Magazine Article


How I Entered the Video Domain
It All Started at a Client's Photo Shoot

Michael Grecco

At the DirecTV photo shoot with Martin Scorsese, we created a cover image and interior shots for an article they were doing on Scorsese. They wanted the cover image to suggest something heroic, something that said “New York.” We shot it on a balcony, in L.A., actually, overlooking the city. I decided to document the session with a stop-motion film. DirecTV was so thrilled with the film that they now include it in their television campaign to promote Scorsese's new association with them.
Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco

I’m always looking for ways to grow as an artist and to serve my clients. So when Laura Laubie, art buyer at Foote Cone & Belding—one of the world’s leading advertising agencies—asked me to shoot the Blue Cross Blue Shield campaign, I jumped at the opportunity. She continued: “We’re looking for someone to make an industrial video promotion we’re creating. Do you know anyone who could do the job?”

I told her, “I sure do. Me.” And with that, my team was headed to Miami for our first Blue Cross Blue Shield photo and videography shoot.

Our first day, we shot seven print ads for the client. On day two, we shot the videos. Everything we did that day was shot on a 24 fps digital video. We selected that speed because 24 frames per second looks more cinematic. The frames are not interlaced, they are individual, and the result is actually a series of discreet photographs, which the eye translates into a moving picture.

I hired a complete film crew, including a director of photography (DP), sound team, grips, gaffers, the whole nine yards. We worked from a three-minute script, which was later edited into the industrial film. Then we improvised a series of five videos for the Web. Each was about 15 seconds long. We worked without a script. And without sound.

When shooting video, I ask myself the same questions I ask when shooting stills: How will it work? Where will the type fit across the screen? How will the shots cut together? In addition, I need to know: How does it open? How does the actor come into frame? How do we create continuity? What is the sequence of pictures and how do they play with each proceeding shot or frame?

The client was so pleased with our result that we’ve been asked to shoot another Blue Cross Blue Shield advertisement. This time, they need a website banner advertisement that will feature motion. Suddenly, the line between still photography and video photography becomes blurred. Which format do we use? The client doesn’t know which will be best. We don’t know either, so we’ll shoot both.

A few months later, we experimented with a different type of movie, known as stop-motion film. DirecTV asked me to do a photo shoot with Martin Scorsese (above). As they explained, Scorsese was beginning an association with them and they wanted to show him on the cover of their magazine, with an accompanying feature article inside. They wanted the cover to suggest something heroic, something that said “New York City,” a city with which he has long been associated. Inside, the client wanted simple shots on gray seamless.

Knowing his busy schedule, we told Martin Scorsese we could shoot both in 30 minutes.

The “heroic” shot was done on a balcony, actually in Los Angeles, overlooking the city. The seamless portraits we simply shot inside. To document what we did, I decided to set a camera on a tripod, in a corner where it could view all the action, and connect an intervolometer set at two seconds. We turned it on and forgot about it until after the shoot.

We kept our word and completed the shoot in 30 minutes. We couldn’t believe how well the sequenced shots turned out. Using a Canon EOS 5D, a tripod, the intervolometer, and natural light we created a series of jpegs that could easily be edited into a stop-motion film. Using QuickTime, we made a “behind the scenes” movie, showing all the craziness and excitement of a major photo shoot with an important subject. The mini movie can be seen at

Understand that the film we shot is movie making in its most basic form. We used still frames in a non-moving camera. In editing, I deleted the frames I couldn’t use (for example, when someone would be standing in front of the camera), then added frames, by repeating them, to manipulate time.

I found that I wasn’t looking at the product as motion footage, but as a sequence of still frames. The result: a three-minute movie, which took about two hours to create on the computer.

The client was so thrilled with our film that they are now including it in their television campaign to promote Scorsese’s new association with them. We are always trying to surprise our clients with extra value. This effort worked out well for everyone.

The techniques would be no different for photographing a wedding or any event where a still camera is placed in a corner to view the action. For brief events, set the intervolometer at one to two seconds, as we did in the Scorsese film. For a longer occasion, say a 10-hour reception, this becomes impractical, so we’d move the setting to five seconds.

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