Danny Hiele


Danny Hiele


Danny Hiele has been a student of light for most of his life. He began painting in his teens and was set to attend the Royal Academy of Arts in his native Belgium when he discovered cinematography. Early in his career, he shot hundreds of newsreels, documentaries and spots, and before long his imagery for commercials began winning awards and recognition. Today Hiele works at the apex of the commercial business.

Recently, Hiele turned his talents to a short film for Beats by Dre, makers of stylish audio headphones. The film, titled The Game Before the Game, shows the pregame rituals of some of the world’s biggest soccer stars. The spot opens with Neymar, Jr., a Brazilian professional footballer, as his father calls him just before a game.

The Game Before the Game won Gold and Silver at Cannes Lions, took the excellence in cinematography at the AICP Awards, and earned a silver for best cinematography at the ANDY Awards. Adweek called them “some of the year’s best sports ads.” As a result of the AICP recognition, Hiele’s work is now part of the permanent collection of film and video at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Game Before the Game was directed by Nabil and produced by The Sword Fight over the course of five weeks in eight different countries. The film was timed with the World Cup in Brazil. Hiele chose to frame the images in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. “To me, anamorphic is very faithful to what you see with your eyes,” says Hiele. “The most faithful is 65 mm film, followed by anamorphic. The contrast and sharpness have always been close to what I’ve seen in the eyepiece. And at the same time, it creates a peaceful, restful panorama to view landscapes, portraits, or even macro shots.”

The A camera on The Game Before the Game was an ARRI ALEXA XT M model. The spots were roughly 95% handheld, and Hiele shot with two cameras about half the time. Like most cinematographers, he believes that digital sensors make the choice of lenses even more important.

“Glass has never been so popular as now in the digital age,” says Hiele. “That’s because most directors are asking for a ‘cinematic, organic’ feel that masks the digital world. Lenses are the first tool to get there. Each lens has its own soul, which is reflected in the flare. Directors love it, because it breaks up the digital feel.”

For The Game Before the Game, Hiele chose Hawk Anamorphic Lenses from Vantage Film, specifically a Hawk V‑Lite 35 mm and Hawk V‑Plus 65mm, 100 mm and 150 mm lenses. He usually limited himself to three of these four lenses.

“Those are my standard three lenses,” says Hiele. “I don’t need any more than that. I love the restriction of using only three. The choice of these three lenses is linked to my view and my intuition, my way of seeing things. I choose the Hawks because they are perfect for handheld, and because of their very nice flare characteristics, and their sharpness. The Hawks are closest to my eye.”

Hiele also recently shot a series of commercials for Beats that feature sports stars like LeBron James, Serena Williams, and German footballers Mario Götze and Sebastian Schweinsteiger. The Schweinsteiger piece was shot in Cologne and directed by Simon Verhoeven for Czar Hamburg/Berlin. The tagline is “The Beats Solo2 Wireless lets Bastian focus on the only voice that matters: his own.”

On the Schweinsteiger spot, Hiele chose Hawk Anamorphic Lenses from Vantage Film. For the majority of the other Beats spots, he used Vantage One lenses, which feature an eye-popping T-stop of T1. The Vantage One lenses takes advantage of basic changes in filmmaking technology to deliver a distinctive visual fingerprint and a new versatility in terms of texture and feel.

Hiele finds the extraordinary close-focus capability of the Vantage Ones important to his creative process. He says he is very pleased with the look he created with the lenses.

“I use the close-focus because I love coming close to the people I frame, to feel their breath and their skin,” he says. “It makes them feel vulnerable in a way, but at the same time at ease. I become a companion. The Vantage One lenses also have a very shallow depth of field that I love.”

Hiele says that he doesn’t follow the trend of using older lenses. “Precision and the mechanics for focus are very important for me, and for the first assistant,” he says. “It gives me a thrill to have in a single shot hyper-sharpness combined with a wonderful, almost transparent, out-of-focus foreground, with contrast holding in the background. I don’t like glass that makes everything look the same.”

Vantage supported Hiele and his crew on the Beats spots. “Service and the choice of glass that I love – both are important to me,” says Hiele. “I find a very good combination of these at Vantage.”

See the Bastian Schweinsteiger spot here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em4wgKlZl40. The LeBron James spot: james_lebron_powerbeats2. The Serena Williams spot: beats_serena.

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