Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Candle Effect


I was just watching The Police video, "Wrapped around your finger".

What a hard time it must have been lighting all those candles- but does anyone know if there was additional lighting or just the light from the candles? Couldn’t be just the candles...

John Babl

I forwarded this topic to Daniel Pearl, A.S.C., via email and you'll find his very informative reply, which I am posting with his permission below :

Wendell Greene
DP/Director- Los Angeles


"The best "Wrapped Around Your Finger" anecdote goes like this: Directors Godley and Creme communicated from their homes in London that we would require 1000 candles for the shoot. Trying to stay on top of things and get information for the art department, producer Fiona Fitzherbert requested a diagram of what they wanted. Several days passed without any fax. She finally insisted she be given some advance information, and received a drawing of a candle.

This video has a technical significance that is important to mention. Godley and Creme rang me up and asked if we were to run the track at exactly double speed, and the camera at exactly double speed, would we get slow motion footage that was in sync with a normal playback of the audio. I told that this had been mentioned to me by a couple of directors previously, and that in theory it would work, but at that point in early 1983, there was no synchronous motor for speeds other than 24 fps. As it turned out they were intending to post the job in England, so we would have to shoot at 50 fps.

We managed to locate and contract Larry Barton to make the first ever high speed crystal controlled box. As you can see, the theory worked in actuality and this was the birth of the now often used double speed technique for music videos.

We were shooting in 16mm principally because we had earlier done "Every Breath You Take" and even though there was some prep for "Synchronicity" in the $60,000 cost, the entire music video industry was scandalized that they had spent so much, and not even gotten color. So a big part of the mission was to make "Wrapped" for as little as possible. The state of fast films was far from what it is today, so I decided to shoot the 100 ASA negative, and the need to shoot at 50 fps doubled the amount of light required. There was some additional lighting hung overhead. A few SBIF (silver bulb inside frost) coops if I remember correctly, but only just enough to get me to exposure wide open on the Æ’ stop. What I wouldn't do to be able to shoot that video again today with our current film technology and lighting advances.

As we neared the end of our 12 hour day, the producers declared us wrapped. Sting protested, saying that he felt we were doing something very innovative, and that he would pay personally for us to continue shooting. The producers, mindful of the stigma of the price of "Every Breath" refused to allow him to throw more money at it, and in the end it was agreed that we would do one more take and then wrap. Godley and Creme took Sting off for a brief chat, which I was purposely excluded from, while I was instructed to build the camera hand held. The stage was cleared of everyone except Sting, myself, and my focus puller. Their parting words to me were to follow Sting where ever he went on the stage, and to keep rolling no matter what happened. About halfway through the track Sting started knocking the candles over and molten wax was flying everywhere. I definitely was shocked as I started to get hit, but fortunately we weren't burned too badly, and we did capture some amazing footage.

Larry Barton went on with his company Cinematography Electronics and eventually had a piece on every Arri SR allowing it to shoot various crystal regulated speeds. The magic box he had made for us had a large rotary switch on it, with settings for normal speed 25 fps, double speed 50 fps, and he threw in the extra speeds of 12.5 fps and 6.25 fps. Since this box was based on the PAL TV standard of 25 fps, it was my practice to take it abroad with me on any European shoots.

A few years later, while shooting U2's "With Or Without You" the box proved invaluable again. I had mentioned to director Meirt Avis that I had this box. We were shooting weak projection on even less efficient theatrical sharks tooth scrims, so I was wide open on T1.3 primes only with the 400 ASA fast film being pushed one stop. Doing some free form Louma crane work with Bono, the focus puller was having a hell of a time getting anything in focus. Avis told me to put up the box and shoot at 6.25fps. I asked him what he would do with the footage, his response was to ask me if I wouldn't gain two stops of exposure, and wouldn't that be helpful for the focus puller. He ultimately found a Bosch telecine machine that could run at 6.25 fps (printing each frame 4 times) and hence the birth of the "6 for 6" technique, yielding a steppy sometimes blurry, sometimes sharp image, which also rapidly found it's way into the technical repertoire of music videos and commercials.

That box really should be placed in a museum somewhere."

Daniel Pearl, ASC
Los Angeles, CA

Now this is a shinning example on just how totally cool the CML is!!!

Wow!! What a story!!

And ALL of those techniques were copied again & again....I remember during that period directors asking me how those in-camera effects were created! I had to sit back, watch those music videos again & again and stretch my technical imagination to try to grasp what was happening right in front of me on MTV!! And then we'd go out and shoot the '6 for 6' and the double speed & playback stuff again & again on TV spots & other music videos! :-)

Of course, immediately after that period came the swing & tilt period.......

Again, another great CML story!!
Please thank Wendell Greene for Mr. Pearl's story!!!

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
view reel :

Thanks Wendell,

Great post. I wonder if the stock was indeed B&W or desaturated color. I was watching all the early police videos(compilation DVD) some nice reversal stocks, blue skies etc.

The early videos were very basic, almost silly, then the Synchronicity ones changed everything.

There is a hilarious short film hosted by Jules Holland on that DVD, as he interviews the band in Montserrat while they record the new album. Jules takes off from Miami on a twin prop plane, and the film jump cuts to him as he exits a complete wreck of the plane (bit of a hard time landing, lol)

Thanks again,

John F. Babl
*Got to see The Police at a young age, live in '83 at the Orange Bowl, before they disbanded...

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