Daylight and candlelight: The cinematography of “Barry Lyndon” required technical innovation and old techniques to reproduce the conditions of the eighteenth century. Kubrick explained:
“For the day interior scenes we used either the real daylight from the windows, or simulated daylight by banking lights outside the window and diffusing them with tracing paper taped on the glass. In addition to the very beautiful lighting you can achieve this way, it is also a vary practical way to work. You don’t have to worry about shooting into your lighting equipment. All your lighting is outside the window behind the tracing paper, and if you shoot towards the window you get a very beautiful and realistic flare effect.”
In order to shoot scenes lit only by candlelight, Kubrick and his team engineered a hybrid camera and lens: Kubrick saw an item in “American Cinematographer” about a 50mm lens specially manufactured for NASA satellite photography by Zeiss of Oberkochen, Germany, which was more than two stops faster than the existing standard of f2. Zeiss had made twenty-five such lenses and had six left. Kubrick’s producer, Jan Harlan, contacted Zeiss and purchased one of the lenses.
The Zeiss Planar F0.7 lens was remounted by Ed Di Giulio of Cinema Products Corporation in order to fit Kubrick’s own 35mm Mitchell BNC (Blimped Noiseless Camera). The Mitchell BNC camera was standard equipment for most studio work from the 1940s until the mid-1970s and s famous for its precise engineering and stability. Since the lens was designed for medium-format still photography, not for the 35mm motion picture photography, it became necessary to remove part of the camera’s double shutter and to redesign the entire lens mount and rack-over viewfinder.
After Di Giulio succeeded in adapting the BNC camera for the Zeiss lens, three additional lenses were purchased, which were modified from the 50mm focal length to 75mm and 35mm. The adaptations were made by adding 70mm projection lenses to the existing 50mm lens.