American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 16

Short Takes

I

Fatherly Fireworks
By Peter Tonguette

A handheld camera, shakily positioned low to the ground,
captures a rickety white car driving toward a seemingly abandoned
industrial area. Late-afternoon sun flares the lens and backlights the
dust turned up by the car's tires. In successive shots, a 30-something
man with a three-day beard and a ratty T-shirt gets out and peers into
the backseat, where his young daughter is fast asleep. He throws
open the trunk, pulls out several bags and empties the contents on
a blanket laid out hastily on the arid ground. The action is swift and
the images seem to ask as many questions as they answer.
The music of British band London Grammar provides some
clues to the curious viewer, but ultimately it is the work of cinematographer Autumn Durald and director Sam Brown that tells the
tale in the music video for the song "Strong." The man has come to
this vacant area - surrounded by tall barbed-wire fences and rows
of squatty buildings - to don an armor-like "fireworks suit" that
looks like something out of RoboCop, and light up the night sky with
a dance of pyrotechnics for his daughter.
"This is a music video," Durald comments, "but it's also like a
short film. You want to know what their life is before they get there,
and what happens after." This speculative feeling is supported by the
inquisitive, handheld camerawork. "Sam wanted the camera to have
that energy," the cinematographer notes.
16

November 2013

From the start, Durald - who studied art history at Loyola
Marymount University before receiving her MFA in cinematography
from the American Film Institute in 2009 - found herself on the
same page as Brown. The director had prepared very specific storyboards, and he wanted to fill the video with small details, such as the
moment when the daughter clutches her father's shirt as he carries
her beneath a viaduct to the site where the fireworks show will take
place. "The boards were brilliant," Durald enthuses. "Sam has an
amazing sense of visual style, and those shots tell the story so well."
The filmmakers decided to shoot with two cameras, a Red
Epic and a Vision Research Phantom Flex. The Epic was the main
camera throughout the three-day production, which was primarily
shot on and around Los Angeles' Fourth Street Bridge, and for the
climactic fireworks display, it was operated between 96-120 fps
while the Phantom Flex captured images from 560-1,000 fps.
Based in part on her admiration for Brown's previous work,
Durald suggested they shoot "Strong" with anamorphic lenses.
"Sam did a BMW spot that I'm just in love with, and it was shot
anamorphic," the cinematographer explains. "He was obviously
familiar with the format, and when I mentioned it to him, he was
already thinking the same thing."
Durald turned to Panavision Hollywood for the production's
optics, which included de-tuned C Series and Ultra Speed Golden
Panatar lenses. Both types of lenses, Durald notes, "are lower contrast and have more falloff from top to bottom and side to side. ➣

American Cinematographer

Photos by Drew Dawson. Photos and frame grabs courtesy of the filmmakers.

Cinematographer Autumn Durald captured this climactic fireworks display for London Grammar's music video for "Strong."



American Cinematographer - November 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - November 2013

Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 1
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 2
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 3
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 4
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 6
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 7
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American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 11
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