Peter Hadfield has achieved a lot through his career, and a lot of this has to do with his success filming music videos.
The Canadian cinematographer has had four music videos selected as Vimeo Staff Picks. He describes the highlight of his career so far as working on the politically charged music video for Wintersleep’s song Amerika.
Two years ago he experienced success working along directed Dee Shin for Akmu’s video for the song Melted, which has over 6.5 million views on YouTube.
“This song gets a strong emotional reaction from people. There are tons of comments on how it makes them cry, and there are a few reaction videos of people watching the video and crying,” said Hadfield. “I think after this video was released I thought, ‘wow, I can do this.’”
The video was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, and follows a boy as he comes across a variety of different people.
“It was fun to shoot a video with so many different people. Lots of different faces and textures in that video. Shooting a bearded dragon lizard with a macro lens was a ton of fun,” said Hadfield. “Everyone has a sweet spot, or a certain way they can be photographed that shows off their personality immediately. It was a challenge to find that spot with all the different people in the video.”
After this success, Hadfield had the chance to work with his college friend, the musician, Pomo, aka Dave Pimentel, on the video Back 2 U, which Hadfield describes as his favorite videos that he has shot. It was shot in Toronto at the Pan Am Sports Facility as the video features many divers on their way into the pool.
“Finding the angles for the divers was a lot of fun, and taking the dives to the next level by adding the visual effects gave it a weird, trippy feel,” he said.
A challenge was presented when it came to shooting underwater. Hadfield had operate a 7D in a 5D underwater housing.
“We just rolled the camera, put it in the housing, and jumped in,” he said. “You can’t really see what you’re doing when you shoot underwater. I was wearing a snorkel and mask, but there are still a few inches of water in between your eyes and the mask that makes the monitor blurry. It was also really hard to keep the camera still, and I knew that shaking underwater footage wasn’t going to cut well with the footage we were getting of the divers in midair or on the deck, so we had to figure out a way to steady it. Our PA had to dive down to the bottom of the pool each time to retrieve the camera because we ended up just resting it on the bottom of the pool!”
Hadfield worked alongside Bahwee Suh, who was the executive producer and president at HW&W record label, as well as Kerry Noonan who is a producer and art director in Toronto, and Jack Yan Chen who was the camera operator.
“Things always seem to go smoothly when working with Peter. He has a warm and thoughtful presence on set which can sometimes disarm you from how professionally he executes every shot, every scene, every day. In short, Mr. Hadfield has a great deal of technical proficiency and makes it look easy,” said Kerry Noonan. “As a cinematographer, Peter has a lot of skills at his disposal. His instinct and sensibility come through on his reel, however something that you can only see on set is his cautious curiosity. Peter looks at figures, objects and landscapes and wonders how many new ways can we see it. He is always considering slight adjustments to impact a shot. If the idea doesn’t work he moves on, it does, it might just be the best part of your day.”
Hadfield agrees he and Noonan made a good team for the video.
“Kerry had some great creative input on the video and he worked his butt off to make it all happen,” said Hadfield.
Hadfield was not only the cinematographer on the film, but he also had the opportunity to direct it. He says having this opportunity further cemented his knowledge on shooting ratios and how much you actually have to shoot to make a cohesive music video.
“Directors are always editing in their minds on set, and I think being a cinematographer who can also edit and has a deep knowledge of post-production is an advantage. Before you specialize you’ve got to know how the whole machine works. I think that’s the difference between film making now and film making 20 years ago. Before each position was very specialized and delegated in a militaristic way, but the contemporary digital cameras completely democratize the whole film making experience. Since everyone can now direct, shoot, edit, and mix sound more can be accomplished with a smaller amount of people,” he said.
From a young age Hadfield knew what his passion was, and his love for his art has contributed to his many achievements.
“I’ve always had an interest in cameras and filmmaking,” he said. I played with my dad’s camcorder as a kid, and made little movies with my sister. There’s footage of me somewhere filming my sister giving a tour of the house, and walking into a wall with the camera held up to my eye.”
His understanding and appreciation for the art of cinematography, as well as his inherent skill behind the camera show why Peter Hadfield’s name will continue to be seen on rolling on the credits, now and in the future.