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Header image for article Arthur & Nick Albert Talk Sigma FF Cine Lenses on Sneaky Pete

Arthur & Nick Albert Talk Sigma FF Cine Lenses on Sneaky Pete

Cinematographer Arthur Albert and his son, Nick Albert, a Camera Operator, worked together on the last season of Sneaky Pete. Recently, they spoke to us about the project and why they chose Sigma FF Primes.


Can each of you tell us a bit about yourself and your previous work?

Arthur Albert: I have been a working cinematographer for 50 years. My most recent work has been the finale of Breaking Bad, the first two seasons of Better Call Saul, and this last season of Sneaky Pete.

Nick Albert: I grew up around the film business and originally didn't think I would take that path. When I went to college, I studied literature and history. My first job out of school was as a legal researcher in a law office. After a year in the office setting, I decided that maybe the film business didn't look so bad. My first job in the film business was as the writers room assistant for a show called Southland. I then formed a production company and worked both shooting and producing commercial content. Three years ago, I joined Local 600 as an operator and made the transition to mostly working in narrative.


How did you get involved in the project, Sneaky Pete?

AA: I had worked with Bryan Cranston, the creator of Sneaky Pete on Breaking Bad, which I imagine had something to do with it.

NA: Let's just say I knew the DP!

Sneaky Pete
Why did you choose the Sigma FF Prime lenses?

AA: My operator (and son) Nick Albert researched lenses that could cover the larger RED GEMINI sensor, unlike the Cookes that I had been using, and was impressed with their sharpness and lack of distortion.

NA: The GEMINI sensor is a bit larger than S35, and we wanted to capture the full 5K resolution. The Sigmas' larger image circle fully covered the sensor. Arthur's previous go-to prime set had coverage issues, especially on the wide lenses. The Sigmas out performed much more expensive competitors in terms of distortion, sharpness and lens coverage. I know that production was happy we weren't renting the most expensive lenses available too.


Did you do a lens test prior to principle photography in order to choose the lenses?

NA: I was able to see the Sigma 7-lens set projected at our rental facilities and could see that they offered incredible edge-to-edge sharpness. The resolution and coverage was way ahead of some other much more expensive lenses. We then put them up on the RED GEMINI and did some testing looking at people on the prep floor at Keslow Camera. They have a chart and lighting array that has various LED, Christmas lights, and Tungsten units so we could test out of focus highlights and single point sources. It was handy to see how they compared to the Zooms and other Prime lens sets we were considering. They cut well with zooms and offered better sensor coverage and sharpness than the other lenses we were considering. They were also faster than the T2 lenses we had typically used previously. It wasn't until the first week of shooting that we found out that they had used the Sigma Primes on season 2 of Sneaky Pete. It was pure coincidence that we decided to use them.

Sneaky Pete Shoots in NY
Were you going for a specific look that the lenses helped achieve?

AA: I wanted a clean, distortion free image, and I use the Angenieux short zooms extensively. The Sigmas intercut very well with them.


Can you give us some insight into how you rigged the camera and lenses during shooting?

NA: Shooting on the RED GEMINI let us build the camera very small for some handheld shots. We had a special build that was lightweight and you could hold out in front of you instead of on the shoulder. The compact design of the Sigmas was very helpful with that build. A battery belt and clip-on mattebox kept the weight down as well. We used it while shooting in tight spaces like inside the yacht cabin and prison cells. It was also great for stunts.

Sigma FF Primes on Sneaky Pete
Did you experience challenges that the Sigmas helped you with?

AA: We shot all over Los Angeles, day and night, and for a week in New York. The additional exposure the Sigmas provided was very useful for night exteriors, and for locations like Grand Central Station, which would have been impossible to light on our schedule. We also shot in cramped locations such as prison cells, where the form factor was invaluable.


What technical aspects of the lenses did you notice?

NA: Technically, the 14mm is the best wide-angle lens I've ever tested. They are all incredibly sharp with very minimal fringing and chromatic aberration. They also have very neutral color rendition and don't flare easily. I'll be excited to get my hands on the uncoated versions and see how they behave. 


Have you used the Sigma lenses on any projects in the past? Are you planning to use them on any future projects?

AA: This was my first time, but I would definitely use them on future projects. 


What would you tell someone who wants to use the Sigma Cine lenses on their next project? 

AA: I highly recommend they test them.  

Nick & Arthur Albert on the set of
What is your favorite thing about being a cinematographer or camera operator?

AA: Finding the right look for a project, and the creative interplay between all the departments. 

NA: When you set up a difficult shot and it all clicks between you, the actors, 1st AC and dolly grip, that is the best feeling. Knowing you all nailed it. When you feel an actor is really in the zone, being the closest person to that, and being responsible for whether that is captured well is exhilarating. Luckily, on Sneaky Pete I was surrounded by incredibly talented actors and crew. Arthur also gives his operators a lot of freedom in setting up shots directly with the director, so you are creatively very involved in the look of the show. 


What advice would you give to someone looking to become a cinematographer or camera operator?

AA: Build a reel by shooting any project you can.

NA: The best thing you can do is grab a camera and start shooting, watch your footage and learn from your mistakes! It's a combination of being a technician and storyteller. Try to remember both parts of the job. 


Responses have been lightly edited for space and clarity.

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