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ARRI spotlights commercials and music videos: DP Mélodie Preel

In our second interview about shooting commercials for global brands, DP Mélodie Preel describes advertising as a great laboratory with high aesthetic stakes—and how ARRI tools help her to reach them.

Mélodie Preel, a young director of photography very active in advertising with about twenty spots per year, first went through the ESRA International Film School in Paris before becoming an assistant for ten years, working with renowned cinematographers. It was the commercial producers who suggested that she move into cinematography in 2017. “The film ‘Choose your Future’ (Academy Film) for the European elections gave me a lot of visibility. Director Frédéric Planchon was looking for a cinematographer to go and film women giving birth throughout Europe. It’s a very beautiful film, quite naturalistic, which was broadcast across the continent. After that, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano contacted me for an AXA campaign (Quad) and then asked me to work on the first season of the series ‘En thérapie’ that they directed for Arte. Everything went very well. It is difficult to enter this profession, but I have always felt something benevolent, very positive in the environment. Of course, the industry still has a long way to go to have more female cinematographers. But I have this naivety to believe that once you are in it, it is not different than for a man.”

Watch an “Orange iPhone 13” commercial, shot at night and in the rain

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“Advertising is a great laboratory for learning and experimenting,” Preel adds. “There are always big aesthetic challenges. At the end of 2021, I shot an ‘Orange iPhone 13’ commercial in Bulgaria, directed by the duo Truman & Cooper (Diplomats.tv) with the ALEXA Mini LF and ARRI Signature Primes. On this film, we were shooting at night, in the rain, a kind of musical. I needed a soft, slightly round image with no distortion and a wide aperture. I was able to choose Signature Primes because it fit the project. On other films, to the contrary, I try to patinate the image, to get distortions, by using vintage lenses. The choice is, above all, aesthetic, not budgetary.” 

“Recently I shot a commercial in Mexico for the American streaming service Hulu, directed by Cloé Bailly (Caviar). It was a big action movie shot in a studio, very fun to do, and I was able to shoot with two cameras, an ALEXA LF and an ALEXA Mini LF, mounted on a Bolt to do identical movements. It was a real challenge, with a lot of live and digital special effects, major safety constraints and not much time for postproduction, as the film had to be broadcast right after the Super Bowl.”

Watch a commercial for US streaming platform Hulu, shot on ALEXA LF and Mini LF

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“I really like working with the ALEXA Mini LF,” says the cinematographer. “It’s light, I can put it on my shoulder. I like the way it handles. Recently I shot a KFC commercial in Poland, directed by Vincent Lobelle (Iconoclast). It’s a very cut up film for which I used the Mini LF again with Signature Primes. I had to be able to move 360 degrees in this kitchen, with the character dancing in the background. The Mini LF was very adaptable, we were able to install it on a Steadicam with an Alien. The director also wanted this modern style that uses the large format with very short focal length. On the ceiling, I had installed SkyPanels with a diffusion and a skirt, very hot play lights and tungsten inputs. I also really enjoyed the discussions with Alexandre Vivet, the head designer, about the construction of the kitchen, the choice of movable walls, the window openings. It was a very rich collaboration.”

Watch a crispy KFC commercial, shot with the ALEXA Mini LF in Poland

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More of Mélodie Preel's work can be found on her website: https://melodiepreel.com/