And the Oscar goes to: the “Cooke Look”

Cooke Optics is defining the look of motion pictures with glass from SCHOTT

The Oscar statuette, an iconic symbol of the motion picture industry, pays tribute to the greatest achievements in filmmaking. While the “Academy Award of Merit,” as it is officially called, may be best known for honoring categories such as Best Picture, this year’s Scientific and Technical Oscar is worth particular mention.

That’s because it was presented to Cooke Optics “for their continuing innovation in the design, development and manufacture of advanced camera lenses that have helped define the look of motion pictures over the last century" – camera lenses, like the 5/i and S4/i lenses that feature SCHOTT glass.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Leicester, UK-based Cooke Optics has been manufacturing outstanding camera lenses for the growing motion picture industry. They are used not only in Hollywood, but in hundreds of feature films globally, including Martin Scorsese’s latest 3-D movie, “Hugo.” The company uses SCHOTT glass in its cameras to help achieve the unique “Cooke Look” – the organic, warm colors that have made the company so famous. “The greatest camera in the world is worthless if you don’t have good lenses in front of it. And the quality of the glass is what makes the quality of the picture,” said Robert Howard, CEO of Cooke. “From hundreds of optical glasses, we make selections based on their index of refraction, as well as their color transmission characteristics. By combining ten to more than 20 pieces of glass in our lenses, we govern the amount of various color frequencies that get to the film.”

The precision lenses are still handmade at Cooke, beginning as clear, bubblefree, special optical glass that, to a large extent, comes from SCHOTT. Over 70 different glass types, with different refractive and chemical properties, are used to produce the finished lenses. The glass is supplied pre-molded to closely match the required shape, and is then ground according to exact specifications. It is a highly guarded and skilled task, matched only in precision and quality by another high-end grinding business: diamond cutting. “Selected optical special glasses from SCHOTT, i.e. short flint glasses, enable the lenses’ high color fidelity,” explains Andreas Hädrich, Sales Director Europe. “By closely controlling the melting and annealing processes during glass manufacturing, we have succeeded in keeping the tightest tolerances. In the highest quality level, the deviation from the nominal values listed in the datasheet is only ± 0.0001 with the refractive index and ± 0.1 % with the Abbe number. This is the level of quality an innovative, industryleading camera manufacture like Cooke demands for its art.”

In the end, art is the driving force behind Cooke’s skillful work. “We are thrilled that the company has been recognized by the Academy after more than 120 years’ continuous service to the motion picture industry,” said Les Zellan, Chairman and Owner of Cooke Optics. “Cooke has been an innovative force in this industry from the birth of motion pictures to the current digital film revolution. Our commitment has always been to enable customers to realize their vision and help them create the films that capture the imaginations of audiences around the world.”