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Technical

Tailor made:
shooting a campaign for Aston Martin by Hackett

© Clive Booth

October 2016

Top commercial photographer, filmmaker and Canon Explorer Clive Booth has spent years refining a digital workflow that secures quality from capture to print. And finally, in a shoot for clothing brand Hackett with its new Aston Martin collection (which you can watch by clicking the image above) he feels he has cracked it, as he explains to CPN Editor David Corfield…

Clive is a fan of good coffee. And moments before we begin our interview he asks me to pause while he attends to his rather complicated Barista Express. The wait, he assures me, is worth it. “I just like things done right,” he apologises. “I’m a stickler for quality and design; my wife despairs of me as I spend far too long looking into how things work and how they are created. But, this is bloody good coffee…”

It’s this passion for detail that sets Clive apart from his peers. Not for him a few sketches on the back of a notepad. In Clive’s world the execution and delivery of a top-class commercial shoot starts with ‘The Treatment’. This little piece of industry jargon is what creatives refer to as ‘notes’. And for Clive his treatment is almost as special as the shoot itself. He explains…

“I spend weeks on it. My background as a graphic designer means I feel the need to do it all properly. That means layout, references, typefaces, and images… I put so much of myself into a treatment and I do dozens of them a year, not all of them seeing the light of day either…”

This particular job, though, was very much a goer. “I teamed up with a colleague and old friend of mine, Bill Waters, who was approached by the clothing brand Hackett,” Clive reveals. “Bill [a respected photographer, DoP and Director in his own right] already had a relationship with Hackett and wanted to bring me on board and for us to do ‘a whole number’ for them. I don’t think Hackett would mind me saying this, but they gave us a brief and we didn’t follow it. They originally asked for a travelogue style film but when I discovered they were producing a range of Aston Martin branded clothing and had Aston’s new DB11 car as part of the promotion I realised that here was a very unique opportunity to do something pretty special.”

© Canon Europe

Please click on the image above to watch a behind the scenes film and learn more about Clive’s preparation for the shoot using the new EOS C700 digital cinema camera.

Clive continues: “Budgets were tight, as they always are these days, but we were very lucky to get Tommy Dunn, who Hackett had already secured for the campaign. Tommy is one of the best male models in the world and I didn’t think we would get a model of that calibre, because whoever modelled for us needed to act, too. Fortunately for us, Tommy has done some big commercials with many famous actresses and big names such as Keira Knightley, Chanel and all sorts. We came up with the idea of him being in this very lovely Chelsea apartment in London and being met by his valet who helps him try the Hackett clothes on. And then he sees this Aston Martin in the street and this leads into some little flashbacks and dream sequences. Later we find out that it’s not his valet but a member of the Hackett staff and it’s not his apartment but the Regent street flagship store. A classic misdirection. So once we knew we had the talent right, rather than a travelogue approach we thought it would be interesting to create a really classic piece of advertising.”

Planning and preparation

What started out as a cool piece of film very quickly took on ever-bigger proportions as the nature of the shoot – and the client requests – evolved. The film led to a stills shoot, which then led to the all-important look book. And at the heart of all this, Clive realised that Canon was the essential connection that linked every stage of the campaign.

“The film we intended to make had overtones of Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair and that time period and all those styling cues that went with it gave us a look and feel that we wanted to capture in the present day. We wanted to recreate that opulence and style.”

The attention to detail was very important to Clive. If you look carefully in the film you’ll see a classic Canon rangefinder (“a nod to Canon”) a Barista coffee machine (“my own, actually”), a picture of an Aston Martin DB2 on the wall, photography books on the coffee table and Technics record deck… all these elements were important to Clive, almost as important as the clothes themselves. And Canon’s new EOS C700 along with the C300 Mark II, ME200S-SH and EOS-1D X Mark II were fundamental in capturing all this detail beautifully in – mostly – available light.

© Canon Europe

Legendary grip Kenneth Atherfold (centre) is a stalwart of the British film industry and was brought in to rig the Aston Martin DB11 with the ME200S-SH video camera for moving shots.

“Bill and I co-directed and we had quite a large crew including stylists, grooming, DoP, digital tech, Gaffer, Assistants and Steadicam operator and then on grip we had Kenneth Atherfold who is a legend and one of the most famous grips in the world,” Clive recalls. “His first movie was 2001: A Space Odyssey and he’s done more or less every James Bond film from Roger Moore era to [Daniel Craig in] Skyfall. Plus he’s also rigged more Aston Martins than anyone else. He pitched up for one day, rigged the car really quickly, and gave us the perfect angles we wanted.”

“Chris Clarke was the DoP on the shoot and he was using the EOS C700, which was a pre-production version and I think the only one in the world at that time. In a project of this size I have to distance myself from the kit and concentrate on directing. It’s all about finding the right people for the job and Chris and I had worked on an RNLI project before and got on really well. Plus I liked his approach. If you have got an ambitious shot list, actors and a performance you don’t want to be bogged down with the technical. That’s really important and that’s why Chris was brought in.”

© Canon Europe

Please click on the image above to discover more about Clive’s use of the EOS C700, C300 Mark II, the ME200S-SH HD video camera and EOS-1D X Mark II during the making of the film.

Clive continues: “The EOS C700 was brought in from Japan a few days day before so we had very little time to get to know it. But because we are all familiar Canon users anyway, it was less of a concern. It’s a Canon workflow and also Chris has used the C300 Mark II a lot so he was used to the system. But I made his life very difficult technically as I wanted the film all shot in available light so he was shooting from shadow to highlight in the same frame. Thankfully the C700 has a very high dynamic range and we shot in 4K RAW, which is my preference for any shoot. The camera was a PL mount version so we used a selection of Cinema EOS primes and zooms plus EF zooms and primes on the C300 Mark IIs and the ME200S-SH that was rigged to the car for the moving shots. With the exception of that, everything else was shot in 4K.”

The shoots and the workflow

While Clive gets involved in every stage of a shoot, from capture to final film, he’s a stickler for getting it right in camera as much as possible. “You try to do as much as you can in the capture,” he explains. “To me the capture is absolutely critical. In an ideal world I would shoot in Canon 4K RAW every time because what you find is that with 4K compressed, when you come to grade you haven’t got the latitude or the same amount of data. So you must get as much in the capture as you can. It’s so much about the detail, not forgetting the performance of course, but we spent months absorbed in locations, looking at light at certain times of day, working out camera angles and positions. So when we went in there with our shot list we knew exactly when and where we were going to go and what we were going to get. That’s especially helpful with those 4am starts…” he quips.

“Codex managed all the data and the grade was done there too. The offline edit was done in Soho with my editor of the last six years Tristram Edwards and the only proxy files were from the C700; everything else was native through Adobe Premiere,” he explains. “It took us five days to edit and two days to grade and another day of VFX. I like to edit as soon as possible – the sooner you get in the edit suite the better because you have lived that capture side and you know which shots were working.”

“What was really helpful was the soundtrack for this shoot,” he reveals. “The music was specially composed by Max Perryment and it really helped when it came to the edit. When you edit generally, you have music in mind all the time and sometimes you can become wedded to a reference track from a really famous composer that would cost far too much to use in reality. We worked really closely with Max to arrive at a great piece of music that has all the cues from the jazz greats we love but which had its own unique feel and this really helped us when it came to cutting the film together in the edit. It meant we could cut to the actual music we were going to use. That speeded up the process no end.”

© Nick Tydeman

Behind the scenes at the Aston Martin headquarters in Warwickshire, UK, which was transformed into a makeshift studio for Clive Booth to shoot the Hackett look book.

All this attention to detail can often come at a price, but Clive was prepared to stand up for his vision. “The most important thing to remember is that you really must fight for the integrity of your idea,” he warns. “We were lucky on this shoot because Aston Martin loved it immediately and Hackett signed off more or less straight away bar a couple of details. But as a rule you have to be prepared to stand your ground. For me I like to have a narrative and in a project like this I felt it was important. From the initial treatment to the final delivered film we handled the entire project; it was just the client and us. What I’m most proud of is that the final film follows our original treatment and that is very rare.”

The stills shoot

When Clive was talking to Hackett about making the film, he worked closely with the designers of the clothing collection. “We noticed the detailing in the clothes matched the detail in the car and we worked hard to include this into the film. So understanding what it is that you are trying to do and immersing yourself in the brand and the product was so important. It was mentioned that Hackett wanted to do a look book and immediately I suggested that we do it. Bill and I both felt uncomfortable with the thought of another photographer getting involved in our shoot and that’s when I suggested Canon come on board with the print side of things. It dawned on me to shoot the look book at the Aston Martin headquarters, making our own studio in its foyer in Gaydon where we would be on site and have access to everything we needed. We then thought to bring Canon in with an imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and make proof prints on the spot. That way we could totally control the look and feel.”

© Nick Tydeman

Please click on the image above to hear Clive Booth describe the printing process used in the makeshift studio at the Aston Martin headquarters and how it was key to the look and feel of the Hackett look book.

He continues: “We lit the DB11 car with flash and also HMIs and used an EOS 5DS, 5DS R and 1D X Mark II with a retoucher on-site to work on the images with the client straight away. We assembled a load of polyboards and – rather self-indulgently – started printing off the images and displaying them as they came off the printer. We were banging out these big A1 prints and everybody was amazed at the quality from the 5DS and 5DS R. The shoot started at 5pm and finished at 5am…”

“We had quite a crew,” he recalls. “But a big production like this needs the right people involved. For me as a photographer and filmmaker it was a dream job. A real one-in-a-million. And to have access to all the latest cameras and equipment from Canon was fantastic. We overdelivered massively but I was happy with that. I’d much rather overdeliver than underdeliver.”

“And finally, to complete the process, we finished off the delivery by printing the look book for Hackett on the Canon imagePRESS system. The beauty of the Canon system is that these books can be printed and personalised bespoke. Unlike litho, which run on big volumes, you can print individually on the Canon system but still get the same quality of litho. I can’t think of a better example of an input to output workflow, and I can’t think of another company that could have done this from capture to print.”

© Nick Tydeman

Please click on the image above to hear Clive Booth describe the printing of the Hackett look book using Canon’s imagePRESS printing system.

Clive’s special relationship with Canon and his production partners such as Codex (data workflow), Pixiepixel (lighting) and Nice Biscuits (Online and VFX) means he is specially placed to enjoy total control from the beginning to the end of a production. He has assembled an incredible knowledge of lighting, colour-managed print workflow and, of course, creative capture. “I’m very fortunate to have the right people working with me,” he admits, “none more so than my manager and producer Mark George, who takes care of the business side of things which leaves me to focus on what I do best. For me, this was an incredible opportunity to showcase not just the technology but also work with Bill and work as a close-knit team. It was, in many ways, a dream job. But I tell you what, I drank a lot of coffee…”

Biography: Clive Booth

Clive Booth

Clive Booth is a fashion, beauty and portrait photographer, plus filmmaker. He is known for his distinctive style of selective focus in natural, available, continuous and found light, which gives his work an atmospheric, intimate and ethereal quality. He uses a huge array of Canon prime and selected zoom EF lenses, which can at times number anything from three to 15 per shoot depending on the subject matter. Clive’s move to the moving image was a direct result from the launch of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II in late 2008, shooting amongst the very first footage in the UK on a pre-production body. Recent commissions include ad campaigns, commercials and short films for George Michael, Asus, Intel, House of Amouage, H&M, Ernst & Young, Fiat, Shu Uemura and L’Oreal.



Showcase

Tommy Dunn at the wheel of the Aston Martin DB11, shot for the Hackett look book and lit with HMI tungsten lights. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/1.6, ISO 1000.

Showcase

Behind the scenes at the Aston Martin headquarters during the shoot for Hackett. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 47mm; the exposure was 1/60sec at f/4, ISO 1000.