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DP Will Turner pairs Alexa 35 & Zeiss Supreme Prime Radiance for volume shoot

Apr 4, 2024

As volume stages and virtual production become ever more prevalent, cinematographers face new questions of how to make the most of so many gear and equipment choices to best service their creative visions. Cinematographer Will Turner, Commercial Emmy-winner and Commercial Emmy-nominee, faced just such a predicament on a recent spot for TCL starring Charger’s quarterback Justin Herbert. With plans to recreate a football stadium using a Volume Stage, Turner selected Zeiss Supreme Prime Radiance lenses to create controllable flares with his ARRI Alexa 35.

Promoting a new widescreen television set from TCL, the commercial features original footage of Charger’s quarterback Justin Herbert in action. Renting a professional football stadium for the shoot was not logistically or budgetarily possible, so the team decided to re-create the environment using a volume stage at Orbital Studios in Downtown Los Angeles. Turner was already planning to use his Alexa 35 as the main camera body and needed to decide what lenses would pair best with the virtual environment. A reliable combo was essential since the production would be working against the clock, with only eight hours to film their celebrity talent. 

“We wanted something that would give us a big stadium-type flare,” says Turner. “The client was against anamorphic. They wanted a 16:9 aspect ratio because it would be easier to show the complete product [a television].” Turner turned to the Zeiss Supreme Prime Radiances. “I like a high contrast lens and a cleaner look… so the Radiances were the perfect match for this production.” To create a controlled flare-effect during the shoot, one of the electricians manually swung a Nanlite fixture to point at the lens and away again. “It worked to blend the volume with our physical set pieces and actors. The Alexa 35 gave us everything we needed out of the image, and the lenses complemented it nicely. We wanted a clean, commercial look, and that’s what we got. I knew the lenses were reliable.”

With a jam-packed day and Herbert’s time on set at a premium, Turner needed to plan how to complete their shot list without excessive lens and lighting changes. “Lighting the volume offered a challenge. Every time I’d move, the start of the shot would look great, but by the end, I was seeing the reflection of the light,” Turner describes. “We mostly stayed with the 65mm Radiance, firstly because it worked for our field of view on the volume, but also because we just didn’t have time to make changes.” With the Alexa 35 sensor, the lens was well-suited for the mid to close-up shots that dominate the spot. The lens set left much needed time for lighting. 

There’s a lot of blending creativity with the technical limitations,” says Turner. “But once you determine the best tools to use, like the ARRI 35 and Zeiss Supremes, you have a good start. What’s great about volume work, is whatever you want to do, you can figure out a way to do it.”

To read the full interview with Will Turner: 

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