Myer Christmas Case Study
Photographer and post-production: Rob Anderson
Assistant: Robert Hay
Client: John Kerr, Stage One Productions, Myer
In 1956 the sleepy hollow of Melbourne experienced a rush of change - the Olympic Games, a new medium of television and the building of ICI Building - Australia’s first glass “skyscraper”.
The same year Myer launched their Christmas Windows in Bourke Street, Melbourne. Since then every Christmas has featured a new theme. Last year featured “One Christmas Eve” by author Corinne Fenton. This theme featured 3D adaptions of some of Melbourne’s most iconic sites including Luna Park, The Palais Theatre and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Brought to life by the talented team headed by John Kerr, at Stage ONE Productions, the windows featured over 10,000 festoon lights, 120 individual characters, 5,000 miniature figurines and took over 30 artisans 17,000 hours to create.
For my first commission photographing the Myer Christmas windows in 2001, sets were built in the Stage ONE warehouse two weeks prior to installation in Bourke Street. We used a 5”x4” camera, shooting 6cm x12cm roll film colour transparency film. The film was scanned and retouched, delivering high-resolution files for print.
When digital cameras started to deliver higher megapixel files, we switched to photographing the windows in situ in Bourke Street. The client loved change - it eliminated the labour building the sets in the warehouse and reinstalling them two weeks later in Bourke Street, and the client now had an additional two weeks lead time.
What was the brief from Stage One Productions for the 2017 Christmas windows?
They wanted the resolution and detail for images to be published in visual merchandising magazines, the Myer website and for prints exhibited in their offices.
Photography was scheduled for 9 or 10 hours over two nights. Lighting large sets behind panes of reflective glass creates additional challenges. Bear in mind that camera sensors see the contrast and colours of a window set quite differently to how our eyes perceive the same thing.
The team of 4-5 people from Stage One set up black drapes hung off steel frames to mask off reflections in the glass. Then the animation in each window was locked off to capture the best moments each sequence. A lighting mixing board was used to adjust the exposure and colour of each spotlight inside the windows. Two “tungsten” Fresnel lights were diffused through scrims on each side evenly light the steel window frames and glossy granite walls, matching the colour balance of the lighting inside the set. A final squeegee of the glass and we’re ready to shoot.
Each file was finished in Photoshop from a composite of three exposures on a locked off tripod - one for highlight detail, one for shadow detail and one exposure of the outside steel frame and walls. The more accurate and controlled the shooting process, the less time and stress in composting final images, which ultimately achieves a much better outcome.