GAM commissioned a state of the art responsive light unit to sit in their main foyer of their new corporate HQ. Commercial interiors videography can be challenging at the best of times, but this project in particular was incredibly complex. The light itself consists of thousands of LEDs wired into a huge number of hexagonal frames. Then there is the extensive system of intelligent algorithms. The result is a unique light display which corresponds directly to the anonymised trades made by GAM. This is all working in real-time. Our film had to be both a showcase for the final build by DEG (Dynamic Environment Group) and a detailed record of the entire commissioning process – we were up for the challenge. We followed the journey from initial concept and build, to the final reveal.
So, What did the film need to include?
In short: interviews, computer-generated imagery and real-world footage of the working process. Suffice to say there were a lot of strands to tie together. Then there’s the important point of being able to turn the otherwise complicated aspects of this build in to something manageable for an audience. Better still, make it entertaining, and genuinely engaging. So where to start?…
Interviews – it’s all about timing
We all know that content is king. We also know that ‘time’ is a very real pressure even in a well-planned schedule. Therefore, wasting valuable time with interviewees wasn’t going to wash. Questions needed to be thoroughly thought out. That said, an inflexible script wouldn’t work either. After all, we didn’t want the film to feel contrived. Instead, it was simply about getting the right questions to the right people prior to interview. Put simply, we wanted to afford our interviewees the time to interrogate our questions so they could give thoughtful and considered responses ‘in the moment’.
For an editor, allowing for more time can be both a blessing and a curse. On the plus, an interviewee will feel more comfortable, and they’ll get over the stumbling blocks of feeling awkward, and ‘on the spot’. Moreover, more often than not it’ll result in some very heart-felt responses that would beat any script, any day. The downside is the sheer workload, a mountain of interviews to sift through individually, to compare and contrast the ‘best bits’, and compress..
Therefore, our biggest challenge was to weave together a journey, from the 9 hours of interviews to a 3-minute film – we had plenty to get on to.
Visuals and Creating a Narrative
Part of our brief was to reveal the final product at the very end of the film. The potential problem? In reality, even the most loyal online audience may not stick around long enough to see it. Watching a series of interviews and then CGI may just not be enough for them to be as invested in the ‘final reveal’ as you are. So, simply ‘tacking’ on the final product at the end wasn’t going to work. Afterall, this could be unsatisfying. But moreover, a missed opportunity.
Q. So, what’s the alternative?
A. Building intrigue into the narrative. We decided to hint to its final form throughout the film, helping to build intrigue and some feeling of direction.
In practice, this meant: collecting a lot of out-of-focus light-play and trips to the fabricators to document the varied stages of the manufacturing and development process. Naturally, it’s always important to get the safe wide shots down. However, for this project it felt even more essential for us to be playful with composition and to be more abstract with our framing. This way we use the footage through the film without ever giving anything too obvious away.
Introducing the location, 8 Finsbury Circus, was a different approach altogether. The site is a prestigious building for GAM’s new offices. Therefore we opted to shoot with a traditional architectural mindset. We combined architectural lenses such as wide-angle 17mm Tilt Shifts to fill the frame with the surroundings and establish the geography. With longer tighter shots, from 200mm lenses with wide-open apertures we could compress backgrounds and give an ethereal feel to the footage.
Behind-the-Scenes Filmed Honestly
To showcase the behind-the-scenes design work would usually mean the inclusion of a lot of computer generated imagery (CGI). However, we wanted to avoid this as much as possible. Raw CGI on screen by itself can often feel like an intrusion and/or sit uncomfortably alongside an otherwise people-lead film. After all, as an audience gets to know the interviewees the film becomes more personable. We see those actively involved in the manufacturing process etc. It can feel more ‘honest’ or unstaged, or uncurated. Splicing in digital elements on the other hand can read as remote, more ‘scripted’ and just a little odd. However, their work was still important to film. So, to counteract this? We decided to get together with the designer and coders and film documentary-style. We used over-the-shoulder shots of them tweaking with the code and algorithms that run the bespoke software.
The Big Reveal – Capturing the Product
Having built up a fantastic bank of imagery we could get to work on the film’s final structure. How? By using the interviews as our structural lynch pins to tie all the footage together.
Next, we refocused our attention again to the big reveal. Once installed we planned to shoot the display both in the day and night, to bring the model to life. Importantly, shooting during office day-light hours meant we could film the staff and visitors’ reactions to the new artwork. This was a key element. In addition to the reactions, dynamic moving shots were a must. We used a combination of stabilised camera rigs and sliders to bring some Hollywood movement into the mix! And, create some strong contrasts to the composed architectural visuals.
When the daylight faded, OPUS, the final name of the art piece, really came into its own. We got to shoot in tons of creative ways to really show off how the structure was illuminating itself and its surroundings; from a gentle slow twinkling glow to sudden almost pulse-like, chaotic surges.
With the final shots nailed and our main content now in the timeline, we turned to audio in the edit room. Mixing everything with a contemporary soundscape ensured the visuals were complemented but not overpowered. In the end, we were left with a film that collectively we were pretty chuffed with, and one that hopefully not only fulfilled the original brief but had a little more creative play in the mix.
Watch the video we produced for GAM and DEG here.