Ancient Greek Vases

ahalpert

Well-known member
I had fun making this little project to showcase some ancient Greek vases that Christie's is selling. It was made quickly -- half a shoot day and 2 edit days. But I enjoyed the (overly) dramatic style and sound design. Originally, they wanted to add animations of the paintings on the vases. Those would have gone where you see freeze frames with Ken Burns effects. But they decided that there was enough visual interest that they didn't have to hire an animator. I didn't direct it, just shot and edited.

 
Nice. High end auctions seems like an interesting business. Do you handle the object or do they relieve you of liability by handling the pieces? How are you insured against liability?
 
Nice. High end auctions seems like an interesting business. Do you handle the object or do they relieve you of liability by handling the pieces? How are you insured against liability?

Usually only the art handlers handle the works. They're in some sort of union. (I know this because whenever we're running behind schedule someone says, "the art handlers won't work past 5 because they're union.") On this video, a specialist from the department (a combination art historian and salesman) came to handle the objects. Occasionally, the producer or I am given permission to do it if it's something less fragile. As for liability insurance, the production is covered under the company's policy.
 
Very nice work. I have a variable speed remote control turntable that is great for things like this. it gives stuff a look that you don't see too often.

"the art handlers won't work past 5 because they're union.") .

Don't even get me started on this. So typical. Are you even allowed to push your own cart through the museum halls or do you have to pay a teamster and walk five paces behind him/her to make sure nothing "falls off the cart" into a closet.
 
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Nice job on the video. I've done product work and one of the hard things is filming anything that is reflective. You have to be careful to keep the camera, the lights and yourself out of the reflection. Very diffused lighting helps.
 
Nice job on the video. I've done product work and one of the hard things is filming anything that is reflective. You have to be careful to keep the camera, the lights and yourself out of the reflection. Very diffused lighting helps.

Yes, a nice job, Abe. Reflections can be an issue for sure. For as many years as I can recall, I've used K-Line dulling sprays.This stuff totally saved my life on a product shoot for a musical instrument importer when we had to shoot about eight different types of brass instruments like trumpets, cornets, flugelhorns, trombones, tubas, euphoniums and French horns all in one display during circular tracking shots. An absolute lifesaver as there appeared to be a 1001 nasty glare reflections. It comes in matte, semi-matte, clear and a range of other varieties. A very soft cloth or microfiber cloth is all that is needed to clean it off.

Back in the sixties, I had a photographer show me his technique for handling reflection scenarios. A perfume spray bottle with milk in it. It worked a treat on a watch display shoot.

K-Line

https://secure.johnbarry.com.au/dulling-spray

 
So good! I watched it a few times.

Is any of the movement handheld? I wondered if some of it was fast movement filmed HFR and slowed down - especially the lift and track at 0:38. Looks like everything is some combination of camera movement, object rotation, pan and scan and speed ramping in post. I couldn't see the joins between them clearly. It's not exactly my field (I'm more news / doc) but still, as a 20-year professional if I can't tell how you made it, it must look like pure magic to the client.
 
Very nice work. I have a variable speed remote control turntable that is great for things like this. it gives stuff a look that you don't see too often.



Don't even get me started on this. So typical. Are you even allowed to push your own cart through the museum halls or do you have to pay a teamster and walk five paces behind him/her to make sure nothing "falls off the cart" into a closet.

Thanks, Doug. As for the unions not working past 5, I say more power to them. You know how that would go. Just one more thing, just one more thing, just one more thing...

I think the gallery lighting technicians are union as well although I'm not sure. But they'll set up a lighting control board (DMX maybe?) and let me operate it after they leave.

And I roll my own cart in through the galleries. And nearly everyone on the production is a non-union freelancer.
 
Nice.

Was this what you wanted to hang the seamless for?

Yes, though I asked about hanging seamlesses after I shot this. You can see the 8' white seamless (hung between 2 c stand grip arms) in the reflection on camera right. Using that as a reflector got me thinking about doing it more often and with smaller pieces. The room we work in is small, about 15x20', so small pieces will be easier to configure and maneuver.

Were i to do this again, I would definitely add a 53" seamless off camera right to create an L-shaped reflector and wrap the fill around to the front.

I would also consider using a seamless as the key. Possibly 2 53" pieces side by side, or possibly 3 in an L shape symmetrical to the fill side. But I'm not sure that would definitely be a win. The producer's look reference was dramatic and I'm not sure how soft I can go with the key without losing the drama. There are shots here where I like the glare and shots where I don't. This key was an aputure 1200d in a light dome with 2 layers of diffusion -> 4x4 silk -> hanging unbleached muslin cut by floppies on top bottom and side. Probably 4x6' illuminated patch of muslin.
 
Yes, a nice job, Abe. Reflections can be an issue for sure. For as many years as I can recall, I've used K-Line dulling sprays.This stuff totally saved my life on a product shoot for a musical instrument importer when we had to shoot about eight different types of brass instruments like trumpets, cornets, flugelhorns, trombones, tubas, euphoniums and French horns all in one display during circular tracking shots. An absolute lifesaver as there appeared to be a 1001 nasty glare reflections. It comes in matte, semi-matte, clear and a range of other varieties. A very soft cloth or microfiber cloth is all that is needed to clean it off.

Back in the sixties, I had a photographer show me his technique for handling reflection scenarios. A perfume spray bottle with milk in it. It worked a treat on a watch display shoot.

K-Line

https://secure.johnbarry.com.au/dulling-spray


That sounds useful but I'm sure they wouldn't let me apply on these artifacts :). Also, to a certain extent it's important to get an accurate representation of the texture and surface reflectance.
 
So good! I watched it a few times.

Is any of the movement handheld? I wondered if some of it was fast movement filmed HFR and slowed down - especially the lift and track at 0:38. Looks like everything is some combination of camera movement, object rotation, pan and scan and speed ramping in post. I couldn't see the joins between them clearly. It's not exactly my field (I'm more news / doc) but still, as a 20-year professional if I can't tell how you made it, it must look like pure magic to the client.

Thanks, Andy. All of the group shot footage is 120fps 1/250 shutter in a 24p timeline and shot on a gimbal. I'm not sure any of it is actually played back at 20%. There's extensive speed ramping and the playback speed is all over the place. The shot starts with the gimbal on a light stand. It speeds fast through me pulling a flag off the side light and the PA pulling a floppy off the key light. Then it slows down for the static wide shot. Then it speeds up again as I come off the stand and move into the first vase. There's post stabilization applied. There's varied speed ramping throughout the move to even out the pacing. Also added "zoom blur" effect. Then it freezes frame on the ECU and there's a Ken burns effect pushing in.

The entire sequence going from vase to vase in the group was shot in one take and was originally going to be a continuous shot in the edit. So after I pause on the first vase, I move laterally to the second object, find the right framing and pause. Then continue. Then after the last vase I pull back to the wide, put the gimbal back on the light stand and cover the lights again. (My move pulling back was kind of rough so I nixed that and just did a Ken burns out to the static framing.)

There's no pan and scan as an effect. I think it just feels that way when I speed up a lateral move with a fast shutter speed.

The lift and track at 0:38 actually crossfades from the original continuous long take into a separate piece of b-roll. I got kind of lucky that the angle in the two shots is close enough to hide the transition.

The shots of the individual vases are from 1 tripod (gimbal on a light stand) for the ECU and 1 slider for the frontal wide shot. Tripod was at 60fps and slider was at 24fps, both still 1/250 shutter. Vases are on a turntable going at constant speed and we do speed ramp in post to accelerate them. Then cut back to the original shot going from vase to vase. The spinning of the turntable kind of blends in to the lateral move on the gimbal.

One thing I would do differently is I would move more slowly and deliberately when I went from wide shot of the group into the ECU. I tried to nail the camera move in a fluid way and it sort of worked. But considering how everything got speed ramped later, I could have just moved really slowly and nailed every moment of the framing. And that's even more true of the pull back at the end where I fumbled the operating and threw out the shot.

As an aside, FCPX handles speed ramping very easily. It still takes a lot of fiddling. But I can get what I want. I don't know if Premiere has improved in how it handles speed ramping but I could never get it to work right.
 
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Nice job on the video. I've done product work and one of the hard things is filming anything that is reflective. You have to be careful to keep the camera, the lights and yourself out of the reflection. Very diffused lighting helps.

It's tricky. I don't mind having the production reflect in the product as long as it's not ugly. There were a couple colored sandbags that we covered with a flag. But as far as the seamless and some other things I don't really mind.

It's true that as a general rule, the client doesn't want to see any glare on paintings. I was surprised that the department didn't flag any of these shots for removal.

Personally, I think it depends on where it is. Kind of like reflections in someone's glasses. It doesn't always bother me as long as it looks pretty and isn't covering the subject's eyes. On most of these shots I thought the glare was fine. There were some where it covered a figure's head or other important detail that I thought could have been improved.

My wife didn't like the glare at all. She has impeccable taste, so I should probably listen to her. But by the time she saw it it was already approved anyway. She thought the glare could be yellow. It was the key light, so that would have been tricky. Would have had to warm it up in post...

This was the look reference the producer gave me. Not sure where this came from:

Screenshot 2024-03-23 at 9.35.29 PM.jpg

The one thing I wish I had done to match the reference better was to put more distance between the subject and the background so I could treat the background separately. Move the table away from the background and pull the paper out more.

This was how the photo department lit the vases. Of course, they get to cheat by compositing different frames with different lightings. And this shot is pretty low-drama so the look wasn't for us. But their work always gives a good idea of how the client wants the object to look in terms of detail, color, and glare:

Screenshot 2024-03-23 at 9.45.08 PM.jpg

And sometimes glare is desired. Like my colleague recently shot this $2M piece of Chinese ceramics for them, probably aiming to minimize glare:


dish.jpg

The footage was rejected and we were asked to reshoot it with this look reference from the photo department:

Screenshot 2024-03-23 at 9.56.30 PM.jpg

Below is what we gave them and they were happy. I would have used harder lights to bring out the texture more but for some reason the producer was adamant about not going so hard:

Screenshot 2024-03-23 at 9.57.08 PM.jpg

Of course, in this case there is no painting to obscure. The important thing is to show the shape of the pottery and the texture of the glaze. But those are also considerations for the Greek vases, I think.
 
Also, to a certain extent it's important to get an accurate representation of the texture and surface reflectance.

Yes, that thought did cross my mind. With large object shoots like this, I've used the white tent principle. A circle of 'C' stands around the subject matter with bedsheets taped to them to get some gradient lighting. A large scale version of this technique.

Chris Young

 
Yes, that thought did cross my mind. With large object shoots like this, I've used the white tent principle. A circle of 'C' stands around the subject matter with bedsheets taped to them to get some gradient lighting. A large scale version of this technique.

Chris Young


Interesting that you say that. I was just discussing in another thread my plan to use 53" tubes of white seamless paper to make a modular reflective surrounding. It's tricky though because the producer's reference image had actually quite hard lighting and a high contrast ratio:

 
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Sound design is great in that video, captivating.

Thanks, NorBro. I appreciate that. I wish I had more time to work on the sound. It was a lot of fun and I don't usually get to do soundscape things. The inspiration for the sound effects was the computer game Age of Empires. It's full of campy and exaggerated sounds:

 
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