This article is part of the full AbelCine interview Sigma Classics: A Talk with Cinematographer William Rexer
Beginning of His Career
Growing up in the world of theatre, William Rexer often spent his childhood backstage. His father worked as a theatrical producer, producing musicals and comedies and his mother had a theatre company. As he grew up, he came under the wing of cinematographer Barry Braverman by working together on National Geographic documentaries. By the early 90s, he was shooting for Discovery Channel which took him all over the world. He eventually transitioned from camera operator to cinematography working mainly on documentaries. He felt drawn to the industry by the constant drive for creative problem-solving and collaborating with a team to help execute the vision of one.
“In film, you’re sitting with another person and really trying to figure out what are they trying to say…it’s very much a psychology game…figuring it out and then being able to articulate it through photography…”
Currently, William Rexer is a Director of Photography for commercials, TV series, documentaries, music videos, and feature films. His most recent work includes Ryan Murphy’s Halston, with Ewan McGregor, Jordan Peele’s Hunters, with Al Pacino, and Amazon’s The Tick.
Sigmas on Set
Will’s introduction to Sigma lenses came from a trusted recommendation. While working on a film in Toronto, he turned to G.L Optics for a suggestion on lenses and they mentioned the Sigma Cine 18-35mm. After testing the zoom out once, he went and bought two 18-35mms.
“(ref. 18-35mm) Went on the gimbal, we shot with the RED…we could do it because they were light, and the quality was exceptional, and the close focus on the 18-35mm was insane…we did much close up work without having to use diopters”
Frank Demarco started as the cinematographer on Sneaky Pete before Will came aboard so the look of the following season started as a combination of both cinematographers. Since Will took over, he brought the Sigma Cine lenses along with him. He didn’t find it difficult to match the look of the Sigma Cines with the formerly used Cooke’s. Through lighting and editing, he was able to create a seamless transition between the look of the two lenses.
“I brought in the Sigmas and everyone was thrilled, editorial was thrilled, the producers were thrilled…this is something else and it’s working.”
One of the first things Will noticed while working with the Sigmas was their close focus. They could lean in close on wide-angle lenses and not see the typical wide-angle distortion. He appreciated how lightweight the lenses were, which created a lightweight camera package which in turn meant they could put a lot of movement in the camera work. These lenses enabled them to shoot wide open and have a narrow depth and field. With such selective focus, Will could direct where the audience should be looking. To give the show an uneasy sense of who to trust and who not to trust.
Unlike Sneaky Pete, The Tick is a bright, colorful, silly, action-comedy following a superhero named “The Tick”. As with many comedies, Will wanted to focus on the wider end of lenses. With the Sigmas, he was able to cover 14mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm. Outside capturing the comedy, he needed lenses that could handle a lot of special effects.
“I shot all the charts and the VFX people were shocked at how straight all those lines were as well and how consistent they were between sets…these have been very very consistent.”
Especially when it comes to special effects shots or trusting another team to do pickups, consistency is key. Will needed lenses he could trust to shoot a variety of stunts, cars exploding, ect. With multiple cameras set up, it would become quickly apparent if the look changed between shots.
Conclusion on Sigma Cine Lenses
Will describes the Sigma lenses as “hybrids”: they have the clean, sharp look of Master Primes while holding a round 3D feel, they retain color similar to Cooke’s or Leica’s, and they have a pleasing fall off with light around the edges while holding the sharpness. The lenses replicate skin tones beautifully and accurately without the color of one skin tone being sacrificed for the look of another.
“Edge to edge, they’re incredibly sharp… the image has a roundness, a three-dimensionality that I really appreciate.”
Whether he’s filming a dark, gritty thriller or a boisterous action packed super hero adventure, DP William Rexer could trust Sigma Cine lenses.
You can find the full two hour interview below