Magazine article American Cinematographer

Simulating Some "Kodak Moments"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Simulating Some "Kodak Moments"

Article excerpt

After perusing some extremely detailed storyboards, director of photography Bill Pope (Bound) knew that that the driving concept behind Kodak's latest installments of their "Tall Tales" commercials had to be offbeat images that would match the quirky tone of prior spots in the series (which include "Pie Plate" and "Gremlin"). "I felt like the proper reaction to the spots would be 'Cool!' rather than 'Beautiful,'" Pope states. "A too-beautiful image tends to be static and contemplative, and can pull the viewer right out of the story. In pell-mell narratives like these, beauty shots would have been deadly."

Directed by David Kellogg, the three new spots - "Tattoo," "Saturday" and "Stacy" - link life's adventures with Kodak's products in compelling oneminute movies.

The narrative of "Tattoo" follows a high school student who desperately desires a tattoo. The girl's mother tells her to take photos of her friends' tattoos first, so they can study the options. The daughter completes the task with a Kodak camera, but ultimately decides that a tattoo isn't for her. "David wanted the imagery to be simple, clean and funny," recalls Pope. "You might describe David's spots as 'droll epics,' but they derive their 'epic' quality less from scale than a relentless accumulation of details and locations. For example, the narration is extensive and the story follows suit, so that it becomes a kind of 'yarn.'"

The normally traditional Kodak allowed Kellogg and Pope free reign in shooting tattoo dream sequences, and the duo opted to illuminate those scenes with Wildfire fluorescent paints and UV units. "That was fun," Kellogg says. "Unfortunately, the fixtures need to be quite close to objects, so we were always checking the edge of the frame or looking for a place to hide them in the shot."

"I hadn't worked with fluorescents since my music video days," recalls Pope, who began his cinematographic career shooting MTV eye-grabbers in the mid-1980s. "Ideally, it's best to test before shooting, but if I don't have that luxury, I test by lighting something next to the object with conventional lighting. I then do a density comparison with my eye and make any necessary adjustments."

Pope found that he could use subtler techniques in the 60-second format than he would for a 30-second spot. "The extra half-minute makes the spots seem more movie-like," he notes. "We wanted the stories to call attention to Kodak, but we wanted the imagery to quietly support the narratives, without overpowering them."

In the duo's second spot, "Stacy," a young man's life flashes before him as he snaps a picture of his girlfriend. Pope worked closely with director Kellogg, gaffer Bob Finley and art director Stacey Litoff-Mann to achieve an interesting result. "We painted all of the walls in the colors that David likes," recalls Pope. "David likes a lot of details and he's very big on preparation, so there's a lot for me to grab onto. He's a hands-on director, and his art school background has given him a very good eye. It's great when something is thought out in so much detail. It means that I don't have to avoid anything or erase anything with light. I know that what's in front of me has been thought through and approved. That really frees me up to look fora good frame."

According to Kellogg, the most challenging spot of the series was "Saturday," which combines matte painting, multiple live-action passes and digital post effects. The narrative focuses on a little girl whose prowess with a Kodak camera prompts her discovery by a museum director, who wants to put her work in his new avant-garde wing. …

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