Behind the scenes: The making of the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55 commercial
When Manfrotto approached me to film a commercial for their new Pro Light Reloader Air-55 camera bag, although I was excited, I knew it would be a big and challenging project.
Designed for photographers who regularly travel for work, the concept of the video was to show off the features of the new bag, including the convenient carry on size, impact resistant camera protection system, interchangeable flexi dividers, tripod attachment and water resistant outer coating.
All this had to be shown in a space of three minutes, so creating a strong story was important. As a commercial photographer who travels for shoots, we devised a story line that followed what a typical day may look like — arriving back from travelling before heading back to the studio and getting on with the next shoot of the day.
The filming was done at two main locations — our local airport and my studio — and took place over a number of days. Before we could start, I had to recce any potential locations and contact the relevant authorities to get permission to film. Once we were given the go-ahead, we could start.
As some of the filming was weather dependant, I made the call to start with those scenes first in order to give us the maximum number of chances to get the right clips. Guernsey’s climate at that time of year meant the weather wasn’t the best and we had to take any opportunity we could get.
Conditions on our first morning of filming were less than ideal. At 6am there was heavy cloud cover with few breaks in the cloud, which meant any filming we could have done outside was just not possible.
We returned the next morning to similar conditions, but took the opportunity to get what clips we could. I knew that the clock was ticking and with weather uncertainty later in the week, I didn’t want to risk running out of time with nothing to show for our efforts.
The third early start paid off. Clear skies and calm conditions meant we were easily able to film the clips we needed. We had to work quickly to get everything done, but having spent the previous two mornings rehearsing, we knew exactly what to do.
It can be worth checking the clips while on location to make sure you've got what you need.
It took multiple attempts at walking up and down the front of the airport, repeatedly entering and exiting the car park to get the clip of the barrier going up and driving around looking for parking spaces that worked in terms of location and lighting, but eventually we were able to get exactly what we needed for the sunrise clips. But again, we ran out of time for the car boot opening and walking next to the car so these were filmed at sunset instead.
We’d deliberately taken minimal equipment, knowing conditions at the airport were often very windy. To film the sequences shot outside we used only natural light and reflectors and to overcome the low light when filming the clip in the boot of the car, we filmed using the Hasselblad H6 and added additional light using mirrors to highlight the bag.
With those clips done and the sequences in the airport hangar only scheduled for two days time, we took the opportunity to film the scenes in the studio.
Once we'd finalized the clips at the airport we returned to the studio, where we were joined by a model and hair stylist for part of the video.
In these scenes I wanted to show the storage features of the bag (external laptop and document pockets, internal panel pockets and interchangeable flexi-dividers, and also the TSA 4-in-1 lock system) and how the size and durability of it meant I could travel easily and confidently with all my gear, not having had to part with it at any point.
We were joined by a model and hair stylist for the day and, with nothing dependant on weather, everything went smoothly and quickly (the hardest part was getting Ashleigh to say her lines loudly enough!).
For filming in the studio we used a combination of studio lights and HMI lights. The studio lights were used for the “photoshoot” while the HMI’s were used to light the bag and create additional light around the studio for filming.
With the bulk of the filming done, our video editor was able to start putting everything together while we waited for the final day of filming; when we would shoot the opening scenes of the commercial, where you see me disembarking a plane with the camera bag (highlighting the fact the bag is carry on size).
For this, I’d had to source a private plane and get permission to access a private hanger at the airport, but finding a timing that worked was tricky. The story dictated that I land in the morning, but as the plane we were using was a private one, it wasn’t readily available. We therefore had to shoot when we could (which happened to be at sunset) and make it look like sunrise. The clips we’d filmed a few days prior were next in the storyline, which meant, for continuity, we again needed clear skies and calm conditions. At this point I was really beginning to stress about the weather and if we’d ever deliver the project on time!
We got lucky and the afternoon delivered perfect conditions. Once the plane had landed and taxied into position, it was just a case of waiting for the sun to reach the right position before we started filming. With just the clip of me disembarking to film, we were done fairly quickly.
We’d brought all our HMI lights with, thinking we would need them to light the hangar and airplane, but it turned out we didn’t use any of them. Instead we used just a reflector to add some light onto the bag as I was stepping off the plane.
With that complete, it marked the end of filming and left only the final editing to be done before we delivered the video. The editing process required color grading to ensure everything looked seamless and then obviously the edit itself had to be carefully considered to flow well for the narrative and music.
You can see the final video and how we made it at the links below: