Luxor

Luxor – Hakawi film release

I’m super excited to release my latest short film. Titled Hakawi, it’s a destination film about the stunning city of Luxor, part of a bigger project I worked on for Canon end of last year. The Luxor project started with refreshing their image library but evolved into creating this beautiful short film using the Canon C300 Mark 2. I worked with the C300 last summer shooting Khareef and really enjoyed it.


[Hakawi – short destination film]

I found it particularly supportive in my run and gun style of film making. It’s small enough to shoot handheld and the follow focus with the EF lenses is brilliant. Speaking to ‘old school’ DOP guys, they prefer manual focus but coming from a photography background I’ve learned to trust the system.

Luxor is quite simply a truly amazing city. It has so much to offer, the sights are breathtaking, the people are super friendly and the hospitality so welcoming. It’s hard to really grasp just how far their history dates back to. Visiting these tombs that are thousands of years old can’t fail to touch you. Their silence is mesmerising and their stories tell such wonderful tales.

We met with the Governor of Luxor on our first scouting trip to discuss the project and he gave us carte blanche access. In reply to our question about what should be included in the film he said, “We’ve been sharing our history for many years and the stories always look the same. Why don’t you visit Luxor and create your film around your experience, something unique and different.” Surely, that’s the ultimate in open briefs. I story boarded the creative and pretty much ended up shooting what I had in mind.


[60sec TVC]

We flew in with a small crew from Dubai, joined up with a bigger crew and talent in Cairo and finally in Luxor, threw in the local entourage. Before we knew it, we were a ‘small’ production family of 25+ for a week of cruising around town.

Nothing happens without a little help to open doors and Mohamed Osman played an incremental role in doing this for us. From finding rare mountain bikes and building Bedouin camps in the mountains to accessing private hot air balloon rides and looking after us at his amazing own Marsham boutique hotel (http://www.marsamluxor.com), we asked and Mohamed Osman delivered. My heartfelt thanks for all his support.

My thanks also to the team at Serena, who were responsible for post-production. They turned many hours of footage into the engaging edit. Shooting in Canon C-log 2 means shooting RAW film footage, which in pre-production has a flat muddy feel until you put it in the hands of a good colour grader. Post-production is vital for a strong final product.


[behind the scenes]

To get a feel of what happened on tour, have a look at the behind the scenes video below or put more aptly, a behind the scenes of the behind the scenes, as this is the uncut RAW version showing what it really takes to run a big production. Safe to say, it’s probably one of my funniest videos of its kind to date…

Wk.

Luxor – gear talk

Boys and their toys! For Luxor, we didn’t travel light. This is what we packed for a week long film and photography production.

Pictured in this image is pretty much everything we used, apart from the DJI drone and Ronin stabilisation rig.

  1. FILMING

We used the Canon C300 Mark 2 as our prime cinema camera. We shot with both their stunning cinema lenses and their standard EF lenses, paired with Atomos Shogun as 7” external monitor. We took the XC10 for some of the hard to access point of view shots. It also shoots 4k so easy to cut in the main edit. I brought two of the Canon 5D mark 4 for the behind the scenes filming used by Christina Everington.

  1. PHOTOGRAPHY

We used the Canon powerhorse EOS 1DX Mark 2. I love this camera. I can work it with my eyes closed, it delivers super strong imagery and can really take a good beating. We took the following lenses; 16-35, 24-70, 50, 85, 70-200 and 200-400 with 1.4 ext.

  1. WORKFLOW

Nothing goes without a MacBook Pro these days. As we were filming 4k, we geared with SanDisk Extreme Pro CFast cards and used their portable SDD hard drives for storage and constant backups. We did intermediate media checks with Lightroom, Photography and Final Cut Pro. To learn more about workflow, check out this previous post.

  1. LIGHTENING GEAR

We used the Profoto B3 battery pack with their Airsync. Two flash heads and a range of dishes, softboxes and umbrellas. I’ve had this kit for years. It’s such a reliable piece of equipment and produces consistent quality light.

  1. MISC

I love my mini studio build using the iPad and Camranger as a second screen to evaluate images and keep the client and team away from the camera. Field cleaning kit and a headtorch too.

  1. SOUND

For the film production, we brought the following audio recording; lapel mics and a directional microphone with a big boom stick. Recorded directly to Zoom H4.

  1. LED LIGHTS

Simple battery powered LED lights as a quick fill in light source for both filming and photography.

  1. TRAVEL PACKS

My trusted companions for every gig. Pelican cases, which are the only way to transport precious equipment and survive the endless beating of air travel. They also make useful apple boxes. I love my fstop backpacks too. The internal units carefully store photo/film gear and the pack carries just like a comfortable backpack.

Wk.

Luxor – temple guards portraits

Shooting portraits of the guards at the Habu temple was an experience to be remembered. The expression on their faces was quite magical, full of charisma and telling of so many stories. Just seeing how engaged they are in what they do and their passion for the city of Luxor makes you want to capture them. I was keen to shoot straight down to f2.0 for a beautiful isolated portrait. I had it beautifully lit with a big octabank as my key light source and a smaller strip for a bit of over the shoulder fill.

Once set up, it’s a pretty indestructible set build. I shot wirelessly to an ipad so spectators and crew could see what was being shot. Feedback came in the form of giggles and enthusiasm. It turned into a damn good series!

We made some prints in Luxor, which we gave to the guards a couple of days later as a thank you. It was great to see their reactions. I wonder if they’ll make the walls of their living rooms at home?

One of the experiences that struck me most about working in Luxor was just how ancient everything is. At every turn, lie literally thousands of years of story telling. It’s certainly a sharp contrast to Dubai where so much emphasis is placed on the new, the modern, the glitz and the glamour. Luxor was a sweet reminder that I really do like ‘old stuff’.

This project has been such an amazing experience. Luxor has so much to offer and it’s been a joy helping them to create fresh content and share their stories.

Wk.

Intro Luxor & behind the scenes

This is the first of a series of posts about Luxor in Egypt. The Canon office called me in to discuss a project that would be straight down my alley. In a nutshell, Canon made the commitment to support the people of Luxor with visual assets to help promote their stunning destination. Tourism in Egypt has been having a rough time and needs a push with some fresh creative.

We did a scouting trip in November last year to figure out the scope of work, meet the Governor and seek inspiration for the storyline. I was shooting and producing. It was a typically hectic scouting trip, with long jam-packed days but I needed to get my head around the project and all it entailed.

This post is about the photography side of Luxor. I shot a handful of advertising style images, a stunning portrait series and an additional refresh for their destination image bank. My workhorse was the Canon 1DX Mark 2. I love their 1 series body. Thanks to the size, it just holds so nicely. It’s well balanced too with longer lenses attached. It has heaps of pixels and for me, the icing on the cake is that you can push the ISO setting and keep on shooting handheld with ambient light. This is great in darker spaces.

I worked with a mix of lighting scenarios. Most of the Luxor hero images were shot with Profoto studio lights, used both indoors and outdoors. We worked with pure ambient light when on the fly and occasionally used LED panels as a quick fill in option for portraits, whilst shooting with lower aperture. We moved through our long shot list of destination image bank shots pretty quickly so kept our gear light.

We nailed some amazing golf action shots with the 14fps and the awesome EF 200-400 lens with the 1.4 build in extender. Such a strong combo for isolating sport action. The focus tracking works perfectly with amazing sharpness. The new telelens is so much lighter than my alternative EF 400mm lens, enabling you to shoot handheld most of the time.

Luxor is so worth a visit. I’ll be taking my boys there to experience ancient storytelling with all the temples and tombs, alongside the vibrant colour and character of the bustling souks and the lush green east coast of the river Nile. Please check out Hakawi, the short destination film I produced… and keep your eyes peeled for my next few posts.

Wk.