Greig Fraser started out as a stills photographer, studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. While working at a studio production company with both photographers and film makers, he realised he preferred the collaborative way in which the film makers worked, and switched specialisms. He began working with director friends on music videos, commercial spots and short films and gradually built his skillset and an impressive showreel. His cinematography credits include Bright Star, Killing Them Softly, Let Them In, Snow White and The Huntsman and, most recently, the Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty. Here he shares his experiences with Cooke lenses.
We went through a few lens tests, including anamorphics, but I ended up selecting the same lens combination that I used for Bright Star – a full set of Cooke S4s with some Optica Elites. On the face of it, a film about a 19th century poet and a film about Navy S.E.A.L.s would appear to have little in common! But they were both very human and honest stories and both needed a very real, grounded look. The Cooke S4s excelled at this because they bring that degree of warmth and honesty.
The look is paramount but the Cookes also needed to be able to go into battle. They were a great size for what we were doing. There was a lot of hand-held work, and they are big enough that they balance well, they are robust and almost literally bullet proof. Their toughness was really a key issue: if you’re going off to the far ends of the earth, there aren’t going to be many lens technicians if there’s a problem, and we couldn’t afford any downtime with our glass. Cooke’s manufacturing process is extremely good, I’ve never once had an issue with them on set, even when we were hanging out of Black Hawk helicopters.
We shot much of the footage in the Jordanian desert so we had to contend with extreme lighting conditions. On the one hand there was high sun, and on the other there was virtually no light when we were shooting in the compound, but the ALEXAs and Cookes coped well with anything we threw at them and produced great contrasts. I’m very proud of what we achieved on this film.
I’ve been in love with Cookes for a long time – glass is really important to me and I’m blown away by the quality and technique that goes into making each lens. I was delighted to see Cooke receive the Academy Award of Merit for its long service to the motion picture industry, and I take my hat off to Les Zellan because, had he not taken it on we’d have lost a chunk of our history and the best lens technology available.