I feel like while many productions try to compress more and more content in a single shoot day there becomes less and less chances for any guesswork on actual set. But the problem is creativity doesn’t flourish that way and previsualisation for me is the way to combat that behavior and open up the possibility to slowly ripen my visions.
Cinematography Database: Hey Julius, tell us where you’re from and what kind of work you do.
Julius Koivistoinen: Hey! I’m a cinematographer from Finland currently specialized in medium to large-sized TV commercials.
My background is in photography where I started my career as a photojournalist 10 years ago. I had worked towards becoming a concept artist beforehand but after realising my imagination simply wasn’t vibrant enough for that type of work and meantime landing my first job as photographer for a pretty sizeable magazine at the time, aged 17, I ended up choosing that path instead.
Cinematographer Julius Koivistoinen
While working on different types of photography commissions I found out my biggest passion lied in lighting, and it was really fascinating to me how it felt possible to manipulate and control light like some kind of invisible fluid. What made me switch to filmmaking is a combination of multiple factors like more in-depth storytelling, audio and how I find movies the most emotion-evoking art form overall.
What resonates with me the most are the moodier and more quiet bodies of work, it’s always the story which dictates the overall direction. Now, in the future I see myself pushing towards more drama work and eventually lensing my first feature. Until then it’s all about honing my skills working on spots with wide range of talented directors and finessing my own visual vocabulary in the process.
ABC “Chef’s Burger”
CD: What was the creative and the directors vision/concept for Chef’s Burger?
JK: Finn and I had worked on only few projects together before this so communication and proper prep were the keys to get this right. Especially since we had very limited time to cover everything we had in mind for this TV spot. We visioned this to have a very high sense of energy and inspiration was taken from American musicals for example. It was also important to achieve the feeling as if this took place in a real kitchen environment which in part this dictated a lot how I winded up lighting the set.
CD: What was your pre production process like with the director, art department and crew?
JK: Pre-production was crucial considering how many moving parts we had for something what seems like a simple table-top project. But the fact that the fast-paced cut planned for the spot meant we had tons and tons of shots to cover while everything had to be polished-looking, simultaneously.
So we started off by bouncing different ideas from each other like mood, the script , lighting and possible camera moves, and after that set designer made a plan for our set. After that it was pretty straight-forward to throw everything we had planned into Cinema 4D thanks to all the assets available in Set Designer.
Technical Diagram created with Cine Designer Physical
Communicating through previsualizations proved to be particularly effective considering how my gaffer came up with some cool ideas we probably wouldn’t had time to implement otherwise if we had left it to pre-light.
CD: Where did you get that lovely 3D cheeseburger?
JK: Haha, cheeky of you. Thanks for the cool 3D scan, Matt! I half-jokingly had asked you to scan a hamburger since at the time I was prepping for this project. You providing the 3D scanned burger through Set Designer with such a short notice further helped me to get my point across to the whole team which was great. Makes much more sense than looking at some awful cylinders and spheres I would’ve come up with my terrible 3D modelling skills.
Cine Design with 3D scanned cheeseburger ;p
CD: What were the shoot days like and what equipment were you using?
JK: Initially we had planned to go with Technodolly for those sweet camera sweeps but that would’ve limited us to a single shoot day. Acknowledging the amount of coverage we needed and weighing pros and cons we ended up going another route with two shooting days and a simpler jib arm setup which still enabled us to work in a very dynamic way. Everything was optimised for a fast shooting-pace: Fisher dolly on track and GFM jib arm together with Newton S gyro-stabilised head made it possible to reach all possible angles without the need to move any tripods or whatnot.
Behind the scenes photo of final kitchen set and lighting equipment
In lighting my goal was to achieve that same flexibility by choosing LED lights as much as possible: my Hudson Spider Redback unit was rocking as the key light and everything else was built around it mixing up daylight and tungsten sources. Mainly DMG Lumière LED units for their form-factor, ETC Source Four for sharp edges and control, and a 4K Arri M40 HMI for base ambience. Usually I love to simplify things but here we combined multiple types of lights on purpose to create that feel of a real location which are full of different random fixtures.
Cine Design vs Final Shot
We shot on Arri Alexa Mini and Cooke Anamorphic lenses mainly going with 50mm, 75mm and 100mm focal lengths.
Stockmann “Women’s Day”
CD: Tell me about the creative for “Woman’s Day”
This TV spot was made celebrating the Women’s Day. “During night a group of women have breached into the premises of a closed retail store and there’s a guard in the security room observing their actions with great interest.” Of course, there was no such room in reality so we had to build, light and shoot this scene in a very limited timeframe so acting fast was the key. Mood for the scene was left pretty open so previsualising this was really helpful to sell my take on the lighting and camera angles. This way I can be sure there won’t be any confusion on set either which could slow us down significantly.
Technical Diagram created with Cine Designer Redshift
CD: Did you work with the director and art department to design the blocking and monitor arrangement?
JK: In this case the info I was provided with were the specs of our shooting location through recce during pre-production, rough drawings of the set design and of course the script. I’d say the most crucial details were the room dimensions since simply getting the distances between set walls right helps a ton finding camera angles we can actually perform on the day. Likewise if the measurements had been off even a little the previsualisations wouldn’t have resembled end results this closely.
Behind the Scenes photo of the final set and lighting
Obviously, the spot consists of much more than just this scene yet I didn’t previs those. I do this a lot choosing to previs only what I can’t envision clearly enough in projects, so previsualisation is definitely a tool I use selectively. Deciding on it depends on available prep time and complexity of the setting we’re about to shoot.
Cine Design vs final spot comparison
CD: What was the shoot day like and what equipment were you using?
JK: Let’s say glad I figured to cross out the next day from my calendar in advance. The retail store we shot in is one of the largest ones around here and located right in the centre of Helsinki so shooting during daytime wasn’t an option. I chose to go with Arri Alexa Mini with Master Prime lenses which I found to be the perfect combo for this project.
Arri Alexa Mini and Dolly
These lenses enabled extremely shallow depth of field with beautiful round bokeh yet they are sharp but not overly so. Say, Leica Summilux-C’s while being awesome lenses would’ve been too crispy for my taste and then again Zeiss Super Speeds too creamy. With Master Primes we really hit the sweet spot here. Lighting was really simple but getting to that result took quite a while of head-scratching. Small battery-powered LED panels attached to the monitors working as key and Skypanel for hair light. Luckily, again, deciding on lighting didn’t lead to any downtime on set thanks to the previs.
Cine Designer Physical VS. Redshift
CD: You’ve used both Cine Designer Physical and the newer Redshift version. What are your thoughts on GPU rendering for Cine Design / Previs?
JK: To be honest, GPU rendering feels to me like the only way now. I started out doing previs in Blender with my own toolset a few years ago, then moved to Cinema 4D and Cine Designer Physical when it came out and finally got Redshift up and running this year.
Cine Designer created with Redshift GPU rendering
During this process, step-by-step my productivity has increased significantly and the biggest difference I’ve noticed so far between CPU and GPU rendering is the increased amount of iterations I’m able to make in less time. I’m able to create more detailed lighting plans and have very clear vision before even entering the set. Much more so than before when the best I was able to previs before losing my patience was a sophisticated guess. This in turn could lead to uncertainty on set and in the worst case scenario falling behind on schedule.
Final image from the commerical
Overall I feel like while many productions try to compress more and more content in a single shoot day there becomes less and less chances for any guesswork on actual set. But the problem is creativity doesn’t flourish that way and previsualisation for me is the way to combat that behaviour and open up the possibility to slowly ripen my visions.
CD: Where can people find you and your work online?
JK: I love sharing informative behind the scenes content on my Instagram @julious_dop whenever I can! You can follow me at www.instagram.com/julious_dop .
To see my latest work you can visit my online portfolio at www.juliuskoivistoinen.com