Canon Artworks – a Canon HDSLR commercial from @stillmotion

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You've seen several posts about Patrick Moreau from @stillmotion and I know this one will be just as interesting because we get to know more about Canon Artworks and how Patrick and his crew put together this Canon ad with Canon HDSLRs. He also sent a BTS video which we all love to see!

Redrock Micro

The commercial

canon artworks commercial // a wedding film + produced commercial from stillmotion on Vimeo.

Here's the info that Patrick (who likes to go by just “P.”) sent us about the shoot.

P. on the overall project

when canon approached us about a new product they were set to release and asked us to create a film that made people really connect with their product, it sounded like the perfect fit for us. due to the christmas season fast approaching, they had a very aggressive timeline of three weeks to produce, storyboard, cast, write, shoot, and edit the entire piece. the product they have since launched is a handcrafted oil-brushed painting. the customer can send in their photo and an artist will paint your image onto canvas by hand. the concept, which is discussed below, that we ended up going for involved a wedding, so naturally we thought to find a wedding couple of ours that would be interested in being this family, and from there we could pull footage from their film. we had two days to film this entire piece; one with the actors, and one at the studio where the paintings are created. with such a tight timeline, we had to be very quick in lighting, shooting, and moving onto our next scene. we also had to be cognizant of the wedding footage we want to pull so that we could blend that in as seamlessly as possible. to pull things off in such a tight timeline, we needed a solid concept, storyboard, and the right tools.

it is something pretty special for us to produce this commercial and be able to have wedding footage blend in with the produced parts, which is somewhat reminiscent of the city of lakes film I was DP for last year.


tatjana on the creative side

how we positioned the idea:

we brainstormed a few directions this could go in, one of the main ideas was to emphasize the time and love that is invested in creating these paintings. another would be to showcase the handcrafted element in the creation of these paintings and juxtapose that to how people in life spend time creating and crafting their own moments by hand with love.

we decided to combine the two ideas of handcrafted and love signified in a single moment. we did this by thinking of a storyline and timeline within a single family that could showcase these various moments throughout a lifetime. Picking three distinct elements that would display this, we chose; building a house with your father's help and guidance, getting married to the person you love and cherish most, and celebrating your child's birthday together with family. we also chose our characters carefully in keeping the flow of imagery in mind – the father builds the house with his son, the son gets married to his lovely wife, his wife then bakes the cake for their child's birthday. all moments that have been invested in with heart and hands.

the execution:

after the direction was in place we itemized a shot list and created a rough draft of the storyline and how images would work with a potential VO. from there, visual compositions were drawn out in a storyboard to exemplify how transition and ideas could be portrayed for best use of camera angles.

the edit and script

once the visuals were captured to the flow of the storyboard, our script was easier to apply and edit so that the entire story both on a visual and audio level would make sense and pacing could take it's course to entice emotional peaks throughout the piece. of course things never go as planned, so some of our transitions planned int he storyboard didn't make it all the way through, but we also discovered new ones along the way. having the storyboard gave us so much more room to be prepped and then adapt how we needed.

joyce on the tech side

this piece was mostly shot on the Canon EOS-1D MKIV along with a bit of the Canon EOS 7D on tripod, monopod and slider. adding dynamic movement to any piece can be a great storytelling tool and the slider is great way to do just that. here we tracked the brush with the slider as the artist moved the brush across the table, matching her movement in the frame and in a sense bringing the artworks process to life. similarly we wanted to bring the viewer into the scene where they are hammering on the deck but to do that we had to get very low to the ground where the action was. one of the things i like most about the cinevate atlas30 is the ability to shoot underslung. we actually removed the legs and just rested the end blocks on apple boxes so that we can quickly go between standard and underslung mode throughout both shoot days. there is a drawback as you can't use the slider by itself without the legs, but with a set of full, half and quarter apple boxes we were able to set the slider to the desired height very quickly. having multiple boxes and setting them up in various orientations — flat, standing up, on its side — got us what we needed in places tripods often can't get to, giving us greater creative capacity to get truly unique shots. while not recommended by the manufacturer, you can actually use the slider without legs and have it stand on the kip handles. in a tight situation where your leg-less, it works well.


canon artworks behind the scenes from stillmotion on Vimeo.

the slider by itself is great but when you add another layer of camera movement, say sliding and pulling focus simultaneous, you're also adding to the overall production value of the piece. the dolly shot where we rack focused from father to son inside the shed really pulls the between the different elements going on, but it's effectiveness is dependent on nailing that focus. you can imagine having to turn the focus ring on the lens while also pushing the slider would put your hands in an awkward position and easily affect the fluidity of the shot. by using a follow focus we had our hands in a much better ergonomic position and that helped put us in a more comfortable position to pull focus while sliding. however that still leaves the challenge of hitting focus. follow focus units often gives the user the option to mark shots, but having to look for a mark while sliding and watching the lcd means you'd have to keep your eyes on multiple things, making an already complicated shot even more difficult. so how did we get around this? we used the cyclops viewfinder's large display to magnify the screen and help us nail focus. this way we can monitor the overall framing of the slide while pulling focus without having to take our eyes off the lcd. this really helps us nail a rack focus with just one or two takes and that is critical when working with non-actors or children who won't give you the same performance after one or two takes.


while we are on the topic of viewfinders, i want to mention that we used both the cinevate cyclops and zacuto z-finder on set. the cyclops works great when you're on a tripod or slider, but on monopod it makes the rig quite top heavy and that is where i find the z-finder to be a better fit. the large display on the cyclops means you can be some distance away and still be able to check focus making it ideal for say a slider shot where you want to limit the contact points with the rig to facilitate a smoother slide. however the opposite is true for monopod or shoulder rig work where an extra contact point via the z-finder would help stabilize the shot so we keep both units on set and use them where it makes the most sense.

viewfinders are also great at blocking out glare in bright sunlight, but filming outdoors brings all kinds of other challenges. the weather is often unpredictable and unfavorable as was the case for us. the whole idea was based off a narrative about special life events that evoked a warm feel but when we showed up on set it was snowing. since the sky was gray and white with snowflakes we worked around the weather by shooting some inside scenes until it stopped snowing, but even when it stopped everything still felt very cold. with a limited timeframe we didn't have the luxury to wait for the sun to come out so we used an HMI to bring in some light and warmth back into the scene, allowing us to set the tone and feel we were looking for. we also ran our white balance a little higher on the kelvin side to warm up the image in camera. of course the weather would change again mid-day with the sun coming out and we were faced with a different dilemma, finding a happy medium on a wide shot such that both the sky and the subjects are well exposed. if you split the difference and pick a middleground, you often just end up with a slightly overexposed sky and a slightly underexposed subject. if you expose for one, you'd sacrifice the other. since we wanted to get it just right, we decided to use a mattebox and filter. it was a commercial spot so we had the rig all setup and was able to quickly drop in a standard 4×4 tiffen grad ND filter in the mattebox to bring everything together, pulling back the sky and smoothly blending it into the rest of the frame.

there's always more than one way to do things so i'd love to hear any insight you might have on the creative use of your shooting tools. sure in the end gear is just a means to an end, but having the right tools for your production just makes it that much easier to execute your concepts and makes you infinitely more flexible.

About StillMotion

stillmotion will be a keynote speaker at IN[FOCUS] this january in new orleans. they will also be speaking for canon at PPA this january and will be doing a platform talk about connecting with what you do at WPPI in february. for more about all of stillmotion's educational offerings, including their 3-day workshop the evo experience, check out

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