Ultra Wide Zoom flying high

Ultra Wide Zoom flying high

The ARRI Ultra Wide Zoom UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9 is an exceptionally high-performing, distortion-free wide-angle zoom lens for the professional cine market. Cinematographer Bill Bennett, ASC, recently combined the UWZ with an ALEXA M on an aerial shoot in the skies above LA, using an MBB Bo 105 helicopter and Gyron gyro-stabilized mount from Wolfe Air Aviation.

Ultra Wide Zoom aerial shoot

The ARRI Ultra Wide Zoom UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9 is an exceptionally high-performing, distortion-free wide-angle zoom lens for the professional cine market. Cinematographer Bill Bennett, ASC, recently combined the UWZ with an ALEXA M on an aerial shoot in the skies above LA, using an MBB Bo 105 helicopter and Gyron gyro-stabilized mount from Wolfe Air Aviation.

Where exactly did you fly?

 

We were flying out of Hawthorne airport and went down to San Pedro harbor before heading back north along the coast and shooting the oil refinery near LAX. In downtown Los Angeles we flew below the tops of the buildings, very close to them, so that we could get that sense of objects stretching around a corner as they go past, which is what happens with such a wide angle of view.

 

How did you make use of the ability to zoom?

 

Sometimes I would zoom during the shot, particularly when I was looking at cars and traffic on the freeway interchanges. I could quickly zoom in so that the interchange filled the frame, which saved a lot of time because otherwise we'd have had to fly at a lower altitude and that would mean another pass. Being able to zoom allowed a lot of flexibility in terms of composition. 

How did the lens handle flare?

Sometimes the city was front-lit and other times we shot directly back into the sun, because aesthetically that was the more attractive image. There are many situations where you actually want to shoot towards the sun, but some lenses won't let you do that because they have horrible flare characteristics. I was curious to see how the UWZ would behave and it did very well.

I wanted to include the horizon line in my compositions and with any other wide-angle lens that horizon would have been curved, but with the UWZ it was straight.

Did the image hold up right into the corners?

 

We shot 4:3 ARRIRAW and when I evaluated the images I extracted a 16:9 frame so that I could use the extra room top and bottom to correct framing decisions that were made on the fly. Often I was re-framing to use the upper or lower corners of the 4:3 image, but there wasn't any impact on sharpness because the resolution to the corners is astonishing.

 

I've seen this lens up on a lens projector and it's ridiculously good; in fact, for how wide it is, it's shockingly good. Every other wide lens I've seen has compromises with the resolution, but the UWZ does not.

Another advantage of the lens is that it will cover the ALEXA XT Open Gate mode

We were not able to take advantage of Open Gate because the camera we had was not an XT camera, it was an ALEXA Classic upgraded with the XR Module, but I have no doubt that the combination of this lens and an XT camera will be very useful to people doing visual effects, partly because of the ability to re-frame but especially because of the lack of distortion. 

For how wide it is, it's shockingly good. Every other wide lens I've seen has compromises with the resolution, but the UWZ does not.

What other kinds of shoots do you imagine would suit the UWZ?

 

I do a lot of car commercials and can imagine using the UWZ for a sporty car aimed at younger people, because I think clients would be very open to that wide-angle aesthetic.

 

I also think the music video crowd will absolutely love the UWZ because of its very unusual look. The fact that you can zoom means productions can move quickly because you can compensate for an actor not hitting their mark or the camera not being in exactly the right spot.