Weekly Production Tip #4 - Lenses - Raindance

This week, we’re talking about using different lenses to improve your work’s visual impact. Watch the video and check out our 5-minute Lens school underneath!

Different lens choices are a brilliant way to spice up your visuals in your filmmaking. While some cheaper cameras don’t allow for changing lenses, most DSLRs and contemporary professional or semi-pro cameras do have that option, and some may even be sold in a pack with a variety of lenses.

Here is the 5-minute Raindance Lens school:

1) Lenses come in 2 forms – Primes and Zooms. Primes are of a fixed focal length (that is, the lens is at a fixed distance to the camera’s sensor). Zooms can vary their focal length, moving the lens closer to the camera’s sensor (zooming out) or further away (zooming in).

2) Primes are pretty but difficult. Zooms are adaptable but dangerous. Prime lenses tend to give more ‘cinematic’ images because they tend to have a wider range of settings in their depth of field and aperture, meaning you can pull focus more effectively. The lack of a zoom function, however, means that filmmakers using them have to be careful about camera placement. Zooms are generally preferred by documentary and live-action filmmakers because they’re easier to use from a fixed point, instead of having to run in and out, but zooming in can ruin your image quality, both from a resolution perspective and by distorting things in the frame.

3) Distortion can be your friend. What do you mean zoom lenses distort the image? Well, for a practical example you’ll have to watch the video. But here is an excellent explanation of why it happens, done on a couple of post-it notes:


When the lens is zoomed out and closer to the subject, the angle of view is wider, thus showing more of the background.

Then the lens is zoomed in and the camera is moved back, the angle of view is narrower, meaning less of the background is visible.

That’s not all; when you’re zoomed in (or using a high focal length lens), it also flattens the background, making objects behind the subject look far bigger than they actually are. This effect can be used to subtly influence the mood of a scene, making objects in the background appear imposing and dominating. Check out the comparison photos below to understand this point better!


Zoomed Out: Elisar (foreground) is much bigger than David (middle) and teeny-tiny Martyna (background)


Zoomed in: David (middle) now appears nearly twice the size compared to the previous picture, whereas Martyna (back) has also grown. We can also see much less of the background.

That’s it from us this week! Subscribe to our newsletter to get these tips directly to your inbox every week.



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From new and emerging to industry pros, Raindance connects, trains, supports, and promotes visual storytellers through every step of their career.

The Raindance Film Festival runs each Autumn in London's Leicester Square.

Raindance has been delivering film training since 1992. A wide range of Open Classes to a 2 year HND Level 5 BTEC in Moving Images to a Postgraduate Film Degree are delivered to students on five continents, both in person and online.