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Friday Night Dinner for Celere primes

Friday Night Dinner for Celere primes

The latest series of long running Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner for Big Talk productions was filmed by DoP Matt Wicks using Celere primes.

Each series has been distinguished with a different DoP and over ten years and five series you can see that each has its own look and feel as successive DoPs have approached the task in differing ways while still attempting to maintain a level of consistency in keeping with the show’s style. 

“There is one aspect of Friday Night Dinner that I feel governs most of the decisions you make when shooting the show - that it’s all filmed on location in an actual house,” explains Wicks, who trades as Feathercut Films. “This makes things rather tricky at times as the space is very limited, especially when there can be up to seven cast members in a scene at one time and two cameras. Therefore, we needed to a compact camera and kit footprint.”

Since all previous series had been shot on ARRI Alexa, a pair of Alexa Minis were the obvious choice. Wicks was also aware that previous series had been shot on zoom lenses but he felt he really wanted to use primes.

“My main reason for this was to try as much as possible to add depth and texture to the frame which can be tricky when your actors are three feet in front of a beige wall,” he explains.

“I’d used the Celere HS primes before on a couple of shoots and was pleased with how complementary they were to skin tone and their drop off. I didn’t want to share a set of primes between A and B cam so both of us [operator Barney Crocker] had our own set combined with two Angénieux zooms each.”

There was, therefore, a budget discussion to be made. “I knew at the back of my mind that the Celere’s are very affordable and having been happy with them previously, I decided to test them first,” says Wicks who visited VMI to find the set he wanted.

“We looked at all the lenses from Tstop 4 to wide open and found they worked best around 2.8/4, going a tad milky wide open,” he says. “We also looked at a set of Zeiss Super Speeds Mark II and found them fairly similar.

“I would say there’s a touch more character to the Super Speeds but I didn’t feel it would make too much difference to our show,” he shares. “We actually ended up using a Super Speed 35mm during the shoot when one of the Celere 35mm had a focus ring issue and was sent off to be repaired. They intercut perfectly.” 

The series was shot mainly on the 25mm, 35mm and the 50mm and in HD at 4444 XQ. Wicks tried to play a lot of the scenes in two shots or ‘deep 3’s’ but felt that for the close ups that the 35mm looked really nice.

“You could bring the characters close to camera with no distortion and you could see more in the background which I feel works best for comedy,” he elaborates.

“Overall, throughout the shoot the lenses performed very well. Both 1st A.Cs were impressed with them. We only had an issue with one 35mm which had to be sent back a few times for the same focus ring issue. One thing I would say is that we noticed, at wide open when filming outside, that the flare we got from head lights and any practical lights in vision was quite distracting. A strange ghosting would appear around the light. It was for this reason that we used the zoom lenses outside for the night exteriors. Other than that, we were very happy with the lenses and the support we received from VMI.”

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