Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filmmakers Chase Down Ultra Wheels' "Ice Cream Truck"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filmmakers Chase Down Ultra Wheels' "Ice Cream Truck"

Article excerpt

Since the unpredictable San Francisco weather often makes it difficult to match shots, director of photography Larry Blanford was relieved to learn that advertising agency TDA wanted to film its new UltraWheels spot, "Ice Cream Truck," in black-and-white. Before production began, Blanford consulted with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ASC (Schindler's List, the upcoming The Lost World) for whom he'd worked second unit on How to Make an American Quilt.

"Janusz had done a number of tests before shooting Schindler's List and found that shooting with black-and-white stock gives a grainier look than shooting in color and converting to black-and-white," explains Blanford, who eventually chose the color conversion process for its softer look and better gray scale. "Had we tried to go for a clear look, things would not have matched as well."

The cinematographer shot the spot on Kodak's 5293, leaving the 85 filter off in order to the lend the scenes a bluish tint. Since Blanford had to contend with constant changes in climate, this process aided him greatly. "Throughout the entire shoot, it was overcast, then rainy and then sunny," says Blanford. "I used carefully selected camera angles to hide the rain and then worked with the telecine artist in post to replace the color with a silvery light blue tint."

Recently cited in Adweek's monthly "Best in New Television Advertising" section, the 30-second Ultra Wheels spot features a woman skater chasing an ice cream truck as it speeds up and down the hills of San Francisco. The spot opens on the driver snickering delightedly while waving at the woman. He then floors the accelerator to pass her by, and rocks with laughter as she tries to flag him down. Undaunted, the skater heads after him, and so did Blanford's camera crew.

Says director Nelson McCormick, "We wanted to create an entertaining chase sequence that would appeal to everyone, not just in-line skaters. The initial concept was to be much more aggressive in terms of action photography. We actually hired a member of San Francisco's Friday Night Skate Club instead of an actress, but the intermittent rain forced us to concentrate on the driver and not the product. I think this actually makes it more funny."

To keep up with the swerving skater, the director relied on Blanford, a cinematographer with previous experience in action photography and Olympic speed-skating competitions, and one with whom McCormick spent four years in the Air Force shooting documentaries. The director submits, "The good thing about Larry is that he has the right attitude. We get all of our shots, but he's always coming up with new ways to make it better. …

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