For Brett Nadal, Directing Motion and Shooting Stills Is All in a Day’s Work

When you work with a resourceful, detailed, and thorough artist, you know you’ll get great results. Brett Nadal is a photographer and director who goes the extra mile with communication, know-how, and teamwork. This approach is invaluable when it comes to projects where he is both directing motion and shooting stills.

“As a photographer, I’m already in the role of director — The tools of motion capture and stills capture are similar, but I have to be able to pivot successfully between two different processes of thought because, in the end, we’re augmenting a production to successfully provide two different mediums for storytelling.

I think that it’s incredibly important for me to understand all the tools of a filmmaker, just as I do as a photographer.  I should have the ability to edit, colorize as well as capture if needed. In actuality, filmmaking takes a team of artists to accomplish, but having an understanding of all roles makes me a better communicator — not only with my client but with my team.”

Brett Nadal

What have you learned about creating motion and stills in one project?

When we are asked for motion it’s often that clients might not be sure what to ask for. For a successful production, it’s vital that I know the right questions to ask: Tell me about how you envision the motion? What do you want to hear when you see this motion piece? Productive initial discussions really put the entire approach to motion on the correct course.

When a client asks to capture motion, often we can approach the motion as a broader capture within our library for the purpose of making our story more robust.

However, motion capture can mean that we are planning a completely dedicated motion capture facet to a stills campaign, which will require a very meticulous organization and delivery of final assets and post work.  We’ll receive scripts, storyboards, voiceover needs, and provide a full motion capture crew, likely while simultaneously capturing stills — simply put, I’ll direct motion with a crew for motion capture as I capture stills with a stills team, all under one production, with one creative point-of-view.  It’s a brilliant use of resources and a very efficient method to capture a fully integrated body of work.

“Be Selfish” was shot for Olmsted Medical Center, a campaign with an overarching creative concept. This was an intimate shoot where I had the creative director next to me when I shot it.

In other instances, I capture both motion and stills myself and use my tools to create libraries. Much of the time people want documentarian style anyway. In those cases, I’m not worried about audio or the storyboard, just capturing the visual. This is a natural pivot. The “Rapa Nui” is a great example of that.

What was your most memorable project that included both motion and stills?

Two projects that stick with me are ones where we created a library of content. The first was when I “had” to travel to Hawaii and Yosemite with my wife rolling motion and me shooting stills for a pharmaceutical campaign — an assignment we executed beautifully, exactly what they wanted. 

The second project was recent, capturing motion and stills of a soccer player. I was working with a DP, and we did it on our own time. We made friends with the talent, and it was quality time spent together. My DP and I had just as much fun in post-work demonstrating ideas we wanted to try.

Early when I was a journalist, they were asking me to capture motion. I learned how to use the same set of tools for different reasons. 

What do you hope people learn about you and your work after viewing this?

I want people to see my work and understand that I tend to work very intimately with my subjects for the sake of my clients and the creative. A gift that I try to use is the ability to connect with the subject. There is always a very personal element to what I do. 

I like for everyone on our production to have a great time, get along and work hard. I’d like for clients to realize that I don’t do just one thing. Yes, there may be an aesthetic. But, It’s also about creative exploration of a subject, talent, or sub-culture. I cut my teeth as a photojournalist. Even if it’s a very creative specific portrait, I approach everything as a documentarian at heart. I look at things not only as the creative requires but, also with the lens of seeing things very closely and very wide.

I will dive in and love the project, whether it’s library-building or built on a great creative concept. I always make sure that the crew is cooperative and happy, and I don’t tolerate egos. I purposely work with people who are flexible and aren’t afraid to work hard. Be Selfish campaign. I helped set up the set. Painting the studio before the shoot, and then again after. An example of the effort we enjoy putting in to get the job done. 

The goal is to start getting the work where we are storyboarding it — a proper film.

Follow Brett on Instagram for motion and imagery that allows you to see and be seen.

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