Last year Jim Canty heard whispers of a new camera lens, a telephoto zoom so awesome it went from zero to 300 times magnification – more powerful than anything in existence, and actually more akin to a telescope. "I've been hunting for that lens ever since," he says. Well, he’s found it, and put it to excellent use on the new Kaiser Chiefs video, where from an eyrie high above New York’s Central Park, he spies on the band in a compelling, voyeuristic one-shot. It's rather like a Seventies paranoid espionage thriller, with a tremendous revealing pull-back at the start. And without a smidgeon of lipsync, it’s not really what you’d expect from the band. "When I heard about the lens I called Panavision several times and it was always rented out,” explains the director. “I forgot about it, but then when the Kaisers track came in I felt it was perfect for this lens. I emailed Panavision in LA again - and they told me there was one in the UK, at the Excel Arms Fair." Needless to say, Canty was soon rubbing shoulders with some of the worlds' nicest arms dealers, eyeing up this magnificent beast. The Kaisers loved the idea when he wrote it, but they wanted to do it in New York, so the lens had to be shipped back to the States. This posed all kinds of potential problems with extras in shot – Jim wanted to try out original ways of pixellating out faces – and the all-important location of the camera. "We needed a location with great wide shots, a performance area that we could look down on, and in New York they're so expensive." Ultimately the video was shot from the veranda of an architect's office ("he was very neurotic, very Woody Allen") on the 13th floor of a building overlooking Columbus Circle. Then they managed to get singer Ricky in a place on Central Park West. "In an ideal world we would have had them all up in buildings, but we were lucky to get one really."
Between script approval and shoot the video became a one-shot idea, with director, crew and band working out the moves on a rehearsal day, including the little stuff – try spotting where one of the band has his wallet pickpocketed. Jim also shrewdly recruited a top American sports cameraman to locate and follow each Kaiser on their separate journeys. The shoot itself was “very difficult, but enthralling. The adrenalin rush of trying to make it in one shot was incredible.” There were all kinds of problems getting all the Kaisers to reach their destination in time – usually caused by traffic lights – but they did it, triumphantly, on the seventh take. And there aren’t actually that many passers-by in shot.
Ironically the real problem turned out to be the lens itself. On the rehearsal day, the lens was (perhaps unsurprisingly) stuck in US customs, so they worked out the moves with a telescope. The lens did show up on the shoot day – so massive that it dwarfed the HD camera to which it was attached – but as Jim reveals, "It would only zoom in 80%, then it wouldn't focus properly, so a couple of times we actually had to go in further in post." But he still appreciates that it’s still an extraordinary piece of equipment. “I feel like I’m not finished with that lens yet.” Post production postscript: The HD-shot job was graded by Prime Focus colourist, George K, then smoke operator Davide Pascolo at Prime Focus’s sister company blue worked on blurring out the New York commuters’ faces and adding subtle film grain. Jim’s former directing partner Jake Wynne edited the video – although admittedly as it was a one-shot, this was not the most difficult job he’s ever had.