Magazine article American Cinematographer

Iron Man Bulks Up in Kellogg's "Engine Room"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Iron Man Bulks Up in Kellogg's "Engine Room"

Article excerpt

After their Nutri-Grain cereal commercial, "Engine Room," won a Bronze Lion at Cannes, Kellogg's marketing executives were naturally pleased that they had asked Australian-born director of photography Steve Mason to shoot it. They were even more thrilled when the spot went on to win numerous other advertising prizes, including three Gold Mobius awards and a gold medal at the London International Awards.

A mostly self-trained cinematographer, Mason began working in the Australian film industry just out of high school. He moved up through the ranks quickly, graduating from third AC clapper loader to director of photography on shorts, commercials, small films and documentaries.

"The line 'Iron Man food' has been around for about 20 years, and Kellogg wanted to delve into the theme of Nutri-Grain fueling an Iron Man," explains Mason.

In Australia, Kellogg's NutriGrain cereal is the second-highest-selling brand, and the company is keen on keeping sales up. For "Engine Room," the cerealmakers not only budgeted for an unusual three-day shoot, but also allowed Mason to do a series of tests to get a look similar to that of the dreamlike, high-contrast French film The City of Lost Children, photographed by Darius Khondji, AFC. "They wanted it to look hip so a younger generation might find it attractive," points out Mason, who used Kodak's 5298 stock for interiors and 5293 for exteriors. "Prior to production, we tested different lab techniques, such as bypassing the bleach. That makes for a really rich black, and takes a bit out of the other colors. Not only does it desaturate the colors, but it adds a great deal of contrast. You have to be careful when using a bleach-bypass process on the neg, though, because it increases the neg grain a bit."

Working closely with writer/ director Brian Jones, Mason used camera angles to create a feeling of isolation. "In real life, an Iron Man trains alone," Mason notes. "'Engine Room' is about stoking the engine that burns inside and fuels the body."

The new spot is the second in the Nutri-Grain series. The first, "X-Ray," was shot by Australian cinematographer Lance Kelleher. Notes Mason, "'X-Ray' was about the Nutri-Grain coursing through the Iron Man's veins to reach every part of his body and help him perform the best he could. For the second commercial, Kellogg wanted a more feature-like look."

To facilitate the shoot, a gym was built to resemble the engine room in the hull of a boat. …

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