In early Feb 2020 we were invited to a meeting in Lugano Switzerland at the HQ of designer Philipp Plein. Quite a trek from Sunderland for a 2 hour meeting!
It was worth it as it turned out they were putting on the biggest show Milan fashion week has seen since it started in 1958 and wanted to include our bullet time expertise.
It’s not very practical to fly all the equipment we needed for the required shoot, so it was time for another NWD road trip in our trusty transit. We set off from Sunderland 3 days before the set up day to give us contingency time incase of any issues along the way.
As the weather was nice we took the scenic route through the Swiss Alps. We got as high up the Nufenen Pass as we could until we reached a 2 metre snow wall and had to divert to a more practical route. For fun we also filmed a time-lapse of the whole journey from Sunderland to Milan using a GoPro mounted on the windscreen.
We arrived at the show venue, (the huge exhibition centre Fiera Milano City, located in the heart of Milan) the afternoon before set up day. This gave us a great chance to go out and experience the vibrance of the city during the full swing of fashion week. No one at the time knew Covid was starting to spread in Italy.
When we had access to start setting up, we realised the immense scale of the production. There was huge lighting rigs and seating for 3000+ guests set around a huge runway that interweaved around PP logo infused gold wrapped Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, Helicopters, a fighter jet and a huge power boat. This was all intentionally as over the top as money could buy and we were a small part of the exuberance flex within the big show.
Some of the guest’s there were Tyga, Missy Elliott, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Timbaland, Bambi, photographer Ellen von Unwerth, Hollywood actress Olivia Culpo, Maye Musk, ex supermodel and mother to billionaire Elon Musk, internet personality Cameron Dallas, YouTube celeb Gigi Gorgeous and Alec Monopoly.
We created backstage a 60 camera 8 metre diameter bullet time rig around a gold foil lined wooden cylinder made to size by set builders. A big challenge we had was stretching the wiring looms to reach the cameras, we usually use more cameras on that size rig which reduces the distances between each connection point, adapting to challenges is what we do.
Another big feature of our set was the gold mirrored floor! It was a bold creative choice and a photographic nightmare, which we pre warned about when informed of the plans.
Anticipating the lighting challenge of this job, we brought with us three,1000 watt Elinchrom flash heads. We knew this was more fire power than we needed, however we have the experience to know, always keep something up your sleeve!
We did a few test shoots and as expected the lights were massively reflecting off the mirrored floor even at 1/6 power. The art director wasn’t happy with the flash reflections on the gold mirrored floor and told us Mr Plein doesn’t care about the physic’s of light, stop the reflection spoiling his gold floor!
So to defy the reflection properties of a 8m diameter gold mirrored floor, we pumped the the flash heads to full power and bounced the light of the venues roof, getting back just enough feathered light to exposure our shots. The floor was also soon covered in fake $100 bills from gold money guns, which helped mask the light reflections on the floor.
We provided some fun for the A listers backstage but our main task was to create sequences of the “looks” fresh off the catwalk to go straight to their website and social platforms. We shot hundreds of models and looks over many hours, it was hard work but fun to be part of something so over the top.
Using NWD’s propriety software we were able to generate fully aligned mp4 movies of all the shots, supplemented with the raw image folders, all on hard drive within 30 mins of the end of the shoot.
Although it was Toms birthday and the job had been a success, there was no time to celebrate. We had our gear packed up by 4am and passed the van keys to our return driver who we had flown in especially. By 6am we were at the airport and by 10am we were walking into the Excel Arena in London to start the setup process at a big trade show with a different van full of gear we arranged in advance. Never a dull day at NWD!