Magazine article American Cinematographer

Short Takes

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Short Takes

Article excerpt

Dubai Hosts a Toyota Spot

The latest commercial for Toyota's Land Cruiser SUV, "King of the 4-Wheel Drive," fades in on a harsh desert landscape. Lizards and beetles scurry across the dry ground, a falcon takes flight, and suddenly the silence is shattered as the gleaming grill of a 2008 Land Cruiser pulverizes the top of a dune. Sand rockets into the air as the vehicle roars across the desert terrain like it was asphalt. From there, the car makes short work of rocky canyons, arid playas, and modern roads, making a final stop somewhere in the outskirts of Dubai City. It's impressive imagery, and it took cinematographer Chuck Ozeas and an international team of collaborators two weeks in the desert to get it.

It all started when Ozeas received a call from director Yasushi Matsuura. The two had worked together before, and Matsuura needed a cinematographer for the Toyota spot. Matsuura s concept was that the vehicle "tames nature, while also being a part of it," recalls Ozeas. "We really wanted to put the car into the environment because of where we were shooting, but we also wanted to shoot a lot of the natural world around it. We shot falcons, scorpions, camels, all sorts of desert creatures. It was a great idea, and we were shooting as high-concept as we could for a car spot."

The filmmakers briefly considered shooting in California, but Dubai was eventually chosen for a number of reasons, the first being the diversity of its terrain. "All the locations we covered give [the spot] an epic feel," says Ozeas. "Incidentally, I also noticed the Land Cruiser is very popular there - every third or fourth car we passed was one I All our production vehicles were Land Cruisers, too."

Ozeas' crew on the shoot included Japanese, Irish, South Africans and Australians; as many as 17 countries were represented. "I was the only American," he recalls. "When I sat down at the first production meeting, I looked around the room at all the department heads and production personnel and realized that every one of the nine was from a different country."

Another concept the spot was intended to convey was the "journey" of the Land Cruiser through the desert to the city, and it was therefore important that the vehicle always be in motion. As a result, Ozeas relied extensively on helicopter shots and often found himself grabbing shots from a camera car. Matsuura wanted the Land Cruiser to have an impressive presence, and Ozeas tested an array of focal lengths during his weeklong prep. It was decided he would use wide and tight lenses and very little medium-range glass. His hero lens for the car was a 20mm Zeiss Ultra Prime, which "gave the car a powerful look," and he used longer lenses to compress the car against the mountains and dunes in the background.

He shot the spot on two Kodak Vision2 stocks, 50D 5201 for morning and early afternoon, and 250D 5205 for late afternoon and evening, and made extensive use of Mitchell diffusion on the lens. "I truly appreciate the classic softening quality of Mitchell," he notes. "It beautifully softens the contrast and sharpness inherent in both the Ultra Primes and 5201."

Ozeas says the shoot was the most physically challenging one he's had in his 10 years as a commercial cinematographer, thanks to daytime temperatures that were often as high as 128°, remote locales, and constantly blowing sand. He notes his crew's hard work and professionalism helped him get through the experience, and he reserves special praise for key grip Ian Mussell. …

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