Shooting Anamorphic on a RED Dragon

November 11, 2016
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The music video for Midnight Eternal’s “Signs of Fire” is deceptively simple. The band plays and the singer sings, and that’s about it. The visuals, though, are so dynamic that you’re never left without something compelling to look at. Each frame could function as a still image. Ashton J. Harrewyn (of Sharp Cheddar Films), the Director of Photography, says the key to video’s success was preparation.

BTS photos by George Chinchilla

“After Rodrigo [Orozco, the Director] shared the song and concept with me, we met to go over more specifics pertaining to style and approach - all the while, having this industrial space in mind. I love that Rodrigo is very detail orientated and specific with his vision. Before our location scout, Rod sent me plenty of reference images and music videos to watch with notes on what he liked about specific moments in each video. All of these videos were high-concept projects with big budgets! We were after similar production value but for a fraction of the cost… I think the shoot was a success because we were well-prepared going into it and had great department heads all around who were equally as prepared. Prior to the shoot, Rodrigo cut together a previz using different clips from the various music videos he had initially referenced. This was helpful to have on set because we could reference it on his iPad at anytime, if we needed.”

Getting the set ready.

Getting the location was just the first part of the preparation process. Ashton and Rodrigo had to make the space theirs so that, once the cameras started rolling, they wouldn't run into any problems.

"After the location scout, we knew a pre-light would be necessary. This included a big push from the loading dock, a tie-in, cable runs, lighting cues and tests, blocking the band members, setting points overhead and finding our wide frame for the main performance."

For their wide frame, they chose to shoot anamorphic. This was Ashton’s third collaboration with Rodrigo, but it was the first time they shot this way. It did more than help them get the most out of their space and fit all of the band members into one frame in a cinematic way. They rented their lenses on ShareGrid from David Kruta.

“The Lomo Anamorphic Square Front lenses are not modern, clean looking lenses, which I wanted to embrace - they bloom out a lot and give you some really unique flares. The other reason we went with anamorphic glass was because we wanted to take advantage of the horizontal field of view and the shallow depth of field, we hoped this would help in creating something more cinematic. It came in handy for the main performance because we were in a large space so could really spread the band members out and utilize the wide screen.”

ShareGrid created a lens test back in September which featured Lomo Anamorphics, Cookes, Super Speeds and a number of today's most popular glass. Check out the lens test here!

The music video was shot using the RED Dragon package that Ashton rents out on ShareGrid and they got the most out of it for this shoot. Due to budgetary constraints, they couldn’t lay down track, so they shot on a doorway dolly. Shooting in 6K, they were able to do a lot of stabilizing and reframing in post. Finally, the RED offered Ashton a color science that allowed him the freedom to adjust his grade in post with a lot of information. Inherently, some RED technology can be noisey in the shadows but Ashton was able to maintain a clean palette. One of the greatest benefits to using a set of low-contrast vintage lenses is just that, they are low-contrast. Thus giving you even more room in post to adjust your shadows and highlights. And this project is certainly no exception of how that was best-utilized.

Ashton and his team.

The result was a music video rich in images despite its singular location. Check it out below.


Don't forget to also check out Ashton's website here.

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Brent L Zaffino

I am a filmmaker out of Atlanta, Georgia currently working as a freelance director and videographer for music videos, short films, and corporate videos.

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