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Girls Aloud video.


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 06:27 PM

A forum member contacted me in a PM and asked if I could post a shooting report from a video I did for the English pop quintet Girls Aloud. I didn't think it warranted such a thing, but the dude obides, as always.

Mindless pop with girls always equals beauty and a huge glam squad. It takes forever to get them on set and they are constantly tweaked and faffed about all day long. Directors, ideas, camera all take a back seat to styling and look on shoots like these. It's actually a bit like shooting food - it's a formula designed to make it look good. So one can bring all The Godfather or Third Man noir references one wants, at the end of the day you're going to have to glamour-light them, which, nine times out of ten means sticking a light above lens. That's just how it is.

For this particular video, taking into account that we had to make them look good, we went for a Helmut Newton reference. That stark flashlight fashion-photography look that he perfected. Photographer Terry Richardson also uses this style, but his models are a bit more risque and trashy.

And that's basically how we did it.

I chickened out and used a bigger and softer source in the end, so I stuck a Briese 140 with an eggcrate just above the lens and attached it to the dolly. 2K bulb. The eggcrate created a nice falloff on the sides on the wider lenses, creating a in-camera vignette.

On the close-ups with the colored backdrops, I used the same basic setup, but augmented it with two 4K Zip-lights crashing down on them as a high backlight. It was almost a backy toplight, rather. The backgrounds were lit by a 5K with different colored gels (and you can see it doesn't always illuminate evenly - but that was all I had left). I stuck a polyboard under the singers noses to give a slight bounce and reflection in the eye. If you look closely you can see it in the reflection. I also used my patented always-works-without-exceptions-with-frontlight negative fill on both sides. Stuck 8x8 blacks on each side of the face, as close as the angle would allow. This creates a nice dark reflection on the sides and makes the head look slimmer and more predatorial (?). SFX 1 was used on these shots, but I might have used them on the wides as well. Can't remembre. Camera was the new Arri 416 and the stock Vision2 200T.

Final note: Jamie Wilkinson graded it at The Mill in London and I can't recommend him enough. I've worked with him many times and he's got a great eye, especially for color. He's now moved to The Mill New York, which is bad for us, but great for the US. Give him a try - you won't get disappointed.

The video can be seen here.

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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 06:59 PM

Mindless pop with girls always equals beauty and a huge glam squad.


Yes, they had those girls poppin' all over the place, didn't they.

Nice job, and you obviously have good control over the frontal/glam technique. I gotta say though, I've never been a fan of the single-source frontal light for wide shots, where the effect can fall apart. You've done a nice job as always, so my criticism is over that look in general, not your work.

It's such a delicate balancing act of exposure and contrast with the background that it can go from glam to grime in an instant. If it gets too dark or contrasty it all goes slimy and seedy with a harsh deer-in-the-headlights or police flashlight look, or worse looks like plain old bad lighting. If the background gets too bright it just looks flat, and you can't get that "predatory" modeling (again, in the wide shots).

I'm still looking for alternatives to wide shot lighting in a glam style like this that run less risk of slipping into seediness. I've got some ideas, but need to try them out first.

Thanks for the behind the scenes details.
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#3 Mike Williamson

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 09:42 PM

Thanks for posting this, Adam, the video looks great. The colors are fantastic, it's interesting how well the saturated backgrounds in the CU's work with desaturated backgrounds in the wides. Did you get to see the costumes during prep so you could plan the background colors, or did they arrive on the day? What kind of prep do you do for a video like this?

Also, in terms of the neg fill, it looks like you set them flat to the sides of the talent. Do you find that works better than trying to work them around into 1/4 frontal positions?

As far as frontal lighting in the wides, I think what makes them work is the little "imperfections" like the fall off into the background and the vignetting on the edges. Anything that makes these look seedier helps in my opinion, I don't feel that it detracts from the glamour aspect. This stuff is obviously about sex, so why fight it?
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:06 AM

Thanks.

No, I didn't get to see the costumes beforehand - I rarely do. I did know they were going Marie Antoinette-y, so probably lighter rather than darker. As for prep, not that much, really. There are obviously meetings with the director where you talk about styling and art direction, but not much more. Funnily enough, the location was only settled on like two days before the shoot. They went for an old chabby mansion called Portland Place where every, and I mean EVERY, UK video get's shot, so I wasn't very happy with that. But in the end you can't really tell.

Also, as I mentioned with glam, everything takes so much longer. We were supposed to be off the colored backdrop, beauty stuff by lunch. At 5 pm we were still shooting there. So it was a mad scramble to get the whole rest of the stuff with them walking and dancing before 12pm. We got about half of it. And had I not had the front light, we wouldn't have got any of it.

As for front lighting, I've found out over the years that it's like wearing jeans - it kind of works with everything. It's a safety net you can go to when you need instant results. I have become known to some to be a bit of a beauty lighter and this is not something I necessarily embrace, but I'll step up to it when it's required.

I do try to incorporate front lighting IF it makes sense in other work. I often see in Hollywood movies how in a dialogue sequence outside, both people have beautiful rims from the sunset and this frankly bothers me sometimes. It feels much more real to play it as in reality - one is in back light, the other in front. But front lighting in films is very rarely used and I sometimes think people are afraid of it going flat. It IS flat, that's the point to me. But it's nice to "wash" with a bit of flatness sometimes.

I normally stick my neg fills as close as I can to the subject, so they end up being 1/4 frontal many times, following the lens angle of view. It's important that they extend behind the talent slightly, or otherwise they wont create the right effect around the ears.
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#5 Walter Graff

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 06:56 AM

"Briese 140"

So pretty!!! I love large, bright sources.
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#6 David Calson

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 01:28 PM

Talk about a bunch of teasers!
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#7 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:06 PM

Adam,

What was the budget for the video and what was the production company if I may ask?
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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 06:19 AM

It is preety scary stuff. I wasn't really prepared even after reading the stuff on here.
I'm glad you posted about making it here tho Adam, as your posts and photo's were intresting.

Talkin Loud, sayin Nuthin.

If you have watched the girls aloud video and feel a bit queasy, then go check out the Santogold video! :) I really like the girls who are dressed like black Panthers and the Holy Mountain stuff is a hit with me too (ok so no suprises there then!).

It made me feel a lot better anyway.

As for the girls aloud, I suggest they learn some French rather than letting the music speak for them. Ignorance is nothing to be proud of. Having your own voice is important.

love

Freya
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#9 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 12:25 PM

Don't know the budget exactly, but probably around $100-120.000, I'd say. Draw Pictures UK produced it.
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#10 Matt Workman

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 10:03 PM

Hey Adam,

Very interesting break down, thanks for posting it. Why the super16mm and not 35mm? Though its discouraging to hear that the Pop videos are sounding as "organized" as the hip hop ones. :(

Have you heard of a director named Luke Biggins? We are doing a job in NYC right now. He said a 400' can of 35mm is like $800 in the UK!

With the foamcore under the chin, what light is bouncing into it? The Briese?

Thanks,

Matt
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#11 Serge Teulon

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 11:04 AM

Good work adam!!

S
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 03:14 PM

> Have you heard of a director named Luke Biggins?

I shot what I was told was his first ever gig. Needless to say I did this for no money on the basis that, of course, I would be first choice on all his future work, so it is a great comfort to me that he is living it up on major international shoots while I haven't heard a peep from him in three years.

Another mark against Phil's First Law of Film, which states "absolutely never work for free, for anyone, ever".

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#13 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 05:24 PM

Hey Adam,

Very interesting break down, thanks for posting it. Why the super16mm and not 35mm? Though its discouraging to hear that the Pop videos are sounding as "organized" as the hip hop ones. :(

Have you heard of a director named Luke Biggins? We are doing a job in NYC right now. He said a 400' can of 35mm is like $800 in the UK!

With the foamcore under the chin, what light is bouncing into it? The Briese?

Thanks,

Matt


You simply can't get 35mm with the budgets that music videos have these days. I've tried everything from begging, crying and pleading and it just doesn't happen anymore. I did do a 35mm video quite recently in LA, but that was buy back stock.

No, film costs per are pretty much the same worldwide. A roll of 400ft 35mm here is around $200-300, depending on your deals.

The foamcore/polyboard is to bounce some light back as a fill from below. It also acts as a nice reflection in the eye.
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#14 Ed Moore

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 09:27 AM

So *that's* what a Briese light looks like! A DP I know who does lots of hip hop videos was going on about them in such a way that seemed to indicate he saw them as essential to the process as a roll of film :)

Ed
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#15 Bill Totolo

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 04:23 AM

Great work, Adam. It was the combination of all the right touches that added up to a really nice piece. The SFX1 was a nice addition.

How much seperation do you think you had between the subject and the b/g when you did the MCU's and the CU's?
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#16 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 06:41 AM

Great work, Adam. It was the combination of all the right touches that added up to a really nice piece. The SFX1 was a nice addition.

How much seperation do you think you had between the subject and the b/g when you did the MCU's and the CU's?


Thanks.

It was probably no more than 5-6ft to the back wall behind them.
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#17 Nik Samal

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 07:39 PM

ah the things i'd do to be on a girls aloud video shoot!
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#18 Mathew Rudenberg

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:20 PM

That is some beautiful glam lighting Adam, thank you for the breakdown on your technique.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on other types of sources for frontlight...

What do you think about harder sources right above the camera - do they give more definition to the cheeks? are they also less forgiving? How hard would you go? 2k zip, fresnel or ellipsoidal spot?

Also, what are your feelings about using a ringlight for the glam look?

Cheers,
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#19 Barry Cheong

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 08:17 PM

How do you find the Briese light with grid compares to a larger or medium chimera with grid?
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#20 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 11:57 AM

I don't like chimeras that much.

They're too big, too nose heavy (they bounce around like mad if they're on the move) and have hotspots which you can't get rid of. The eggcrate is also not very good and tend to sag. The Briese' eggcrates are second to none - amazing stuff. They never sag and yet stay thin.

Also, the 2,5Kw HMI Briese outputs more than a 6kW HMI in a Chimera, so they're much more efficient. I wouldn't say cost-effective as they're pretty expensive, but if you factor in the build time for a Chimera and all the hassle, I'd say they end up saving the production money. And compared to building a big butterfly and creating a bounce, I think the Briese wins hands down in savings.
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