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Cinematographer Gaul Porat crafts a retro-chic look for Ariana Grande music video

Mar 22, 2024

Released this past January, the music video for Ariana Grande’s “yes, and?” brings a modern approach to vintage allure. The video was directed by Christian Breslauer, who worked for the first time with cinematographer Gaul Porat. Together, the filmmakers found inspiration in well-chosen references and showcased the dynamic choreography with intentional framing and subtle, deliberate camera moves.

Working with Panavision New York, Breslauer and Porat chose to work primarily with H Series spherical primes for the production, which came together quickly in December 2023. Panavision recently caught up with both filmmakers for insights on their inspirations and collaboration.

Panavision: How would you describe the look you wanted to create for ‘yes, and?’

Gaul Porat: Our look was definitely inspired by classic music videos from the mid-’80s to ’90s, which were also inspired by the classic Vogue black-and-white photography of Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts. The most direct homage is Paula Abdul’s ‘Cold Hearted’ music video, with its bold angles and compositions paired with soft yet strong directional window lighting.

How did you decide to frame for the 1.33:1 aspect ratio?

Christian Breslauer: Well, the song has a very late ’80s, early ’90s dance sound, and when you watch videos in that time period, they were often shot in the 4-by-3 format. So it felt right when we got into our set and saw the choreography. It just made it very flattering.

What drew you to H Series lenses for this music video?

Breslauer: I’ve used the H Series on a few projects and have always loved the vintage portrait characteristics they give, with the softness and roll-off on the edges. We wanted the video to have a nostalgic feel as well as look beautiful while softening skin tones and blooming highlights.

Porat: We wanted a set that could have a strong and classic look but without sacrificing optical quality, and the H Series are exactly that. Those were our main primes used for wides and our portraits of Ari during specific beats of the song.

What brought you to Panavision for this project?

Porat: This project came up super last minute, and I knew I needed a camera vendor I could count on for having what we needed to achieve the look we wanted. So naturally Panavision was the place we wanted to go through that would have the expertise and quality of lenses that was right for us.

Christian, you’ve previously worked out of Panavision Hollywood, but for ‘yes, and?’ you prepped out of Panavision New York. How have your experiences been in both facilities?

Breslauer: Fantastic! It’s great to know Panavision has my back no matter where I’m shooting, and the quality of service transcends each facility. I started working with Panavision a few years ago, eager to get my hands on their world-famous glass, and once I started shooting on it, I haven’t been able to stay away!

How did the two of you communicate with each other over the course of the project to ensure you had a shared vision for the look?

Porat: Christian is very collaborative yet, at the same time, very clear with what he wants. This was super-helpful, as it was our first time working together and we were on a very expedited timeline, so we quickly had to develop a shorthand for understanding each other. We didn’t have the luxury of time to send a lot of references back and forth aside from what was in Christian’s treatment from the get-go, so we just jumped headfirst into planning it all by getting into the location and seeing what it gave us and what we still had to augment and improve with lighting, set design, etc. It’s not always ideal to have such a short timeline, but in a way it let us be very focused because 100 percent of our time for those few days was just spent on creating the look.

How do you approach camera movement when it comes to shooting a music video?

Breslauer: It varies from project to project, but on this one in particular, I was very intentional with our camera blocking in that we really hero the choreo and performance. When you see the choreo, it’s very elegant and like a hybrid ballet vogue. I didn’t want to overly move the camera — I love the idea of setting a clean frame and moving subtly to enhance a beat.

Any final thoughts?

Porat: The ‘yes, and?’ music video was such a great experience as a last job of the year before the holiday break because of who I got to work with, from Christian, the production team and Ariana, to my amazing crew. They all brought their A game, and I loved seeing everyone flow so well together. Our crane operators brought lots of great ideas to play with the camera angles, the AC team was super-focused yet also didn’t take things too seriously, and our grip-and-electric team worked through torrential rains and not the easiest location. I want to recognize all their hard work and passion for their craft, which helps feed-back into my love and excitement for it, too.

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