Being asked to produce a Christmas commercial is always exciting, but also a huge responsibility, so when Sony asked us to do one for their new Playstation VR headset, we knew this was a big deal.
We had to create an authentic Christmas scene, so getting the right Santa was essential. We also needed a great Santa suit, which around Christmas time, was harder to source than you’d think.
We managed to find one, which was just right. It was made from beautiful red crushed velvet, had real rabbit fur, and a big leather belt with a real gold buckle. This was the real deal. It weighed about 10 kilograms and I’ll never forget the moment our actor put it on for the first time.
We wanted our Santa to be a little bit grumpy, like Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas, so that the audience would get a sense that he was a bit tired of the annual routine. But don’t worry, Santa was about to get distracted.
In the pursuit of a cinematic image, the lens is the most important element. We decided to use vintage Panavision C-series anamorphic lenses, which have a lovely organic feel that’s richer than the sterile look of modern day optics.
These are lenses from 1968! True Hollywood classics such as Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Forest Gump, and more modern films like The Revenant, and Fantastic Beasts were all shot using these lenses.
There are only 5 sets available in the world, which means you can’t buy them, and they are near impossible to rent, too. We only needed them for a day, so we spoke to Panavision and scheduled our entire production around the availability of these lenses.
When we first put them on the camera and saw the image, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing the opening shot of the log burning stove looked like an oil painting!
Now let’s be clear, this was definitely overkill. This was the kit used to shoot Interstellar and we were making a web commercial.
The client would have been satisfied without all of this and they didn’t request it. But we wouldn’t have been satisfied.