We wanted to discuss his approach to the new single from the mega pop/rock band 'The Killers' titled "My Own Soul's Warning". Check out the frames from the video below and be sure to read the interview to get a glimpse into Ian's process.
Brainbox™: When planning your shoot for 'the Killer's' new video "My Own Soul's Warning" was there a particular aesthetic or vibe you were going for?
Ian: Both the song and (director) Michael Hili’s treatment were grounded in sort of biblical and religious imagery, so I knew there would be an element of classicism there. We both knew from the start that we’d be trying to ride the line of naturalistic lighting mixed with surrealism throughout. The source material we pulled from in our reference images were almost entirely natural lighting however, that always feels like an organic starting place for us, and you sort of chip away at it from there.
Brainbox™: You landed on the Alexa Mini LF camera system - was there a particular reason you thought Large Format was the right way to go?
Ian: Scale was a big element of the treatment, I knew we were going to have these 30 x 40 foot hanging backdrops for almost every setup, and so much of the piece is about moving through the depth of the space, so I knew I wanted to try large format for the first time on this project. My fear with backdrops is always that things will feel flat and there won’t be any feeling of separation from the subject, so the depth of field of large format was a huge draw for me.
Brainbox™: Was there a particular shot or sequence from the video that you are particularly proud of? What do you like about it?
Ian: I’m especially proud of the sequence of the first cloth dropping. I’m very happy with the look my gaffer John Ward and I achieved on that backdrop and the field. We cut it up a bit in the final edit, but John and I dialed in this blue-ish backlight on the sky cloth, and as Brandon turns to walk towards camera, we dimmed the backlight down and it looked like a storm was rolling in. That combined with a really fluid move by our steadi-op Greg Arch just made it a very satisfying shot for me, it was one we were all stoked about I think.
Brainbox™: The Signature primes are one of several full frame prime sets out now. Is there a reason you went with these over some of the other choices?
Ian: looked at a lot of tests for the signature primes, and was really impressed that although their clarity is unmatched, they didn’t seem to have much digital edge to them and still felt painterly to me. I usually opt for lenses with a bit more character or funk, but I was really impressed with the signature primes, their renderings of faces felt especially beautiful. My AC Pierrick Reiss and I were really impressed when we were testing the wide angles that there wasn’t any visible barrel distortion. It really just felt like any field of view was a viable option with this set.
Brainbox™: The final product has a bit of a dreamy or surrealist quality to it. What kind of planning and pre-pro did you go into to create the vibe?
Ian: Michael comes from a set design background, so I think a certain amount of the surreality in our projects just comes from building “natural’ looking sets on a soundstage. It just taps into that dreamlike uncanny valley where nothing really feels real. Same goes for lighting I think, you’ll never be able to create perfectly real looking natural light. But I think that is a good thing for music videos especially, it makes the setups feel more like memories than real life I think.
Brainbox™: Aside from the glass, did you use any special filtration or other techniques?
Ian: I kept the lenses clean with not filtration. I did rate the LF at 1000 ISO just to introduce the slightest bit of noise into the image, and stayed close to wide open throughout. Coming from doing a lot of projects on film, I just prefer for the image to have a bit of life to it in the shadows, dirty it up just a bit.
Brainbox™: How much did this rely on the color pass to create it's look and how much of the palette were you able to dial in in-camera?
Ian: I didn’t create an on-set LUT for this shoot, but I knew I could trust the ARRI color science even without shooting RAW. The colorist Greg Reese did a phenomenal job giving the whole piece a naturalistic quality. We edited the clip with a ‘home-made’ LUT that was pretty dodgy, so we were very happy to see what he came up with in the grade. I was especially impressed with the range of color in the last shot in the desert, we shot that wide open in the very last light of the day, and I think the gradient in the sky is beautiful.
Brainbox™: Overall what do you think the strengths are of the Arri LF ecosystem?
I absolutely love having more depth of field on wider lenses, it calls back to medium format photography to me and I just find it beautiful. The ability to go from a wide shot to an intimate close up with shallow depth of field is just a new language for me, so that is a huge strength.
Brainbox™: Anything else interesting or fun you want to share?
Thank you all at Brain-box™ for supporting the production, during a pandemic no less! It was an honor to be the first to use that factory fresh set of signature primes.
Thanks Ian! Check out the full video here. And just a reminder- our Alexa Mini LF's and Signature Primes are STILL on sale. Rent them for 25% off through the rest of this fall. Hit us up today to get this special rate. Only at Brainbox™.