James Medcraft, Director of Photography on ‘Black Cube’, explains why Sigma’s Cine Prime lenses are his number 1 choice for his cinematic work
James Medcraft’s impressive portfolio is known for constantly challenging the boundaries of technology and perception within image making. For the last 10 years since leaving the artist collective United Visual Artists he’s carved out a unique look and methodology within his work, shooting to create what would appear at first to be VFX heavy scenes in-camera.
James’ background as a commercial stills photographer and 3D animator has given him an unusual skill set which can be clearly seen within the hybrid shooting style of some of his most well-known work. One of his first projects as cinematographer, ‘Dream’, depicts the dreamstate of an artificially intelligent computer. Going on from this he created a commercial for McLaren Automotive by creating a 3D printer that printed nothing but volumetric light. This was captured again using motion control with the inclusion of time lapse photography to create a moving car made entirely out of light, a creative and technical world first. The mixed media approach of James’ most creative projects requires an advanced understanding of how light reacts within glass, and as such an advanced understanding of lenses is something important to his approach. One of his latest and most challenging projects is a TVC for Gatorade. Shot entirely in camera using a combination of motion control, high speed flash and a custom water printer this project demonstrates how far in camera effects can be pushed.
After 10 years of technically creative projects James is pursuing more narrative based work. To assist him with this he’s recently purchased a full set of Sigma Cine Primes to be used on cine and stills camera bodies. “No single project of mine has ever used the same camera package twice” says James. “I’ve been looking for a reliable set of high quality lenses for my future works, the Sigma’s give me the flexibility to use them on many different format bodies and their impressive quality and range have allowed me to develop my storytelling process”. He recently released his first short film ‘Black Cube’, shot as a series of stills. “As a cinematographer I am most concerned with creating a cinematic image that can be read without the inclusion of voice or music. So for ‘Black Cube’, and considering my budget, I decided not to condense the story into 11 stills, rather than compromise my look.”
The series of stills were all shot with James’ personal set of Sigma Cine Prime lenses on a digital stills camera. This hybrid of cine lenses and stills body enabled James to sculpt his cinematic scenes with the creative potential of cine lenses and with the versatility of a stills body. “Using a range of focal lengths from 14mm to 135mm enables great flexibility to evoke the loneliness of a character in a scene or concentrate the viewers’ focus on specific narrative elements.” Whilst using these lenses mainly for his motion picture work, these lenses have now become his go-to lens package for stills work due to their image quality, speed and reliability under all conditions.
In the coming months James will be shooting ‘The Gatekeeper’, a 16th century folk short set in England’s Peak District which he plans to shoot on the Sigma Cine Primes coupled with filters for a more vintage look.