In today’s media environment, the demand for superior production quality is higher than ever before. Television shows are expected to deliver Hollywood-level viewing. Brands know that their advertising campaigns have to be entertaining, innovative and most importantly, memorable. It’s precisely the reason that cinematographer Omar Ragab is called on by many of today's top creative directors.
Rising through the ranks of the production crew, Ragab has cemented himself as one of the most well-rounded cinematographers in the industry. His time spent in the camera, electrical and rigging departments endowed him with a deep understanding of the entire organism that is a film production.
This all-encompassing perspective has given him an invaluable edge over many cinematographers that have backgrounds in one department or the other, making Ragab an irreplaceable technical resource on set. Understanding the inner workings of how a camera operates and its receptivity to certain stimuli are skills that simply must be developed from the ground up.
Ragab’s recent work with Academy Award and Grammy Award winning artist Lady Gaga for Valentino’s new Voce Viva perfume line is nothing short of stunning. Filmed in Los Angeles during the pandemic, the light gently plays across Gaga’s elegant dress, an ethereal effect that captures the essence of Voce Viva. Smooth camera-work pans high above the treeline to capture a sweeping panorama of the cityscape, bringing an element of grandeur to this inspired campaign.
“From a young age, I would stop and lose track of time whenever I saw light being filtered through the trees—I wondered if I could capture that beauty on camera with the same purity as my eyes,” Ragab reminiscences. “After many years of study, my background in lighting allows me to understand what it takes to achieve any shot."
It was this synthesis of creativity and technical prowess that made Ragab the obvious choice to film UberEats first-ever Super Bowl commercial. The food delivery giants sought to invoke 1980s broadcasting nostalgia centered on the classic comedy of “Wayne’s World,” a collaboration featuring comedians Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey, rock legend Alice Cooper, and hip-hop sensation Cardi B.
The project required the use of three smartly placed cameras outfitted with vintage Leica R still lenses, two to dial in on Meyers’ and Carvey’s beloved characters and one wide shot to accommodate guest appearances. The commercial relied heavily on special effects to bring the zany gags of the “Wayne’s World” crew to life, only possible because of Ragab’s cleverly framed wide-angle shot. Locking the wide camera in place allowed the SFX team to work quickly and efficiently in post-production to implement their retro effects.
Giovanna Giangregorio, production manager for the UberEats Super Bowl spot, was quick to praise Ragab’s contributions to the commercial’s success, specifically noting the cinematographer’s dedication to the project:
“Omar is an extremely hardworking individual who works rigorously on set and always proves himself instrumental. He is an exceptionally gifted person within his field and is a great asset to any production team.”
While talent and technical ability go far in any industry, a top cinematographer needs top leadership skills. It requires a pragmatic, yet flexible, disposition that knows how to serve all departments working on a film set. Preparation is paramount, but it is essential to embrace the inevitable spontaneity of a day behind the camera, nimbly pivoting with each situation as it arises.
Ragab’s biggest project to date exemplified his skills under-pressure with fashion titan Calvin Klein’s newest campaign— pgLang for Calvin Klein. The episodic video series created in partnership with creative collective pgLang, a multi-disciplinary media company co-founded by Grammy Award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, was an ambitious undertaking, with only three days to shoot seven commercials. Time was of the essence.
Each location came with its own set of challenges, with some being too small for the amount of equipment on hand, calling for quick thinking and freedom to improvise. Much of the equipment was highly specialized, some even custom-built, to achieve the high-concept shots envisioned. Ragab and his team had to move with great speed and efficiency to keep production on track, but did so with incredible results.
With the intention to usher in a new era of inspiring and relatable advertising, Ragab and company undeniably hit the mark, positioning Calvin Klein and pgLang as two brands that have their fingers on the pulse of next-level content creation.
1st AC for pgLang for Calvin Klein Lucas Deans was blown away by Ragab’s professionalism and steadfast presence on location.
“Omar surpassed my expectations and worked passionately and professionally to achieve our goals in the short amount of time allocated,” says Deans. “He was always readily available to do what was necessary to make the campaign a success, whether that was thinking creatively to overcome obstacles or assisting other crew members around him.”
Culture never stands still. What was groundbreaking yesterday is old-fashioned today. But it’s this insatiable demand for what’s next that spurs the best cinematographers to grow. The demand for bigger and better will only continue, but it’s clear that Omar Ragab has the skills to keep delivering.