Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Tribute to Paris

It is unusual for me to write a collective post about different people’s work. I usually like to give the spotlight exclusively to this one piece that caught my attention on the web on that particular day. But then again, rarely have I stumbled upon such quality work that is as closely related like the one I’m about to present.

I also tend to blog about a lot of what is going on in America in the media domain, and tend to forget that some of the most creative people on the planet reside on the opposite side of the oceans. Well this is the case of the 4 artists I’ve been watching closely lately: Camille Marotte, Gunther Gheeraert, Dilshan Arukatti and Smog Films. Those incredibly talented people all reside in one of the world’s cultural capital, Paris.

Aside being from France, these guys have many things in common, and ironically, one of the main aspects is that their work is really different from what we usually see in directing and design reels. They all have a very human feel, with a lot of portraits that do not feel the least commercial.

The 4 reels also present very multi-disciplinary skills and styles, from sharp, modern-looking imagery, to washed-out, old-school-feel cinematography, without leaving aside some slick motion design work. And of course, this wide range of work is also cut to perfection, showing true mastery of editing, all this accompanied by the sound of immersive music.

Camille Marotte is the first that spiked my attention over 6 months ago, with his 2010 Director Reel. This minute-and-a-half resume demonstrates skills that will fool anyone who will eventually learn that this Paris artist is only 26 years old, because a lot of experienced, older directors can only dream of having reels that will match this one. I highly encourage everyone to look at his website and enjoy his portfolio, because there are some hidden gems in there.

Next on the list was Dilshan Arukatti, that I discovered through Fubiz and his piece The Rhythm of Space and Time. What really struck me though was his website, Immersive Garden. While not a big fan of Flash websites nowadays, I have to say that this one is impeccable. The theme, the music, the motion graphics just blend together to create a masterpiece of web design, for which Arukatti is nominated at this year’s Webby Awards.

Now I don’t know about the others, but what makes Gunther Gheeraert’s reel exceptional is that, according to his Vimeo’s description, every piece in his reel is his own personal creation. Now I don’t know to what extent this is true (and honestly, I don’t really care), but this is one of the most spectacular display of a one-man-band’s talent I’ve ever seen. The guy can do it all and can adapt to different styles while making his art look very professional in every shot.

Finally, the latest Paris-based artist that caught my attention is actually a studio, called Smog Films. These guys also fall in the “we-can-do-it-all” category, and they really can do it all very well. While their opening motion title is a bit deja-vu and unoriginal, as soon as the real reel starts, you forget what just happened and get immediately sucked in by this great amalgam of cinematography and motion design. With various large scale clients, Smog Films really show why these mainstream companies put their trust in them, by delivering over-par visual products.

Paris has the Louvres, the Eiffel tower, the Champs Elysées, but it also shelters some of the greatest, most creative artists in the world, and the work of those four I just presented backs this fact easily. Thumbs up to the work of these incredibly talented people.

Nissan and TBWA for the new LEAF

TBWA released a new 60-second spot for the new Nissan LEAF, a 100% electric car to be released soon. TBWA targeted the fact that this car produces zero gas emission, therefore bringing up the slogan zero is worth everything, a clever play on words.

Even if I’m well aware of the poor state of the environment, I am also completely saturated by the quantity of marketing campaigns based on the “green” movement. I was afraid that this commercial was going to fall under that category too, but I was happily surprised once I finished watching the minute-long commercial.

I don’t know what it is with car commercials these days, but it’s like if they all entered in a writing battle, and it is producing some of the most incredible voice-overs in ads in recent years, for example, Cadillac’s Red-Blooded Luxury and Audi’s Art of Progress. This narration is nothing short of pure genius. The way they’re able to question the worthlessness of zero and to eventually bring us to understanding its great value in this particular situation is brilliant.

The imagery that supports this text is also very creative. Portraying various everyday shapes that create circle forms and editing them seamlessly is a beautiful way to illustrate this abstract-to-specific voice-over. It also gives you an acceptable dose of “green” imagery without overwhelming you with dying polar bears and crumbling glaciers.

Great work.

Keira Knightley for Chanel

Thanks to Mr. I-don’t-know-who who tweeted this ad this morning, I stumbled upon Chanel’s newest short-film/commercial for their perfume Coco Mademoiselle. The 3-minute piece shows Keira Knightley as some sort of daredevil model attending a photoshoot that turns into a teasing romance.

The ad is directed by Golden Globe nominee Joe Wright, better known for his work on Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. Wright succeeds in portraying the high-class look that Chanel transcends with his various shots, mostly set in golden-colored environments. The use of flares, transparency and reflections throughout also help to add this glamourous feel, accompanied by grandiose images of the city of Paris that put the cherry on the cake. The cover of James Brown’s It’s a man’s man’s man’s world by Joss Stone is also highly appropriate with its jazzy and seductive feel.

Knightley is, as usual, stunningly good-looking and incredibly sexy in her role, setting the mood for the entire ad. The chemistry between Keira and Alberto Ammann is very believable, bringing to life a fairly abstract storyline.

In a complementary making-of video for the ad, Knightley describes the perfume as having the power to make women who wear it feel strong, with a touch of subtlety at the same time, and I think this commercial really reproduces this description well. The short-film is sexy, bold, provocative and mysterious at the same time, while never being exaggerated, overly-sexualized or inappropriate.

Savana Advertisement

Back in March, a good friend of mine who’s studying in management ask me if I wanted to help him with the promotional video for the faculty’s upcoming fashion show, called Savana. Since I hadn’t produced anything fashion-related since the Perigny advertisement back in 2007, of course I told him I was really interested in helping him. Of course, the fact that this meant an entire night of shooting with hot girls in bathing suits helped facilitate my decision.

The problem was that the schedule was incredibly tight, and that the budget was pretty much non-existant. But at the same time, this adds a challenge that I rarely face in my everyday job: to produce a professional-quality video with absolutely no means.

The organization staff was able to unlock a small budget for me to rent some gear, so I took the small Fresnel kit we have at the office, some reflectors, and rented a Kino Diva and a smoke machine. We shot with my friend’s Canon 7D and used my Sigma 30mm 1.4 for the entire shoot. So as you can see, our means were really limited.

Often, when you ask your friends to play in a commercial, the quality of the “acting” goes with the price your paying, which is zero. I have to say though that this time, all the models (who were all students in the management faculty) did an amazing job. It can be uncomfortable to pose in a bathing suit in front of a stranger (me) with a big camera setup that tells you to act sensually, but everyone was really open to what I was asking and they acted really professionally, which made the production a lot easier than I thought. On top of that, we had an incredibly talented make-up artist on set that helped make the models look amazing.

What I think was the most challenging was the shooting environment. The people at Izba Spa were kind enough to let us shoot freely in their establishment, which looks truly amazing. But, the space was very limited. I had to shoot 13 models, mostly separately, in a place that had maybe three or four different rooms that were proper to shoot in. I had to be very creative in the way I was using each spot, since I was going to use each of them more than once, and I didn’t want the video to look like it had been shot all in the same room. The smoke machine really helped me to cover some of those environments. What also puzzled me was the lighting, because the rooms were so small that I couldn’t fit as much lighting as I wanted to. I had to bounce the light in very weird and bizarre angles to be able to achieve the looks I wanted. It worked well for most of the shots, but overall, I think the models’ eyes are not lit enough, something I may have been able to correct if I had more space.

The editing was quite difficult too, because of the fast-paced music I was using, and the very little footage I shot. Fortunately, I shot a lot of those models completely out of focus, to have a mysterious introduction, and that enabled me to re-use the in-focus shots later in the video.

But what I enjoyed the most in this video was color-grading it. The fact that the backgrounds were mostly greyish allowed me to have full control on the models’ skin tones and clothes. I actually used a technique I had never tried before in Apple’s Color, and that is numerically grading shots using the Red/Green/Blue Lift and Gain. It helped me achieve a look that’s different from what I usually do. I will be posting a video making-of later this week explaining how I did it.

In the end, I think I managed pretty well to produce a good-looking advertisement with such little means, so I guess this is mission accomplished for me.

Here are some photos of the shooting, snapped by my friend Sam Chenard.