The Art of Listening

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For their documentary, The Art of Listening, Co-Directors and Co-Cinematographers, Michael Coleman and Emmanuel Moran, used Cineo Lighting products exclusively. Lighting the many interview subjects well was particularly important as the documentary filmmakers explain, “This is about the journey that music takes to reach a listener’s ear, from the intent of an instrument maker and composer, to the producers and engineers who capture and preserve an artist’s voice. The film itself is narrated by intimate conversations with the artists about the philosophy of their work combined with a visual narrative of their process.”

In handling the interviews, Coleman and Moran kept the team small—just two or three people—so as not to overwhelm their subjects. They also wanted to travel light, get in and out quickly and efficiently, and not take up too much of the interview subject’s time. “From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to talk to a very diverse group of musicians, luthiers, producers, engineers, and overall people that are involved in music,” says Moran. “That is the very essence of the message of the film. To kind of go beyond what everyone is used to seeing in a music documentary and talk to a pretty wide range of people. A lot of documentary filmmaking is asking for favors, really; people being generous by giving you their time. So in terms of our lighting, we knew we had to be efficient with the limited time we had to setup and we needed something reliable and compact because we were going to be traveling so much. We knew that we couldn’t carry a ton of very heavy gear; that possibly might not work in a tight space; so that’s where using the Cineo lights were really amazing.” Their gear selection included the Maverick and Matchbox lights to illuminate their interview subjects expertly and expediently.

The ease in setting up the Cineo lighting was an efficiency that both filmmakers really appreciated as it gave both of them the extra time to talk with the subjects about the interview and to put them at ease. “A lot of these interviews were opportunities to talk to wonderful artists and producers,” says Moran. “So when we were there we’re not just setting up the lights; we are getting to know people, getting them comfortable with you. If you have gear that makes it easy for you to just do that part of your job, I think, is really special. We have done other shoots together where you spend more time putting the lights together than getting to know people. This problem was easily fixed by the decision to work with the Maverick for example, which was our main key the whole time. They let us light in a way that we felt was representative of the overall feel of the film.”

“I think the nice thing about the Cineo products is just the quality of the light,” explains Coleman. “That was one of the big factors for us even getting them originally. It was Emmanuel who said ‘You should check out Cineo’s lights’ as I hadn’t really been familiar with the line. The first impression I had when I saw the Maverick and the Matchbox for myself was that they were really well built. They’re really small and the quality of the light is fantastic. We were able to really do everything we needed with them; the whole film was lit with only those two lights. As Emmanuel said, we were going for a very kind of natural type of look, so we didn’t want to over-light the shoots. Also, with the amount of space we had, we couldn’t really use more than those two. All the shoots were pretty much two cameras, so it was the both of us. At most it was a three person crew when we had a producer with us. We usually used the Matchbox as a hair light, sometimes we’d use it as an accent, or for insert shots.”

Being a documentary, the team knew that it was important to create an environment where they put the viewer right in the middle of workshops, right in the middle of studios, and the spaces where people go to create music. “We didn’t want to go in there and start to tamper too much with what was going on, because we saw that what was in front of us was just cool enough on its own,” Moran says. “I think that’s another challenge we avoided, going into a space where we would have a tough time just bringing in another light we could use a Cineo Maverick and a Matchbox, both of which were very efficient. You want anything you work with to do what you need and just get out of the way, and I think for me that was it. For me, that was the biggest impression of working with Cineo Lighting products, after a while it just became second nature to just put the lights up.”

Moran and Coleman really appreciated the rugged construction of the Cineo products as they trooped around the globe making their documentary. “A lot of gear got pretty roughed up with all the traveling around, especially the Maverick,” Moran comments. “It didn’t matter though, those lights could withstand everything and they still would always turn on! They would always be working.” In addition to durability, Coleman highlights the fact that the source keeps the lights cool, helping the team be more efficient. “I really like how the lights stay cool,” Coleman says. “They’re not an HMI, which I’ve used for most of my career. HMI lights get so hot you have to wait for them to cool down before you can pack them up; now we could pack and go right away. A key benefit that was really nice actually, was that by using the Cineo lights in small places we wouldn’t be heating the place up.”

Another key reason for selecting the Cineo lights was the color quality. This was a benefit that paid off when they got into post production and started looking through the footage. “When we brought the images up and we were studying the color, it just seemed like, wow,” states Moran. “We were amazed at how true to life the colors were and better looking than we were expecting. In post, we kept saying things like ‘Oh, Wow. That looks better than I thought.’ And that’s always a good thing, because I think a lot of times when you’re shooting a documentary it’s so fast that you just have to kind of commit to something and you pray for the best. If we had compromised by using a different light, the colors wouldn’t have been so true. You get a green cast with a lot of LED lights. The color rendition was unique and special about the Cineo lights. And if anything, just because of that reason I can’t see myself using anything else”

“When we were in post, it was very seamless,” agrees Coleman. “To me, there’s not much out there that can compare to the color matching with Cineo’s phosphor technology. We never had a feeling that we were getting a mixture of color temperatures; we didn’t see any weird shades of magentas and other colors like I’ve experienced in the past.” That quality of the color from the Cineo Lighting products helped reduce the time the team had to spend color correcting and balancing in the post process.

The Art of Listening team also really appreciated another efficiency, that the Cineo lights can be powered by batteries, even camera batteries and thus making life easier by not having to carry separate batteries. “When we went to Japan, one of the issues was traveling with all of our gear,” says Coleman. “Honestly, it was nice to work with the Matchbox using camera batteries on it. We made sure the camera batteries we had were going to be compatible and that we could use them. So in some cases we didn’t have to worry about finding power. That was one of the big selling points for us with the Matchbox; that you can just power off a battery and you don’t have to worry about cabling. You can move it around easily and it’ll work really quickly which was definitely the case for a lot of the shoots.”

Moran adds, “Being able to use the same batteries for the camera on the little Matchbox was pretty awesome. There was a scene towards the end where Michael got in a car with a composer and they are going to a show at night. Without thinking about it, we just threw the Matchbox in the car. It’s so portable, so tiny, it was like of course, we’re going to use it. I think that we could have shot the scene without using the light, but it wouldn’t have looked as beautiful as it looks.”

Coleman was so pleased that he is actively telling others to working with Cineo Lighting products. “I just have to tell people about Cineo lights because, while I feel that a lot of people do know about the product, there are still people that don’t know about them and really, really should. You would think that lighting technology would just plateau and not really advance, but with Cineo, that’s not the case at all. Cineo has advanced it so much.”

 For more information on this documentary and to watch a trailer of The Art of Listening, please go to: www.theartoflisteningfilm.com.