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Chasing Down the Perfect Shot to Capture the Vengeance of Atalhos in Film Noir

José Menezes and André Dip
In the four years since Brazilian breakthrough band Atalhos last released an album, the group has experienced a musical evolution, leaving their rock and roll roots for a folksier path. To help them make the full transition into Brazilian folk artists, Atalhos tapped José Menezes and André Dip to produce the music video for "José, Fiquei Sem Saída" (in English, "José, No Way Out"), the first single off their upcoming album.

José Menezes is the founder of and partner at MA7 Filmes, a production house based in São Paulo, Brazil that specializes in advertising, feature and short films, and documentaries. André, a director and cinematographer, had been working with José on a number of projects through which they developed a close working relationship. They've since collaborated on a variety of projects, most recently working with some of the music video's crewmembers on a feature film, "Obra," directed by Gregorio Graziosi. It will be making its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. They are also releasing two short films this year, 'Boatman' and '3310,' directed by José and photographed by André, both shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.



Joined by freelance producer Bruno Alfano, and with the support of MA7 Filmes, José and André took on the challenge of bringing the band's vision for "José, Fiquei Sem Saída" to life. To help them achieve the professional level of production they wanted for Atalhos' music video, the team turned to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and DaVinci Resolve.





No Gray Area

A perfect match from the start, Atalhos gave José and André their full trust and confidence to produce a music video that would do their song the justice it deserved.

André commented, "In our first meeting, we talked and listened to the music. We went to have a coffee, and the first idea was written to the end. We decided it's going to be black and white, film noir. Everything we felt with the music we kept till the end. They liked it right away."



Every production needs the right tools to get the job done. For José and André, that tool was the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

"When Blackmagic Design released the camera, when it first came to Brazil, I had a project, so we decided to try it," André said. "We used it for this short film for which José was director and I the cinematographer. We shot it in black and white, and we really liked the result. I also shot some things in color. The camera offers a really good image for a great price, so the relationship between quality and price for me was extremely important in our decision to purchase it. Now we both have one!"

José continued, "The idea for the music video came from Atalhos, we wrote the script based on what they wanted. The song's lyrics have relations to vengeance and such, as it's based on the book, 'The Trial' by Franz Kafka. In the story, the guy is wrongfully imprisoned and he wants to take revenge, those are the lyrics to the song."



Highs and Lows

While the production crew, along with Atalhos, had made the decision to film the music video in black and white, it was still important to André S. Brandão, the video's photographer, to shoot on a clear and sunny day so they could have the highlights and lowlights that would allow them to create a good deal of contrast. Unfortunately, as soon as they decided to begin filming, it rained (and rained, and rained).

José reported, "We didn't have a lot of time to shoot so we just said, let's do it. I believe it was better in the end, having the rain. It added to the atmosphere."

Not only did the crew have José's positive attitude, but they also had 13 stops of dynamic range to get the contrast they desired.



André said, "From that point of view, we had a good experience with the latitude, the dynamic range of the camera. We captured in RAW so we had a lot to work with. I think it worked really well for us, the features of the camera and the wide dynamic range that allowed us to capture the highlights and lowlights that would have otherwise gone unrecorded on a rainy day."

José continued, "Because we had no control over the weather, it was great that we shot in RAW so we could better control the look of the film in post production. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera just worked. We actually didn't have to change a lot in post. I think the camera was perfect for us on this shoot."

The Trials and Tribulations of Music Video Production

Based on Franz Kafka's famous literary piece, "The Trial," "José, Fiquei Sem Saída" follows one man chasing another man, seeking vengeance. To create the chase aspect they were looking for, José and André employed the use of a Steadicam, tripod and a dolly with their two Blackmagic Cinema Cameras.

José commented, "Because we had a lot of movement, we really needed a camera that could be set up quickly, as we only had two days to shoot. Blackmagic's camera was ideal for this setup."

André added, "We kept it really simple. We had a small rig with very few accessories attached. We wanted to make it super easy and super fast."



Some of the accessories that made the cut included Canon EF mounted lenses as well as zoom lenses. Said André, "We had three zooms that we used for almost the entire film. We used these zoom lenses to make the production run faster, and also because we wanted to incorporate the zoom itself in the video as a cinematic element."

"Having the right gear in place to allow us to shoot quickly was crucial because we didn't have the time to film with a complicated setup," José continued.

Even with those in place, the production ran short on time. Luckily, quick problem solving saved the day. For example, a scene towards the end of the music video, which was supposed to be shot in daylight. The main characters are in what appears to be an underground train station, a look that was entirely faked by José and André, as they didn't arrive at the location until well after the sun had set. "Thankfully, we really liked how it turned out. It gave the noir feeling we were looking for. I think it's even better in the end."

José went on, "The large latitude the Blackmagic Cinema Camera provides really came in handy in this shot. We were able to expose without compromising either the foreground, with the actor in the shadows, or the background of the brightly lit room. Later we finessed it in DaVinci Resolve, pushing it to where we felt would give the suggestion of daylight to maintain the mood. We wouldn't have been able to do that with a camera with less dynamic range. It was quite simple really."

Unfortunately for José and André, the brief two day shooting timeframe is the norm in the music video business. As seasoned professionals, they know how to manage their time to make it work. Part of that time is spent on location scouting, which they did in the month before the shoot. Getting the location right was crucial to the video's overall look.

According to José, "We scouted for the location with the photographer. We shot in the city center of São Paulo, which looks older. We wanted the video to look like it was in the past, like a period piece. But we also wanted to be very clear that it was in the present day. The center of the city is perfect for that."

Creating the right look that would portray this delicate balance of historical and present day was very important to José and André. In order to do that, they used a pro mist filter to produce a kind of halo to the light, which gave the film a softer look, as they did not want the image to look too sharp. They did, however, want to begin with a sharp image with which they could do as they pleased.

In conjunction with the Canon L Series lenses, and in particular the 24mm prime, which they used for most of the shots, the camera's image looked very sharp. André Brandão reported, "Due to our project's specific aesthetic, we went for a softer look, using diffusion filters to counter the sharpness, which gave it more a vintage film look. What's important to me when using this kind of filtration on digital cameras is that you have a good, sharp image to begin with. Otherwise the softness gained with the filter, which is good, would add up to the softness of the camera, caused by codec limitations, compression, data rate, sensor resolution, etc., which is a problem. This kind of look wouldn't be that pleasing to the subject matter. In the case of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, the 2.5K sensor recording RAW gave us a very sharp, robust image from the getgo, which allowed us to push it to where we wanted."

Vengeance Doesn't Sleep and Neither Does Post Production

While two days to shoot might be typical, the crew's post production timeframe was uncharacteristically short.

José stated, "We ended the shoot and had a week to deliver because the band had to release before the World Cup. It was crazy here. So we had to edit and show them an offline. The photographer did LUTs during the shoot with a basic black and white so the band would be able to watch the first cut. He got the files and converted everything with the LUT he created. After they approved the first cut, we went to Zumbi Post and handed off the RAW material for the final color grading using Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve."

The directors and photographer worked closely with the team at Zumbi Post, a Brazilian post house, to get the perfect look for "José, Fiquei Sem Saída."

"We were there all the time when Zumbi did the color grading, together stressing things and opting for the best look, to look the way we wanted. It was a very collaborative approach," André reported. "I've worked with Zumbi as a cinematographer, so I knew they could handle this material. They are a really good post company and we always want this kind of collaborative way of working, so it was really nice to have that."

"We wanted a film noir/60's neo noir feel to it, so we wanted to make it look as legitimate as we could," José added. "What we did use with DaVinci Resolve, and it meant a great deal, was the support for OFX plugins, like Film Convert, which gave us an enhanced set of tools to pursue the black and white film aesthetic we chose."

Atalhos was anxious to release the music video before the World Cup kicked off, as they knew the fútbol festivities would surely eclipse any attention they would otherwise receive for their first single in four years.

José commented, "They wanted the video to be released either before or after the World Cup, but we didn't want to wait a whole month with the video completed, so we just sped up the process to have it done before." He adds, jokingly, "It was a challenge, but we enjoyed staying awake for two days to get it done."

It all worked out in the end, as Brazil was ready to welcome the band back with open arms. The video for "José, Fiquei Sem Saída" was very well received.

José said, "That was very good for us, the band said the music blogs and magazines were talking about it, and it premiered on MTV. This reboot of Atalhos worked perfectly. But in the end, for us what really matters is that we did it and it worked for them."

Good Planning, Good Luck, Good Tools

Producing Atalhos's video for "José, Fiquei Sem Saída" was a fun endeavor for José and André, but it was certainly not without its challenges. The crew had just the right combination of good planning, luck and the right tools from Blackmagic to make the production a success.

According to José, "We did have some luck, because it was crazy. The whole process was a whirlwind. With just two days to shoot and a week to deliver, we don't normally do that."

"For the shoot, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera was essential," he continued. "We had a very good camera assistant as well, and our photographer, he's amazing. But if you use a more complicated camera, just setting up the rig wouldn't work for us in terms of timing. Blackmagic was indispensable in that it gave us the speed necessary to complete this in two days. Plus, the dynamic range and RAW worked wonderfully in post production because of all the weather conditions."

Not only was the Blackmagic Cinema Camera vital in making the production's video shoot run smoothly in their tight timeframe, but it was the right choice for keeping the production as stealth as possible. José stated, "Because we shot the music video documentary style on the street, we didn't want to attract too much attention."

While the camera was much less conspicuous than another setup might be, that didn't mean it didn't attract any attention.

"It's kind of amazing," said André. "Because of the camera's design, everyone who sees it approaches us and says, 'Whoa, what is this camera?' That's an alright problem to have."

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