How to capture the SIGMA fp
The SIGMA fp was a project that posed many challenges – not just regarding the development of the actual camera but also in terms of communicating its concept, strengths and features.
In order to successfully share creative qualities of the SIGMA fp and its philosophy, we needed an approach that differed not just from previous digital cameras but from any existing product. As the camera’s development progressed, the team responsible for the camera’s official unveiling was faced with the difficult task of conveying an entirely new concept in a succinct and easy-to-understand way.
Even though the SIGMA fp is a digital camera, there was no category yet that aptly described its concept, and we wanted the first encounter with the camera to surprise and widen the field of possibilities. However, going too far and ending up with an approach that is eccentric for eccentricity’s sake would only do damage to the camera’s image… and so on and so on.
We spent more than half a year discussing and deliberating how we would like the camera to be perceived by the world, what we would need to do to achieve this, and what we should avoid.
A creative deconstruction
Unable to find a satisfying answer, we returned to the starting point: deconstruction – a fundamental idea of postmodernism and the key concept of this camera. The word stands for a way of thinking roughly outlined as “rather than thinking in a binary way, an idea is deconstructed and reconstructed creatively, with a fresh perspective.” We decided to apply this philosophy to our communication as well.
We abandoned typical stereotypes like “target audience” or “killer feature” and instead decided to approach the ideas and values that lead to our developing of the SIGMA fp in a straight, direct manner. Rather than over-explain details, we could leave enough blank space and trust the imagination and instincts of the audience. Such an approach would allow us to portray the essential qualities of the camera more accurately and appealingly.
Express the SIGMA fp’s essence with the help of creative artists
Next, we needed to find the right person. Creative artists are able to combine a wealth of ideas and information, refine and transform them into an entirely different form and thereby express the initial ideas a hundred times more excitingly. What we needed was an outside director with the sensibilities and technical know-how necessary for such creative transformations, regardless of whether they already were avid SIGMA users. We wanted the director to touch and feel the camera, and fully trust their sensibilities and impressions of that encounter to drive their creative vision.
Designer and art director Taku Satoh, who has previously helped us with our brand communication, recommended Koichi Tsujikawa to us, a director famous for his unorthodox video productions.
We considered Tsujikawa’s very first impression of the camera to be the most vital aspect. Accordingly, our staff visited him together with a prototype without providing any information beforehand. Explaining only the necessary minimum regarding the camera’s features (together with a introduction of our company, our values and our activities), we gave Tsujikawa enough space for his own impressions and imagination – an approach that would allow him to capture the essence of the SIGMA fp.
Koichiro Tsujikawa, an energetic director
Koichiro Tsujikawa has created music videos for a large number of artists – including a long-running collaboration with musician Cornelius – as well as short films and commercials for large Japanese brands. Despite his impressive portfolio, Tsujikawa said he was surprised when SIGMA approached him with this project:
“As I rarely ever deal with the technical equipment directly, I must admit I didn’t know much about SIGMA as a company. But the decision to entrust such a big and important project like the concept video of a new camera to someone like me, who has never worked with them before, must have taken guts. What a bold, courageous company, I thought.” (laughs)
The essential joy of an exciting gadget
According to Tsujikawa, the mock-up provided by SIGMA staff helped him understand the fundamental concept behind the camera.
“The design, the product itself, the logo – everything is extremely simple and minimal. My first impression was that every part worked well to make the concept easily and clearly understandable. And I thought that the concept video should also be simple and minimal in nature, and focus on showing the camera itself. Whatever can be created with the camera could be left to the viewers’ imagination. By showing the camera’s combinatory potential, we could perfectly communicate the concept of the camera without showing a single photograph.”
Tsujikawa felt reminded of the charm that a transforming robot toy holds for a child, and made use of that idea in his portrayal of the SIGMA fp:
“During the first brainstorming session, CEO Kazuto Yamaki mentioned that ‘perhaps the camera could be presented like a gadget from a 007 spy film,’ and something clicked in me. I thought ‘Ah, I see. ’ Put the parts together like a spy assembling a rifle; slide on scope and now you’ve got an infrared camera – I felt that the SIGMA fp had a sense of this kind of gadgety transformer-toy charm. Of course, that would not translate directly into pictures in the concept movie itself – I’m only talking about an essence. But this idea eventually became a vital point during the planning stage.”
Koichiro Tsujikawa × Cornelious × SIGMA – a collaboration guided by fate
The pre-production of the SIGMA fp concept movie had begun. Tsujikawa wanted to create the movie together with the friends he has worked with his entire career, and eventually invited Japanese musician Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) to participate in the project.
“By coincidence I met Keigo Oyamada shortly after I had been approached for this project. I told him that I might work with a company called SIGMA soon, and he replied, ‘You mean Kazuto’s company? He was my senior at school, he’s really into music.’ It felt like a hint of fate to me. There was no one else for this project but Keigo.”
“Kazuto was my senior at school, and we got along well. He was a gifted student and very interested in music – I remember talking with him about The Smiths with him, a band we both liked. I always thought of SIGMA as a lens-maker, to be honest. I didn’t know they made cameras as well. I heard from Tsujikawa that SIGMA were developing an extremely small, super-advanced camera. He also told me about the keywords ‘fortissimo/pianissimo,’ and it was really easy to imagine the concept. I felt that those two words contained the entire concept, and I think they served as a common, fundamental language between Kazuto, Tsujikawa and me.” (Keigo Oyamada)
Tsujikawa collated the most important points to express his vision of the SIGMA fp into a rough sketch and shared it with Oyamada. In his initial idea, the movie began with a close-up of the sensor part, slowly zoomed out to reveal the full scene, then lenses and accessories rapidly appeared and showed various different combinations. During the video, people were shown using the SIGMA fp, and as the modifications grew ever larger in scale, the movie eventually returned to finish with a final close-up of the sensor.
“I knew precisely what kind of music I wanted to create for the material Tsujikawa had shown me. I only had to transform my vision into music – there was nothing that gave me much trouble, really. Erase the music for a moment when camera gear appears with a ‘clunky’ kind of feeling, and add a ‘clunky’ sound to match it, that kind of thing (laughs). Tsujikawa has created each of my Cornelius videos over the years, so we almost understand each other without words. In the final step, he would listen to the complete piece and fine-tune the length of the cuts in the video to match it. There were very few changes between the initial idea and the final version.”
Thanks to Tsujikawa, Oyamada and their synchronized aesthetic senses, the movie was soon sketched out in minute detail.
Drawings and music become a movie – the power of creative vision
“When I asked Keigo to join the project, he first proposed making a song similar to the ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ theme, with a main melody and an arrangement that developed in a straightforward way, and the music synchronized with the images in the movie. But the music he actually sent me was quite different to his initial idea, more complex and catchy. As a result, the movie itself became more complex as well. Instead of the camera it were the many transformations and combinations that became the focus of the movie, with the camera almost buried under the many changes. I think that was a really good change.”
The cinematographer: gear aficionado and SIGMA enthusiast Mikio HASUI
Almost as important as the music – perhaps even more important – for the impact of the video were the right arrangements of the SIGMA fp camera in the video: which lenses to show and in which order; flashes, grips and other accessories and the combinations in which they would be attached to the camera. The key person for these arrangements became photographer Mikio HASUI , who worked as the cinematographer of our concept movie.
“Since I don’t understand camera gear all that well,” says Tsujikawa, “I was afraid of shooting a concept movie for a camera without having any deeper knowledge myself. In order not to mess up the camera coordination, I was lucky to have someone on the team with a deep knowledge about camera gear and an affection for SIGMA products – Mikio HASUI. He taught me everything, from possible gear combinations to which arrangements were the best choices.”
“While we tried out arrangements for the movie, there were many enlightening moments – which accessories are used in certain conditions, at what height a tripod will look best in the movie and so on. Step by step, HASUI taught me everything about the camera, about its strengths and what it is that makes it so revolutionary.”
Uncompromising system expandability
Mikio HASUI’s work has previously been introduced on SEIN Online, for example in the “Scenery” category. According to Tsujikawa, his understanding and knowledge of SIGMA’s product was a huge help during the production of the movie.
Hasui himself says that he realized the potential of the SIGMA fp’s expandability during the movie’s production:
“The first thing I noticed about the SIGMA fp was its small size, of course. It will be a great camera to always have on you when outside. But another point that truly impressed me was its expandability as a camera system. In the movie, we avoided over-explaining this aspect to leave a stronger impression. With a simple lighting setup that allowed for a minimalist visual language, we tried to heighten the visual impact of the concept movie.”
A perfect shoot with a large-scale set and diverse cast
An aspect that posed difficult for Tsujikawa and HASUI in order to express expandability of the system was the actual position of the central SIGMA fp during the shoot. As the camera surrounds the SIGMA fp from 360 degrees and countless different combinations of lenses and accessories rapidly change in sync with the music, in truth the SIGMA fp at the center of the movie does not once change its position.
This was a conscious decision to accentuate the SIGMA fp’s small size and its limitless potential to expand. Tsujikawa asked the production staff for highly-specialized gear and designed the shoot from the ground up around this “fixed camera” idea. In the end, with the help of a large motion-control camera arm, we were able to clear even this difficult hurdle.
One more aspect that drew attention from our viewers were the people that appear throughout the video, each with their own pronounced personality. The movie itself avoids any explanations regarding the cast, which features a variety of real people with different backgrounds, from students to dancers, lighting staffs, video artists and even HASUI and Tsujikawa themselves. Their different profiles and their smooth appearance in the movie help express the camera’s concepts of “seamlessness” and “scalability” on yet another level. The inclusion of people from many backgrounds and all genders was an important point to Tsujikawa.
“For example, someone suggested including ‘a student who joined a high-school’s photography circle’ during the first meeting, and that lead me to imagine scenes of an entire photography club getting cameras and using them together. Come to think of it, this movie’s essential vibe is a bit like, ‘let’s come together and find different ways to use the camera!’. We tried to feature as many different people and camera combinations as possible, everything constantly changing until it isn’t even clear anymore what the camera’s standard setup would be. I think that really captures one of the essential qualities of the SIGMA fp.”
An ever-evolving, constantly expanding camera
According to Tsujikawa, it was his first meeting with SIGMA CEO Kazuto Yamaki that inspired this approach:
“He told me, ‘we’re developing the camera not just with our own lenses in mind, but also with Leica lenses, for example. To me, the SIGMA fp is the deconstruction of the digital camera.’ That is when I first saw a vision of a camera surrounded by an ever-changing, blurry silhouette in my mind.
“Inspired by the keyword ‘deconstruction,’ I imagined a camera of rhizomatic nature, one that embraced pluralism rather being one-dimensional; a camera that was constantly expanding, changing, adapting, always evolving. I thought that this would be an interesting idea to capture in a movie, and Yamaki told me he also found the idea exciting. I think we were on the same page from the very start of the project.”
‘fortissimo/pianissimo’ – wealth within minimalism
According to Tsujikawa, one of the reasons that the project proceeded so smoothly was that the entire team, from Tsujikawa to the production staff, CEO Yamaki and everyone at SIGMA, pursued the same creative vision. Tsujikawa’s anecdote about the final seconds of the movie symbolizes this:
“The words ‘fortissimo/pianissimo’ are used to indicate ‘very loud’ and ‘very quiet’ in music, and together they encapsulate the concept of the camera perfectly. When I first learned of the meaning behind the name, I thought it a captivating and unusual choice – almost uncharacteristic for a Japanese company. I began to consider including a few words in the video that would likewise embody the idea of ‘constant evolvement’.
“But CEO Yamaki thought that ‘fortissimo/pianissimo’ alone would be enough. By not explaining every last idea, we leave some white space for the viewers to fill with their own imagination. And actually, this approach more aptly expresses the essential concept of the SIGMA fp, which does not really have one definite form. I was very impressed by his way of thinking, and it resulted in a very effective piece of video.”
The tremendous feedback for the concept movie
The concept movie was published together with the official announcement of the SIGMA fp. SIGMA’s official website had trouble withstanding the high number of visitors. For an entire day, it was difficult to access the website.
The video itself was watched more than 170.000 times during the first 24 hours. More than month later, the play count has amassed more than 340.000 views (August 30, 2019).
Together with the groundbreaking camera at its center, the movie itself managed to draw much attention and outstandingly positive feedback (“seriously cool,” “a masterpiece,” “coolest camera video ever”) from both SIGMA enthusiasts and viewers previously unfamiliar with SIGMA’s products.
“The final movie turned out exactly as I had imagined during the production. But I’m still surprised by the high view counts. It just shows how much attention the camera is enjoying.” (Mikio HASUI)
“Thanks to the clear concept created by Kazuto and the SIGMA staff, and Tsujikawa who turned the concept into images, I was able to create the music very smoothly. The final video works across languages and cultures, so I’d be delighted if many people watched it.” (Keigo Oyamada)
“I was allowed total freedom, with no taboos, and could do exactly what I wanted to do. That alone was a truly brilliant experience. I feel very honored to have worked together with such a unique and dedicated company like SIGMA, and on a product as wonderful as the SIGMA fp.” (Koichiro Tsujikawa)
A concise concept movie for a revolutionary camera, created through the combined power of a skilled production team, from Koichiro Tsujikawa’s vision, the music, the cinematography and the lighting to the art direction and editing. We hope you enjoy the final video and this small look behind the scenes.
Director｜Koichiro Tsujikawa (GLASSLOFT)
Cinematographer| Mikio HASUI (Mikio Hasui Photography)
Producer| Kenichi Yano (Spoon), Sanae Asano (GLASSLOFT)
Lighting | HIGASIX(WHITNEY)
Production designer | Tateo Yanagimachi (GLASSLOFT)
Grip | Shigeru Hagiwara (mocojp)
DIT | Shingo Maruyama (CRANK)
Hair & makeup | Ayumi Akita
Motion Control Previsualization | Naofumi Mishina (Mirage Inc.)
Offline editor | Junya Otsuka
Online Editor | Hitoshi Kimura (CONNECTION)
Colorist | Ai Hirata (PPC)
Production Manager | Hanae Tomura (Spoon), Rui Akiyama (Spoon),Kai Mizuno
Hana Hoshizawa Sedlak
Rita Hoshizawa Sedlak