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Adam Kimmel ASC taps ARRI Signature Prime lenses for commercial work

Thanks to their ability to handle skin tones, cinematographer Adam Kimmel ASC chooses the ARRI Signature Primes in films for global brands including Audi, Jeep, and a new Netflix comedy show.

Shooting complex scenes at multiple locations under tremendous time constraint, that’s the life for a crew on a commercial set. For Director of Photography Adam Kimmel ASC, it is a way of life he has grown accustomed to. Kimmel has worked on feature films, like “Capote,” and has been a popular choice for commercial work. He’s lent his talents to shoot spots for global brands including Nike, Porsche, and Adidas.

In the past year, the New York-based director of photography has traveled the globe to shoot commercials for car manufacturers including Audi, MG, Jeep, and, more recently, Mercedes. We caught up with Kimmel on the set of an ambitious commercial for the new 2019 Audi S4.

“For the Audi commercial, it was the first time I had worked with the director, Cadmo Quintero. When we started to talk about the job, he wanted to convey separate and distinctive parts of the story. It was written to be anchored in a sort of one on one therapy session but to have many other moments that show the internal life of the man who’s talking to his therapist.”

“We were building a kind of library of images, so we used a combination of the full-sized ARRI ALEXA LF with Signature Prime lenses and the ALEXA Mini with a variety of lenses for the more mobile shots. We used the ALEXA LF with Signature Prime lenses for rigged shots on the car, where you see the driver through reflections on the windows. I wanted really shallow depth where the reflections were much softer than the driver’s face and also wanted to be able to focus on the reflections and have the actor’s face appear quite blurred.”

While the set and the car may change on each commercial, one thing hasn’t, and that’s the camera and lens package Kimmel chose for every car commercial he worked on this year. From Audi to Mercedes, Kimmel decided to shoot with the ARRI ALEXA LF and Signature Prime lenses. With a sensor slightly larger than full frame, the ALEXA LF camera records native 4.5K with ARRI’s best overall image quality.

The combination of ALEXA LF paired with ARRI’s new Signature Prime lenses is an image that Kimmel believes may be the closest to film that he’s worked with.

“One of the things I like about the Signature Primes is the way they handle skin tones and texture. There’s a naturalness to their image that I really love in a close-up. There’s a quality to them that lends itself to the kinds of soft light that I tend to like.”

Like many filmmakers, Kimmel has long loved the look of classic film over modern-day digital cameras and lenses. Due to the ultra-resolution of most modern lenses and camera sensors, many filmmakers feel that modern lenses render resolution that is far more detailed than what the eye sees naturally.

“In other modern lenses, you have this enormous detail with a super crisp, high resolution image. I find that's great for certain things, but skin tone and close-ups are not those things. I recently shot a multicam stand-up comedy show called, “Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State” for Netflix and that was another case where I went with the ALEXA LF and Signature Primes. If I am going to look at a man talking for 70 minutes, then I don’t want to be studying the pores of his skin in detail. With the Signature Prime lenses, I find that there is a smoothness and a creaminess, a bit of filmlike quality, that I’m really enjoying.”

Along with the way it renders skin tones, the Signature Primes also have an impressive focal minimum objective distance, allowing them to focus on images close up without distortion. It’s a simple benefit that has made them great to shoot faces even through a window.

“Shooting large format with these lenses, I can separate things that otherwise might be too close together. In a situation where you’re in a car and looking through a window, the distance between the glass and that person’s face is maybe 18 inches. You don’t have the option to move the camera closer. If you don’t have enough separation between the camera and the face, then the LF gives you the ability to separate them further.”


Watch the Commercial: JEEP 45s LONELYBOY

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And the Signature Prime lenses have worked for Kimmel in a variety of locales. From the night scenes in Portugal to the snow-covered roads of a recent Jeep commercial.

“The Jeep spot is a great example of how the Signature Primes handle close-ups on faces. In the film, you’re very close-up on a boy for most of the shoot. We wanted the commercial to have a bit of a romantic, nostalgic feel. It’s all set in winter, in the snow. If I were shooting on a conventional digital camera with modern lenses, then I think I would be fighting the crispness, contrast, and sharpness. There are a lot of ways around that, but I find that with the Signature Primes on the ALEXA LF, there is a built-in look that gives me a big head start.”

For more information about Adam Kimmel ASC and the commercial please visit www.adamkimmel-cinematographer.com.