Monday, December 15, 2014

Arri Amira slow-motion product pours with fluorescent lights

Having worked with a rental Arri Amira over the summer on a dozen political spots (and loving it), I was anxious to get mine, which finally came in November. I was happy that the first shoot out of the box was a spec ad for Herman Marshall Texas Bourbon and that it would require some slow-motion product pours of bourbon over ice. The 60 second ad depicts a weary Santa home from his Christmas rounds and ready to kick back and start his own Christmas party with a glass of Herman Marshall Texas made bourbon whiskey.

Camera specs for the shoot were as follows: 23.976 project frame rate, ISO 800, 2K resolution, ProRes 4444 color space, C-log, Canon 30-105mm Cine zoom lens.

Like any tabletop shoot, I tend to use soft box lights overhead of the product. In this case I suspended a light weight, 2 bank, Flo-Light over a 2x3 silk to create a soft, even sheen over the glass bottle and then placed large white cards next to the camera lens for bounce back into the product label. This can be tricky because the white card also puts a sheen on the front of the glass that can make the liquid look milky. So bringing the card around the side of the glass helped to clear the glass front up. Santa, played by Pascal Thierry Gaulon, was lit with a soft box edge. Both lights were further diffused with 216 and color corrected with full CTO. The daylight lamps actually tend to be around 5000 kelvin in color temperature so full CTO actually set my white balance to around 2700k. That way my fire light in the background wouldn't go overly orange.

I flagged the product light off of Santa so he wouldn't go too flat and still appear to have a firelight edge. My only concern was whether using these fluorescent lights would introduce any flicker in slow-motion photography with the Amira. The ice drop and wider pour were shot at 100 fps and the extreme close up was shot at 200 fps. No visible flicker was seen! I had to boost the ISO up to 1600 on the 200 fps shot and was still a little short of perfect exposure, but knew color correction would bring the image out nicely without adding noise.

The rest of the shots were pretty easy normal photography. When Santa opens his present you will notice some real firelight dancing on the carpet and hearth below. To achieve that, I lowered my key light to force opening the lens aperture to wide open. On this shot I really appreciated a camera with wide dynamic range because I have a black label on the bottle and white fur trim on Santa's suit under the same lighting condition.

Same sort of approach was given in the foyer (wide open aperture) so the candle lights would stand out. My original intent when the door opens for Santa was to have him be a complete silhouette, but the Amira is so light sensitive, he actually had detail from bounce light hitting the outside wall. I decided I liked the slight detail and kept it, otherwise I would have had to flag the doorway just to kill the bounce back. The still below is from an iPhone, which isn't set at the exposure level used in the spot.

I owe a big thank you to J.P. Morgan for his grip help, Pascal for playing Santa, and Chris Magid and Eric Williamson for loaning some gear.

The video was edited in Premiere Pro CC and color graded in Speed Grade and then exported to H264 for YouTube. Here's the video link.

Happy Holiday's from Best Film & Video!

Alan Lefebvre

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