As anyone who’s been watching the latest series of The Voice on ITV would know (not sure how many cinematography fans watch that garbage, but still) Blackwood-based soulful acoustic duo Into the Ark has been causing quite a commotion after smashing the blind auditions and gaining Tom ‘Sex Bomb’ Jones as a mentor. I figured that seeing as they’re likely going to be catapulted into the public eye in the very near future, it’s probably good to have on record that we were creating promos for them “before they got big”.
That’s right, we called dibs.
A few months back, ITA came back to us following the success of their debut video ‘My Ghost’ with their new single ‘Brightest Creatures’. They had a pretty limited budget, however this time their management had gained us access to the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. The management had initially envisioned playing on the location itself and sculpting a scene referred, high energy video that involved skateboards. Upon listening to the song, Ben and I had a very different set of ideas for the video.
After a few listens, we read that the song itself was based around the idea of repeatedly having a one night stand after being out on the razz. The song definitely had a cool, nighttime vibe with a ‘sexy’ undertone. For us, the dichotomy between the choruses and verses stood out. The verses almost sounded like an account of what happens from someone who is giving a hazy recollection of events, and the choruses were much more first person, describing events as they happen, with a more electric delivery.
Inspired by our recent visit to Amsterdam, (more specifically its red light district) Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero’ episode and the skin texture of Arianna Grande’s ‘Side to Side’ video, we really wanted to make a promo that would market the act as a modern, popular duo with sex appeal.
The cinematography of the promo can be broken down into three main elements: The look and feel created by the light, and the look and feel created by the camera, and the relationship between the two.
As with any music video I work on, I have a strong dislike for seeing any non-motivated lighting in my frame. For me, it just breaks the illusion of the film and completely makes you aware that you’re watching a music video, which is the opposite of what I want to achieve when lighting one. Not to give too much away (where’s the fun in that), the majority of the video was lit with:
- 2 x Arri 2K Space Lights
- 2 x Red Heads
- 1 x Tungsten Dedolight
- A goalpost rig
- An 8×8 butterfly frame
- A roll of ‘Peach Frost’ diffusion
- A roll of ‘Cyan 90’
- A roll of ‘Medium Red Gel’
The only practical lights were the lightboxes, which were lined with LED’s and gelled. The colours were connotative of a nighttime debacle in the red light district, even the shape of the boxes was reminiscent of the red, glowing doorways. Due to budget constraints, I wasn’t able to hire any additional lighting, which didn’t really bother me until I looked at the floor plan of the Motorpoint Arena. At this point, my pants were thoroughly shat. How the hell was I going to make sure I could light a 5,000 capacity arena with 5 lights and some boxes?! CineDesigner to the rescue!
I’ll spare the long details, but basically, CineDesigner for Cinema4D is a really useful tool for visualising your lighting plans in 3D space. Everything is to scale and the information on the lights themselves is true to life. In an ideal world, I’d have done a recce and taken exact measurements, but in this case I just had the internet at my disposal, so I took some crude measurements and went with what I had.
As you can see from the above images of my pre-vis vs a still from the actual thing, I was able to work out pretty well which lights I was going to put where and be assured that there was enough light.
Given the choice, I’d have shot this piece on RED Dragon or Alexa (4:3) with either Cooke or Kowa anamorphic lenses. Instead, I settled for the Sony a7S (with Shogun 4K recorder) and my trusty modified ‘anamorfake’ Russian Helios 58mm. This ended up providing a really interesting look for the film. I love the look of full frame from the a7S, and the soft, low contrast, flared, oval bokeh goodness provided by the lens combined really well for this style and look. While the lens is originally an f/2, the iris mod limits (and locks!) the speed of the lens to ~f/5. This ended up not actually being too much of a problem. I didn’t want to shoot any faster because the depth of field is so shallow (especially with full frame) and I wanted to make sure that the light boxes were recognisably rectangular, instead of oval blobs.
Other than some pretty standard handheld movement to inject energy, the other movement that we used for this project was provided by a dolly, which gave us some smooth, fast lateral movement, helping to reinforce the feeling of the repeating one night stands as we curved an arc around Taylor.
On the whole, considering the budget, I think we pretty much nailed the look we were going for with the film, and receiving the below quote from the band’s management really enforced that feeling!
“This is pretty f*&king excellent … I’m trying to find comments for you all but all I can say is WELL DONE … its really great … the boys look great, its shot well, great performances — the drummer adds a cool dimension — looks like a cool R1 indie band now — with a killer tune!”