Sour Candy Smile

The brief called for an all-yellow room with nothing but a table and a chair— a kind of "candy testing room." Believe it or not, this Capital One ad served as...



While the look of this spot was obviously too dark for the Kadunks brand, I loved the lighting and picked it apart for ideas. 

At first, it seems the hanging lamp is doing most of the work, but the later shots prove that Samuel is actually keyed from another source altogether and the lamp is really more of a prop. So apart from the soft backlight, the key is a hard "butterfly"–type high frontal source.

Taking a cue from the Capital One ad, I thought I would key the talent independent of the hanging practical. But once we saw the pendant lamp in place, it looked just beautiful. The underside of the lamp being matte white and its close proximity to the talent gave it the softness not unlike a Chimera close to the face— perfectly soft yet directional and dramatic at the same time. The only adjustment needed was to use a high wattage 200W bulb to bring up its output for a little over-exposure. (The lamp was actually not rated for such high wattage and our gaffer Stan Fyfe had to constantly dial it down on the dimmer between takes. We went through a couple of burnt out bulb sockets). It was nice to see the lamp light "interacting" with the actors as they leaned in/out of it. There's a great article by Art Adams in which he describes DP Robbie Muller's (Paris Texas, Midnight Train) low contrast yet moody lighting made possible with small sources scattered throughout the scene. When you can feel where the light source is in relation to the actor, it helps make the shot more dimensional, as if you're in the room with the actors.


  • Main key provided by 200W incandescent bulb inside hanging practical
  • For the walls, I had originally planned Space Lights, but during preflight, quickly realized that the set was just too small and a trio of independently dimmable Source-4s was perfect for the job.
  • A semi-hard backlight 45° to the side and up from the talent added separation and brightened the mood. 
  • A space light hung several feet in front of the talent and was scrimmed off of them. It lit the hanging practical itself, the top of the table and added a bit of scattered fill to he set
  • Finally, a 5K gelled Amber raked the table extension right in front of the lens,   to match the exposure of the rest of the set. 



We had initially planned the set to be greenscreen. We thought that would give us the flexibility to add a CG set extension in the background and to dial in the perfect Kadunks colors. But at the very last moment, the client called it off and Art Department scrambled to build a practical set of three yellow walls. My concern was the danger of yellow spill on the talent from the walls, but in hindsight the practical set was actually a blessing. It looked real, clean, sharp and dramatic— just as intended. And countless hours of keying & CG were saved. Spill on faces was also negligible as is visible below:

Negligible spill, even without Key & Fill



The main visual idea for this spot was a single, continuous dolly-in movement from a wide shot of the room to an extreme closeup of the characters reacting to the sour candy in slow motion, set to Johann Strauss' Blue Danube. The shoot day was in fact an audition for the talent, as the voice over narration states. We had only seen headshots and had no real idea what to expect when these people sat down in front of the camera. So expecting the unexpected, we went with 2 cameras— both RED Dragons for slow motion and shot recomposition in post. We mounted the A Camera with a 35mm prime on a dolly, underslung on a long arm extension. The B Camera, with a zoom lens and on sticks, acted as a backup to prevent us from losing a performance if the dolly move messed up. As each person sat down at the table and reached the candy to their mouth, we would give the dolly grip the go ahead to catch the moment of the sour goo hit their tongue on a tasty dolly in.




To achieve this shot, production came up with an entire plate of the Kadunks goo that allowed us to frame up an epic closeup of the dunk action without seeing any of the packaging plastic. I believe we used a 100mm macro to get this shot.





Production Company: Mad Hat Creative
Agency: Scout Marketing
Excecutive Producer: Laurel Ripley
Producer: Brynn Chamblee
Director/Editor: Jonathan Hayes
Director of Photography: Misha Mazor
Gaffer: Stan Fyfe
Key Grip: Lucius Bonneson
AC: Noah Orisich
Art Dept: Neil Dent, Sally Rowe
Hair/Makeup: Stephen Mancuso
Visual Effects: Sean Brown

Misha MazorComment