ALEXA helps rewrite the rules of advertising

Under the banner of non-conformity, a French motor manufacturer has teamed up with a British newspaper to break the rules of advertising, using ARRI's ALEXA camera.

With increasing numbers of television viewers fast-forwarding through commercials on their digital video recording systems, advertisers around the world are looking for new ways to engage with customers. The UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper recently worked with French carmaker Citroën to develop a new concept where magazine and online video advertising combined to deliver a viral, permission-based promotion. Tasked with shooting four beautiful, engaging short films on location in London, DP Robert Shacklady turned to ALEXA.

CITROËN: WHY CONFORM? ART

French car manufacturer Citroën and the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper recently teamed up to create a deliberately unconventional multi-media advertising campaign for the new Citroën DS4. Faced with the task of shooting four differently themed short films in just one day and under difficult lighting conditions, DP Robert Shacklady opted for the ARRI ALEXA.

Automobile commercials are known for embracing the highest production values. However, on this shoot the crew was challenged by client Daily Telegraph Media to film four one-minute promotions for the new Citroën DS4 in a single day, during which time the photography for print adverts also had to be completed. The four films, ART, FASHION, MUSIC and SPORT, all include the subtitle WHY CONFORM? and feature unconventional practitioners of each discipline. 

 

The time allowed for the shoot called for a fast, minimalist approach and flexible, dependable equipment. "My background is in 35 mm, but I have to say that moving to digital with ARRI means sacrificing nothing in image quality and gaining a great deal in terms of workflow and ergonomics," says Shacklady. "The ALEXA is supremely versatile and delivers the high-caliber pictures essential for premium brand advertising."

CITROËN: WHY CONFORM? FASHION

French car manufacturer Citroën and the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper recently teamed up to create a deliberately unconventional multi-media advertising campaign for the new Citroën DS4. Faced with the task of shooting four differently themed short films in just one day and under difficult lighting conditions, DP Robert Shacklady opted for the ARRI ALEXA.

Filming on location in the dark, spartan setting of Littlebrook power station in Dartford, England, the production team found light levels to be the biggest challenge. Shacklady notes, "We had neither the time nor the equipment for an ideal lighting setup, but knowing the camera as well as I do, there was no doubt in my mind that it would produce the results. I've worked with other systems that have to compress the pictures to handle extreme lighting conditions. Not so the ALEXA; being able to change the ASA so quickly - and with such little compromise in performance - means that I can set the camera to cope with all conditions. In fact, the ALEXA has so much latitude that clipped highlights are very rare indeed."

 

The edgy and sometimes quite raw look of the films took full advantage of ALEXA's impressive dynamic range. For example in FASHION, a model stands directly in front of bright industrial lighting units, and yet the tone and texture of her skin are still very much in evidence. Similarly, in MUSIC, a samba band performs within a dazzling ring of spotlights, posing a challenge to the production team. "By changing the ASA and adding neutral density filters, we adapted quickly and took it in our stride," says Shacklady.

ALEXA's weight distribution lends itself perfectly to shoulder-mounting

The fast action in SPORT follows a free-runner cascading down a staircase and racing towards the car. For much of this, the camera was handheld. Shacklady comments, "The balance of the ALEXA really helps. Other systems, including small digital units and even DSLRs, are unwieldy, so it's incredibly difficult to operate them for extended periods. ALEXA's weight distribution lends itself perfectly to shoulder-mounting."

 

In ART, the car is seen sprayed with moving patterns of light, an effect achieved by projection mapping, courtesy of two cinema projectors. Impressively, the flickering, streaking lights and colors are rendered faithfully on screen, with no evidence of moiré patterns or aliasing. "The ability of the camera to capture the reflected light so cleanly meant a huge saving on generating effects in post," explains the cinematographer.

On-board SxS PRO card recording was chosen in order to keep the camera as lightweight and mobile as possible. Because of the low levels of lighting, grading was critical, and so Shacklady recorded Log C - the setting that ultimately delivers the broadest color palette. In SPORT, slow-motion shots were captured with a specialized camera system; owing to the use of Log C, matching the ALEXA footage with these shots was exceptionally easy for the Baselight colorist at London's Unit Post, using plug-in software that is optimized for the ALEXA.

CITROËN: WHY CONFORM? SPORT

French car manufacturer Citroën and the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper recently teamed up to create a deliberately unconventional multi-media advertising campaign for the new Citroën DS4. Faced with the task of shooting four differently themed short films in just one day and under difficult lighting conditions, DP Robert Shacklady opted for the ARRI ALEXA.

Even beyond the high speed content, the flexibility of Log C proved extremely valuable in the grade. "A great example is where we had fixed orange gels to the 10K tungsten lights to create a particular look," explains Shacklady. "Once cut in post, it was decided by the director that this had not produced the desired effect, but because we were capturing such a wide gamut space, re-coloring was simple."

 

With time of the essence, the crew relied on a trusted workflow, with data on the SxS PRO cards downloaded onto a laptop on set and secure copies made immediately for backup onto two hard drives. The speed of operation of the camera, the versatility of its sensor and this fast data transfer routine all combined to help produce the four commercials within the allotted time frame.

CITROËN: WHY CONFORM? MUSIC

French car manufacturer Citroën and the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper recently teamed up to create a deliberately unconventional multi-media advertising campaign for the new Citroën DS4. Faced with the task of shooting four differently themed short films in just one day and under difficult lighting conditions, DP Robert Shacklady opted for the ARRI ALEXA.

Art director Matt Simmonds concludes, "This was my first experience with the ALEXA and the ProRes workflow was a revelation. It's such a cliché but I can honestly say that it meant we could spend all our time working on creative matters instead of solving technical problems."

 

Kieron Seth