Julia Geiß, BVK shoots Astan KA’s ‘Deng Deng’ with VENICE 2

November 25, 2023


Shot by Berlin-based cinematographer Julia J Geiß, BVK and directed by Sami Grill, the music video for the song Deng Deng by the artist Astan KA is a feast of colour, movement and intense imagery.

Julia studied Visual Communication including cinematography, photography, and film animation at the University of Fine Arts in Kassel, graduating with honours. Since then, she has worked on films for German and Swiss television as well as many documentary projects.

Child of reconciliation

Astan KA is a Berlin-based artistic performer who expresses herself through music, writing, acting and dancing. Born in France, but also spending much of her time in Mali, Astan KA grew up with a double culture. She considers herself today as a ‘child of reconciliation.’ She loves to combine different musical genres, from jazz to trip-hop to afro-electronic to rap. She describes Deng Deng as Gangsta-Jazz.

Working with director Sami Grill, Julia’s aim was to help illustrate Astan KA’s mostly experimental sound. The film takes us on a journey filled with intense associative imagery that raises more questions than are answered. Are we seeing a lover or a hijacker? Are we seeing friends or foes? Or was it all nothing but a dream?

Astan KA in crowd scene from Deng Deng video

Shades of darkness

The film was shot using a Sony VENICE 2 camera. Mostly shot at night using locations in and around Berlin. VENICE’s low light performance allowed the capture of many of the street and car scenes using nothing other than available light.

After testing with a Sony VENICE 2, Julia was convinced that it would be the perfect camera for the project due to its great low light performance.

“What I really like in the images of the VENICE 2 is that in all this darkness we still have the information which I really wanted to see – like so many shades of darkness,” Julia says. “And at the same time, it looks so natural. Sometimes it can be challenging to show darkness without it looking too artificial, too staged. I wanted this kind of darkness, more pure and more natural. And the VENICE 2 gives you this in a very beautiful way.”

For Lenses Julia used the Full Frame Sigma primes, their fast f1.4 aperture helping to make the most of the low light levels. These lenses are very sharp, so a ¼ Tiffen Black Promist was used to take the edge off the sharpness.

Astan KA in car with driver from Deng Deng video

Red light and ambient fog

In many parts of the film we see a car driving filled with red light. To create the red-light effect, Julia’s gaffer Leo-Conrad Khun installed two red tube lights, one on the floor and one on the passenger seat. Then they blew fog into the car from a fogger for another layer of ambience. Julia says it was a little hard on the driver and actor Natisa, but he was able to deal with it.

There is also a very dark, low-light bar scene with a group of people with a wide range of skin tones partying.

“It was important to me and Leo, the gaffer, to capture all the actors equally visibly,” Julia explains. “From the dark-skinned people to the very pale skin people in this very low-light scene. VENICE 2 with its great dynamic range, perfectly captured mine and Leo’s vision for that scene.”

Various lighting elements were used for this scene, including a 300w softbox shining through the portholes, which in turn were covered with white diffusion material. A Bi-Flex lamp was used for the foreground/key light while LED tubes were placed behind the seating to act as a fill light for the wall and to create separation between the actors and wall.

Car headlights in scene from Deng Deng music video

Skin tones

During the bar scene there is a sudden change from cold to warm light, this warm light really brought out the models’ skin tones in a beautiful way. Julia used these lighting variations to create two different looks within the one scene. One conveying a calm and warm aura in which the people appear soft and beautiful. In the other, the cold, bright light, gives the impression of a harder light source, making the room less warm which better suits the tonal hardness of the corresponding part of the song.

The film was graded by colourist Sally Shamas, who really appreciated the amount of colour information in the VENICE’s 16-bit X-OCN files as this gave her a lot of freedom when creating the final look of the film.

Close-up of musician Astan KA

Because our video has a mostly dark atmospheric feel and setting, Sami, the director, and I wanted to visually create a sense of instability and insecurity whilst at the same time maintaining a clarity and beauty.

Julia Geiß