19 Iconic Filmmakers & the Focal Lengths & Lenses They Love to Use
Through what lens do your favorite filmmakers view the world?
Not only do lenses change the aesthetics of a scene, but they also change our emotional response to the hero's journey, our attitudes toward what befalls them, and give us an inside look at what the director sees through his own eyes. In this video, wolfcrow's Sareesh Sudhakaran shares the preferred focal lengths and lenses of 19 of our most beloved filmmakers, including Kubrick, Scorsese, Ozu, Spielberg, and Kurosawa.
Even though many of the director's Sudhakaran mentions in the video use a variety of lenses in their films, it's still interesting to think about why some of them favor certain focal lengths over others. Is that the way they view the world? Do these lenses simply communicate best the kinds of stories they like to tell? Is it because they just like the look? It's most likely all of the above.
If you look at the cinematic styles of different directors, as well as the kinds of lenses they use, you begin to see a pattern. Yasujiro Ozu had a very natural, realistic approach to cinematography, so it makes sense that he would use 50mm lenses for entire films since the 50mm (as well as the 35mm) is often considered to resemble the focal length of the human eye. Wes Anderson alternately has a very quirky style that feels both nostalgic and completely unique, and his use of wide-angle anamorphic lenses helps communicate that look to the audience.
Even if you compare the mise-en-scène of both Ozu and Anderson, the similarity in their approach (stylized compositions, color, and symmetry) still only exists in terms of form, not function, because the realm of their own interpretation of the world is miles apart from each other. In other words, Ozu's 50mm view celebrates realism despite it being stylized, whereas Anderson's wide-angle anamorphic view is stylized because he is critical of the artificial
Philosophical musings aside, it's super interesting to learn about which filmmakers gave preferential treatment to certain focal lengths. Not only can you, yes, learn more about the whys behind the whats, but knowing the tools your favorite filmmakers likes to work with is vital information for film dorks like us—if for no other reason than to pretend like it'll help us make our stuff look like their stuff. (Keep dreamin', buddy.)