During pre-production, I remember DP, Philippe Le Sourd getting in touch with me regarding the best format to use on this commercial. He was shooting with the Alexa and wanted to know if they should shoot ProRes or ARRIRAW. I strongly suggested ARRIRAW considering the amount of post that was involved and also the greater details in highlights and lows. But at the time, the ARRIRAW was a lot more expensive to work with throughout production and post.
During the first session, we referenced a few spots that Fabien Baron had directed: Giorgio Armani 'Acqua Di Gio' and Calvin Klein 'Collection'. These references were used more as a warm up, as the Encounter spot was a new fragrance so we needed to have a new vision and look for this product.
The sweet spot is hard to get but by slowly adjusting the curve you'll find it
- Damien Van Der Cruyssen -
A visual treat
From the beginning, Fabien's vision was to make a scene that could have been taken from a movie. A visual treat more than a commercial. The color palette was found pretty quickly, and I think the palette is what makes it special.
The main objective was to make a very moody and interesting look that was sensual and mysterious but not menacing or scary. It's a very dark spot and what I would call a silvery night. The amount of saturation is very low and the colors are very restricted, yet not monochromatic.
As per Fabien's vision, this should look like a sequence taken from a movie so the look had to be very unified and consistent throughout the spot. I usually use the snapshot function or wipe every shot with the master reference shot, to make sure they all stay consistent. It's important to always have a sort of double proof, so I use the hero beauty shot to match everything and then I use the surrounding shots to check the consistency.
I work mostly on Baselight, and I started the session without pre-balancing the shots. We established the look on a few shots and then matched it all.
Sometimes I'll use the AlexaV3_ K1S1_Log to Rec709 LUT, but on this, I probably used a film grade or curve to get the Log to Rec709 stretch. The curve controls are insanely powerful, and when not using a LUT, this is where I do my main look. I also use curves at the back end when doing minor tweaks because it's more precise than the video grade or film grade.
To me separate passes are something from the past and the last resort
- Damien Van Der Creuyssen -
I think the level of darkness was the most challenging part of this job. The amount of contrast and black level were adjusted and changed so that it would play nicely on multiple platforms. We had four sessions where we went back and forth with the levels. Playing it safe and lifting the blacks was not a solution, and we certainly didn't want to lose details and have the picture completely buried.
We wanted the skin tones very desaturated so it would fit very well with the dark grey night, and they were isolated in every shot to be matched as close as possible. I used a Lum to Lum S-curve, kept the blacks dark and stretched the gamma. The sweet spot is hard to get but by slowly adjusting the curve you'll find it.
I used the curve to clip the highlights at a low level using a luminance curve in both the background and the skin tone, which is the reason why it looks very silvery. But it's a controlled clipping so for some elements I added another layer unclipped to add a bit of shine. I think it fits the mood very well, but it's very unusual for an American beauty/fragrance brand. I also enhanced the contrast in her hair and lifted the skin tones a bit.
I only remember one exterior shot where we used a window and a few key frames, and that was because Fabien wanted to increase the headlights on a rock when the car arrives at the house.
On beauty work, we tend to over analyze and put windows everywhere. At the same time, I hate when clients walk in my room asking for three different passes before we've even graded the first shot. To me, separate passes are something from the past and the last resort. The picture will always look better in one pass.
Damien Van Der Cruyssen
All images and clips copyright © 2016 Baron + Baron