What is the Cooke Look?
Cinematographers choose Cooke lenses for the “Cooke Look” - a sharp, subtle, smooth rendering that provides dimensionality and high contrast, and pleases the eye.
Our expertise is in the science of creating beautiful images for the motion picture industry. Our understanding of the right way to implement technology comes from our long term involvement in the film business.
"What is the Cooke Look? Cooke's have a shapeness, a presence to the image, a roundness, a feeling of giving depth and shape to the image. It's sharp edge-to-edge but the image has more presence - a depth and shape that's pleasing to the eye."
Ed Lachman, ASC on Erin Brockovich
So where does the Cooke Look come from?
In the very early days of the company Cooke recognised the need to design, manufacture and calibrate lenses that produce a film image that, when eventually projected, looks warm and natural. Our lenses are designed with an understanding of the pipeline between what the DoP sees and the experience in the movie theatre.
We’ve never wavered from that commitment.
Consistently maintaining the colour balance across the range means all our lenses are colour-matched to give a seamless look when shots are mixed in production. This painstaking process is partly why Cooke lenses take time and skill to construct.
“I love Cookes for their rather ineffable quality I call " roundness or fullness" They seem to render skintones more faithfully and flatteringly. They are very very sharp – yet not clinical.
I have had my S4i's for 4 years and I have never had any maintenance issues with them at all. When I first got them we had a truck knock the camera down with my 40mm on it. We had it checked out and it was perfect - it withstood the bang perfectly. More recently I was shooting "Dragonball Evolution" in Mexico under super dusty and rugged conditions and the lenses performed flawlessly.
I have used Cookes on the features Final Destination 1 and 3, Black Christmas, Willard, Kings Ransom, Dragonball Evolution and the TV movie A little Thing Called Murder, The New Beachcombers, and High Noon. and on the TV series, Tarzan, True Calling pilot, Out of Order, The Lone Gunmen pilot, Bionic Woman and coming this spring, Harper's Island.”
Rob McLachlan ASC,CSC
In aiming for as natural an image as possible, we also consider "transition in the image" - when an image of a sharp edge goes out of focus. Cooke lenses ensure the blend is smooth and rounded, and that there is no artificial effect (including ringing and doublings) introduced by the lens and spoiling the transition.
“Cooke S4s are the most complimentary portrait lenses out there. The subtlety and contrast range handles the human face really well.
There is contrast range without harshness -- it’s almost like using a complimentary diffusion filter. It’s these subtleties that appeal to me.
I have used the Cooke S4 Primes on at least ten films and have owned the Cooke 18 -100mm for 20 years.
I’ve shot sunlight right down the lens and the resolution and lack of flaring is incredible. On Beowulf & Grendel (2005) I was shooting with the sun in the shot and it amazed me how that concentration of bright sunlight added dimension to the shot instead of distracting flares.
I shot Beowulf & Grendel in Iceland and the last days of shooting were at the end of November. It was cold, raining sideways and blowing sand. We had a few small problems with the camera but not the lenses – the S4s are very robust.”
Jan Kiesser, ASC
So what about digital film camera sensors - does the Cooke Look have value in a digital acquisition workflow? Absolutely! Modern single chip digital cameras have detectors that fully benefit from the Cooke lens colour balance, and transition is of course as relevant as ever.
“The Cooke S4 lenses are the ones I turn to when in a tough situation. If I am shooting directly into practical lights, into backlight or shooting with the sun in my face the S4 lenses can handle it. Flare is at a minimum and many times none existent, I love these lenses”
Gordon C Lonsdale, DOP, Bones
“My favorite lenses. Can't say enough good things about their contrast, smoothness on faces, and the assistants love their performance.“
Matthew Jensen, DOP, True Blood, HBO
The Cooke lens is the eye of the cinematographer.
“One of the great things about Cooke is that it’s still a hand-crafted item in a modern age – like a Ferrari!”
“The design procedures and adjustment techniques developed by the company have led to an enviable cinematographic reputation for what has become known as the Cooke Look. This revered ‘look’ is a sympathetic color depth in the images, combined with an adjusted coincidence between the sharpest image and the optimum chromatic focus.