The music video business is not what it used be and that’s no secret. With ever shrinking budgets and increasing demands for slicker and glossier pop promos than ever before, cinematographers and music video directors are often faced with the challenge of picking the right camera for the job that will fit into the budget. And while there’s still a very small portion of big budget music videos being produced – mainly for multi-platinum selling artists signed to big labels with deep pockets, where often the production scale for such music videos can sometimes rival that of entire feature films, more often than not a simple idea, beautifully executed, can deliver similar results with a “big budget, glossy feel“, while being produced on a much smaller budget.
Filmmaker Ben Thornley of Sitcom Soldiers has done just this for Welsh rock band Feeder’s long awaited new single, Eskimo, combining a stunning silhouette shoot using the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K PL with expressive geometric overlays made in post to emphasize the song’s epic drama.
As the A-cam on the studio shoot, the URSA Mini 4.6K PL was used in a stripped back Steadicam set up, which was crucial to the un-intrusive feel Thornley needed to capture the band’s raw performances. According to the filmmaker, the decision to use Blackmagic’s camera was made due to the URSA Mini’s excellent image quality and ease of use as well as its form factor and weight.
When asked to sum up his experience with the URSA, Thornley replied:
“I’ve used the camera for many shoots now, and I’m recommending it on almost every job. We’ve used it in conjunction with Alexa and RED cameras many times, and I always find we’re trying to match the look of the URSA Mini rather than the other way around. Image quality is absolutely incredible.”
To achieve the silhouette aesthetic, studio lighting during the shoot involved using several 2Ks bounced off poly board onto a cove to create a softer look.“This provided enough light to crank the shutter up,” Thornley explains.
“I also pushed another 1K behind the band to create a soft back light, picking out various details. Finally, we used a 300W with a little CTB punching right into the lens for some extra flare. Everything was fed through dimmers and controlled by our Gaffer through an Avolite desk. We wanted the ebb and flow of the song to come through in the visuals, so we modified our lighting quite frequently throughout to complement different parts of the track.”
As well as the changing lighting, a variety of lenses were also used to give the silhouettes in the music video more texture, including a 35mm T1.5 Samyang XEEN cine prime, a wide-angle Tokina zoom, and a vintage Russian Helios 58mm lens from the 60s in conjunction with a prism. Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC was the NLE of choice for post work, and each shot was layered with extra textures and particles using After Effects to create the music video’s geometric overlays.
“As can be expected from a Blackmagic, the resultant files were great to grade,” adds Thornley. “On the day of shooting, we ensured everything appeared completely silhouetted on the in camera monitor. Because we were using an URSA Mini 4.6K with 15 stops of dynamic range, though, there was no loss of detail in film mode. This offered us some interesting alternatives to a full silhouette when we were in post production, which was really creatively liberating.”
Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Features
- 4.6K Super 35 sensor
- PL mount or EF mount version
- 15 Stops of Dynamic Range
- 4.6K CinemaDNG Raw up to 60p, RAW 3:1 and RAW 4:1
- Apple ProRes 444XQ to Proxy in UHD and FHD
- 120fps Super-Slow motion (sensor crop mode)
- Lightweight and perfectly balanced for handheld use
- 12G-SDI connections
- 5” fold out Full HD Touchscreen monitor
- Ergonomic Side Grip with camera control functions
- Dual CFast card slots
- 2 x XLR inputs
- Full HD OLED EVF available as optional accessory
Check out some more awesome behind the scenes photographs by Jon Shard from the music video shoot below.
The URSA Mini 4.6K is now available from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide such as B&H and Adorama, and the new camera OS (as featured in Camera Update 4.0) announced at NAB, complete with an improved user interface and better camera performance is now in public beta. Let us know what you think of this new footage in the comments below.
I’m personally a big fan of the URSA Mini 4.6K and in case you want to read my “mini” hands-on review of the EF version of the URSA Mini 4.6K and see some footage I shot you can head over here and read this article.
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