Comparing Cinema Lenses To Still Camera Lenses

A lot of people take shots of sets and wonder how the focal length of their still camera lens compares to cinema lenses. Even if the capture format is 35mm film or a digital camera with a 35mm size sensor, the angles of view are not the same as with a 35mm still camera.

The reason is that the the film runs horizontally through a still camera instead of vertically as through a cinema camera, resulting in a larger frame in the still camera which in turn results in a wider angle of view with a similar focal length lens.

The lens angle chart below is similar to the traditional AOV acetates used in Art Departments for decades but this one has the equivalents for still lens focal lengths next to the cinema lens angles. (You can print out a pdf of this below, just have it printed on clear acetate.) Beside each cine focal length you’ll see the equivalent focal length with a full frame DSLR. If you are using a camera with a crop frame factor this will of course be closer to the cine focal length. In fact if you shoot with the Nikon D40 or similar, it will be almost identical in focal length numbers to the cine lenses.

Angle Of View Comparison Chart

On the chart I’ve drawn a full size outline of each sensor/frame size so that you can see the difference between the two mediums. You can use this chart on any size scale plan and it will give you a very close approximation to what you’ll see with a given lens. If you want to use it on elevations you’ll need to divide the angle by 1.33 to get the vertical angle.

For those of you who use iPhones for stills, you can download a AOV chart for the iPhone below, print it on acetate and compare in to the 35mm lenses.


Cinema_Super 35 AOV Comparison

iPhone Angle Of View

Your Next Phone May Be A Real-time 3D Scanner

In February Google launched what they call “Project Tango”. They have developed a smartphone which is also a 3D scanner that can map the surrounding area and build a visual map of it. Processing over 3 million reference points a second, the device can build a virtual, scalable model of a room in the time it takes to walk through it.

Schematic of how the Tango device works

Schematic of how the Tango device works

They have currently hand-picked 200 developers to create applications for the device which as of now only runs on Android devices. Imagine what this would do to those never-ending time-consuming location surveys. Would you ditch your iPhone if you could have an Android phone that did this?


Can’t wait that long? If you’ve got $4500 and want the latest in room scanners, go over to Matterport and watch their demonstration video of their room capture camera system.



What Lens Is It? Comparing Apple Device Cameras To 35mm Lenses

A lot of times when you’re using your smart phone camera to take a shot of a set or location it would be nice to know what the equivalent view would be with a 35mm cinema / video lens.

I ran the numbers for most Apple devices and came up with the following equivalent focal lengths for both 35mm still cameras (full frame) and Super 35mm size sensors. Remember that although both formats are based on 35mm film stock, the frame for a still camera is a 1.5 aspect ratio with a frame width of about 1.417 inches. A Super 35mm frame is a 1.35 aspect ratio and the frame width is .980 inches.

Why only Apple? Well, the company readily makes their devices lens and sensor data available and it was easy to calculate. In the next post I’ll show you how to measure for your devices’ angle of view if the exact focal length isn’t published.

Please note in the following table the focal lengths for the given device have been rounded up to the nearest whole number so the equivalent lengths given are approximate.

Apple device lens comparison chart

Atmospheric Theaters – When The Theater Was Part Of The Show


In the United States the period of the ornate Movie Palaces lasted from around 1915 to the 1940’s. In that short period thousands of ornate theaters were built all over the country. Of the several genres of architecture that were created during that period, the Atmospheric theaters came the closest to blending the new media of film with theaters’ stage drama roots.

Architect and Designer John Eberson

Architect and Designer John Eberson

The Atmospheric movement was created by John Eberson, a stage designer and architect who immigrated from Europe. Having studied electrical engineering in Dresden, he took an apprenticeship with a theatrical designer in St. Louis and worked as a set designer and scenic painter. His first theater design was for a ‘picture house’ in Hamilton, Ohio. By 1926 he had perfected his ‘atmospheric’ concept with the creation of the Majestic Theater in Houston, Texas. Earning the nickname “Opera House John”, he would design over 500 atmospheric movie palaces by the end of his career.


Majestic Theater- Houston, Texas, built 1926

Majestic Theater- Houston, Texas, built 1926

For the average American, spending an evening in one of these theaters was as close to a trip to Europe as they could ever hope to have. Usually designed with European themes, Eberson’s designs featured large coved ceilings that gave the illusion of sitting outside in a courtyard with facades on either side. The ceilings were painted sky blue and a projector called a Brenograph was used to project moving clouds and stars on the deeply coved ceilings.

Eberson's drawing for a facade for the Paradise Theater in Chicago

Eberson’s drawing for a facade for the Paradise Theater in Chicago

Most of the facades detail and ornament were executed in traditional staff of plaster and hemp fiber, painted and gilded.

Saenger Theater, New Orleans

Saenger Theater, New Orleans

As with most popular trends, the atmospheric theme was quickly picked up by others and expanded throughout the country where the palaces were built even in small rural towns. One such theater is the Holland Theater in Bellefontaine, Ohio, built in 1931. The theater is the only known theater with a 17th century Dutch motif and features a twinkling star ceiling and turning windmills. Turned into a 5 screen multiplex in the 1980’s the theater was hut down in 1998. In 2009 the theater was reopened as a live theater venue and the interior is slowly being restored back to it’s original look.

Recent photo of the interior of the Holland Theater with it's painted sky, starlight and turning windmill blades

Recent photo of the interior of the Holland Theater with it’s painted sky, starlight and turning windmill blades


Sketchup / Layout For Set Design – June 7

mansionOur first class in our new space will be a one-day intensive on using Layout for creating working drawings from Sketchup models. If you do most of your models in Sketchup there’s really no reason you have to use another piece of software to create you working drawings. With the Layout package built into Sketchup Pro you can create a lot of different looks whether you want a plain black on white drawing or one that incorporates a lot of color, textures and photo reference. You can even include hand drawn elements on the same sheet.

Using a pre-modeled set, you’ll learn the most efficient way to create sections, arrange scenes and import them into your drawing documents. You’ll also get pre-made drawings templates created specifically for set design drawings as well as a scrapbook of film-specific icons and symbols to speed up your drawing time.

This is not for beginning Sketchup users. You should have at least an intermediate-level understanding of Sketchup and will need your own computer or laptop, a three-button mouse and a copy of Sketchup™ Pro 2013 or 2014. You can download a trial version of the Pro version which is good for 8 hours of use.

The class size is limited to 20 participants. If the class is full, please contact us to learn when the next Layout class is scheduled.

The class will be from 9am to 5pm Saturday June 7 and the costs is $75. You can sign up for the class at the Inside The Frame website. Our new location is 89 E. Montecito Ave. in the Montecito Arts District of Sierra Madre, CA, just a few miles from Pasadena.

Here are some of my recent drawings which were made entirely with Sketchup/Layout. No other software was used.


balcony 2

practical Gaol set

practical Gaol set

fireplace detail

fireplace detail

bunker doorprison doorsprison doors det.catwalk1school box1school box2school box3


The Studio is Finally Open – Upcoming Sketchup Classes

IMG_4227 copy

After over 4 months of work, our warehouse space renovation is finally nearing completion and we’ve begun to schedule the first in what we hope will be both a regular and varying curriculum of courses. Over 100 gallons of paint and a lot of elbow grease have transformed the former milking parlor into a cozy space that houses an interior design studio as well as a photography studio, woodworking shop  and our classroom space.




Located in Sierra Madre, just east of Pasadena, the building sits smack in the middle of the Montecito Arts district. It’s approximately a 35 minute drive from Los Angeles but it’s worth the trip. Right at the base of the San Gabrielle Foothills, the warehouse is just half a block walk from a dozen local restaurants and coffee shops including a real French creperie and a local pub where over 60 European beers are available.

Scheduled Classes

Layout For Set Design -June 7, Saturday 9am – 5pm

This class is a one-day intensive in learning to use Layout™ to create working drawings from Sketchup™ models. Layout is a CAD program that is part of the Sketchup Pro package and is the fastest way to produce working drawings from your 3D model files.

Using a pre-modeled set, you’ll learn the most efficient way to create sections, arrange scenes and import them into your drawing documents. You’ll also get pre-made drawing templates created specifically for set design drawings as well as a scrapbook of film-specific icons and symbols to speed up your drawing time.

This is not for beginning Sketchup users. You should have at least an intermediate-level understanding of Sketchup and will need your own computer or laptop, a three-button mouse and a copy of Sketchup™ Pro 2013 or 2014.

The class size is limited to 20 participants. If the class is full, please contact us to learn when the next Layout class is scheduled.

You can sign up for the class here.

Inside The Frame – Layout For Set Design


Filmmaker Bootcamp – June 9 -13, 9am – 5pm

Filmmaker Bootcamp is a one-week intensive camp for teens  and young adults who are interested in pursuing a career in the film industry and want a more focused film experience than what they would be exposed to in a high school course.

The camp is geared toward teaching students what it is like to work in the professional world of Hollywood feature filmmaking as well as help them develop a film for their portfolio that they can use to apply for a college or advanced film school program.

Students will also learn the different jobs available in the industry, the basics of working on a professional film set and what will be expected of them as a PA or production assistant on a feature film or series.

While geared toward high school age students, these are some of the same seminars which the instructor teaches both at universities and at the professional level at the Art Director’s Guild in Hollywood for new Set Designers in the film industry.

Rather than collaborating on just one project as at many other camps, participants will be encouraged to develop their own short which can be of any genre: narrative, documentary or promotional.

The classes will be a combination of discussions, demonstrations and hands-on exercises. By the end of the week students will have made a short film of their own and have developed another project.

We’ll be using scripts, storyboards, pre-vis footage and stills from actual feature films to analyze how the tools are used in the professional film industry and how to apply them to the student’s films.

The class is limited to only 10 students to allow for plenty of time for individual help with their project.

Participants will be invited back in the following month to screen their projects for the group either as a finished piece or as a rough cut.

Future Classes To Be Offered

Visualization Techniques for Filmmakers -1 day class

Set Construction For Film And Television – 1 day class

Sketchup For Interior Design – 2 day class

Sketchup For Woodworkers – 2 day class

Advanced Camera Tools For Sketchup – 1 day class

Set Design For Film & Television – 10 week course (1 day each week )

If you are interested in being notified when these classes are scheduled, please use the Contact Page at the current website:

Our new website will be up in the next week or so.




“Hand Hewn” vs. Machine Made – Part 2

In the first part of this article I mentioned that traditional hand tools could create a finish superior to their modern day counterparts. Rather than just expect you to take my word for it, I’ll show you the proof.

Traditionally the way to surface wood once it was cut to approximate size with a saw is by using various types of  hand planes.

modern woodworking hand planes

modern woodworking hand planes by Lie-Nielsen

Used for thousands of years the plane is believed to have been designed by the Romans. Basically it was a base of wood or metal which used a wedge to hold a piece of steel with a single-bevel cutting edge at a set angle to the cutting surface. Modern planes have a more refined system for controlling the cut but the basic layout of the tool is still the same.

For bulk planing it’s hard to beat a modern powered thickness planer but for some operations like fitting doors, which requires very careful trimming, the traditional hand plane excels in a number of ways. I thought I’d do a little test and compare the quality of the surface of some wood run through a power planer as compared to a hand plane.

Lie-Neilsen block plane

Lie-Neilsen block plane

the block plane in action

the block plane in action

Here’s a block plane, which is great for quick jobs like fitting doors. This particular plane is an exceptionally good one made by Lie-Neilsen in Maine. The wheel on the rear allows you to adjust the depth of the cut even while planing by as little as a thousandth of an inch.

When the blade is set properly and the plane is held parallel to the wood, you get a beautiful, continuous strip of wood that comes off the work piece. Instead of sawdust from a modern power tool you get this lovely pile of curly shavings. The bottom photo is of the final plane shaving. It’s a few thou of an inch thick or about the thickness of a piece of 1000H vellum. It’s impossible to do that with a power tool.


hand plane shaving about the thickness of drafting vellum

hand plane shaving about the thickness of drafting vellum


Look closely and you can see the individual wood cells. Great, you say, but who needs wood ribbon? Stay with me, I’m getting to my point.






below is a piece of wood run through a power thickness planer with a new head.

Surface of wood after being run through a planer

Surface of wood after being run through a planer







It looks pretty smooth, until you do a side-by-side comparison with the hand plane shaving. You can see below that the hand plane shaving is much smoother than the “fuzzy” appearance of the power planer sample. But why?

comparison of power planer cut (left) with a hand plane shaving (right)

comparison of power planer cut (left) with a hand plane shaving (right)

The cutting head on the thickness planer looks like this:

spiral cutter head for a thickness planer

spiral cutter head for a thickness planer

Instead of a single blade that stays in continuous contact like the hand plane, the power plane’s cutter is made up of dozens of small knives that cut at thousands of revolutions a minute, which instead of one continuous cut creates a lot of this:

power planer shavings

power planer shavings

Smoothing planes and card scrapers were used to create a finish as smooth as that created by modern tools using sandpaper. Sandpaper wouldn’t become used universally until the second half of the 19th century. Abrasive material, mainly fish skin, existed during that earlier period but was used mainly for the final polishing of a finish rather than as a way to surface wood like we do today as a replacement for planes.

One national woodworking magazine recently conducted a test, pitting a man with hand planes against another with a power sander to see which could finish a set of doors faster.The hand planes won, smoothing the pieces in less time than the sandpaper process which required sanding the pieces multiple times with different grits of sandpaper.

So why were planes replaced by sandpaper? Because you can hand a power sander to a complete novice and they will be able to get an acceptable finish with very little help. The use of hand planes requires the person to know how to use the tools as well as knowing how to sharpen and adjust them. Power tools have great advantages over hand powered tools when it comes to general output speed and during the industrial revolution they had another advantage; they allowed for the use of a fairly unskilled labor force. With power tools the real control is in the hands of the tool, not the operator. That’s why with power tools there is usually a lot of work involved in setting up or creating jigs  to gain more control over the cutting process.

Because woodworking using had tools was labor intensive, and because prices for items like furniture was usually set by local organizations, only surfaces which were seen were finished to a highly smooth surface. here’s a photo of the underside of a table in the Chicago Art Institute. You can see the plane marks on the underside of the table top:

table top bottom


An easy way to tell if a piece of furniture is a period piece or a modern day reproduction is to run your hand along the back of the piece or the underside of a drawer. If it’s an antique it won’t be smooth.

Traditional wood moldings were made much the same way but instead of a flat blade, the blade was cut in a reverse profile to the mould that was to be made. Here are two of the moulding planes from my collection. The oldest of the two, made in London over 250 years ago, still works perfectly once I tuned up the blade. You can see the results, a surface so smooth it doesn’t need to be scraped, much less sanded.

wood moulding planes

wood moulding planes


Cyma reversa cut with an 18th century moulding plane

Cyma reversa cut with an 18th century moulding plane

moulding plane1

Moulding plane and the profile it cuts




















So, if the plane was developed by the Romans that should mean that woodworking before that time must have been pretty bad, right? Nope.

Take the Greeks. The Greek Trireme was as amazing ship for its time for a number of reasons.

Greek_GalleysIn the ancient world ships were built in a completely different way that we think of them. Since around the 1st century ships have been built by making a framework first and then applying boards over the frame. In the ancient world ships were built hull-first., and only after that was a structural frame added for stability. The timber making up the hull was joined edge-to-edge with what is known as loose tenons. These were inserted into slots, or mortises and then pinned with dowels through holes drilled in the sides of the timbers to pull the two pieces together making a glue-less bond that didn’t require any kind of metal fasteners. The average small Greek ship had about 8000 of these tenons.

Greek ship construction - illustration by Eric Gaba

Greek ship construction – illustration by Eric Gaba


More modern wood ships had planks nailed to a wooden frame and then tarred rope, or caulking was hammered into the cracks between them to make them watertight. There is no indication the Greeks used any caulking in their ships, which means they were skilled enough with their tools, adzes and chisels, to make the joint between the edges of the planks tight enough that once the wood was exposed to water, the planks would swell together creating a watertight vessel. That’s some pretty amazing woodworking.

Of course this also means that not only was Noah a wiz with a mortise chisel, since a ship the size of the Ark must have contained some 100,000 tenons, but every modern recreation of it I’ve seen is completely wrong.