In December, I had a chance to meet John Fedele, a very talented commercial photographer based out of St. Louis. We chatted about how video and multimedia are transforming what it means to be a still photographer and how clients are expecting more and more in the motion arena.
So fast-forward to last week. I saw that he posted on his blog the first motion project that he had done, a 40-second spot for a local restaurant called Stellina Paste Cafe (see above). I was immediately intrigued both by quality of of the piece and wanted to know more about how a commercial photographer (and former art director in this case) approached a new medium.
I knew he probably used some of his photo equipment (and Canon lenses) for the piece, so I thought it would be enlightening to know how he put it together and what he learned along the way.
I’ll have the second part of the interview in the coming days:
1. First off, tell me a little about the lights, equipment and your set-up for the smooth dolly shots. As a photographer, I would expect you have a lot of beautiful glass that you can use to shoot video.As far as my gear, I went on location with a Canon 1D MK IV, assorted L-series primes, TS primes and my old EF-S 10-22mm wide angle. These cameras a very unforgiving with bad glass so it’s important to use the best you can get your hands on. The 10-22mm is not a great lens and muddies things up a bit, but it goes very wide, so it was a trade-off to get a few of the shots. Going to have to add a 14mm prime to the lineup this year. Lighting consisted of 3 Photogenic DigiLight 1200s and assorted softboxes. These work well for small sets and they allow me to use the same speedrings/modifiers as my studio strobes so it’s easier to visualize my setups beforehand as I’ve been using the Photogenics strobes in-studio for years. The camera rigs consisted of a tripod/video head, a DIY PVC track dolly I found on YouTube and then I spent some bucks and bought a Cambo Artes jib which is how I achieved all of the overhead shots.I also use Marshall external monitor because the camera’s LCD is just too damn small to use effectively. This gear gets expensive QUICKLY so it’s best to spend your bucks on the essentials and then improvise and/or rent the big items, as needed.’2. Something that really interests me is how photographers, art directors and those with significant commercial production experience go about pre-planning and visualizing a shoot. When a motion project could go an infinite number of directions, how do you decide which way to go? And how did you approach this particular motion project?My degree is in graphic design and I worked as an art director for about 6 years out of school so I have a good understanding of thinking conceptually. That’s very important in planning because you’ll want to communicate an idea and not just display a bunch of food pictures for 30 seconds. I first decided where I DIDN’T want the shoot to go so that at least pushes you into a general direction… I didn’t want the piece to end up looking like a national restaurant chain spot with cliché hyper happy families/friends sharing a laugh and their meals. Budget will always have a effect on the concept as well so I had to nix the cast of 10 people, helicopter chase, explosions, epic battle scene, etc. Seriously, though, what is most important in driving the concept is gaining an understanding of your subject and finding a unique way of expressing that facet within the parameters of the project be it budget, team, location, time, etc. Stellina’s tag is “fresh – wholesome – handcrafted”. THAT’S what makes them unique so I chose to focus on their process as the main concept of the piece. Next was figuring out how I wanted to actually portray it visually so my approach was to take the viewer on a “tour” of the place from the moment the lights turned on in the morning, through all of the preparations and then hitting the climax the moment when the food is delivered to the table. It seems like every time we order at a restaurant there’s that anticipation and excitement that builds every time a waiter walks towards your table with plates of food and then, of course, the disappointment if they pass you by. I wanted to communicate that elation in the moment you realize the food is headed for your table. To nail that moment home in the “delivery” shot, I actually had my actor, Jody, turn and smile slowly while overcranking the camera at 60fps which I then conformed to 24fps to create the super slow-mo effect.