More Grecco: Martin Scorsese Time-Lapse

It is not often you pick up a watershed tip from a BTS vid, but this Michael Grecco time lapse of a Martin Scorsese shoot was just that for me. The tip is all about using a grid spot to selectively compress the tonal range of a subject. And in this case the black overcoat being worn by Scorsese does not stand a prayer of reproducing any texture -- until Grecco fixes it.

He underexposes the ambient and lights Scorsese from camera right with a warmed-up softbox. Nothing new there. But at camera left, there is a low-and-tight grid-spot flash that is there solely to bring up detail in Scorsese's black coat and give dimension to the crates at the bottom.

That's great attention to detail (no pun intended.) It brings the coat well into the reproduction range, and gives tone and texture where there would be none. The photo would look fine without it, frankly. But that's a good example of the nuanced thinking that separates the Greccos of the world from the other guys.

He inserts several finished still photos in at the appropriate times. Pause it and check out the coat to see what I am talking about.


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Blogger Aaron said...

Whats the large screen that an assistant places on a stand, almost looks like a big ND filter.

November 17, 2006 12:06 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

The screen is probably a Scrim Jim, it works just like a ND filter, but is actually made out of a fine net-like material. They are used alot in the TV world, to cut down exposure on backgrounds and skys. It is possible to put large sheets of the material over windows to cut down on the light coming through, helping to bring the exterior and interior exposures closer together. The material is invisible in the image so long as there is enough distance from the camera.

November 17, 2006 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Chad Worthman said...

Hey David,

I'm more impressed by people who can do more with less. I wonder how much of the entourage in the photo session time lapse is to project the image of "celebrity". I'm no expert on this, but it seems like an awfully big production for a simple end product.


November 17, 2006 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Joe Reifer said...

Hi David,

Glad you found the Grecco video. In his first book, Grecco uses a lot of 3 degree grid spots, and a custom modified fresnel that's been gutted and had a strobe fit inside. Even though the book lists for over $100 online, I found a copy at my local library, and later got my own copy at a used bookstore for $15. Worth seeking out.



November 17, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Michelle Jones, Catkin Studio. said...

Um... my mouse accidently slipped and clicked buy on amazon >:) The book looks fantastic and te article whetted my appitite.

November 17, 2006 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Reg said...

i have to agree with Chad. I wonder how long the actual shoot lasted. it seemed that everything was set up over a loooonnnnngggg period of time for 3 shots. I'm not saying the images arent great and i admire your attention to detail in spotting the lowlight but I'm more impressed (and inspired) by the stuff you produce in a matter of minutes on your own.
Scorcese is a genius and any shot of him will sell papers. its much more difficult to make something out of nothiing.

November 17, 2006 12:38 PM  
Blogger Divine Reflections Photography said...

There's a really interesting article about this shoot in Studio Photography magazine this month. You might want to check that out too!

November 17, 2006 1:25 PM  
Anonymous stk_ulm said...

Chad, just read the comments. They are shooting on a *real* tight schedule: the equipment has to be set up quickly, the shoot itself has to happen within 30 minutes, and most importantly the data has to be downloaded and saved properly.

But it's nice to see that Grecco uses the same technique David mentioned just a couple of days ago: Letting them see their pictures in order to get them to cooperate :o)

November 17, 2006 3:00 PM  
Anonymous MK said...

Yeah, I gotta say I'm with Chad. Two lights, one model, no clothing change, little change of position much less location... and all those people? Are they all assistants? Production? Does he need that many? Well, I guess someone had to run that nifty little fog machine!

November 17, 2006 5:07 PM  
Blogger KatieMac said...

I confess, I went out an bought the book, just barely a month before Christmas, for the instant gratification. It's beautiful, and Grecco's writing is impeccable. He makes it all sound so terribly easy and off-hand, and I read it thinking, "I could do that." But then he tosses off little vingettes about his work and they bring me straight back to reality and I remember this is a world-class photographer and what Grecco does is not easy, nor cheap.

"For the cover, I rented the soundstage next to the one where [Jimmy Smits and Dennis Franz] were shooting NYPD Blue)..."

November 17, 2006 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Steve P said...

Are pictures of celebrities more intriguing because of who they are? Sometimes. But don't take anything away from Grecco. He can make great pictures with people off of the street just as well as he can celebrities, it just happens to be his market. His books are great for anyone that wants to learn about creative images/lighting without seeing instructional images from the 80's. He goes over not only the equipment and lighting technique but the thought process that went into each shot. If you can't find his first book the new one overlaps a lot of the same material. You won't be disappointed.

November 17, 2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger SabFoto said...

I had the honor last year to assist Mr. Grecco in Salt Lake City. Our local ASMP Chapter (American Society of Media PHotographers) brought him in to do a talk on lighting as part of a big open house at the local rental house. He did several setups, from white on white to black on black, a large group lit with only one light, and some outdoor portraits. All these were shot in about an hour, with him talking about his process the whole time. He is an awesome photographer and I learned so much just turning knobs on the power packs for him. He knows his stuff, and for what its worth, many of his photos are shot handheld with natural light. Some artists do 30 second sketches in a notebook, others do detailed murals on church ceilings that take years to complete. They have different tools, different goals, but they master what they use. Same thing here. Grecco uses the tools he needs to complete a project for the client. The client's needs dictate the gear you use most of the time. And when you are dealing with a celebrity who is only giving you 30 minutes of his time, you better have more than enough people around to change things on the fly if you need to.

November 19, 2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what was all that gear for, he could have shot is with 2 strobes and 1 assitant,max.
Thanks god for
respect for life

July 25, 2007 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'll jump in on this thread to add a little more to what I see happening in this video of the shoot.

I'm an art director and have been involved in many photoshoots in the studio and on location over the years.

The amount of equipment used in this shoot is pretty spartan in my opinion. Not all of the equipment that was initially set up was even used for the shoot.

Some of the items were used to block light over the computer for better viewing, other equipment was taken down. If the total time to set up the shoot was 30 minutes for a 15 minute session then I would say that it was a very speedy and successful shoot.

Put a timer on your own set up next time and watch the time slip away. 30 minutes is nothing if you are unpacking gear from scratch.

It would be possible to shoot with 2 remote flash units and some umbrellas but the power and control in the strobe/softbox set up being used far outweighs any lost time and frustration due to lighting and balance problems. The last thing you would want is to be fooling with equipment as Scorsese waits for you to get it together.

As for the amount of people that were running around...groupies.

Interesting video, enjoyed it.


April 03, 2008 4:42 PM  

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