German technology and Russian design result in the Hawk anamorphic lenses.

Like the original Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace was intended to be an anamorphic film from the get-go. However, when the decision was made to utilize Arriflex cameras, a problem arose: securing enough anamorphic lenses to supply full sets for three cameras. Arri Media has their [Powerscope] lenses, but there are only a few sets of them—not enough for all of the cameras Lucasfilm wanted, says Renos Louka, director and general manager of Arri Great Britain Ltd., a retail sales outlet of Arri equipment in the U.K.

However, some time before Phantom arose, Arri G.B. had discovered a new German optics company called Vantage Films, which had been founded by Wolfgang Baumler and Peter Martin, two German camera assistants who were driven to create their own anamorphic lenses. Through a joint venture with Arri G.B. and Arri Media, the Arri family helped fund Vantages efforts, which resulted in the Hawk series of anamorphic lenses.

Baumler and Martin formed Vantage Films in search of the optical Holy Grail: a set of anamorphic lenses that could compete in quality with spherical lenses. In 1990-91, when Russia opened up their borders, a lot of people were looking for work, recalls Baumler. The Russians had a lot of experience in designing anamorphic lenses, because in Socialist times they were given a lot of money to develop things. With the borders open, we were able to contact some amazing optical designers and talk to them about making lenses for us.

Because we worked with Russian designers, many people think that [the Hawk lenses] are remanufactured Russian lenses. They are not. These are brand-new German lenses based on Russian calculations. Many of the parts in the first few sets were made by a Japanese company, but now everything is done at Rodenstock in Germany.

Over the past four years, Baumler and Martin have manufactured 12 sets of Hawk anamorphic primes. Their range includes the following lengths: 25mm, 30mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 60mm and 75mm (all T2.2); 100mm, 135mm, 180mm and 250mm (all T3); and a 350mm (achieved with a custom 1.4x extender calibrated exclusively for the 250mm lens). Their zooms include a 46-360mm, a 55-165mm, and a new 300-900mm (all T4).

Aesthetically, the Hawks are very pleasing, and they handle flares very well, opines Arri Media technical manager John Duclos. They flare white, which is very nice.

We have no problems with backlights or practicals in a shot, contends Baumler. Weve eliminated that problem with the Hawks. We use a good four-layer multi-coating on all of our elements. Weve also placed our focusing group in the front of the lens, and the anamorphic element is in the middle [as opposed to the front]—its relatively small, which helps eliminate problems with lens flares.

Another difference in the Hawk lenses, as compared to other anamorphic lenses, is that we dont start with great spherical lenses and make anamorphics out of them. We designed all of our lenses together from the outset to be good anamorphics. Our spherical elements are calculated exclusively for each specific anamorphic lens, and wouldnt be any good on their own as spherical lenses. The spherical elements are all calculated and fixed for infinity focus; we then put in a focusing group before our anamorphic element, which is calculated without compromises to do its one specific job.

Most anamorphic lenses have a bit of breathing in them, but we found some Russian lenses from the 1960s that were perfect—which is what prompted us to turn to those designers, Baumler continues. With the Hawks, we have totally eliminated the breathing problem, and the focus performs like a spherical lens would.

Also, since all of the Hawks are made with the same optical concept from the same designer, they all match perfectly. That was one of our goals from the beginning. All of the lenses are the same, so the last customer to get the lenses will have the same quality that the first one did.

In a letter dated April 8, 1997, Simon J. Broad, the business manager of Arri Media, wrote to Peter Martin in regard to director of photography David Tattersall, BSCs tests of the Hawk lenses for The Phantom Menace. Broad wrote that Tattersall was very pleased with their sharpness at the stop he hopes to work at, which is between T4 and T5.6. Wide open, he felt that they were not as crisp, but added that no anamorphic lens was. He was impressed by the color-match between lenses, and [also] by their coatings. He conducted a flare test and was pleased with the result.