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DP Michael Dwyer captures cinema verité in Justin Bieber’s new video “Intentions” with some help from the ALEXA Mini LF and ARRI Signature Prime lenses

Aided by the versatile camera combo of the ALEXA Mini LF and ARRI Signature Prime lenses, cinematographer Michael Dwyer melds documentary and cinema in Justin Bieber’s new video “Intentions”

After debuting nearly two weeks ago, “Intentions,” the latest video from Justin Bieber’s new album “Changes” has already garnered over 31 million views. The video was shot on the ALEXA Mini LF and ARRI Signature Primes lenses, and was the latest collaboration between cinematographer Michael Dwyer, director Michael D. Ratner, OBB Media, and the pop star. 

Dwyer made the unconventional decision to switch from an ALEXA Mini to an ALEXA Mini LF midway through Bieber’s YouTube Originals series “Seasons.” “We were shooting the main interviews with Justin and his team for the 10-part series when I took delivery of the camera. We made the change from shooting everything with two Minis to using the Mini LF on the wide “A” camera, while we continued to use the Mini for the tight side-angle. We were always shooting with the Signature Primes, so that remained consistent,” explains Dwyer.

“First off, I feel that the larger format, bigger sensors, and the wider field of view with a longer lens is an aesthetic I gravitate towards—similar to the aesthetic of medium format photography. But more importantly, I was really interested in the unique focal lengths that the Signature Primes offered. Initially that was what attracted me, but once I started using the lenses, I have been amazed at how they render skin tones—and color in general. And it has been nice to see that I am not alone in my love of the Signature Primes.”

The music video highlights the work of the Los Angeles-based non-profit, Alexandria House, and shares the challenges and triumphs of three women. Dwyer relied on his background in documentary shooting to create a video that is both authentic and intimate. “Intentions” is a mirror of Dwyer’s own body of work, which includes the 2015 Emmy-nominated documentary “Bully,” as well as the feature film “Hostile Border.” From real moments when Justin Bieber surprises the women, to tears of joy, to group dancing, Dwyer credits the Mini LF with being small enough to allow the authenticity of a documentary. Having gear that was lightweight and flexible played a considerable part in bringing the music video to life.

“It was difficult to find a style that struck a balance between wanting to show the stories of the women we were following, and also capture some more stylized moments. Our style of filming was mostly documentary verité because we wanted the women’s stories to be immediate and authentic. But then we would also do more stylized setups which often involved me operating Steadicam, shooting in slow motion, and trying to capture some more dynamic and visually striking moments that would give the music video some different emotional energy.”

“My dream is always to take the work, be it documentary or fiction, to a higher level of authenticity and spontaneity. The nature visuals coming out on Apple Music for the “Changes” Album are in this spirit. For “Intentions,” Justin and the women we featured in the video definitely required the camera, the gear, and our crew to be nimble. It’s next to impossible to get authentic, improvisational moments when working against too much weight and bulk. But for this work, I really have to credit my AC—and I was lucky to be working with Local 600 1st AC Rachel Dusa, who brought her own magic to the process, allowing me to move and go with the energy of each moment.” In short, Dwyer is pleased with the camera.

“I’ve always loved ARRI cameras because I feel they capture color in a way that no other camera does. Going to the Mini LF was an evolution of that. What I’ve been amazed by in the Mini LF was just the step up in detail, and I think there is something different in the way the sensor handles color, at least in the tests that I’ve done with my DIT, John “LJ” Kim. We’re both in awe of the improvements from the Mini. It’s hard to go back.”

Watch the music video

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