That 'movie' look
For a new Ford campaign, director Kurt Mattila and producer Alexander Dervin developed the idea of a series of commercials that feel like clips from the same movie. Each individual spot focuses on a specific Ford vehicle--Fusion, Mustang, Escape, F-150 or C-MAX Hybrid--while also being part of a bigger super-hero thriller.
"We referenced THE DARK KNIGHT and other Marvel films," says cinematographer Keith Dunkerley. "Kurt and I knew a widescreen frame would accommodate the five cars and seven actors, and we really wanted to shoot with anamorphic lenses because you get a more cinematic look."
An ALEXA XT was Dunkerley's choice of camera. "ARRI makes very good quality equipment and I've always been a fan," he says. "The ALEXA is a very well thought-out camera." He asked Kavon Elhami of Burbank-based camera rental house CamTec Motion Picture Cameras to show him anamorphic lenses. "Kavon was so helpful with this process," says the cinematographer. "He had a wide variety of anamorphic lenses and brought out every single one, showing me different looks and the quality of the glass."
Dunkerley immediately gravitated toward ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphics. "The lenses were amazing," he says. "They were clearly the right glass for the project." He took them to set and showed them to Mattila. "Kurt was really excited and backed me up," he recalls. "Being able to combine the Master Anamorphics with the ALEXA's 4:3 sensor was just what we wanted."
The creatives at ad agency Team Detroit wondered if there might be edge artifacts, a common issue with older anamorphic lenses. "Each car is a character and the idea is to make them look as beautiful as possible," says Dunkerley. "You don't want the metal to look bendy." But he showed Team Detroit how the Master Anamorphics created a completely undistorted image, from edge to edge. "The focus looked fantastic and the background dropped off in that classic anamorphic way," he says. "These lenses also didn't flare easily, and they captured incredible detail. I assured Team Detroit that there would be no distortion and that this was the look we should go for."
With Team Detroit on board, Mattila and Dunkerley finished prep and went into a nine-day shoot to complete the 14 spots, which included a set of Spanish-language versions. "One of the biggest challenges was the sheer amount of work we had to accomplish in the time available," says Dunkerley, who shot 2K ProRes in a variety of locations around Los Angeles. "We really scheduled out each day, hour by hour, where we needed to be."
The sharpness of the Master Anamorphics is beautiful and the fall-off gave it a nice cinematic look.
The Master Anamorphics helped streamline this pressured schedule. "There were a lot of shots in any given day," says Dunkerley. "We'd be on a Steadicam, then a crane, and these lenses calibrate very quickly." First AC Shaun Mayor agrees: "The lenses are matched pretty closely so it made calibration very fast," he says. "The sharpness of the Master Anamorphics is beautiful and the fall-off gave it a nice cinematic look."
Mayor cites another reason why the Master Anamorphics made the shoot days more efficient. "We had the 35 mm, 50 mm, 75 mm and 100 mm, and aside from the 100 mm being slightly heavier, they all weighed the same," he says. "This was great because we didn't have to rebalance the camera as we switched lenses. We could also use the same-sized matte box because the Master Anamorphics have the same front diameter. Our days were very ambitious, so speed was definitely a good thing."
Dunkerley notes that the relatively light weight of the Master Anamorphics suited all the handheld work they did on the Ford commercials. "Some older anamorphic lenses are much bigger and heavier," he says. "The Master Anamorphics are great for handheld work and our Steadicam operator Ari Robbins loved working with them."
For night driving scenes, the crew often worked in low light conditions. "In some locations we used practicals supplemented by just a couple of small Kinos, with bigger units further away," says Dunkerley. "With most anamorphic lenses you need to shoot about a T4 or T4.5 to get a crisp image, but with the Master Anamorphics I was able to shoot wide open and the image looked fantastic. I couldn't believe how well the lenses held up and just how great the colors matched."
At the end of the day, Team Detroit, Mattila, Dunkerley and everyone else on the Ford project was more than satisfied. "We had a lot of fun shooting those commercials," says Dunkerley. "Everyone was super happy with the superior images we got with the Master Anamorphic lenses."
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