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Commercial cinematography


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#1 Miguel Angel

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 02:33 PM

Hi all! 

 

I wanted to open this thread because there is a question that has been in my head for a while now and see if any of you relate to it. 
 

When I'm not working I spend a lot of time at home and on the move watching commercials as I think that there are a lot of them which are masterpieces. 

 

Also, I think that if you can tell a good story in 30 seconds, you pretty much can tell a story in a longer format.

It is, of course, an interesting way to know how a director works too.

 

However, in terms of how they are photographed, I'd say that plenty of the commercials I watch or have watched share the same flat, low-con, muted colours, dark but not dark cinematography look. 

 

Is this a trend which will fade or it is with us forever? The most interesting commercials I have seen or worked on (and I have worked on more than 200 through my old 2nd AC career) are usually the ones which don't follow that formula although there are some which follow that trend which are pretty amazing. 

 

For all of you who make commercials, directors, producers and cinematographers, do you think that somehow this trend will fade and there will be room for something different or do I have to embrace that look as a cinematographer and start making those kind of images to get into the already difficult to enter commercial world? 

 

Have a good day!

 

 

 

 


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#2 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 02:44 PM

Hmm, odd that you say that. Not disagreeing with your experience but I remember telling people I loved the brightly saturated warm color tones in Easy A and they responded with "it looks like a Clorox commercial"

screen-shot-2015-02-22-at-6-47-03-pm.png

 

Could you link some examples of commercials that illustrate what you're talking about?


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#3 Jan Tore Soerensen

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 03:38 PM

What I find more interesting is the fact that more and more commercials are huge budget productions, with up to 5 minute length. 

 

I don't really understand why though. Very few people will watch a commercial for more than a minute, unless it's VERY well written and shot. Do the production companies pitch this to make more money?


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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 07:02 PM

I don't really understand why though. Very few people will watch a commercial for more than a minute, unless it's VERY well written and shot. Do the production companies pitch this to make more money?

 

Speaking purely as some who's watched decades of commercials, I've always felt that there's a lot more psychology to commercials than people think.  Plus, the two most-effective types of commercials are the ones you love and the ones you hate - because you will remember both.  Then we get into the many levels of subtext of lingerie, car and food commercials and just how important every element of production is for each.  There is a video on the Friends of the ASC website which shows how to properly light a beer commercial, and it's amazing how the slightest adjustment completely changes the feel of the beer.  Of course, is true of how the beer is poured (too much or too little of a head,) too.

 

And if you are dealing with a manufacturer that has boatloads of money, they will pay whatever is necessary to get that 30 second spot right.  Because the next time you and the rest of America sees that perfect Budweiser, that's what'll be lodged in your sub-conscious until you hit the supermarket.


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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 09:53 PM

It's a fad, and history has taught us that fads come and go. I wouldn't worry about chasing it. Just make stuff that interests you. If you do it well enough, that may become the next fad.

As for how it developed, I think there was a confluence of technical and budgetary factors. With the digital revolution, a lot of small hungry production companies who could do post and VFX in-house underbid for these contracts and got them. Their budgets frequently no longer allowed for the extensive scheduling, large crews, elaborate lighting and camera setups, and everything else required to create the the 'big budget look' of perfectly crafted single images. There was a need to do more with less.

Then, the digital cinema cameras with high dynamic range and previously unthinkable low-light performance came into prominence. Suddenly, it became very easy to record log, crank the gain, shoot wide open, handhold the camera, roll continuously for hours, and drastically reduce the lighting and grip budgets, while still producing a useable image.

Such productions no longer required a director of photography with decades of training and lighting experience who charged tens of thousands of dollars a day. They simply required a shooter who could shoot in a documentary style and who could be hired for pennies on the dollar. These shooters often did not come up through the camera, electric, or grip department ranks but transitioned over laterally from shooting still photography, broadcast, documentary, reality, industrial, and corporate films, came straight out of film school, or simply bought a camera and business cards. The one relevant criteria was that they owned a camera and could be hired for a fraction of what a director of photography used to charge. The current fashion of photography in advertising is a direct result of this recent history. Big budget productions in advertising still exist of course, but it is a smaller market than it used to be.

It may seem like I am being quite negative about the current state of the business, but it is simply the reality in which we find ourselves. So we have to adapt or fall by the wayside. If we understand that the modern aesthetic developed for purely utilitarian reasons, then why should we be beholden to it? The saving grace of technology is that it can also work for us. The fact that there are now more shooters than ever also means that if you can previsualize, light, block, compose, manage a crew, and deliver what you promise, then you are light years ahead of the next guy.

The only thing you can do to stand out is to be unique, be bold, take chances, make what pleases you. Satisfy your own aesthetic. And hope that someone is paying attention and likes what you're doing.
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#6 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 02:28 AM

Also younger people are not watching broadcast anymore..  and the broadcasters were charging alot of money to show these commercials on hit shows/target audience .. 

 

As Satsuki says.. you can now get that "film look" not just from a very expensive Panavsion package that arrives in a truck.. but with an F5.. with decent glass. Slog and a decent grade..

 

The web based "infomercial " for the  " Yoof " based target audience is a booming market.. massive market penetration for very low cost..   good for alot of people DP,s like me.. but not so for the $25,000 a day DP..  Im sure those shoots still exist.. but alot less of them for sure.. and probably really have to be a name DP to get them too.. so agency can justify cost /brag to their client :)


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 06 March 2016 - 02:32 AM.

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#7 Miguel Angel

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 12:54 PM

I actually don't have any examples that I can show about that kind of style because I don't keep the links.

Whenever I find one, I will put it on here. 

 

Satsuki, regarding the "flat" look in Spain it started when the original Redone was released, everybody was shooting with the Redone but they left the images in Redlog.. however, that was 8 years ago if I remember correctly!

 

it just keeps intriguing me that clients and producers want that look even nowadays and if there is a way to convince them that maybe that look is not the best one for the project. 

 

I'd say that in Europe, people who bought a digital camera in 2007 moved up the ladder very quickly if they wanted to pursue that path.

 

Macks, I really love Easy A, I think that the cinematography on the movie is brilliant! as is the movie! :) 

 

Jan, one of the best commercials I have ever seen is a 4.15 minutes, "Vintersaga", shot on 35mm. 

 

Volvo released it in cinemas and social media. 

 

Robin, I would hope that people would achieve a "film look" with any camera, however, they usually leave the grading as if it were just the LOG image! :) 

 

Have a good day!


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#8 Simon Wyss

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 01:16 PM

Every once a while there’s a production that stands out. I remember a screening I did back in the 80s when I worked as a professional projectionist and all of a sudden in the middle of the commercial roll the screen and cinema wall seemed to haven fallen over and one could look onto a south sea beach with palm trees and young people strolling on the sand. It was a Bacardi spot and a little later I found out that it was shot on wide film and reduction prints were made. Of course, it has a catchy tune, but the grainless high-key image simply knocked me out of my socks. Couldn’t find it with YouTube.

 

They don’t want to tell happiness anymore.


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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 03:47 PM

Satsuki, regarding the "flat" look in Spain it started when the original Redone was released, everybody was shooting with the Redone but they left the images in Redlog.. however, that was 8 years ago if I remember correctly!
 
it just keeps intriguing me that clients and producers want that look even nowadays and if there is a way to convince them that maybe that look is not the best one for the project. 


I remember working on a bunch of Red One commercials back on the day and that were badly underlit because people thought you could just point the camera at a day interior, augment a bit with a kino and bounce board and shoot. I'm not sure that philosophy has changed much in certain circles, just that the cameras have gotten better.

The only way you're going to change anyone's mind is to show them and maybe convince them that it's cool and hip. Once clients get convinced that a particular look is synomymous with 'quality' they will continue to ask for it.

There's a funny anecdote told by one DP on Patrick Sullivan's 'Wandering DP' podcast where he and the director conspired to convince the agency to go for a crazy pushed low-light look by watching the test footage with them and exclaiming how 'bold' and 'fresh' the look was.

http://wanderingdp.c...tegory/podcast/
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#10 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 06:26 PM

I haven't noticed a consistent trend much. What kills me is when I shoot a spot that's web-based and they use that as excuse for not polishing it in post. "It's not for broadcast, don't worry".  Ugh.  Yeah but you could still make it look good.  I mean, why not? That's the awful thing now about shooting log and raw.  You're really at the mercy of the production to make you look good or bad as a DP.

 

These companies all seem to have a pretty diverse body of work.  I can't see a common "trend". Other than many of the spots looking pretty cinematic which I always like:

smuggler

Driver

Tool 

Humble


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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 06:34 PM

That volvo thing is extremely nice.


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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 04:20 AM

"Robin, I would hope that people would achieve a "film look" with any camera, however, they usually leave the grading as if it were just the LOG image!  :)"

 

haha yes maybe true of the C300 Log lite as its pretty much just a hyper gamma curve equivalent .. but at least Slog2/3 is much more a true very flat Log gamma and you cant just broadcast it :)..  but yes I know what you mean.. trends and fashion have always existed I guess.. some of that super soft diffusion/blown highlights work on big films from name DP,s from the 70,s can look a bit naff by todays standards/ sensibilities .. no doubt large DOF, very vibrant colors  REC 709 look will be the rage in 10 years time.. and all the washed out/SDF look will have film students smirking into their cappuccino,s  .. :)


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 09 March 2016 - 04:21 AM.

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