Photo by Matthias Clamer for Entertainment Weekly
Imagine our surprise when one Friday morning, we discovered cinemagraphs of Justin Timberlake breaking out of character for a spazzy dance next to a very still Anna Kendrick, one of many from the Entertainment Weekly Photo Studio at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. A fixture in pop culture coverage at the annual convention, Entertainment Weekly is a go-to source for exclusive interviews, photos and now, cinemagraphs of all of your favourite stars. To find out more behind this year’s shoot, we connected with photographer Matthias Clamer, who used Flixel’s awarding-winning Cinemagraph Pro for the very first time to bring the Entertainment Weekly Photo Studio to life at this year’s Comic-Con.
Cinemagraphs Helped Differentiate the Entertainment Weekly Photo Studio at Comic-Con
More and more, we are seeing cinemagraphs pop up as a part of multimedia shoots. Based in stable video footage and incorporating principles of still photography, they are a natural fit to traditional multimedia shoots while taking a new step in visual storytelling. Cinemagraphs are also becoming an increasingly popular part of live marketing activations, experiences that Flixel Studios has created for the likes of HBO’s Silicon Valley, A&E, Disney, TED, and Mashable and many others.
Entertainment Weekly’s Photo Studio fits somewhere in between – an untraditional shoot with 15 minute sessions booked one after the other with guests, but also an active hub for creating fresh content that is delivered quickly throughout the convention. “It was a way to put Entertainment Weekly out there,” Matthias told us, helping the publication become an important element to Comic-Con.
Adding cinemagraphs into the mix made Entertainment Weekly stand out a little bit more this year. “We always try to do something different so it’s not just the same thing year-in and year-out,” said Richard Maltz, Deputy Photography Director, West Coast of Entertainment Weekly. “It seemed like a good fit for us. It was something different that no one else was doing.”
“I suggested the cinemagraphs because it lends itself to posting. It lends itself to Instagram, and to the website and their blog,” said Matthias, who came across cinemagraphs on Instagram, and collaborated on a few cinemagraphs earlier this year for a separate entertainment shoot. But those were made in Photoshop, and in a setting with rapid production and high content turnover (less than twenty-four hours), he needed a solution that would help him execute his unique deliverables fast. When he discovered Flixel Cinemagraph Pro, he found the tool that would support his workflow.
How to Incorporate Cinemagraphs into a Multimedia Shoot (with help from Justin Timberlake)
With the bulk of each session dedicated to still photos, Matthias tried to incorporate cinemagraphs into the shoot when time permitted. “It would work better if it was a group of four or five or just two,” Matthias explained, citing that larger groups like the Suicide Squad and The Walking Dead casts were difficult to wrangle simply because of the sheer number of people, which included publicists, make-up artists and more, on set. When the opportunity presented itself, Matthias and the team would share the concept through examples on an iPad before providing direction.
Although most guests hadn’t come across cinemagraphs before, they were on board to give it a shot. “When we showed an example, everybody was like ‘Yeah, let’s try it!’” Richard described. “Usually when we try something new people are a little more skeptical, and people seemed to be interested. They were happy to do it because it was something different.”
While working off of a list of cinemagraph ideas generated in preproduction, there was a lot of room available for improvisation as the team discovered what worked, what didn’t and what new ideas were better. “Some people like Justin Timberlake; he took the spazzing out idea, that was his own. He said, ‘I have one, I have one,’” shared Matthias. “It definitely helped that one of the first people we went for was Justin Timberlake,” Richard added. “Once you can show other people Justin Timberlake, it kind of made it simpler. He had a lot of fun with it.”
Some of Richard and Matthias’ favourite cinemagraph portraits included the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Matthias’ “pickpocket” concept executed by the Vikings cast and the butt pinch, another improvised idea from the Silicon Valley cast. They are all great examples of how relying on the subject for the motion can result in extremely effective and shareable content pieces on social platforms. “You’re scrolling through, you wanna see a quick read, you want people to stop and see, ‘Woah! What was that?’” said Richard.
It doesn’t require an elaborate set-up, either. Matthias used a Canon 5D, LED lights, and a Marshall monitor to film the cinemagraphs against a simple backdrop. But in such a busy environment, they came with certain challenges and, naturally, a learning curve. “What’s extremely important is to plan the loop or the bounce; whatever you do, just plan the starting point and the ending point,” Matthias explained. “That is huge, obviously. That is the hardest part.” During the second day of the shoot, he discovered that he could export stills, touch them up in other photo editing software, and import them back in, which helped improve his cinemagraph deliverables for Entertainment Weekly on Day 2 and Day 3.
Cinemagraphs as a Part of Real-Time Social Media Storytelling, and Beyond
A portrait photographer who has shot musicians, athletes and politicians, Matthias’ largely works in entertainment these days. Amongst shoots for television programs American Horror Story and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, he cites his recent shoot for AMC’s Preacher as one of his personal favourites. “We did something like 15 unique shots all on location, all different locations. I got to do video portraits as well.” When it comes to cinemagraphs, Matthias sees them as a way to push the event of creating something, and capturing the now on social media.
For photographers looking to incorporate them into their pitches, he recommends discussing the added benefit of cinemagraphs as content pieces. “It has a surprising quality, and because it’s surprising, people pay attention to it. Cinemagraphs can be so weird and so creepy and very surprising,” he described. “It creates more interest or more of a buzz, something else to talk about. It’s a way of using Instagram better as well, isn’t it?” Given the 41,000+ views and over 6,000 likes on Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick’s cinemagraph for Trolls on Entertainment Weekly’s Instagram, we’d have to agree.
We hope to continue to see cinemagraphs as a part of traditional shoots as well. As Richard told us, he would be interested to see if they could be created on a larger scale for a concept related to a show or a movie, or as an overall concept for a shoot. “Obviously social and video are big things now days with magazines, and hopefully we can incorporate that somehow, but we’re in the early stages.”