We live in a time where photographers and filmmakers must combine powers to be competitive in todays advertising market. Recently a huge fashion client approached our production company to capture concurrent motion and still ad campaigns with supermodel Lily Aldridge, but we had to do it all in under 10 hours with 2 complete hair and makeup changes and 12+ outfits. Advertising creatives today need to be able to shoot stellar visual content and assemble bulletproof productions.
Nicholas Cambata and I are co-founders of the production company 8112 Studios. In many of our projects we have to wear different hats. It's never as easy as proclaiming one of us as JUST a director or JUST a producer. We work as a collaborative team and often combine our different expertise and knowledge to overcome creative and logistical challenges. This project was no exception and we figured it was best explained from both of our perspectives:
Nicholas: It all started last fall when a chance meeting with a fashion brand resulted in the the following question being posed: Could we shoot an entire fashion campaign for 2014 in both motion and still formats, featuring the amazing supermodel Lily Aldridge? The kicker...we'd only have one day to do it, and even less time with Lily. Just 10 hours total including 2 complete hair and makeup changes and 12+ wardrobe changes. Well, without hesitating, I said "Yes!" and then proceeded to spend the next month or so actually wondering what we got ourselves into.
Douglas: You see, we live in a time where photographers and filmmakers must combine powers to be competitive in todays advertising market. It's not just about visual content...it's also about assembling bulletproof productions. With literally this fashion brand's look in 2014 resting in our hands, there was literally zero chance for error.
Now you might say "that doesn't sound so bad?". A day to shoot a supermodel. Sure, on paper it sounds perfectly fine and we've handled shoots that are ten times crazier in scope. However this one was unique in so many ways.
Nicholas: First of all, there needs to be something said about landing a gig like this. People spend their career focused on shooting fashion trying to land a campaign like this. We at 8112 Studios had never really shot anything in fashion before. However that was actually part of our appeal. See, we didn't and still don't think like fashion film-makers and photographers. If anything, we come from a music background having spent everything from months documenting life on tour buses with rock bands to shooting music videos for some of the largest EDM (electronic dance music) DJs in the world. Music fuels us and we approach projects creatively that way. But, with that said, before we were even given the job we had to prove ourselves.
Douglas: We were given a date to pitch our concept against other fashion photographers and filmmakers. We were given very little to go off of, but mainly because we didn't have a huge portfolio of fashion content, we decided to self fund and capture an entire mock fashion campaign, in the same style that we would suggest to shoot Lily. We even created a rock solid keynote presentation with video and oversized poster prints to mount on the wall. Thankfully we made a good impression and got the job!
Nicholas: I took lead as the director of the campaign whereas Douglas took lead as the still photographer. We put together our regular 8112 Studios team and went to work.
First and foremost, we needed to lock down a location that was in the New York City region with unique surfaces and furniture. The clients wanted to be on set and anything out of NYC would have made that impossible based on travel and our schedule. Also, we were trying to avoid building sets in a studio because it would devour our budget and would require too much time to setup different environments between looks. Thus, we were on the lookout for a unique venue that embodied the vibe of the campaign.
The brand had never really shot outside a studio to my knowledge so the entire idea of going outside the studio system was a little different for them, but in the end it all worked out. We ended up finding a privately owned property near the Flatiron District. Was it cheap? No, AND we now had the trouble of dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in irreplaceable furniture, rugs and artwork at the location. Protecting that throughout the shoot was key.
Douglas: Now that we had a location and the stylists were arranging clothing and going through fittings with Lily, the intense planning process had begun on our end. We tried to map out and schedule each look, leaving time for photo and video. At first I thought I would shoot strobe while video would be required to work with constant lights, but it became apparent right away that in order to save time and space in our 1300 square foot location with 30+ crew members and clients, we were going to have to stick with one light source for most still and motion shots. The problem was, this was a private residence and the fuse box didn't have the capacity to handle really powerful lights like we wanted. We normally would just arrange a generator truck to pump in power to the lights on-location, but the building was a high-rise and its configuration didn't allow for that. So our grip and lighting team had to assess the fuse box to see how powerful we could go with the lighting options. It seemed the best option for the quality of light we were trying to achieve was going to be Briese lights.
Nicholas: Because we knew our shoot day would be very high pressure and very tight for time, we budgeted in a pre-light day to do an entire run-through of the actual shoot one day earlier (except with a stand-in model). This test day was CRUCIAL. We were able to figure out the best lighting angles based on the space, furniture and prop placement, and also see how accurate our schedule was. We also were able to run through video movement with our steadicam operator. We ended up hiring a steadicam operator because it would take too much time to setup and move a dolly and track, plus we didn't have enough space in the venue. Besides, the steadicam allowed our video to have a more dynamic and fluid movement. As you can see in the BTS video, I was able to watch a wireless monitor to help in directing camera movement and Lily.
Douglas: The video portion was captured with the RED Epic, which with its 5k resolution, wide dynamic range, and native 800 ISO creates such dynamic and beautiful footage. We also had a RED Scarlet on set for additional shots. We chose Cooke S4 lenses for the RED (which we love by the way). The still portion was captured with the Phase One IQ260 60 megapixel medium format. We needed the wide dynamic range and big resolution because the client wanted to make huge in-store prints from this campaign and the 260 was perfect (thanks to Digital Transitions for helping arrange the back for our shoot). Also, with the IQ2 series built in wifi, I was able to transmit my images to an iPad3 that was in front of the clients so they could review and rate the images as I shot the still images. I also had a digital tech running the new 15" Macbook Pro and Capture One Pro 7 tethering / RAW processing software to do rough edits on the client image selects right there on set as well as check focus and exposure as I worked. We wanted our clients to have the best of the best technology to capture this campaign.
Nicholas: We set up 8112 Studios to be able to do just these types of shoots. Douglas and I literally have the same thoughts at times on set and so with him shooting away with the Phase One and me with the RED, we took turns capturing Lily in a variety of poses and looks. I have to say that she was amazing in the sense that what I noticed with her was her immediate ability to turn it "on". She could go from laughing and having fun when the camera was not running to absolute killer model mode within a split second. Directing her was easy because of what she brought to the table. On the video side we mixed the steadicam shots with some handheld and shot everything at 120 fps. I'd go in and capture content and then Douglas would be right there to shoot away. The RED and Phase One match up pretty well in their dynamic range and although the native ISO is lower in the Phase One, we weren't lacking any light and everything had a nice consistency to it.
Douglas: Thanks to an intense test day, our actual shoot day was very easy because barring any freak accidents, we were completely prepared and ready for everything we needed to shoot. Every still and motion image we needed to capture was storyboarded out and marked down on our finalized production schedule. For the most part, everything went as planned on the big day and Lily Aldridge honestly made our jobs really easy. Who knew working with a supermodel would make the imagery immediately that more awesome? She was a great sport considering it was her birthday!
We wrapped on time and were in and out within the 10 hour window. Best of all we came to NYC and showed a fashion brand what we could do. A fully integrated and combined motion and still campaign that also elevated their look from previous campaigns without straying too far from what the brand represents.
Some Additional Behind The Scenes Photos:
Thank you Douglas Sonders and F-Stoppers for this post. This is a great read with great production results to prove the work. I have learned of this type of production prior to this post, but this was such a great example to learn from. I'm going to get my D800 and get to work! Keep the coming and thanks again.
P.S. Douglas, if you ever want to trade cameras with me, I'd be happy to take one of those IQ's off your hands. LOL
Glad you enjoyed David!
I was stressed out just reading the article. Great work!
Awesome article you guys did an awesome job...
I don't know why, but their light has something different from profot' and Broncolor's PARA.
It's always great to share a plateau with an yellow umbrella! :D
Great work. Thanks for share it!