Prime DNA lenses on BREATHE

Prime DNA lenses on BREATHE

Robert Richardson ASC collaborates with ARRI Rental on an eclectic set of Prime DNA lenses for the ALEXA 65 camera system

When director Andy Serkis and cinematographer Robert Richardson began talking about BREATHE, the story of a polio patient determined to break free of the shackles imposed by paralysis, one camera format jumped out at them: ARRI Rental’s exclusive ALEXA 65. Both had worked with the system before—Serkis as a motion capture performer in WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and Richardson as the DP on LIVE BY NIGHT.

“Initially I hoped to utilize the ALEXA 65 on BREATHE, but I knew that our budget was very limited and that probably the numbers for that choice of camera did not make sense for either the production or for ARRI Rental,” says Richardson. “Nevertheless, ARRI Rental had no hesitation to begin evaluating what could be done, and greatly assisted me in getting the ALEXA 65 system onto the film.” 

For ARRI Rental, this was an ideal opportunity to work with Richardson on interesting new 65 mm format lens options that could feed into its Prime DNA lens range—just one of a whole collection of exclusive lens series, developed in-house.

“When I arrived at ARRI Rental in the UK, there were numerous lenses for the ALEXA 65,” continues the cinematographer. “Something in my nature wanted to investigate not just contemporary lenses, but vintage lenses, so we began to raid the vaults. This led to a room filled with lenses, perhaps one or two hundred moved through that room at one time or another—I don’t know exactly, but it was insane—some were obscure lenses that didn’t fully cover the 65 sensor, some were discarded lenses that had not been dusted off since the 1960s. I had no idea who manufactured the original glass, but there were moments of magic in the search that led us to decide upon a path together—meaning ARRI Rental and myself.”

This spirit of collaboration is at the heart of the Prime DNA lens range. Each individual lens is inspired by cinematographer feedback and contains something of their personality. Furthermore, lenses can be de-tuned and customized for individual projects, allowing another level of personalization.

Without question this was a different experience, there was a magic in the darkness that materialized—the unknown became gems. This film would not be what it is without the relationship with ARRI Rental.

On BREATHE, Richardson combined Prime DNA lenses with Vintage 765 lenses, which are also exclusive to ARRI Rental and were originally developed for the ARRIFLEX 765 65 mm film camera more than a quarter of a century ago.

“The subtle beauty of the DNA and Vintage 765 lenses defined the look for BREATHE, along with the sensor of the camera,” says Richardson. “There is so much depth within the sensor that the qualities of the lenses could be added to in a tremendously beneficial manner.”

The most utilized focal lengths in Richardson’s eclectic lens package ranged from 40 mm to 100 mm, with the 80 mm T1.9 Prime DNA being a particular favorite. “I found that I needed a bit more speed and also something a bit wider, which is why ARRI Rental worked with us to develop the 35 mm,” he says. “Without question this was a different experience, there was a magic in the darkness that materialized—the unknown became gems. This film would not be what it is without the relationship with ARRI Rental.”