Ultra High-speed Cinematography with Didier Daubeach - part 2 of 2

This is my second post about my initiation in ultra high-speed shooting with French cinematographer Didier Daubeach. My first post introduced ultra high speed cinematography.

Here we look at examples from a recent promo he shot for Michelin tires.



tire promo

The two-minute promo, entitled Michelin, the Eyes, was directed by Jean-Marc Gosse for the McCann G Agency in Paris. The promo was shot by two camera units.

Didier Daubeach was the cinematographer for all the ultra high-speed footage, and his colleague Eric Genillier shot the second unit scenes with actors in them. The crew included ACs Marc Stef & Thomas Collard, Gaffers Thierry Baucheron & Benjamin Prevost, and Key Grip Cyril Kunholtz. The video was edited by Christophe Bene. I recommend watching this in HD if your connection speed allows it:

You can also watch this promo on YouTube


cameras, lenses, lights & cars


Didier's equipment included:

-- 1 Photron camera used at 2000 fps

-- 1 Red Epic shooting at 50 and 240 fps

-- 1 Angénieux Optimo 24-290mm zoom

-- 1 set of Zeiss T2.1 lenses

-- 1 99K and 1 30K Longstrike light fixtures from Luminys

-- 2 Joker 400s from K5600 Lighting

There were three cars, two of which were prepped for a low shot of the tire with the Epic. Didier also used a camera car with an Aerocrane outfitted with a Stab-C stabilizing head for shots of the car on the road.


One of the riggings positioned the Epic facing the tire



slow and ultra slow

Didier shot a range of different speeds: ultra slow at 2000 fps, and slow motion at 240 fps, with a few shots inside the car at 50 fps, including this one of the hand on the steering wheel:

Didier shot the above handheld with the Epic, and his gaffer Thierry Baucheron moved a Joker 400 just outside of frame to create a big flare in the 35mm Zeiss lens. Didier explains that the mild slow-down of 50 fps adds a mellow feeling to the car interior. "The light is moving, but the car isn’t. I just sat next to the driver and shot like I would with a still camera. That’s what I love about the Epic, it's so compact. We’re shooting at 50 fps, because it’s gentler, less stressful. And the flare adds to the feeling of a peaceful moment."

The shots of the tire from the Epic rigged on the car were done at 240 fps. Didier comments that he doesn't like the look of the Epic above that speed. The mixture of ultra slow, slow and half-time speeds gives the commercial its modulated rhythm.


lighting ultra speed

Didier lit the 2000 fps shots of the tire with the 2 Longstrike units, using the 99K to create a big soft source, and the 33K to model the textures of the tire and environment from a side or 3/4 back position. The Longstrike offers a 10 second burst, which is a good match for the 5 second recording buffer of the Photron camera (as described in part 1). Didier chose the fixture because it could provide a big source, and because he knew he could count on having enough power on a gray day, even when he was losing daylight at the end of the shoot.

Didier used the 99K to create a soft frontal source diffused with a 2 by 2 meter frame fitted with special video projection screen material. "To light a car you need a big source. In this kind of shoot you’re going to see the reflection of the source in the subject, so you need to a diffusion that's very thick and uniform, with no hot spots, because you're integrating this big rectangle of light into your subject."



The 33K Longstrike source was positioned to give a directional sidelight or 3/4 backlight to model the tire, and also to add an edge to the gravel, water or dust. Didier adds that this light helped to give depth to the image that had a shallow depth of field, because of his long focal length and open aperture. The 33K also provided illumination of the background when the sky was very gray or darkening.



Didier comments: "The main problem on most shoots is not technical... It's time! I like to work simply. In commercials I often combine a strong soft light with a weaker hard light near it. The amount of contrast in the image is then a matter of taste, which depends of course on the director."


the hero shot

Every good commercial has its hero shot, the shot that highlights the product in a memorable way. Here it is clearly the shot of twirling strands of water clinging to the rotating tire; we repeated it in the clip below to allow you to see it more closely:

You can also watch this hero shot on YouTube

Didier recalls that shooting the promo required a mixture of genres. "The client told us 'I want an incredible movie about our tire'. When we went too artistic, the client would bring us back to realism, but he let us do some dreamy and poetic stuff, like the water shot. You need to mix the realism with these dreamy moments. At the same time you have to cheat the realism to show certain phenomena; we took air out of the tire to show its shape changing with the curb, and we cut off the ABS system to see the braking better."


time to see

Didier concludes by stressing that ultra high speed cinematography requires even more attention to detail than regular speed, because the shots are often lengthy. "With these high speeds you need time to read the image. A shot can last 5 seconds or more. So you have time to see everything, including what’s good or bad in the image. In a way it becomes like a photograph, like an animated photograph."



Ultra High-speed Cinematography part 1

Didier Daubeach's web page

Photron camera

Red Epic

Lightning Strikes Longstrike lights from Luminys

K5600 Lighting Joker Bug 400


A frame from the promo shot at 2000 fps




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