As a renowned cinematographer, Max McLachlan translates a vision into a visual. Through the use of lighting, camera, and lenses, he tells a story. Originally from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia, McLachlan is now a recognized name around the world for what he does, and his passion for his work translates directly to what audiences see on screen.
“The Cinematographer must work closely with the Director to ensure their vision comes to life in front of the camera and I find that whole process so exciting and satisfying,” said McLachlan.
McLachlan is an asset to any project he takes on, with a vast knowledge in Steadicam operation that allows him to consider original camera movement suggestions that many may never have considered. This unique approach can be seen in many of his projects, from his new acclaimed horror flick The Furies to DZ Deathrays’ award-nominated music video “Like People”. He has extensive training in a variety of camerawork, and this versatility creates an outstanding viewing experience for audiences.
“I love the juxtaposition when handheld footage is cut together with Steadicam footage. If a scene goes from smooth Steadicam shots to all of a sudden handheld, then it gives the viewer an indication that the tone of the story is about to change and I love that,” he said.
Recently, millions of viewers around Australia got to see McLachlan’s work on their tv screens on the season premiere of The Voice Australia. The iconic singing competition is similar to the American format, where four celebrity judges blindly listen to contestants, looking to find the best voices to fill their team that they then coach. The contestants then battle it out throughout the weeks until one lucky artist is crowned “The Voice”. The most recent season in Australia features judges Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland, Boy George, and Guy Sebastian, global superstars that McLachlan worked closely with on the project.
“I think The Voice is a unique talent show in that the initial auditions are purely based off the singing ability of the performer, not on their looks. Too many talent shows focus only on the physical show of the performance and I think so many talented singers get overlooked because they don’t meet society’s image of what a pop star should look like. I also like the fact that each performer that makes it past auditions gets to choose which celebrity judge they want to be mentored by. This sets The Voice format apart from the rest and allows the viewer to look behind the curtain at the training and mentoring that takes place between each contestant and their celebrity mentor,” said McLachlan.
McLachlan was in charge of shooting the opener for the season, which featured the four judges singing Phil Collins’ iconic hit “In The Air Tonight.” Before the shoot, McLachlan sat down with Director of Photography Gregoire Liere and Director Harry Hunter to discuss the storyboard. There were a number of CGI elements they wanted to include into the edit as the whole sequence had a futuristic look and feel. For McLachlan, this meant leaving extra space in certain frames for special effects elements to take place.
On top of this, each celebrity judge had a different setting and required specific lighting, but the Steadicam moves stayed relatively the same for each scene. McLachlan was often finding ways to find the shots more dynamic. At one point, while the team was waiting for lighting to be adjusted with Boy George, he grabbed Liere’s attention and showed him a shot he had in mind where he rolled the camera from left to right as he pushed in on Boy George performing. The shot made it into the final cut and is extremely captivating.
“I think the large-scale nature of the shoot is what I liked most about the project. We had a different set for each of the judge’s performances and then an additional set where all four of them performed together. This allowed Gregoire and I to create a specific look for each judge in their environment. We also had a large lighting and camera support crew at our disposal, so we were able to implement lighting changes quite quickly without holding everyone up. It was also fun to work with the judges as they were professional and didn’t need too much direction or practice which allowed myself and Gregoire to get the most out of each shot,” McLachlan described.
The Voice Australia premiered on May 19th, 2019 and raked in almost two million viewers, one of the week’s most watched programs. McLachlan’s tremendous work for the opener became a hit online, with over 500,000 views on YouTube alone. It is a remarkable achievement and shows just how adept he is behind the camera.
“It was a great feeling being able to start the new season of The Voice Australia with a sequence that I was directly a part of. I think it is an incredible achievement. Our opener sequence with the judges helped set a high standard for the rest of the season of the show which I am stoked about. I think everyone involved in the production did an incredible job and should be very proud of what we achieved,” said McLachlan.
The Voice Australia is on 7 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday, and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on Nine Network in Australia. Be sure to check it out, and in the meantime, watch the Season 8 Opener here.