Want emotion? Go black-and-white

Written by David Shapton

RedShark NewsBlack-and-white for intense emotions

Here's a music video that leverages black-and-white cinematography and a simple concept for a surprisingly emotional result.

Music videos have occasionally attained the status of fine art. It doesn't happen often, nor are music videos typically created to achieve 'fine art' status. However, here's an example of a perfectly minimalist black and white video that is incredibly emotional, despite (or more probably because of) the song being mimed by an actor.

It's been known for a long time that black-and-white is an extremely powerful visual medium. The advent of colour reproduction has done nothing do diminish the directness of a black-and-white image.

It's probably because the majority of the information we learn from a scene is from the luminance (the brightness of the pixels) as opposed to the colour, which is treated by our eyes and cameras alike as very much a secondary element in the picture.

Perhaps, with the colour stripped away, we are more inclined to see the emotional essence of the film. We've even recently seen dedicated black-and-white cameras from RED and Digital Bolex, as if to underline this point.

So, here's the video, made with a Blackmagic Production 4K camera by production company Tjarnargatan. What they've done is taken music from Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men and asked some well-known Icelandic actors to give their interpretations of the songs.

Here's what Tjarnargatan's Arnar Helgi and Freyr Árnason said about making the videos:

Freyr: "We use Blackmagic's digital film cameras in many of our productions, and we knew that filming in ProRes HQ would give us everything we needed in terms of color depth and latitude for our final look whilst also minimizing how many SSD (solid state drives) we had to buy. We wanted shallow depth of field, as this would help when the actors moved during their performance, and went out of focus, so we settled on cine glass from Canon and Zeiss. We were confident that we could leave the set up running as the actor performed, and we knew that the images coming off the camera would be beautiful.

"The aesthetic for the video series is very simplistic, which for us always makes for the most effective production, and this also ensured all of the focus is on the actor's face. Everyone of the performances are in black and white; some have a black background with white clothing, others are the reverse. And it's a 'true' black and white; we wanted to try and eliminate any greyscale, and instead make the most of the shadows and highlights that our lighting created. This is very noticeable in the Crystals video, which is super sharp, almost over the top in the black and white feel."

Arnar: "The whole series was graded in DaVinci Resolve, and there we were able to push the black and white even further. We added grain and really focused on how we could produce an extremely crisp and dramatic finish. Again, the band were involved in the post, so we always knew that our visual work was still in keeping with the original vision for the series. The workflow was so seamless, which really kept the production running to time, and to budget."

Tags: Production

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