects of filming in New Mexico in the summer was the weather. Not the sunny, warm weather you expect, but rain.
“The weather was crazy,” Wu explained. “Turns out New Mexico has a monsoon season, and none of us knew about it. Basically, 3-5 days a week, a thunderstorm would come in from nowhere and dumped rain for 1-2 hours This meant shutting down 3-5 weekdays when lightning came within 10km of our sites.
While the weather meant wasting 3-5 hours of production per week and having to push the contrast to match the shots when grading, it provided an unexpected benefit, according to Wu. “We caught a thunderbolt behind one of the bad guys. It was a fluke and it’s still in the movie.
Alastor Arnold, senior colorist at FotoKem, was recruited early on by Wu. “I always like to bring the colorist in early to develop the LUTs,” Wu said. some pictures of production design elements, what the cars will be like as this is a road movie, and some choices for colors, there are a lot of very bright colors, like a burgundy red Crown Vic and a baby blue SUV for the family. The idea was to push the saturation and vibrancy, but not feel too saturated. It still needs to feel like the real thing.
“When Alastor and I finally get in, Mil comes in and wants to push the saturation even further,” Wu said. “Shooting in HDR gave us a lot more color and tonal space to work with. We were pushing definitely the limits of color science.
“For me, aesthetically, I don’t like the very sharp images you get with digital lenses and such. I like the softer looking characteristics of the Cooke lenses, the drop you get with the operation of the optics. It’s just more immersive in the storytelling and Cooke has this really nice balance, where I see the sweet spot between dimming the background to create a soft look, but a sharper foreground so that the faces and emotion come out extraordinarily clean.
“With Cooke Anamorphics they don’t feel grimy and deteriorating like many other anamorphics fighting a wide open stop for clarity. Cooke, wide open, the center still remains sharp and only the edges fall. If I’m wide open, they retain that sharpness in the center of the image. Even on a set with a 25-inch monitor, you can only get so close to the monitors to see the fine resolution. But I have faith in the Cooke anamorphs and I know I’ll have that center sharpness with the falloff that I really like.