“Immediately, I had a great moving closeup of The Weeknd, with great depth of field,” says Hamilton. “We also had the choir layered behind him—we really wanted to highlight the story of the choir. With that setup, I had great lenses and the right distance between him and the lenses, and great movements and layers. Of course, we also had Minis on Steadicam, and we also had what we called the infinity room, placed underneath the choirstalls, sort of a room of lightbulbs. We decided we wanted to do that very aggressively. The idea is that it’s his descent into madness, given what the song is about. So we had him manhandle the camera, pull it into the room and push it away.”
These shots were done with an ARRI AMIRA mounted with a wide-angle ARRI/Zeiss Ultra Prime rectilinear lens for a unique, impressionistic look. Images from the “infinity room” went viral, launching innumerable memes.
Hamilton did incorporate a few quick long shots from the broadcast cameras that were part of the CBS game telecast package. “As long as we stayed at the end of the lens, and we didn’t go too tight, with a good bit of grading, it didn’t jolt you out of the story,” he says.
Equipment companies are sensing the trends and coming up with innovative solutions for blending the worlds of cinema and broadcast. PRG, the rental company, supported the shoot with its 35Live! multicamera systems, which are camera-agnostic, allowing for integration of live, broadcast-style methods with digital 35mm cinema cameras, including iris and lens control. ARRI recently introduced AMIRA Live, which is purpose-built for multicamera applications with a built-in fiber backend and Super 35-size sensor.
Looking back on the production, Hamilton says he’s surprised at how smoothly it went. “It’s a demanding show, and difficult to execute under any circumstances,” he says. “But through a lot of people’s hard work, it came off seamlessly. The night before, with all our camera gear set up, we had a violent Florida lightning storm, but there were no problems. You would not have realized that we had taken a radically different approach.
“I really hope that the success of our Super Bowl show furthers the use of this type of large format camera in entertainment,” he continues. “I hope we are getting to the tipping point where these cameras are embraced and encouraged. With each event where we come up with great images, more artists and directors are going to say, ‘I want to do it that way.’ I think we proved that even in the most challenging workflows, if you put your mind to it, you can use ARRI cameras and get a sensational program. You clearly get the benefit. It’s a whole new level of aesthetics, of production values, of storytelling. It took The Weeknd show into the realm of cinema and theater. The whole language of it felt very different—more dramatic, and more emotionally rich.”