From American Cinematographer
The Sea Hawk Meets the Six Pack
Hardesty, Mary, American Cinematographer
Miller spot uses classic footage from Flynn adventure to set up clever pitch for product.
Did you ever notice the monkey in the galley scene from the classic film The Sea Hawk starring Errol Flynn? Maybe not, but Miller Beer has cleverly brought him to the foreground with their new Miller Genuine Draft Beer 30-second takeoff. This time the monkey appears monkey appears at one of the portholes and drops a bottle which rolls to one of the rowing men.
“The knife the forced laborers use to extricate themselves and escape [in the film] is now a bottle of beer,” explains cinematographer Curtis Clark, ASC, who collaborated on the ad with first-time director Angus Wall. “The challenge was to link Errol Flynn and the original actors with our new guy. Instead of the knife, he’s handed the bottle of beer.”
To make it appear as if Flynn was actually handed a brew, Clark used motion control and a bottle on a rig to match the actions needed to composite the bottle into the late actor’s hand.
Light, angles and perspective proved to be the biggest worries during the five-day shoot at Renmar Studios in Los Angeles, on a set constructed to match the 1940s set. “We had the original footage with us during the entire shoot, so we were able to estimate the perspective needed,” Clark recalls. Although he didn’t have access to continuity reports of the original footage, he was able to make use of video assist to help him match footage. “We would feed in the original scene and superimpose our bottle over the point where Flynn’s hand was, which allowed us to quickly see if the bottle was at the correct perspective,” explains Clark, who was given one day to shoot two such scenes.
To capture the original Forties look, Clark chose Kodak Double X black & white stock. “We took the closest source of the film – in this case a D-1 transfer from Turner Broadcasting’s library –
and used it on the Cineon at Pacific Ocean Post to replicate the look of the original film grain, which was coarser than today’s stock,” explains Clark. “Because we didn’t know the exact steps the filmmakers went through to create the original footage, we had to guess the grain sharpness and diffusion levels.”
To further add to the authentic period feel, Clark and the director decided to recreate the shooting style of the period using the same lighting techniques and lenses.
Fortunately, Clark had found a set of old Cooke lenses that had been rehoused when he was shooting the King Kong Eveready Battery spot [AC March ’94], so he was able to use that gained knowledge to save time and accomplish his lighting tests in only one day.
“From my work on the King Kong spot I knew we needed to use tungsten lighting and traditional studio lamps. The lighting styles used in those days were, in many respects, old-fashioned,” observes Clark, who notes that many older features lack lighting continuity. “They’re not anything like what we would do today. The trick is to always refer back to the reality of the original film and not do what you would normally do to improve the lighting. Making it nicer is not the point: you want to
capture the original Forties look, Clark chose Kodak Double X black & white stock. “We took the closest source of the film – in this case a D-1 transfer from Turner Broadcasting’s library . We had to guess the grain sharpness and diffusion levels [the original filmmakers used.]”
To further add to the authentic period feel, Clark and the director decided to recreate the shooting style of the period using the same lighting techniques and lenses. Fortunately, Clark had found a set of old Cooke lenses that had been rehoused when he was shooting the King Kong Eveready Battery spot.
Publication information: Article title: The Sea Hawk Meets the Six-Pack. Contributors: Hardesty, Mary – Author. Magazine title: American Cinematographer. Volume: 76. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 1995. Page number: 81+. © American Society of Cinematographers.
Is there anyone out there who knows where to find a copy of the Sea Hawk Miller commercial? I’m sure we all would love to see it posted! Thanks.
Here’s the scene stealing Sea Hawk monkey stealing a separate scen from Sea Hawk:
— Gentleman Tim