LARGE FORMAT MEETS FULL FORMAT - 1920 MEETS 2020
Music Video for the Dutch Black Metal Band 'CARACH ANGREN'
At the beginning of June director Zoran Bihac asked me if I would be up to another totally crazy music video. The projects with Zoran are usually absolutely crazy. Regardless of whether with Lindemann, Grönemeyer or Seeed, they usually offer a lot of opportunities to try out creatively. This project is a music video by the Dutch black metal band 'Carach Angren' for the song 'Franckensteina Strataemontanus'. The pitch sounds fantastic. 3 acts - variety / show in the 20s, silent film, Caligari style, a bit of a freak show and of course a not quite clinical surgery with a transformation of a woman. Brutal black and white and very grainy. Almost like pinhole camera aesthetics. This was his briefing and my aesthetic concept for the video is based on this.
The most important thing for me was to create a really special look that doesn't copy the aesthetics of silent films like Robert Wiene's "GENUINE A Tale of a Vampire" or "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", but interprets it differently and in its own way.
During my research, I stumbled upon modern collodion wet plate photographs that have very special characteristics. Due to the large format, the depth of field is extremely small and especially the errors in the development process, which can be seen very clearly as scratches and spots, make every image unique. Most photos contain something very elegant on the one hand, which is due to the entire process, which is very complex and for which a lot of time, knowledge and leisure has to be invested, on the other hand something very rough. I saw this contrast within the aesthetics as ideal for the music video. Reductions in the production design due to the low budget can therefore be compensated for by the extreme aesthetics and characteristics of the camera.
The producer Julia Patey reminded me of an old studio large format camera, which stood around as a prop in the WE studio in Lichtenberg, in which we had shot together a few months earlier. I called them immediately and asked the owner of this camera to have a look at this camera.
1st AC Thomas Ammann is checking the camera setup at SeeYouRent
The camera is an approx. 100 year old studio camera 'Stella' from Görlitzer Kamerawerke, which is in fantastic original condition and which Peter still takes photos with. The focusing screen, the bellows, the wood and the lens (Carl Zeiss Tessar 30cm, 4.5) - all in perfect condition. The first impression was promising. I photographed the screen and it was clear to me that the idea of filming over the screen could work, but would require a few tests. So a few days later we were guests with the 'Stella' at SeeYouRent to start the experiment.
The choice of a digital camera with that we want to film through the focusing screen was clear relatively quickly, as I had tested the Canon C500 II a few days earlier for a feature film. At ARRI Mitte we evaluated the test on screen and the result, even if it cannot keep up with an ARRI Mini, was astonishing. Especially the noise behavior from 1600ASA slightly underexposed was very noticeable. In black and white, the noise looked very natural, which in combination with the structure of the screen is absolutely appropriate.
A decisive argument for the Canon C500 II was above all the full format. Since we were very limited in the setup of the two cameras, the distance between the Canon lens and the screen should be as small as possible without additionally distorting the image, so the 24mm Canon Sumire was chosen.
The test focused mainly on the handling of the combination of both cameras, on the recording via the screen and its vignetting and on the various strengths of the Tiffen Hollywood Black Magic filter. The greatest challenge is the strong vignetting caused by the focusing screen and the large format lens. Especially in the wide shots, there were a few surprises during the pre- lighting on location, which demanded a lot from my gaffer Sampo Lüttge and me.
Since Zoran was there for the test, we were able to discuss immediately whether it was even possible to handle the shoot with this setup. Due to the structure, the camera is very immobile, panning is not possible and any change in height and inclination would take a lot of time.
So we decided to adapt the entire set to the camera. This means that if you switch to the opposite direction, the camera is not rotated, but the entire set. An ambitious project, which is quite possible due to the very reduced scenery, which acts almost like on a theater stage.
Camera assistant Thomas Ammann had made a construction from pipes for a (duvetine) tent so that no stray light falls on the screen and it can be filmed cleanly. Every time the camera is adjusted in height or tilted, the Canon must be aligned again flat on the focusing screen so that there is no focus shift on it. The duvetine tent could be opened easily by Thomas construction and thus the adjustment could be accelerated.
In order to change the position of the camera as easily as possible (to change to different setting sizes), we have fixed the 'Stella' on the base of a Magliner Senior. Behind there was the Canon on an O’Connor 1030D head with a long sliding plate (for fine adjustment). Both cameras could be moved as a unit. For a special moment in the video, I wanted to test different strengths of the Tiffen Hollywood Black Magic. The Hollywood Blackmagic 2 achieved the best effect in overexposure in close-ups. The face began to shine and the focus- thanks to the shallow depth of field of the large format lens- seemed to melt away.
In terms of exposure, it was not easy to find out the sensitivity. The Canon Sumire was at aperture t.2 to get a little more sharpness and less effect in the highlights. The screen and the large format swallowed a lot of light, so I set the exposure meter at 17 fps about 50 ISO. The exposure was mostly done using false colors and waveform.
There were clear conditions for the choice of location. It should be a concert location with a rig, lamps and a operating light desk, as there is only half a day of pre- lighting and we did not have the capacity to start from scratch. The Lido agreed with us and there we could use everything that was hanging in the rig that was urgently needed to get up to par. A kind of catwalk for the camera was set up in front of the Lido stage, so that the camera car could be used in more total settings.
The shotlist contained about 40 shots and 3 different light setups, total time a maximum of 12 hours - pretty ambitious. Since the shooting schedule also had to adapt to the slowness of the camera, all the same settings for the respective mood were combined. So we started with the long shots, then all the medium shots, etc. Since we only had half a day of assembly, we could only react to a limited extent in the event of any unplanned surprises. Actually, far too little time for this experiment. Therefore, the pressure on me increased a little more than usual that day, because I was responsible for this idea and it had to work.
We positioned the camera at the end of the catwalk and gaffer Sampo and desk operator Benjamin Blum were able to start setting up the light. The inspiration for the light were the silent films by Robert Wiene and the Art Deco photographs by the Czech photographer Frantisek Drtikol. Hard light, sharp shadows and lots of backlight. The long shots in particular were a big challenge. Due to the strong vignetting of the screen, our plan was to illuminate the sides a little more in order to limit the transitions into black and also to have more (technical) information on the edges. However, it quickly became clear to us that the more light we give at the edge (regardless of whether it is punctiform or flat), the more light is bundled in the middle of the screen. That meant that we would actually have to increase the basic level significantly in order to get any information in the marginal area and to develop it from there.
Never before have I experienced such a creative and technical difference between close and long shots, two absolutely different worlds. So it was time to think about how to proceed and to look for other solutions.
At the end of the prep day I told Zoran about the problem of the light intensity of the long shots and we decided not to work against the weak points of the 'Stella', but to reinforce the characteristics. What is black stays black. As a result, the staging had to be changed a little and took place less in the width (of the stage), but more in depth, which meant that the focus in the take also had to be shifted, as the depth of field is very shallow. With this system, the focus area and the entire bellows including the lens, must be moved. Thomas tried it and it actually worked, even if it cost some skin on Thomas' fingertips. The conversion to the close settings turned out to be less complicated than expected and in this we were able to make up a lot of time despite the complicated and expensive SFX mask. Every height or angle adjustment was very quick thanks to Thomas’s tent system.
Towards the end of the story the transformation of the protagonist takes place. To make this clear, we also wanted to change the quality of the light. So far we have lit with tungsten. Now we wanted to create the light mainly through light rays and the use modern lamps. By moving the keys of an organ, the protagonist is brought to life with electricity. The luminous 'power line' consisted of a 5m long, cold white COB LED hose from LED Concept, which could also be dimmed wirelessly. The light output is enormous thanks to a continuous phosphor layer and extremely dense equipment with 480 LEDs / m and complemented itself perfectly with the light of the stage. In addition, we wanted to give the protagonist a crown of light. For this we have positioned a Robe Megapointe (with a static gobo) directly behind her at a distance of about 3 meters so that her body covers the lamp and it looks as if she herself is starting to shine. The electricity causes Bonny to tremble and her movements are supposed to blur. The inspiration comes from a scene from the film 'Jacobs Lader'. For this moment we increased the exposure time to a maximum in order to create as much motion blur as possible.
Another highlight of this music video are the text panels. These were animated as placeholders during the editing process and then filmed manually as soon as the final cut was finished. Zoran designed the text boards, meticulously cut out each letter and glued it to foil so that we could light it from behind with a 500W light bulb (on a flicker box). The WE Studio provided us with the 'Stella' and a studio again. All in all, a lot of factors fit together perfectly in this video. The corpse paint of the two musicians Dennis and Clemens goes so well with the aesthetics of the video. The choice of cast with Bonny Zahara and the SFX body parts are an absolute match.
At this point I would also like to thank Zoran and the band, who gave me an incredible amount of trust for this experiment. It is very inspiring to try something that you may not know exactly how and if it works. The courage to (potential) failure is something very important to me, because there are always solutions for everything anyway and without this curiosity no creative progress is possible.
Regisseur Zoran Bihac about his Franckensteina - Konstantin (Kosta) Minnich journey
When I heard the song, I immediately thought of Caligari. It's black metal, but over-dramatic to the point of absurd, even somehow funny. Coincidentally, this year is also Caligari's centenary, and the Film Museum has a nice exhibition about it. I started doing a kind of storyboard in this style, everything should be inspired by this aesthetic. I know this topic has been dealt with umpteen times, and this aesthetic was often used. But I wanted to pay homage to this topic, not just copy it. I also wanted to bring 2 ideas into one thing. Not only the Franckenstein theme, but also visually show what it's like when you're electrified. As an inspiration for this, I thought of the Jacobs Ladder Effect. When the head moves so fast it's just a whisker. (Great in-camera effect).
When I presented the first drawings to Kosta, he was already “lit” and I was relieved. Until his call came.
"Zoran, I have an idea that goes really well with the film". I already suspected it, another young DOP who wants to tell me how great and authentic it is to shoot on film. The grain ... the look ... yes yes, everything is right. But annoying. Especially in the low budget area. I shot all of my stuff on film in the 90s. But no, Kosta came up with a completely different idea. And then I was "lit
We freaked out during the tests, and the adage that the most important thing is which glass is in front of the camera just holds true. Not only did we have a glass, but also a huge wooden box. I remembered the beautiful Caligari model from the set from the exhibition, where I also went with the band to show them the feeling of the times and the aesthetics. These huge cameras, taking up so much space. The world must revolve around them. Our world too. We had to tell the whole plan, the whole film, like a photo booth. Well, it wasn't that bad, because our resources were really very limited. So we kept everything as minimalist and abstract as possible. So that you don't have to tell a shot and a reverse shot in a logical spatial manner, but purely expressively. We built our little universe around our camera.
And thanks to Julia Patey, producer and 1st AD (as in any other project like this), we managed to complete the whole shoot in the planned 12 hours. I have to say that not only is my heart and soul put into it, but that of the entire team in all areas. From the great actress Bonny, SFX, make-up or costume, edit and VFX, everyone really went to great lengths. As I write this, we're still in the editing process. The grading that we will do at Deli will be an interesting parameter, because I think that it will be nice to keep the balance between what you can see and what you can no longer see. Decisions. I'm looking forward to.
I also have to say that the sympathy and enthusiasm of the musicians, their support and above all their patience helped me a lot, for which I am very grateful. It doesn't work without that. That's why this genre of music videos is immortal for me. I think Dr. Franckenstein also would have said it like this!
Directed by Zoran Bihac
Produced by Julia Patey
Cinematography by Konstantin Minnich
Featuring Bonny Zahara
Edited by Rob Myers
SFX by Christiane Rüdebusch
Hair & Makeup by Jenny Arlt
Costume Design by Tanja Jesek
Set Design by Fez Wrecker
1st AC Thomas Ammann
Gaffer Sampo Lüttge Lido
Lighting Operator Benjamin Blum
Set Photographer Krousky Peutebatre-pictures
Corona Officer Marian Dorbic
Location Torsten Brandt at Lido
Location Manager Linda Reichenbach
VFX by Jonathan Neukirch
Post-Production Supervisor Friedrich Sigmund at Deli Creative Collective
Colorist Timo Belitz
Online Andreas Schmidt
Studio Location: WE Studio
Music mixed/mastered by Robert Carranza (Marilyn Manson)