EA Sports FIFA 15 “The Play”
The versatility of cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC is evident in his list of recent feature credits, which includes the sparkling imaginary world of Disney’s Snow White and the Huntsman, the intense naturalism of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and the gripping dread of Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher.
Between feature projects, Fraser turns his eye to commercials, which allow for experimentation with new tools and a level of attention to detail not usually achievable in the feature realm. One recent example is a spot for EA Sports’ FIFA 15, a video game licensed by the international organization dedicated to advancing the sport professional football, a.k.a. soccer. The director was Mark Zibert, known for his arresting and visually striking commercials.
The spot intercuts game footage from the EA Sports computer game with images of non-professionals playing the video game. The spot is designed to communicate that the intensity and verisimilitude of the video game experience is similar to that of the professional football match itself. In their homes, players begin actions that are finished by on-field players portrayed in the game, and vice-versa. For example, a video game player is blasted back across his room, presumably by the sheer force of the on-screen action, the effect of a move made by another online video game player somewhere else in the world. Shots of the gamers’ faces are sometimes set off with a curved, transparent screen in the foreground. The title of the spot is “The Play,” and the tagline is “Feel the game.”
The project took Fraser to Barcelona and Prague, where he shot with actors as well as Messi, the Argentine footballer who plays for FC Barcelona. Part of the assignment was to avoid making the footage look like the video game.
“We were trying to give it a very organic look,” says Fraser.
Like many cinematographers in the digital era, Fraser chooses lenses carefully for each application. Many DPs say that without the choice of film stock and the accompanying flexibility in terms of exposure and development, they are turning to a wide variety of lenses to lend images personality.
“Lenses can give you an extra paintbrush,” he says. “In the film world, you could always choose your stock, and push it or pull it or cross-process it. Now your choices are the ASA at which you shoot, and the digital format. It reduces our choices as photographer, and it reduces our ability to make clear decisions.”
A key element of the look of the EA Sports FIFA 15 spot was Vantage One prime lenses, a set of cine lenses which offer an eye-opening T-stop of T1. The T1 lenses were used primarily on faces.
“The reason we chose the T1 lenses for this project was that they gave us a really lovely, shallow depth of field,” says Fraser. “I find that those lenses work really well on faces, because the focus fall off is really quite stunning and beautiful. We were using them for their close-focus capability, which is a great attribute as well.”
The T1 lenses also produce interesting flare characteristics and deliver additional light to the sensor in a given situation, Fraser says.
“One of the things I love about older glass is the flaring,” he says. “These lenses have the feel of an older lens. But all the technicians on the set love them because they’re close focusing, they’re fast, and they’re the same stop and the same size, and they’re a proper set. Vantage has given us a few extra paintbrushes with these lenses. The image wasn’t perfect – but it had character.”