Last night was a big deal. 12 PMW-F3’s shooting the legendary pop band Duran Duran. Back in the 80’s DD were one of the first bands to embrace the video age with ground breaking, big budget films to accompany their top 10 singles that were very different to anything done before. I have to admit I was and still am a big fan. Back in April, I had a discussion with my good friend Den Lennie about possibly shooting a Duran Duran concert with F3’s. That led to a trip to Berlin in May to shoot the band at a small concert, however, lead Singer Simon LeBon had vocal problems and the entire tour got postponed at the last minute.
We were fully rigged at the venue, ready to go when we got the last minute call that it was off. This was very disappointing. Despite a second attempt to stage the show, it never went ahead and that was about the last I heard.
Being a Duran fan, I went to see them in concert at Birmingham about 2 weeks ago. It was a fantastic gig and the whole family had a great night out. As I watched the amazing light show, I thought to myself that it was a great shame that this was not being recorded.
Then almost out of the blue I get a phone call from Den Lennie and James Tonkin of Hangman Studios. The question was… Did I think we could shoot a Duran Duran concert with just 7 days to prepare? Of course I said yes and having seen the show, I recommended that we should try to make it happen. So James and Den got together with Director Gavin Elder who has been working with Duran Duran since 2003 and the magic started to happen. Just 48 hours latter I got a message from Den to say we were on! My task was to look after most of the technical aspects of the shoot, things like camera settings, picture profiles etc.
Now, I could tell you all about the tech issues that we discovered during the recce we did when we went to a gig at the O2 arena in London, but sadly you’ll have to wait. Den, James, Gavin and myself will be doing a full write up of how we made the choices we made and some of the many challenges that a concert shoot with super 35mm cameras throw up. I can tell you, it’s not as easy as a traditional OB, not in any way. But when you start pairing up Sony F3’s with 1000mm, yes 1m, lenses, beautiful Arri Alura 18-80mm and Optimo 24-290mm lenses, shooting an incredibly dynamic light show at a massive sell-out arena concert, I think you can see why this project was so exciting!
Everyone pulled out all the stops. Changes were made to the gig lighting and I created a picture profile to match. Audio was worked to perfection and the band put a massive amount of extra energy into the performance with the end result of an electrifying atmosphere and from what I’ve seen so far, jaw dropping images. This is one of those incredibly rewarding projects that I’ll remember for a long, long time.
Den and James did an incredible job organising kit lists, camera plans and crew lists. I’m sure they will tell their own story in due course.
It’s interesting to note that as DoP, Den’s main role was an organisational role and this is something often forgotten, a Director of Photography is not just a cinematographer, but also an organiser, arranger, overseer of the cinematography. I think the term DoP is often miss-used these days often simply being used as a fancy term for cinematographer or camera operator. A true DoP does not shoot, the camera operator does that. The DoP, directs the camera operators and directs the lighting crew to produce images to his or her satisfaction.
The final Duran Duran film is going to be distributed many ways, some of which I’m really excited about, but I can’t say more at this time. I hope you will all get a chance to see it. At this stage it is still to be edited, graded etc. James and Gavin will be working hard overseeing that stage of the production.
My role.. camera setup, creating a custom picture profile, helping on lens and kit choices, on site tech support and then operating one of the two PMW-F3’s using a B4 to s35mm adapter along with big ENG zooms. I used one of the MTF B4 to s35 adapters that I designed along with a Canon 10 to 400mm zoom. When you add the 2.5x magnification factor of the adapter system that equates to a 25mm to 1000mm zoom. My role was to shoot the close ups of lead singer Simon LeBon from the Front of House area, 160ft from the stage. With such a long lens the DoF was tiny and the shoot was hard work, but incredibly rewarding.
I promise that there will be a much more in depth write up in the future from Den, James and myself covering all aspects of the project as well as a full behind the scenes video (we had a crew shooting BTH footage). Watch this space!