The Profoto Pro-8 Knows You Like it Fast

You remember at the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where Jeff "Surf's Up" Spicoli hires Van Halen to play his birthday party? Why on earth would someone do something like that?

Because they can.

Which is exactly why Profoto hired Annie Leibovitz to shoot a series of portraits of Conny Dufgran, (co-founder and chairman of Profoto) for their 40th Anniversary. Not a bad day at the office.

Leibovitz used a new Profoto Pro-8, of course, because showing up with a bag of old Vivitar 285's would not exactly have been cool. Not that Annie has even seen a 285 in the last 20 years, I'll bet, as ahe uses Profoto. And besides, the Pro-8 has roughly the same recycling rate as an M240 Bravo. Which is nice.

Going by this video, the new high-end studio strobe comes with a soundtrack of singing angels, too. As well it should if it can keep up with a D3 firing on full auto at the lower power settings.

That's not the camera beeping along with each exposure. That's the flash signaling that it is ready to fire again.

Holy crap, is that thing fast. My guess: They swapped the regular caps in the power pack for flux capacitors. (When you hit 88 MPH, it is ready for the next frame before you actually shoot the current frame.)

Matt Hill, the man behind the curtain at the Profoto blog, was on the "A" cam shooting the behind-the-scenes video (embedded above) from the photo shoot.

Hit the jump for Matt's behind-the-scenes comments from the behind-the-scenes video, and a bonus, 100% gear porn video of all of the knobs and switches on the new Ferrari-of-Flashes Profoto Pro-8.

As always, it is the details that make the photo. The more I see of this lady at work, the more I realize how little she leaves to chance. Which is why I am always making mental notes when I am watching her videos.

Says Matt:

"Eckhard Heine, Profoto's other co-founder, has since passed away and when Annie was developing the concept for the shoot, I hear she wanted to honor their long relationship by including him in the photograph.

The large chalkboard you see behind Conny on the interior locations is hand-drawn schematic of one of the earliest Profoto flash generators. I saw one of Annie's crew drawing it on the chalkboard in our warehouse during prep for the shoot.

If you look closely at the right-hand side of photograph on our webpage, you will see on the computer screen a schematic from the Pro-8. The juxtaposition of old and new in one photograph... very subtle, in my opinion."

That background makes the shot, IMO. Neat thinking -- and execution.

Okay, how many photographers does it take to screw in a modeling light bulb? Well, lessee...

"There were four people (including Annie) listed as "crew", three Photo Assistants, two working on production, one on-set coordinator and four people listed as set designer, two on-set and two that were not."

Yeah, pretty much the same way I roll on a portrait shoot.

Also wedged into the scene were the Profoto documentation squad: Matt on "A" cam, Max Hull on "B," and Ab Sesay shooting stills. Matt edited, and for all I know did the background singing vocals, too.

Matt goes on:

"It was a fun day. Annie shot shot the second and third locations that day at our office. The first was at a marina in City Island at 6:30am."

Here's the result -- click for bigger in a new window:

©2008 Annie Leibovitz

More behind-the-scenes stuff from Matt:

"The setup was fluid - busy assistants like Nick Rogers setting and metering lights. During the shoot, you can see that the lights were moving until Annie saw what she wanted happening. It was a wonderful process to watch live. You can hear her asking Nick, 'Just a little bit lower to get the eye, please.' The stop-motion segments really show how she shifts the lighting constantly.

In retrospect, I learned that your first setup is simply that - a good place to start. Look, evaluate, and adapt until you get what you want.

I hear there is a lot of talk about her shooting rapid bursts of frames - anything I say about that would be a guess. Perhaps she was stretching her legs since the Pro-8 can keep up with the D3?"

(Yeah, just like the M240B, except that you don't have to bore-sight the Pro-8 a little down and to the left because it doesn't walk up and right when you fire it like the 240 does...)

"Annie was using the flash power at a very low level and shooting at a higher ISO (I heard 800 at one point). I can see how powerful that technique can be with low-noise processing and modern DSLRs. She blends it very well. Seeing all the diffused, bounced and ambient sources blend is akin to a well-performed symphony of light."

(Aw geez, Matt -- I was right there with you until the "symphony of light" remark. You still have stars in your eyes, dude...)

"The third and final set of the day was in the most unlikely spot - our Service Department. It was cramped, full of manuals, tools and work going in and out. Having a large crew on the shoot, plus our video/still crew and other people interested in seeing what was going on made it exciting. This is the shot you see featured for the 40th Anniversary, and that desk belongs to a one of our Profoto technicians."

Yeah, well. I am just thinking how much better the piece would have been with a third video camera in the mix. For next time, you have my number.

And now, your moment of knob-twiddling, dial-caressing, wallet-busting zen:

Official price is listed as: "If You Have To Ask..."

Thanks for the video, Matt -- and for the color commentary.


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