Soulful shooting on ALEXA

Soulful shooting on ALEXA

Director of photography Matthew Woolf has made a career out of shooting music videos, commercials, documentaries and features. For two high profile spots for Soul Headphones directed by Todd Broder, Woolf’s camera turned to football sensation Tim Tebow and rapper Ludacris. Following the entertainer and athlete as they listen to Soul Headphones, the campaign offers viewers a glimpse of the person behind the personality.

Woolf needed to transport the viewer into the past, as Ludacris and Tebow reflect on their experiences. His tools of choice were ARRI ZEISS Ultra Primes paired with ALEXA capturing ProRes to SXS cards. Editing took place at Whitehouse Post. Carbon VFX handled the visual effects and colorist Matt Rosenblum timed the Tebow spot. Sal Malfitano of The Mill timed the Ludacris version.

Here, Woolf tell us in his words about the production experience and his choices to recreate the personal worlds of two great performers.

Soul of Greatness: Ludacris

For this Soul Headphones commercial directed by Todd Broder, DP Matthew Woolf’s lens turned on to rapper Ludacris. Captured on ALEXA with ARRI ZEISS Ultra Primes.

"The look of each spot was to try and fit the ethos of the campaign – “Soul of Greatness. ” The directive was to show these super personalities when they are alone with their thoughts, so a documentary feel on some level, but at the same time a gracefulness that lent itself to the product.

On the Ludacris spot we went for a handheld, natural light feel. To add the gracefulness, I used gyros mounted to the camera to give the movement an ethereal, but still organic [feel], while trying not to make it feel like Steadicam.

For the Tebow spot because of the creative, I felt that we had to embrace the use of technology, motion control and green screen. But the feel of it still had to convey intimateness. I went for a natural lighting and tried to augment where I could to give some edges of heat and glint, to help add a little bit of glamour reflecting the slick nature of the headphones.

Planning the shoot was completely around the sun’s path. In fact, choosing the location was also down to the direction of the field in the sunlight. I knew we were going to be pushed for time as we only had one day to shoot each spot.

The most difficult part of the Tebow spot was figuring out the math of the different speeds between the foreground and background layers with the speed of the camera track [and motion control rig]. We had to shoot a bunch of different takes and relied heavily on playback. However, playback broke down which slowed down the process significantly. We were able to catch back up and barely made the day.

As for the color timing, as is often the case, I'm not always available due to my travel and work schedule and I wasn't able to sit in on either color correction process. However, I gave copious notes about what I wanted to achieve together with the director while keeping the client and agency happy too.

I love how the ALEXA renders skin tones. I would say that for me, overall the ALEXA has this extremely organic feel to it that belies its digital identity. The colors overall offer the ability for any range. Having shot both African-American and Caucasian skin tones on this project, I was very happy at the final result and even before color correction was applied.

I come from a film background, but have shot largely on digital formats since I've been in the States. The wide dynamic range of the ALEXA takes me back to grading film and the possibilities it gives you.

Overall, I was very happy with the outcome of the two spots. They are both a move in a new direction for me but still keeping to the style that has brought me success over the last few years in the commercial world: a natural, realistic look, but now more graceful with more technology to the spots."

- Matthew Woolf,
Director of Photography

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