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French DP Mélodie Preel relies on ALEXA LF, Mini LF, and ARRI Signature Primes for her award-winning commercial work

Not only valuable in feature films, the ALEXA LF, ALEXA Mini LF, and ARRI Signature Prime lenses are increasingly being used for commercials and music videos. Just ask up and coming DP Mélodie Preel.

In her short, professional tenure, Mélodie Preel has already been able to forge a very successful path in the industry. Born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, Mélodie graduated from film school with a specialization in cinematography before evolving to a camera assistant and later to director of photography. In the past two years, she has already established herself in advertising where her work recently received two Stratégies Awards, a benchmark in France for great achievement in the disciplines of marketing, communications, and media.

We caught up with rising star cinematographer Mélodie Preel who continues to choose ARRI’s large-format camera system for her work. She shares with us her use of the ALEXA LF camera with the Signature Prime lenses and, more recently, her experience with the ALEXA Mini LF.

What was your journey to becoming a director of photography?

When I came out of the ESRA cinema school, I first went into directing before becoming a video assistant. Then I met Francois Vigon who was the first camera assistant on “Goal of the Dead,” for which I was hired as the second assistant. After that film, I choose to remain as an assistant in the crew of François and Matias Boucard. They are the two that I have collaborated with the most. Two years ago, I became the cinematographer on a Ubisoft advert (Eddy). At the same time, Matias took me on as the second unit DP on a Paco Rabanne commercial (Insurrection Films) filmed in Namibia. Since then, it's been one project after the other. Thanks to director Frédéric Planchon, I authored the photography of an advert for the European elections which gave me a lot of visibility. Following this film, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors of the global success “The Untouchables,” contacted me for an AXA campaign (Quad Production). Quentin de Lamarzelle set up the images on the first part of the campaign and I will be shooting the second part of the series “En Thérapie.” Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano will be co-directing this work for the television station Arte.

The Roger Vivier adverts that you worked on won two Stratégies awards. Why did you choose to work with the ALEXA LF and the ARRI Signature Prime lenses?

On the first Roger Vivier film (Equality Films), the director Laura Sicouri had a specific idea about the artistic direction of the piece, with very stylized decor and a very elaborate color pallete. The high sensitivity of the ALEXA LF was perfect in this context. This camera has a wide latitude and great color accuracy with many additional nuances. We were filming in a cramped hotel in Clichy and this extreme sensitivity coupled with the large aperture of the Signature Primes—around T2—also allowed me to light these small set designs more easily while retaining all the nuances.

What is your opinion of the ARRI Signature Prime lenses?

For me, they are the perfect tools for the ALEXA LF camera. They have aperture, they are lightweight, and they even cover from 18 mm to 125 mm; this is an area where there are not many options available yet. They are also very soft while still having a personality. I find that they are a good compromise; they are modern, straight, and, at the same time, they have an assertive character. I also really like the way the Signature Prime lenses go out of focus. They have something very authentic. On the first Roger Vivier film, I used them by pushing the camera to 2000 ASA to bring some substance back into the image.

Has the large ALEXA LF sensor changed the way you work?

The large LF sensor gives the image a stronger presence. We can get closer to the characters with a medium focal length without losing presence and volume. In very small settings, this allowed me to recover the frame without having any deformation. Which is very interesting.

And the Mini LF?

Honestly, it's my favorite! The Mini with a large sensor offers even more possibilities. With this camera, we can find a proximity to the frame, a feeling of volume and presence of the image that is unique but with more ease. On some projects, this can be a key element. I recently filmed an advert for the Fondation pour l'Enfance children's foundation where I used the Mini LF with very marked, old optics. I wanted to keep the vignetting of the short focal lengths while shooting in 2:1. I wanted to “damage” the image and recover some distortions while remaining soft. With the Mini LF, I had to film a mother and her son in a bathtub with a handheld camera. I had offset the battery to reduce the bulk. I was 20 cm from the characters and had the ability to react to their movements. I couldn't have done it with a larger camera. The Mini LF brings intimacy to the image; a unique proximity. It is spontaneous writing, closer to my level of sensitivity. The image is much more alive. Today, I can't get by without the Mini LF. If she is available, I ask to work with her.