Director Daniel Ryan utilized the Lytro Illum camera to explore the textures, depths and perspectives found within a moment frozen in time for Big Noble's "Ocean Picture". The cinematic music pairs the rich visuals to slowly build and unfold a sinister scene inspired by Felix Vallotton’s woodcut print "L'Assassinat".
Daniel Kessler of Interpol and sound designer Joseph Fraioli collaborated to form Big Noble, an exploration in the synergistic potential of popular music and sound design. Directed by Daniel Ryan and graded by The Mill in Chicago's Luke Morrison, "Ocean Picture" is the third release from the duo's debut album First Light.
To create the dark and elegant film, Daniel used a Lytro Illum camera for its ability to explore focus, perspective, and depth of field within a single image and render full-color, 3D living pictures. We asked Daniel to share the inspiration and process of creating "Ocean Picture" and how the experience differs from other projects.
The concept for “Ocean Picture” is described as an homage to Felix Vallotton’s woodcut print "L'Assassinat". Why did you select this piece specifically?
I saw "L'Assassinat" at a Vallotton exhibit in the Van Gogh museum last year and the piece stuck with me. It was such a simple yet striking design that I even drew a copy myself and I have it on my refrigerator at home.
The camera was brought to my attention by my DP (O'Connor Hartnett) before Joseph and Daniel (Big Noble) reached out to me and this seemed like a great project for exploring the technology. The music of Big Noble is already so cinematic that I was simply trying to live up to the expectation of what I felt the tune warranted. The concept lent itself quite well to the track and the Vallotton woodcut instantly made sense as a great way to marry the technology with the inspiration that flowed from the music.
You're the first to use a Lytro Illum camera to film a music video. What inspired your use of the camera for this specific project? Did you have any experience with the camera before?
I had not had any experience with the camera prior to this shoot but I have a fantastic team that I collaborate with who brought it to my attention. I was fascinated by the technology, as many others are, and it was an experiment to all of us involved. The gradual build of the track seemed like a great companion to a visual of a scene that slowly materializes.
How did you prep for the shoot?
We rented the camera for several days before the shoot and were able to do some very basic tests before production began. Once I got my hands on the camera, I had a better understanding of what was possible and drew my storyboards based on these preliminary test runs. With the exception of a few images, everything was meticulously planned out in advance.
What was the process of filming with the camera and how does it differ from previous shoots?
The pre-pro storyboarding as well as the lighting set-ups were comparable to other shoots, but pretty much everything else was different. You have to be able to envision the post-production process much clearer, otherwise you are looking at a string of over 400 static images and trying to figure out how to make sense of it in the realm of video. All of my talented cast and crew were very open to the idea, even if they didn't totally understand it at first, and we were able to create something we are all quite pleased with through determination and many hours of hard work.
How did the use of the camera alter the post-production process?
This was definitely the most tedious post process I have ever worked on for a music video. After shooting, I had to import and process every single image. I had three computers running overnight in my apartment to keep things moving and it still took double digit hours. Once I narrowed down the 400+ images to my selects (which were over 100) I had to make a boardomatic for timing.
After that, I needed to manually change the focus and animate every image - which is what makes the Lytro Illum so unique - then export that as an image sequence. I would then import the image sequence in another program and export them individually as video files and use those for editorial. If there was any shot that needed the timing, animation or focus shift altered, I had to start all over from square one with that image.
It was quite a lengthy process as I don't think the camera was really designed for this, but when pushed to its limits we were able to execute the idea of slowly revealing a moment frozen in time. I do not think we could have done this specifically with any other camera.
What should filmmakers consider before using the technology in filmmaking?
How much time is needed to make it happen! There was a lot of troubleshooting along the way that I think Lytro could finesse as the camera's usage increases, but under the current state of things, it is just a very long process.
How do you think the camera could be used in the future? Would you use it on another project?
I already have an idea to answer this very question but you may have to wait and see so no one takes the concept and runs with it. Stay tuned.
What was the final look you wanted to achieve from the grade?
I love Luke's work so I came to him with some specific references but really wanted him to put his signature on this as well. I showed him a few Gregory Crewdson photographs, a music video by Pulp and maybe one or two other things, but his work has such a great style that I looked to his expertise as well.
He is such a talented colourist so it was an honor to collaborate with him on this project. We have another one in the works as well so I'm very anxious to work with him again. Speaking of which, I need to get back to work on that . . . .
Colourist Luke Morrison adds, "Daniel came with some great references and inspiration for the look. We wanted to try and create that same cinematic feel that Crewdson portrays so well in his stills. Accentuating the depth in the space by creating different pools and hues of light. Within the grade we also worked to enhance the leading of the viewers eye through the images as Daniel had done with shifts in focus and subtle moves."