May 23, 2022
“How do you showcase security, warmth and comfort in a commercial?” wonders cinematographer Taylor Randall. With the OnStar Guardian app intended to create just those feelings in its users, Randall, working with director Andrea Saavedra, looked to Tiffen’s new Antique Satin and Antique Pearlescent Warm Diffusion filters to add a friendly and reassuring touch to his image.
“The story was about a grandmother being able to track her daughter in a safe and responsible way, to make sure she's making her way safely to her destination,” Randall explains. The three-minute piece follows a mother and daughter through their day, with settings including a bright domestic kitchen, the glamour of a photoshoot, a relaxing sauna and an alfresco evening meal. “Andrea wanted it to be family-oriented and comforting,” he goes on, “so I immediately thought the Antique Satin filters would be a perfect fit, especially with the Zeiss Signature Primes on an Arri Alexa LF Mini.”
Randall chose his filters after a careful series of tests at Red Letter Rentals in Burbank. “We did look at different filters,” he confirms, “and I got to play with the denser Antique Satin and Pearlescent diffusion, the ones and twos.” Selecting Antique Satin filters for most of the production, Randall kept most of his choices subtle. “The Antique Pearlescent was the number-one, but we shot everything else with the one-eighth Antique Satin. I fell in love with the one-eighth, because I could see the difference but it wasn't enough that I worried about being too much on screen. In post, in color, we can do skin softening, so I didn't want to go too harsh or too extreme. The one-eighth were a nice polish to the image.”
That polish served to unify some carefully-considered elements of production design that Randall describes as ideally suited to his choice of filtration. “We went with a very neutral palette,” he remembers, “and let a lot of the beauty and glam speak for itself. We have a successful actress who’s shown preparing to go on set for a photoshoot, so we have the lights, the glitz and glam – then there’s the candlelit dinner with the warm tungsten glows.”
Those glows, Randall continues, were deliberately provoked with true, classical tungsten lighting, avoiding the potentially harsher tones of more modern technologies. “We were playing around with a lot of 3200 kelvin tungsten, for the warm tones. We used real tungsten for all the interior and the night exteriors.”
“That night exterior was one of my favourites,” Randall says, recalling the moment when the Antique Satin filter drew a warm reaction from the party clustered around the monitor. “It was our last setup of the night. We did a lens change, the filters went back on again and you could see Andrea and the client were so happy that it was so beautiful. It's a suble thing, but when you have that Antique Satin and you have the bokeh from the lights it's almost like a painting - it has a different look.”
|Scenes set among the floating steam clouds of a sauna allowed Randall the opportunity to introduce some variety, with bolder production design suiting bolder filtration in the form of the number-one Antique Pearlescent. “We built the sauna set because we wanted a lot of rich tones, to be in a colour palette of warm browns, copper and bronze. We had the special effects department create haze, and I really backlit it. I was aiming for this hazy, glowing beauty vibe and I definitely achieved what I was going for.”
The result is an image which, as Randall puts it, demanded very little post production adjustment. “The Antique Suede and Antique Pearlescent do soften the contrast, and I like to add a small amount of contrast in the grade to make it pop. But I don’t add a lot – it’s just a little polishing. I didn’t push it very hard. I wanted it to look light and airy.” That light and airy outcome encompassed not only the friendly atmosphere Saavedra and Randall had planned, but also, he says, represented a philosophy of modern filmmaking where the productivity benefits of sharp cameras and precision lenses are matched by the gentle consistency of optical filtering.
“It was just the look the company and the brand was looking for,” he concludes. “Pairing the beautiful filters with such beautiful glass worked perfectly. The cameras and the lenses are so sharp and so crisp and so clean it's nice to add just a little bit of softeness, a bit of roundness. Anything to create a more refined look, versus something that’s sharp and unflattering. I think that’s the key now.”