The History and Science of Lenses – FilmmakerIQ (2015)

Glass has been a truly transformational material in Human history. Among many other remarkable things glass helped us understand and control properties of light. From photocopying machines to fiber optic cables glass revolutionized our lives.

Gutenberg’s printing machine was a turning point with an unintended consequence. Printing created a huge demand for spectacles and glasswork craftsmanship in Europe literally exploded. Craftsmanship that built spectacles lead to building of more specialized optical instruments including microscopes, telescopes and eventually cameras.

For all intensive purposes, the landmark moment in history of documentary filmmaking begins with the design of the legendary Akeley gyroscope camera that made filming of truly historic documentary films such as Nanook of the North (1922) and Grass (1922). Invented by the influential naturalist Carl Akeley, the Akeley gyroscope cameras were the best equipment to work in rugged outdoor conditions.

This lecture by FilmmakerIQ is a part of the Technical Notes series by Nature Documentaries aiming to compile useful technical, theoretical and practical knowledge for documentary filmmakers. The episode provides an overview of lens theory including lens types, focal length and thin lens equation. It successfully visualizes behavior of light through a thin lens set up using lasers and helps us understand properties such as magnification. A concise but near-comprehensive encapsulation of lenses and cameras is very informative. Absolutely useful for every documentary filmmaker!

Next: Properties of Camera Lenses.

If you want to cultivate yourself further with optical theory you can check out the Khan Academy lecture series on Geometric Optics.



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