ARRI: A personal lens service

Posted on Jul 28, 2023

ARRI Rental offers several exclusive lens series that are each manufactured in-house, as well as global lens customisation services

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ARRI RENTAL’S IN-HOUSE lens development programme began with the release of the ALEXA 65 as a rental-only camera in 2015. Featuring a sensor the same size and shape as a 65mm film frame, it was – and remains – the highest- resolution ALEXA to be built. Lenses that covered the 65mm format were in short supply, however, and ARRI Rental had to develop its own optical solutions.

First came the Prime 65 series, which launched at the same time as the ALEXA 65. Work continued on additional lens options, and feedback from cinematographers made it clear they wanted glass with unusual characteristics that would deconstruct the 65mm image. Out of collaborations with DOPs including Greig Fraser ASC, ACS on Mary Magdalene; Bradford Young ASC on Solo; and Robert Richardson ASC on Breathe, the Prime DNA series was born, made up of hand-picked vintage optics rehoused into modern lens housings.

Prime DNAs are not a consistent lens set in the traditional sense because each has its own personality. Cinematographers select and customise whatever combination of DNAs best suit them, often homing in on favourite lenses that set the visual tone. Success with the Prime DNAs led to a DNA LF series for large format, tunable in ways that can be accurately recorded, reset and repeated at any major ARRI Rental facility.

For anamorphic productions, ARRI Rental offers the exclusive ALFA series, which again evolved out of collaborations with DOPs. When Greig Fraser requested a fresh anamorphic look for The Batman, ARRI Rental modified sets of ARRI Master Anamorphic lenses, adapting them to cover large format but redesigning and detuning them, too. After further prototyping for Nik Summerer on 1899, specs emerged for production ALFAs, which are now a popular choice at ARRI Rental offices worldwide.

FINE VINTAGE | ARRI Rental has been re-engineering vintage Moviecams thanks to clever new methods

A global approach is fundamental to ARRI Rental’s lens program. The core team has members in the UK, Berlin, Munich, Los Angeles and New York. All are involved in bringing new ideas, and different projects are spearheaded in different regions.

Having acquired the capability to make new housings for DNA LF, ARRI Rental used the same techniques to re-engineer vintage Moviecam lenses, recognising their appeal to digital filmmakers seeking a special look. The original seventies glass was removed and built into robust housings with modern features, ready for a new life in large format.

The latest addition to ARRI Rental’s inventory is the HEROES collection, which comprises small sets of quirky optics that supplement the main set on a production. HEROES launched with LOOK lenses, featuring a look dial for on-set detuning, and T.ONE lenses with a T1.0 aperture.

Every new ARRI Rental lens is fitted with an LDM-2 chip, which carries LDA (Lens Data Archive) metadata and is compatible with ARRI’s LDS-2. Even detuned vintage lenses can be used on VFX-heavy projects without causing issues in post. Examples include DNA LF lenses on Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and HBO’s House of the Dragon.

As well as developing exclusive lens series, ARRI Rental works with clients to develop a unique look with existing lenses. A case in point is the collaboration between ARRI Rental, Todd Field and Florian Hoffmeister BSC to customise ARRI Signature Primes for Tár. ARRI Rental’s philosophy is to encourage filmmakers to engage in a dialogue, to come in and experiment, talk about artistic goals and work together towards a solution.

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This article appears in the August 2023 issue of Definition. Read the full magazine here.

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