Second Shooter Plus and Stealth Slider used for Product Videos with Christophe Thockler
Christophe Thockler is a freelance graphic designer and director working out of France.
Christophe recently reached out to Kessler to share some of his work that he’d completed for Skinjay, a company that manufactures aromatherapy products for use in your shower, using Kessler gear and we were blown away with what he created. Christophe agreed to speak with us to shed some insight into his background and processes.
Check out Christophe’s work:
and the BTS of this project:
KU: Christophe, thanks for agreeing to speak with us about your work! All of here at Kessler were really impressed with the visuals that you’ve created. How did you get your start in filmmaking?
CT: Thanks a lot for your kind words about my work, I really appreciate it. I studied English literature, art and civilization in order to become a teacher. I never had a computer before, and during those college years, I had a roommate who brought one, and I did my first video and some photo experiments at the age of 21 and I immediately felt in love with the media and the process of creation. I made a music video for an artist that saw some of my work online, and it was broadcasted on French TV and won some prices in festivals. After this, I finished my studies in art and literature (in the meantime, I also got a degree in iconography, which was great to learn what is an image and get some cultural background) and established myself as a freelance graphic designer and director. I technically learned everything by myself.
KU: What was your workflow like for creating this Skinjay teaser? Did you start with things like storyboarding or mood boards, or was it more of a trial and error type of thing?
CT: For this teaser, I already had some shots in mind and the CEO of Skinjay, Nicolas Pasquier, wanted to convey some feelings and helped me to create a short story board. I also played a lot with the slider and tested many possibilities, some of the shots in the final video are from these tests.
KU: Your portfolio has quite a bit of stop motion work, what is it about stop motion that draws you to this particular type of storytelling and what has been your experience with utilizing the stop motion features of your Kessler gear?
CT: I started to make videos in stop motion, a bit more than 10 years ago both for budgetary reasons and really because I loved this technique. When I was younger, I was mesmerized when I saw Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, the films of the Quay brothers or some early works of Michel Gondry, so, later, when I had the chance, I naturally took a photo camera and did some tests.
What I really love with this technique is that it creates a really strange and beautiful atmosphere, movements are at the same time smooth and jerky. On a narrative level, It allows us to work with onirism and create surreal diegesis with eerie ambiances, adding some semiotical hints to help the viewer discover meanings or create his own story.
I’m also fascinated by the passing of time and what a great technique to illustrate this. In Un Jour Comme Un Autre (made with 35 000 photos) you can watch 160 hours reduced in 4 minutes :
Or in Cusp, where you can watch 40 blocs of ice melting in 5 minutes :
And as you can see in this last video, I am often trying to find beauty in the mundane in my works, and stop motion is a great technique to beautify everything.
The stop motion features of the Kessler gear are great! One very difficult thing, when you work in stop motion, is to move the camera by hand smoothly and with the exact same distance each time, more than that it’s almost impossible to manage several axis. This slider is an amazing tool for stop motion directors : If you have something a bit flat to animate, moving the camera during the shot always make something dynamic and this tool is great for that. Moreover, during all these years, for many shots, I often moved my camera or some objects, but I didn’t really know where and when the pan would end. With the Second Shooter, I can pre-visualize the movement before animating the whole thing in stop motion, deciding the number of photos and this is pure bliss.
KU: Speaking of your portfolio, you without a doubt have a style of your own and do a mix of corporate videos and music videos. How do you meld your style with your client’s needs (be it a corporation or an artist) to produce a piece that you both are happy with? Do you approach your corporate work differently than you do the music video projects?
CT: The process is different for a corporate work and an artistic one. Almost each time I direct a music video, I speak a bit with the artists behind the tracks and they usually only give me some words or things they want to convey and I have carte blanche, which is really amazing, maybe a bit frightening, but it helps stay creative - For Favorite Place, for example, the band told me they wanted something “warm, colorful and intimate "
I thought about all this for a moment and come up with the idea of clothes and textiles that suited the mood perfectly, they loved the idea, then I started the two months work.
The only thing I do is that at the beginning, and midway during production, I send some still images to be sure the client likes the artistic direction, but I only always show the final music video at the end, because I think it makes more sense as I really see it as a small piece of art rather than a promotional thing. I must be lucky, because each time, they love the videos!
For corporate works I make things a little more “serious” in terms of communication, I create some story boards to send to the client and can show him how the project is going on by sending him some bits of videos. It’s really another exercise where you have to create a smoother workflow where you can change things, add shots, etc. But I always try to bring some bits of arty shots here and there.
KU: We can see in the BTS of the Skinjay piece that you are utilizing a Stealth Slider and Second Shooter Plus motion control gear, how long have you been using Kessler gear, and what drew you to these particular products over other solutions on the market and other Kessler offerings?
CT: I have been using this gear for a year now. I’ve used it to work mainly on Skinjay projects , but it has been great for taking multiples photos of an object and making a pan while keeping the exact same angle, each piece is often created with more than 30 photos, and I’m sure I will use it in other videos.
I needed to upgrade my work and gain some time during shooting, I started to search for some equipment and I discovered that some motorized sliders were now affordable for independent directors, I was amazed just to discover this! I looked at different products and chose the Kessler one because it seemed the most complete and adaptable tool, with no limits in the axes, a good length slider and it looked the most robust, the most professional. The other sliders I noticed looked great too, but maybe a little less pro, with less possibilities, I was afraid to spend the money and be disappointed to not be totally free creatively with the final product. My last step was to look at some forums and I found other people were coming to the same conclusions about the Kessler gear. I was really pleased to see the quality of the gear when I received it. When you have it in your hands you immediately know it’s great quality and that it will last.
KU: It’s my understanding that you have not been using your Kessler gear for too long of a timeframe, how has the gear improved your work?
The gear greatly improved the way I can make dynamic shots. In live video, you can use many things to make movements, dolly, tripods, ropes, pulleys etc. it’s almost infinite, because the movement is done in one gesture. In stop motion, as I already said, it’s very hard, you can’t really perfectly precisely move your dolly or tripod, and adding another axis is almost impossible. With the Second Shooter, I can pan, rotate, tilt, and at the same time animate things in stop motion.
It’s also much less time consuming than before, and I know I will not have to align each photo in post because of the movements made by hand, everything is smooth with the slider.
More than this, It looks like it’s helping me to find new interesting angles to work with. I think I can fully work with it now, but still may be in a sort of test phase, and I’m surprised how some basic set ups are almost always able to create interesting movements.
KU: We’ve seen that you are using the gear to move subjects in your frame as well as doing motorized camera moves. We love seeing that type of creativity and outside of the box thinking. What is the most outlandish set up that you’ve been able to achieve and do you have any tips for other people looking to use Kessler gear in unique ways?
CT: I always love to use things my way. I think I started at a young age with my Legos. When my parents bought me a Lego house, I built it and 2 days later, it often became a spaceship or a big car. Recently, I managed to get a 3D printer, I wanted to have my logo « in real » to make a video for my website home, I did not print my logo in 3D plastic but instead created a mold and poured concrete in it. I worked without professional gear for many years and I still keep my handyman habits I think.
The most impressive set up I did with the Second Shooter for now would probably be this one
I put the slider vertically, added a Manfrotto Magic Arm and suspended the Skinjay module to it, through the packaging. This way, I was able to activate the slider to have the feeling that the module is coming out of the package. I also did this kind of thing with the aluminium sleeve. I really like this shot in the BTS, it’s robotic, a bit futuristic and really hypnotizing to see the slider in action.
The trick in this Skinjay video is the following : When I want a pan on an object with a motionless light, I put my camera on the Second Shooter and move towards the object. If I want more dynamics with an effect of moving light, I put the object on the slider and move it towards my camera. For some tricky shots, I also found it was easier sometimes to just put the object on the slider.
KU: Did you have anything that you’d like to add about the Kessler gear you use or this Skinjay piece that we have not covered?
CT: Something we all dreamed about and was almost impossible to have decades ago is now affordable. There are several special shots in the movie The Fly by Cronenberg that always fascinated me. At the time we were used to see cuts and fades to create special effects and apparitions in motionless shots. There are some effects like this in the film, but they were done during pans, I always wondered how they managed to make this at the time. In the Blu Ray making of they explained that they had to create a very complex system of sliders and dollies with special computers and software that were able to replicate the same exact movement, it was a real factory. Being able, today, to have this kind of unreachable studio technology in our small studios is amazing.
On a more fun note, I can show you how I worked and created movements using DIY methods before, without the help of the Second Shooter. Here are some photos. It’s easy to imagine how this gear is improving my workflow!
KU: Do you have any shoots coming up that you are excited about that you could share with us?
I’m doing a bit of corporate projects right now, graphic designs for financial communication companies, but I’m still collaborating with Skinjay, we will explore liquids this time, I managed to make vibrating water and I still need to explore this idea. I will also try to make some quick moves with the Second Shooter in order to follow falling water in slow motion, and see what I’ll get.
I’m also doing some tests with candies for a project that may be out some day, it’s still too early to tell.
KU: Thanks so much for taking the time to catch up with us, where online can our readers connect with you?
CT: Thanks a lot for your interest in my work and your great products.
You can check out my work on my website : http://www.christophethockler.com/
Or connect with me here :
Twitter : https://twitter.com/dabrainkilla
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/dabrainkilla
Vimeo : https://vimeo.com/dabrainkilla
Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/DaBrainkilla
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophethockler/