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Late Night and Weekends Shoots 'Gap Born to Fit' Campaign with P2 HD VariCams

Manhattan-based creative services company Late Night and Weekends produced a wide-ranging advertising initiative for Gap 1969 premium jeans that features theatrical and Web video elements shot with the VariCam 3700, Panasonic’s premier solid-state P2 HD VariCam camcorder.

The ‘Gap Born to Fit’ campaign—viewable at www.borntofit.com and www.youtube.com/gap and in movie theaters across the country—was directed by Late Night and Weekends’ Andrew Zuckerman, who also photographed the print ads. Late Night’s Alex Vlack was executive producer, with Eddie Marritz as director of photography.

Behind the Scenes at "Gap Born to Fit"
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“Gap Born to Fit" is a subtle celebration of the personal style of 10 artists and entrepreneurs who, at a relatively young age, have achieved lifetime goals. They include photographer Anna Gaskell, actors Alessandro Nivola, Sonya Walger, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Eisa Davis, musicians Anni Rossi and Cassidy, Tom Szaky (founder of TerraCycle), Melissa Kushner (founder of Goods for Good), and Gap fashion designer Patrick Robinson.

According to DP Marritz, the challenge for the cinematographer was to emulate the classic elegance of Zuckerman’s photography, an aesthetic he established in such books as Creature and, especially, Wisdom, a record of a multicultural group of people who have all made their mark on the world. The subjects’ portraits in Wisdom were all photographed by Zuckerman against the same white space, as were the subjects of the Gap ads.

   

“As we would be shooting against a white cyc wall, I was interested in a camera with extended dynamic range, and because of the demands of projection in movie theaters, I wanted to shoot 4:4:4 in 1080p, criteria that led us to the HPX3700,“ Marritz says. “I also had experience with Panasonic HD cameras, having shot a Puma ‘meta new wave’ industrial with the AG-HVX200 P2 HD handheld [with Zuckerman and Vlack] and video for the Centers for Disease Control with the original VariCam. There are a lot of things I like about Panasonic cameras, especially the color palette.”

Veteran independent cinematographer Marritz specializes in documentary features, for which he has been widely honored. His credits include the Oscar-winner Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, and Emmy nominee for Best Cinematography In Memoriam: 9/11 New York City for HBO. He was the DP for the celebrated 2008 theatrical release Young@Heart (Fox Searchlight), and he recently completed photography on Mysterious Human Heart for PBS, which received an Emmy for Best Science Series in 2008. Upcoming is the documentary Still Bill, directed by Vlack and Damani Baker.

“Born to Fit" was shot in June at Silver Cup East (Long Island City, NY). Three days of shooting were preceded by one day of pre-lighting. The production rented three AJ-HPX3700s from Abel Cine Tech (New York, NY). There were 10 discrete sessions with the subjects, who sat on the same plain wooden stool against the white cyc as Zuckerman engaged them in unscripted conversation about their work. There is no mention of the product, other than the visual reference of their all wearing Gap 1969 jeans.

   

“We had one HPX3700 with a Zeiss DigiPrime lens stable in front for a wide shot, a second camcorder with a Zeiss DigiZoom also in a fixed position up front for close ups, and the third with a Zeiss DigiZoom on a tracking dolly for 180 degree shots,” said Marritz, who operated the tracking camera. “We shot at f/2.5. I feel that shooting close to wide open is kinder to faces and focuses the viewers’ attention where I want them to be looking.”

“Unlike a lot of three-camera shoots, Andrew didn’t call specific shots on headsets from a remote location,” he continued. “He wanted to establish an intimate, on set connection with the talent. Based on our past experience, Andrew trusted me to follow the conversation and know when to feature the jeans, hands and faces. The subjects were unadorned, talking spontaneously about themselves and their work. There was no filtration; we wanted everything as palpable as possible. We lit simply, with a high, soft key over the subjects and a soft bottom source: we wanted to see these people as straightforwardly as possible, see the light in their eyes and make a visual connection.

“And because this was a jeans commercial, we needed to be loving the product as well. We largely used the tracking shots to lend a tactile sense to the denim. Altogether, this was the cleanest video I’ve ever shot and very extraordinary.”

“I felt the challenge was in shooting a curved white cyc from a dolly track that had an opposing curve, because it produced a somewhat round environment,” said Digital Imaging Technician Robert Strait. “It can be difficult to reproduce a flat white background for all those camera angles while also making people of various skin tones look beautiful and natural. We took advantage of the HPX3700’s Film-Rec 600 percent setting for extended latitude and greyscale, which help create a very soft and filmic look, and coupled with the true 1080p/4:4:4 output gave us adequate information for printing to film. It was a huge benefit that I could tweak white shading through the camera’s paint box, allowing me to correct imperfections in the cyc and produce a perfectly white horizontal/vertical and edge-to-edge camera response.”

“Because the HPX3700 has multiple outputs, I was able to monitor the internal camera menus independent of the 4:4:4 recording while also providing a 4:2:2 signal to the ACs’ onboard HD monitors,” Strait added.

The HPX3700s recorded the uncompressed 4:4:4 signal to HD tape decks. The edit began on the set to accommodate a fast turnaround as well as the clients’ interest in how the free-ranging content would evolve. Editors Jon Fine and Geoff Gruetzmacher supervised the Final Cut Pro edit.

“The pieces look really wonderful,” said executive producer Vlack. “The HPX3700s were great in their ability to take all the lenses. The cameras were affordable, and we didn’t need a big camera crew.”

“The HPX3700 is at the top of the heap, and I’d use it again in a second,” said Marritz. “Ultimately, the imperative for me was to create a video equivalent to Andrew’s distinctive photographic style. The HPX3700 enabled us to achieve video every bit as classic as the still portraiture, with extremely sympathetic imagery.”