Magazine Article


Lights...Camera...Digital Casting!

Ad Credits :
Client: Coca-Cola Company Photography ©Alan Kaplan ( Freelance Producer - Talent Search: Jaye Murdock ( Ad agency: Fitzgerald & Co.

Casting - finding the right models and actors for still and video projects - is one of the most important parts of any commercial job. Castings are done for a range of projects, including catalogs, editorial work, and print advertising, and have traditionally been shot by photographers, photo assistants, talent agencies, or producers at the request of an ad agency or in-house corporate design department.

Ad Credits :
Client: Wyeth Pharmeceuticals Photography ©Karan Kapoor ( Freelance Producer - Talent Search: Donna Belej ( Ad agency: Grey Healthcare Group

Digital casting offers many benefits compared with film, including speed, quality, and the ability to share results almost instantly via the Internet. Doing if effectively, however, can be a challenge, and there are a number of ways to streamline the process and get the job done well. As a shooter for more than 25 years, I decided to use my know-how to give castings a unique look - often lighting of the final job.

Following is a five-step workflow based on my experience as an independent digital technician. Two digital casting jobs - one for the Coca-Cola Company and the other for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, will be discussed throughout the article to better illustrate the process.

1. Determine the Client's Needs & Organize the Casting

Phase One's C1 PRO software in teathered mode. This screen layout is very efficient.

Once you get the assignment, it is important to communicate with the creative team on details of the final project. For the Coca-Cola ad, a storyboard with comments about the desired overall feeling of the ad was provided to the photographer, Alan Kaplan, by the ad agency, and the information was then conveyed to me. For the Wyeth ad, the request was even more specific. Because the final ad showed a distinct shadow being cast by the models, the art director asked for the photos to show a similar effect.

For both castings, a freelance producer was hired. A good producer is highly recommended to handle the talent search, to make sure the shooting schedule is properly planned, and to take care of important paperwork before, during and after the shoot.

Castings can be strenuous. A typical casting for a big project can last seven hours or longer, and the number of people to be photographed in one day will range from about 150 to as many as 500.

These two screens also show the C1 Pro software in tethered mode. The lower model was chosen for the Wyeth ad, and the higher model was also chosen, but only for the shadow portion.

2. Use the Right Tools

Choosing the right equipment is a critical part of any digital casting. Many digital cameras will do a fine job. I like the Canon EOS-1D and Canon EOS-1Ds, and I have also used a Phase One P 25 digital camera back. All deliver beautiful images, with castings best done while tethered to a desktop or laptop computer. You can capture untethered to a media card, but I like to be able to name and organize the images as they are captured, which saves time. I also like to see every image. There are always a lot of closed eyes during a casting, and a large preview helps assure the delivered files are sharp and appropriate for client review.

I generally use a Power Mac G5 Dual 2.0GHz desktop, but for certain location assignments, I will use a 15" 1.5GHz PowerBook G4 laptop, often with an external Eizo 19" LCD monitor attached. Having a fast computer and camera allows me to really crank through a casting, with little delay between captures.

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