Phedon Papamichael ASC, Claudio Miranda ASC, Linus Sandgren, Robert Elswit ASC – these world-class cinematographers and more have already used Action Cam all over the world for feature films, commercials and promos, confident that the images will cut in seamlessly with other cameras without compromise.
Whether you’re making commercials, TV or movies, sometimes your camera is just too big for the situation or location you’re trying to shoot in. This was demonstrated on a recent commercial for Google’s Android mobile platform, shot by Alwin Küchler, which has the advertising world buzzing.
Codex Action Cam itself is a tiny remote head camera for shooting at up to 60 fps but it’s not just a camera – it’s a complete shooting, capture, transcoding and data management solution for situations that require a compact form factor and low weight, without compromising on image quality. It comes packaged with the Codex Camera Control Recorder, providing full remote control of the camera plus the proven, industry-standard Codex workflow.
The ad, titled “Monotune,” is designed to demonstrate the Android catchphrase “Be together. Not the same.” The concept is to show a pianist playing the third movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata on two different pianos – one a standard concert grand, and the other a purpose-built instrument on which each of the 88 keys sounds a single note – middle C. The message is that Android is superior due to its potential for customisation.
At the piano is Ji-Yong Kim, a native of South Korea and former child prodigy who was the youngest person ever to win the New York Philharmonic’s Young Artist Competition. The spot first aired during the Grammy Awards telecast and also ran during the Oscars. To execute the spot, agency Droga5 turned to director Jonathan Glazer and cinematographer Alwin Küchler. The lighting and production design was intended to feel like a real rehearsal space – not fussy or fancy.
“We didn’t want anything to feel glorious, or bombastic, or artificial,” says Küchler. “We wanted a minimal feeling, so people would focus on the sounds and the player. Jonathan wanted to approach it almost like a scientific exercise. When he showed me the first test, I noticed that the pianist seemed to be more engaged and expressive when he played the correct piano, which makes sense. Responding to the music myself, I processed in my own imagination and came to the exact feeling we were trying to evoke from the audience.”
“THE ACTION CAM ALLOWED US TO GET CAMERA POSITIONS WE COULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN WITH ANY OTHER CAMERA”
The “scientific” approach meant that the filmmakers needed a camera that was as unobtrusive as possible, and yet delivered a high quality image. “We wanted very small cameras, in order to minimise interference,” says Küchler. “We didn’t want to surround the pianist with a lot of big cameras in his face. I also felt that a global shutter, as opposed to a rolling shutter, would be important on a piece where we were dealing with a lot of horizontal lines. The question was, what is the best version of the smallest camera on the market? After doing some research, we decided to go with the Codex Action Cam.” Küchler used Action Cam with C-mount lenses with wider focal lengths including 12mm and 16mm. (Camera package by Keslow Camera) “The Action Cam allowed us to get camera positions we couldn’t have gotten with any other camera,” he says. “We used the ARRI ALEXA Mini from angles that were further away, but with the Codex, we were able to get a shot from the space between the piano player’s face and the keyboard. We were able to get emotionally close to the pianist, which was very important to Jonathan, without the distraction of other cameras in the shot.”
Küchler’s next assignment is to photograph Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human. He is planning to use the Codex Action Cam again on that project. “I love the idea of putting a camera down on the floor while he’s doing push-ups, for example,” Küchler says. “Once you get a good quality picture with a spatial impact that is that small, it becomes interesting. You can try out new things. And it feels less intrusive for the actors. People respond to it differently. It’s not a massive camera staring at you from ten inches away. If you are an artist or an athlete, you can forget about it and focus on your own process. And that is a wonderful thing.”
Images courtesy Google