Director of Photography Chris Soos has kept the cameras rolling of late shooting music videos for the likes of Incubus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers plus commercials fare including the latest Truth campaign for The American Legacy Foundation through Arnold/CP+B. Soos' extensive resume further contains lensing clips for David Bowie, No Doubt, Erykah Badu and Sigur Ros plus spots for BMW Films, Target, Coca-Cola and Sony.
Hailing from Canada, Soos attended Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto where he majored in Film Studies before entering commercial and music video territory. Soos has since won five Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards for Best Music Video- two trophies with acclaimed director Floria Sigismondi for Tricky's "She Makes Me Want to Die" and Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People." He made his debut as a feature film cinematographer on the sci-fi thriller One Point 0, directed by Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson, which received critical acclaim at Sundance this year with solid performances from Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Unger and Lance Henriksen. "I'm highly motivated by great performance in tandem with the vision of the director," enthuses Soos on the vibe during filming. "In the world of features the actors rule. They are the stars and it's definitely a talent-sensitive environment. In the medium of commercials and music videos it's definitely more visual and less performance-based."
Soos' work in the commercials and promo milieu has teamed him with a number of high profile directors including Jake Scott, Dante Ariola and Guy Ritchie. "I don't function well with directors who are non-visual," he admits. "They must be visually articulate to enable us to communicate and learn quickly from each other. Understanding their visual sensibility is important to me." It seems quite fitting, then, that he's probably best known for his collaboration with Sigismondi. In that partnership, improvisation plays a big part in the creative process. He is so tuned in to her images of hyper-surrealism generated from hallucinatory dream-states that Soos often finds himself experimenting with camerawork under trying conditions. "With Floria it's fun to approach the dynamics of camera movement in the same wing-it fashion that an actor performs because that's when you capture the magic," notes Soos. "To improvise on set is a challenge-if the performance is too staged the results become jagged and stiff, especially with camera moves."
The Incubus promo "Talk Show on Mute" is their latest effort, following the obscure adventures of animals controlling humans - one scene features a hirsute canine hypnotizing sallow homo sapiens with television signals emanating from old TV sets. To accentuate the vision of the director, Soos shot high speed Ektachrome stock that was processed "VNF"- from Video News Film, an old process from the '70s when existing-light film stock needed to be processed in-house quickly for nightly broadcasts. "The video was Floria's reaction to bad television, therefore the lighting and film stock followed suit," says Soos. "We wanted the photochemistry to be derivative of aged newsreel cinematography." Soos also shot through an ARRI varicon with a lavender gel to lower the contrast on film and add information to the blacks. "I wanted to age the film in-camera to suggest new yet trashy footage," he adds.
With the coming age of digital, Soos ponders the future with an eye on both film and DV. However, film is where he becomes most inspired. "Film emulsion has an emotional content, something about the colors and contrast," he explains. "But then again the Sony DVX100 is a cool machine. In digital it's about gathering sharp high-res data and constructing the look more in post, it's more about the digital intermediate, about perfecting the 2K to film transfer. Pioneering that look is where I see filmmaking evolving, finding the unique look of individual stocks in post. It actually preserves the profession of the cinematographer because it's still about lighting, understanding your format, the composition and the storytelling elements." Soos says he's not worried about his role becoming obsolete, and that filming in-camera will become "less proprietary, less owned by Hollywood and more global, which is a good thing." He also points to Grass Valley's Viper FilmStream digital cinematography camera as an interesting option. "I think the Viper FilmStream camera might motivate some more interest and I wish David Fincher and Michael Mann (two high profile proponents of the technology) good luck. As for film? Well, I kind of like the idea of it becoming more of a cottage industry anyway."