When you walk onto the lot at Smashbox Studios in West Hollywood, Calif., Carlo Dalla Chiesa is immediately recognizable. His tall frame is accented with a stylish flair, and a thick accent betrays his Italian background. Transplanting himself from Europe to the United States wasn’t even close to the biggest move he has made in a career that began in the 1980s. Dalla Chiesa has transformed himself from law student to photographer to entrepreneur to pioneering still and motion photographer and filmmaker. Along the way, he opened a successful digital workflow company, Magia Media, which has since merged with Smashbox.
In 2012, Dalla Chiesa made a short homage to the classic thriller Blow-Up. In the short film, he re-created a sultry scene between a photographer and a model. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking, but what attracted us to the project was the collection of high-resolution still frames that he displayed on his website. These still photographs had been pulled from motion footage taken with a RED Epic camera. When we sat down to talk with Dalla Chiesa, he explained that, contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, shooting still and motion capture isn’t simply a matter of shooting video and pulling out a frame here and there. The mind-set and the fundamental approach to shooting motion that’s supposed to be seen in motion is quite different from shooting for still frames. The lines between still capture and motion capture and still plus motion capture are blurring, but there are important differences.
DPP: On the Smashbox Digital website, you have the Blow Up short that you made, as well as a number of still images. Did you shoot them simultaneously? How did you work with still and motion capture?
Carlo Dalla Chiesa: What triggered my interest was that, as a photographer, I was envisioning that one day we could do both at the same time. I was envisioning this for a long time. I feel that capturing the perfect moment in a photo was the reason we were taking all of those photos—so many photos—at a time. The movement, the expression, the focus, the lighting, the exposure—all of these elements are what you’re trying to bring together in a photograph, so we were taking a lot of photos.
When you’re shooting motion capture and you have movement, there’s this fluid motion that’s happening. The subjects are free to do a scene that’s much more complete than with still photo frames. It’s not just a moment. I was fascinated by that, so when the RED Epic camera came out, it gave me the ability to shoot video and, at the same time, the ability to extract the photos. I saw that this gave me the tool for what I really like to do. I think that down the road people will be very interested in this type of camera.
At Smashbox Digital, we’ve been fascinated in how to do this best, not just for ourselves, but for other clients in the future. It’s about the workflow. You can’t just do it if you don’t know how to do it. There are a lot of different components that allow you to do this. I think we’re in the right place now, and we know how to shoot motion and extract photos.