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The Frazier Lens

 
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Craig Gerard



Joined: 01 May 2010
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Location: Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:46 am    Post subject: The Frazier Lens Reply with quote

The Frazier Lens System


Quote:
As early as the 1970s, Frazier, who with business partner Densey Clyne worked on David Attenborough documentaries, dreamed of devising a "clever" optical system that effectively held everything in the lens's view in complete focus: from the lens surface to the horizon.


Recently saw an interview with cinematographer Jim Frazier, the designer and innovator/pioneer of the Frazier Lens; his work with Attenborough (Life on Planet Earth) among many other projects.

Some background regarding the annullment of the US patent of his lens and the subsequent non-genuine, inferior, blatant knock-off copies. The Australian patent was not affected by the OS legal parasites. A brief glimpse of the legal parasite circus here: (what a bunch of clowns!) Who wanted the US patent annulled and why were they prepared to spend millions to do so........
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/13/1052591785954.html

Quote:
"When you combine these features it opens up a whole new way of shooting," Frazier explained. "That's what got people excited."

The system was immediately heralded as a major breakthrough and Frazier signed an exclusive licensing deal with Panavision Inc, the leading provider of cameras and lenses to Hollywood. Since then the Panavision/Frazier equipment has been used in thousands of movies and commercials worldwide.

This week, Martin Cayzer, the managing director of Panavision Australia, said he was puzzled by the court finding, which has resulted in the American (though not the Australian) patent of the lens being annulled.

The system has been around for years. It's been hired out - goodness me - thousands of times, and nobody has ever come back and said, 'look, it doesn't work, we want our money back'," says Cayzer.

The Australian Cinematographers Society is also standing by the Frazier lens. "There may be some question over how the lens got a patent. I don't know. But the fact is, it works. It delivers the goods," says the NSW branch secretary, Ian Baseby.

Frazier, who was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM), has frequently spoken of his fear of film industry "piranhas" seeking to exploit his invention, and his lawyers have indicated that he will strenuously appeal against the ruling.

Industry insiders say that a long list of eminent movie-makes including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet are prepared to testify to the value of the Panavision/Frazier lens.


Jim has now designed a new lens that promises to have a similar impact, being simpler, needing less light and importantly - much cheaper!

Hats off to you Jim. Smile


Craig

*deleted outdated link and typos
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Last edited by Craig Gerard on Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:03 am; edited 2 times in total
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DQE



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting.

I couldn't find an explanation of how the lens system works, but Panavision and many film directors seem to treat it as very real and very useful.

I want one for my DSLR!
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DQE wrote:
I couldn't find an explanation of how the lens system works, but Panavision and many film directors seem to treat it as very real and very useful.

The patent is linked in the Wikipedia article.

On a quick scan, the lens system appears to consist of a short focus small aperture main lens, followed by a relay lens system that includes some rotatable prisms. The primary advantage appears to be the very important and practical one of moving a large and awkward camera back away from the lens, while also allowing the image to be rotated properly onto the film/sensor.

--Rik
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Craig Gerard



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Wiki article related to the patent is a bit brief on detail and somewhat inaccurate.

Watch the ABC Talking Heads interview (link in my initial post) for more details about the lense, the patent incident and a glimpse into the life and work of Jim Frazier. It's enlightening and inspiring. 27 minutes well spent!

Craig
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Craig Gerard wrote:
The Wiki article related to the patent is a bit brief on detail and somewhat inaccurate.

Watch the ABC Talking Heads interview (link in my initial post) for more details about the lense, the patent incident and a glimpse into the life and work of Jim Frazier. It's enlightening and inspiring. 27 minutes well spent!

My earlier comments were based on reading the patent itself, not what some interview might say about the patent. Full text and diagrams of the patent are posted HERE, which is what the Wikipedia article links. The patent is also available in text-searchable form from the U.S. Patent Office at http://www.uspto.gov. It is patent number 5,727,236.

Having now listened to the 27 minutes of Talking Heads, and studied the patent in more detail, I have seen nothing to change my technical summary.

What the optical arrangement effectively does is to place a short focus lens a significant distance away from the camera body, accompanied by an optical chain that allows the image to be rotated to match the sensor. The essence of the device is contained in claims 1 and 2, which read as follows:
Quote:
1. An optical system comprising an objective lens, a field lens and relay lens aligned on an optical axis in that order, said objective lens accepting radiation from an object in space and forming a first image between said objective lens and said relay lens, said field lens collecting and transferring radiation from said first image to said relay lens to form a final image at an image detection means, wherein in said optical system the size of said first image is greater than the size of said final image and wherein said optical system includes focusing and aperture controls located within said relay lens.

2. An optical system according to claim 1, having image orientation correction optics located between said objective lens and said relay lens for inverting and reverting the first real image to the final image.

Of the total 75 claims, most deal with rotation of the optical axis. Very few deal at all with depth of field. Those that do mostly say "and wherein each of the plural objects is simultaneously and substantially in focus", without explaining which aspects of the design are supposed to produce this behavior. As far as I can find, such explanation is provided in only one claim (#22), and that claim only goes so far as to say "for forming a final image in focus and of a smaller size than but of substantially the same image content as the intermediate image for increasing the apparent depth of field". (Emphasis added.)

To my marginally trained eye (standard disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer nor certified as an expert witness in optics), the patent appears quite strong insofar as it describes a collection of lenses and prisms that place a short focus lens far from the camera, with focusing and aperture controls farther back (in the "relay lens"), and with facilities for freely rotating the image independent of the camera. But regarding DOF, the patent is not strong; in fact it's as weak as I've ever read.

I have not read the legal text of any challenges to the patent. However, I have read the 2005 ruling of the US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit, which is posted HERE. The ruling makes clear that the patent was found unenforceable due to an "inequitable conduct determination based on the submission of a misleading video during prosecution of the Frazier application". In particular, the court noted that some video submitted to the Patent Examiner in support of the application was actually shot by lens systems different from the one described in the patent application, and further that some of the submitted video could not have been reproduced using the system in the patent application. Quoting from the court's ruling, "Moreover, the district court found that the P/F lens system was incapable of reproducing the footage on the video shot with the AI lens. Frazier's own expert admitted at trial during cross examination that the P/F lens would be unable to recreate the caterpillar shot as it was captured by the AI lens and submitted to the PTO.".

On the one hand I find it annoying that a patent whose claims actually say very little about DOF can be overturned by a legal challenge that focuses on DOF. On the other hand, the "Description" section of the patent says quite clearly that the first "object of the present invention is to provide an optical system with a large depth of field", so I am not surprised that it was attacked on those grounds.

Please do not interpret my writings here as demeaning Mr. Frazier's work. Clearly he is a talented filmmaker and lens designer whose products are greatly appreciated by both consumers and other filmmakers.

It would be interesting to know how the patent came to be written and submitted as it was. Perhaps we should just blame everybody's patent lawyers, on the one hand for weakness in the patent, and on the other for ruthlessly attacking those weaknesses to overturn it.

--Rik
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Craig Gerard



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik wrote:
Quote:
It would be interesting to know how the patent came to be written and submitted as it was. Perhaps we should just blame everybody's patent lawyers, on the one hand for weakness in the patent, and on the other for ruthlessly attacking those weaknesses to overturn it.


Yep, that just about sums up that aspect. Some legals did not do a good job and other legals found the weakness, that was their brief and they accomplished it.

Fact remains, Jim Frazier designed the extraordinary lense after 100's of hours of tinkering in his shed. It defies physics in theory; but not in practice.

Did you notice his 'winter project' towards the end of the Talking Heads interview?


Craig
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Craig Gerard wrote:
It defies physics in theory; but not in practice.

Not to quibble but no it doesn't and Frazier says exactly that in the interview. What he did is completely consistent with standard optics. It's just a configuration that most people would not have put together. Perhaps amusingly, if you read the patent, you'll see that the specific examples of configurations that he lists as having been tested involve off-the-shelf Nikon and Micro-Nikkor lenses.

There really is no magic here! The system of lenses and prisms has well understood behavior. What the patented system provides is the depth of field associated with a small aperture combined with a short focus lens, plus the (huge) advantage of placing the lens well away from the camera, with a rotatable horizon.

That is not to say that there's any problem patenting the system. Under US patent law, any non-obvious combination of stuff can be patented even if (especially if!) the behavior of the combination is well understood. If the patent had simply stopped at stating what the system actually is and actually does, it would have been completely defensible even in the face of large warchests. Where it went astray, in my opinion, was in alluding to advantages that in fact it does not provide.

Quote:
Did you notice his 'winter project' towards the end of the Talking Heads interview?

I did. It will be interesting to see what that turns out to be.

--Rik
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Craig Gerard



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik,

I was intending add to my previous post; but you've responded before I was able to make the addition.

Part of transcript from ABC Talking Heads interview:

Quote:
PETER THOMPSON: Actually, you have said that a knowledge of physics would have been a disadvantage in this case.

JIM FRAZIER: Because I would've instinctively dismissed any possibility of it. This is the difference. Within the known optics framework it just happens to be in an area that most scientists don't go because they consider it an area of imperfect optics. What I discovered was an area in there that produced perfect optics inside the imperfect optics. The rest is history now.


Rik wrote: (regarding the patent)
Quote:
That is not to say that there's any problem patenting the system. Under US patent law, any non-obvious combination of stuff can be patented even if (especially if!) the behavior of the combination is well understood. If the patent had simply stopped at stating what the system actually is and actually does, it would have been completely defensible even in the face of large warchests. Where it went astray, in my opinion, was in alluding to advantages that in fact it does not provide.


Yes. Good opinion and insight. Thankyou.

Craig
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Phil Savoie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Frazer and his arachnologist wife Densey Clyne are responsible for many lovely films - 'Webs of Intrigue' an ABC (Aus) and National Geographic co production shot 18 years ago was and still is a cinematography triumph. Here's a clip>
http://aso.gov.au/titles/documentaries/webs-intrigue/clip3/

Thanks for calling attention to Jim's skill for optical inventions.
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Craig Gerard



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil,

All interesting material, there is another forum member, Len Willan, who played a part in location shots for some of Densey Clyne's films/books.

After being introduced to Jim's lense it is interesting how one notices its application; apart from the obvious examples contained in the previously posted links.

I saw a brief interview with one of the CERN crew the other day. In the stage-left foreground (intentially placed on an angle) was an old, ornate alarm clock, the type with the two bells at the top. The person being interviewed was seated centre stage some distance behind and to the side of the clock, yet the whole scene was in focus. It certainly made an effective set. I didn't catch the time on the clock and I'm not sure what the clock symbolized, if anything.... the Big Bang....The Beginning of Time in Infinity...just a storm in a teacup....but rather spectacular.

Craig
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PaulFurman



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DQE wrote:
I want one for my DSLR!


So do I but it might be just as useful on a cell phone camera because of the very small aperture, if I'm understanding correctly. I enjoyed the video!
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