March 8, 2020

Shooting with Sony Venice

Right now I’m in Copenhagen, where a 7 week (!) commercial shoot for a big furniture brand takes place. I’ve got my family with me and we all feel truly Danish already, besides the accent.

The project is shot on Sony Venice and I would like to give an explanation to why. 

As an Alexa owner I didn’t shoot anything with Sony for the last years, even though I’ve been interested in the specs of the Venice. I prefer the Alexa sensor when it comes to film humans, the skin tones and grain simply feels closer to film stock, straight out of the camera. If you have the time and money to advance grading, I can’t say that anyone can see the difference from Alexa or Sony, they can all be tweaked and turned to look the same. The look is created by light and choice of lenses. But if you only have a limited time in grade, 1 day for 30 sec TVC or so, then you want the footage to be as close as possible to the desired look. Therefor I usually go with Alexa when shooting human or nature, but electronics, appliances, furnitures or food could with benefits be shot with Sony or Red. Our sets are designed by the amazing interior stylist Christine Rudolph and on set in the hands of Thilde Sander. Without them, this project would not be the same. <3

But the key reason for choosing the Venice for this job was not to get glossy look. Even though we’re shooting 70% in the studio we use the daylight as our key light. The most of the sets are lit only by blocking the daylight entering the studio. The superb gaffer Toe Bengtsson and his best boy Piet Hasselby Nielsen do a phenomenal job by creating a look more or less only with flags, molton fabric and reflector boards. This makes a very organic and natural look, hard to achieve by working with HMI’s in such a limited space as we have in the studio. The only drawback is that we’re totally in the hands of the sun. With the Sony Venice you’re able to set the native ISO to 2500 and that extra one and a half stop really helps us a lot for us. I use the Tokina Cinema Vista lenses that opens T1,5 so I’m really able to push the limit of exposure quite much. Looking at the set, it sometimes just feels too dark, but my light meter tells me I’m all set. 

We have a pretty big crew of the total 40 people, and for me, one of the most important roles is the on-set editor and motion graphic artist Greg Cambielli that quickly turns the takes into a sequence and test the latitude of the exposure levels. For me, it’s great to get the feedback on set and to be able to tweak the next shots.

The next great thing about the Venice is the Rialto extension system. We shoot from a dolly and jib, but also hand held and with the Rialto setup I’m able to get angles and movements that I couldn’t do with an Alexa, it would simply be too heavy and sturdy. 

Another small benefit of the camera is the built-in ND-filters that goes all the way from 0,3 to 2,4, this is so handy since the use of external ND-filters is just not needed. 

But. I have to agree. I hate the cable between me and the camera body. I thought the days when you were stuck to a cable was over, but for this job…it’s still worth it!

Thanks Uncle Grey, The Lab, Acamera, FAC Rasmus Gaardhøje and grip Christian Brøndum for the first two amazing weeks!

October 24, 2019

Ramverk – Falling

OK, I’ve been really excited to launch this new music video! Earlier this spring, I grabbed my camera, my new Atlas Orion anamorphic lenses and boarded the flight to Berlin. 

Down in Deutschland, I met up with director Emanuel Danneman and producers Hampus Norlander and Alex Sjödin, who had just left Hannes Bieger’s legendary studio where they had been busy mixing Ramverk’s track Falling, a fantastic piece of soulful techhouse and the very reason for my journey to Berlin. The band consists of Alex Maksic and Hugo Therkelson, both of whom just retired from a professional career as dancers at the Royal Swedish Opera.

While Bieger kept finetuning the mix, Emanuel and I went scouting locations for the following day’s shoot. I adore Berlin, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the interiors of our main location, Funkhaus, I turned into a puppy on speed.
W h a t  a  l o c a t i o n ! ! !

We were a small team, no gaffer, no grip, no FAD or SAC, jusy me, my FAC Nelson Smith and stylist Halla Farhat. I operated the Steadicam myself. Since we didn’t have the necessary permits, we shot it guerrilla the whole way through. But we didn’t harm anyone, and we didn’t litter or cut any locks so ethically I think we’re fine, and the only thing we left behind was a confused security guard who asked to see our papers after we had been shooting for a couple of hours inside the Funkhaus.
”But how did you guys get in?”
“Well… The door was open.”

These two days in Berlin were amazing. We had so much fun and being such a small crew made us flexible and open to whatever ideas came to mind. Emanuel edited the footage himself and his sense of rhythm is absolutely spot on, his passion for electronic music really shines through. The grading was made by Rickard Ahlbäck at The Line Stockholm. 

I love everyone involved in this project. THANKS for letting me be part of it! And the warmest and strongest love to Sophia Koistinen for making everything possible.

August 12, 2019

Cape Town shoot!

It’s certainly been a while since I updated this page. It’s been a hectic year, with loads of amazing shoots, a big step-up in representation (to ArtOfficial Agency) but most important, I am now a father! But this is not supposed to be a personal blog, so let’s get down to business.

Firstly, let me talk about the shoot I did for Dressmann in Cape Town this winter. I was asked to direct all films, but since my main role is that of DP I also wanted to be in charge of the camera work. The stills were taken by the fantastic Oscar Falk, whom I’ve been working with on numerous occasions before. We shot five films down there, but my heart pounded most for the Travel Suit. With the help of Farm Film, the most professional service company ever, we scouted A LOT of houses, in order to find the architecturally most interesting. Which we did. There was only one problem: The shower wasn’t what we were looking for, so we ended up building a new one outside. Overall, the shoot was carefully planned, which is key in productions with a large crew. I arrived in Cape Town a week ahead of the shoot and spent lots of time going through the details. Once we had our house, I spent an entire day there alone, listening to music in my headphones while exploring the light changes during the day. Same thing with the city shots; I was there on several occasions, for hours at a time, to find the most interesting framings possible.

The team was outstanding (as always in SA) and quite big, which is a necessity to shoot a film like this in just one day. We shot everything with Hawk anamorphic V and V-plus-series, except the zoom shots, which were filmed with the Angenieux Optimo 48-580mm anamorphic.

I haven’t directed for a while and I realized I’ve missed it. Seeing the aesthetic ideas that you’ve been developing and planning for a month finally come to life in the monitor, looking exactly like you visualized them, is a cool feeling!

Dressmann were really great to work with, I hope it happens again, and Farm Film was truly a blessing for me in this production.

March 11, 2019

European Film Academy!

Pretty big news for me – I just signed off as a member in the European Film Academy, EFA! This is a consequence of the huge success of the Ingmar Bergman-documentary, that also won the EFA prize for best European documentary in December. From now on I’m part of the jury and I’m also invited to the ceremony every year. This is huge for a little Scandinavian cinematographer like me!

May 31, 2018

Ingmar Bergman – A year in a Life (Ett år, ett liv)

After its world premiere at Cannes Film festival (which was AMAZING) and the subsequent red carpet premiere in Stockholm, the Ingmar Bergman documentary is finally out in Swedish theatres! The day of its Swedish premiere marks exactly 100 years since Mr. Bergman was born and I do hope that he will appreciate this film spiritually, from above or beneath (depending on whether you put your trust in religion or science). It’s been almost three years since director Jane Magnusson and I recorded the first interview with Kenne Fant in southern France, and from there on we continued interviewing some of those friends, relatives, and colleagues of Mr. Bergman that are still alive today, resulting in 56 interviews!

When I was asked to do this job I knew my main focus would be filming the interviews, and I wanted to find a way to give a congruous and consistent look to the film, even though we would be recording all these people in various countries and surroundings. I was aiming for quite an abstract, indistinct background blurred by shallow DoF. Since many of the subjects for our interviews are aged between 70 and 85, the lightning setup was of great importance. With the right light, an experienced (i.e. old) face can be strikingly beautiful – and after the initial tests, I realized I wanted a really soft key light. So I ended up using a LitePanel Astra, mounted in a big DoPchoice softbox with eggcrate. As backlight, I would generally use another one or two LitePanels mounted in softboxes or fitted with a piece of diffusive cloth. No hard lights at all. We filmed everything with a Sony F55 fitted with a Canon 30-105mm CN-E lens, usually set around 90-100mm and T2.8.

The next challenge was making the interviews look different from all other interviews you see on TV and film. I came up with a pretty wild idea and shot a few takes. The director and producers loved it and gave me the go-ahead. The idea was basically to hang eight to ten rectangular panels of transparent plexiglass between the interviewee and the background. I then made these panels rotate slowly, creating a subtle abstraction by casting an array of blurred reflections in the background. I wanted a sense of implied movement, so subtle you could barely notice it and never too obvious since it pulls away the focus from the interviewee. I figured something very abstract would do it.

There was never a budget for this, so I decided to get some cheap disco ball motors that I ended up attaching to a metal frame. The problem, however, was that these motors rotated too fast. I tried lowering the voltage, but in the end this solution proved not only too heavy for transport, but it also created too much noise. Hence, I arrived at the conclusion we all arrive at when we run out of ideas: LEGO!

I had made use of LEGO on a few occasions before, when I needed a cheap solution for a rotating plate for pack shots etc, so I was well aware of how awesome it is. And by using ten sets of LEGO cranes I managed to construct a little device where the rotation speed may be reduced by using gears. But as the final construction stood mounted in front of me, a three-meter-wide metal frame fitted with disco ball motors and plexiglass panels attached to LEGO constructions, I realized… this would be tricky travelling the world with it, having to rig and de-rig it about 50 times! But with the help of my awesome colleagues and a few tubes of superglue we made it! The plexiglass panels were mounted behind every person we interviewed, and quite honestly, it proved to be a good ice-breaker between the director and the interviewee. What was once just a crazy idea had become a reality!

However. A couple of months into production we had a look at some of the footage and felt it was still rotating too fast. And when we started the final editing process I realized that the parts where the interviewee is seen on-screen are very short. I had predicted ten to fifteen seconds, but most parts only last four to five seconds. With longer parts the audience would have gotten used to the subject and framing, and any minor change to the background could have worked. But the way it looked now… it was actually rather irritating. My biggest fear! What was once just a crazy idea had become a reality and it looked like shit!!

So I had to fix it myself. When the editing was done I decided to export every single interview part featured in both the movie and the four episodes made for TV (a total of 521 clips) and import them into After Effects where I masked out the person and changed the background speed some 20-40 %. I then exported everything back into the project. This took me 21 working days, but the result was nothing short of amazing. It looked just as if it had been filmed without any rotating plexiglass in the background!!

Oh, well. As cinematographer you need a lot of ambition and ideas, but you also need the mental strength to deal with the fact that a lot of the effort you put in will never make the final cut. The only thing that counts is the end result. It doesn’t matter how much time or money you have spent on an idea, if it doesn’t work in the editing room, let’s just kill that darling.

And now? Well, at least I’ve got a lot of LEGO for my future children.  

Production details:
Director: Jane Magnusson
Director of Photography: Emil Klang FSF
Editor: Hanna Lejonqvist SFK
Story Editor: Henrik von Sydow
Music: Jonas Beckman and Lars Kumlin
Research: Isabel Andersson, Linnea Vikengren
Editor’s assistant: Johanna Joona, Alicia Lundahl
Koordinator: Erik Galli
PA: Shajan Kozegary
Colorist: Sebastien Guest
Producers: Cecilia Nessen, Fredrik Heinig, Mattias Nohrborg