RIDE ALONG 2 GETS THE RED DRAGON 6K TREATMENT WITH PRIMO 70s

The explosion in popularity of the anamorphic format certainly has taxed the anamorphic lens reserves as of late, which left cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, a die-hard anamorphic and Panavision user, without his favorites for the action-comedy Ride Along 2. “The big movies have been sucking up the lenses I love, the C-series,” he laments.

The original Ride Along had been shot anamorphically, and Amundsen wanted a big-movie look for the follow-up film. Panavision VP of Marketing Larry Hezzelwood had a solution—the new Panavision Primo 70 lenses. Panavision had fabricated mounts that would mate the lenses to Amundsen's current go-to camera, the RED Dragon with a 6K sensor.

The large-format Primo 70s more than adequately covered the camera's sensor chip. “For my taste and because of the action I do, I love shooting with the RED Dragon because of the compact size,” says Amundsen. “I can put the camera in places I can't fit something like an Alexa.

“Larry is my godfather,” he continues. “I've been working with him for 30 years, and I always go to Panavision because of how well they take care of me. Consistent with their track record, these lenses are amazing. I love them!”

Todd Schlopy, Amundsen's longtime 1st AC, echoes his enthusiasm. “They are the best lenses we've ever seen on a camera in terms of handling flares, contrast and other things,” he says. “We could make them do what we wanted while at the same time take away things that can be frustrating, like milky flares.”

Set in sun-drenched Miami, Universal Pictures' Ride Along 2, directed by Tim Story, has Ben (Kevin Hart) and his now soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Ice Cube) reuniting to take down a notorious drug dealer.

While the Primo 70s handled daytime exceptionally well for Admundsen and Schlopy, the nighttime performance of the lenses drew raves.

“At night, they are spectacular,” Schlopy says. “They held focus so the assistants could still do their jobs and yet at the same time fell off in the foreground and background, giving us beautiful out-of-focus lights in the distance.”

Amundsen recalls a particular instance etched in his mind. “There's a scene at night on a bridge in the middle of the water,” he recalls. “There isn't a lot of inherent light. There are little tiny lights in the background. If you shot it normal, those lights would be little tiny dots, but because of this huge lack of depth of field from the Primo 70s, all this light bloomed deep in the distance and became ten times bigger than it would normally. That helped us a lot.”

Amundsen generally shoots at a T3.5 to T4.5 during the day, and though the Primo 70s open up to a T2, Amundsen and Schlopy still try to work around T3.2 for night shooting. Schlopy adds, “Mitch is used to lighting bigger because of the anamorphic work we've done in the past and because we want to make sure a B camera with the longer lens will be useful. On the zooms, we will shoot a T8 to make sure we got the shot, so as not to do extra takes. We have to be smart where we use our shallow depth of field versus getting everything we need in the shot.”

The Primo 70s, though, have a focusing sweet spot that draws Schlopy's praise. “Other lenses we've used for different projects seem to have a sharp point on the focus curve where they are either in focus or out of focus, like balancing on a marble—extremely difficult to try to nail those things,” Schlopy explains. “The way Dan Sasaki [VP of Optical Engineering] and the genius lens techs at Panavision designed the Primo 70 lenses gives them a flat spot on that focus curve instead of a peak, where I have a little bit of wiggle room in the depth of field range to work with and still provide good foreground-background falloff. It's ideal.”

Source material was shot in Redcode RAW 6K with a 2K digital intermediate and master in a final aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Light Iron, a Panavision company, performed the DI. “My ideal package is RED and going to Light Iron for a nice DI end product,” says Amundsen. “They have a long history of development with RED. Now that they are part of Panavision, I have a lot of people I know and love that I get to work with together.”

With a solution to Amundsen's anamorphic conundrum, Panavision served up a winning combination of support, equipment and postproduction for Ride Along 2, a fact not lost on the 1st AC. Says Schlopy, “All you need to do to appreciate Panavision is do a job where you don't have Panavision.”