Michael Muller Brings Virtual Reality to Aston Martin
Photographer Michael Muller has a unique talent for combining his passions and creating art that moves. A frequent photographer to the superheroes, Michael is known throughout Hollywood for his adventure-based shoots. Whether he’s capturing Captain Marvel take flight, setting Tom Holland on fire, or diving deep to the depths of the ocean, Michael will stop at nothing to get the shot. In his ongoing partnership with Aston Martin, Michael took his love of cars and teamed up with Aston Martin’s Design Director Marek Reichman to produce stills, motion, and VR for the elite brand.
“A year and a half ago I started working with Marek and shooting at factories with Eric Reichman and Tom Brady. I showed Reichman the VR that I made and he was blown away. He started talking with the company about making VR and that was the beginning. It was a lot of talking. I basically got three of their cars and started this project. My vision was to film the ocean and then the desert and then downtown and shoot all three mediums. The project grew to about 48 people coming out to the desert. We had 3 stunt drivers, using Shotovers with a technocrane. Two camera cars, two drone teams and I had to choreograph all three films being shot at once: stills, VR, and motion. I had complete creative freedom so we only had one person from the company there, which allowed me to move really quickly. The pace is what allowed me to get all three shoots accomplished in one day.”
The idea of incorporating VR into advertising campaigns was born from one of Michael’s first passions, the ocean. “I've been doing my shark project for 15 years and my goal is to change people’s perspectives of sharks, as well as to raise awareness of what’s happening in our ocean. With photography, it’s challenging because you only see one moment. You don’t see the large scale of what’s down there. I reached a point where I was going to stop my shark project and move on. In that moment, I knew that VR is the future. I had never put a headset on at that point. I just realized that I can take you with me underwater with the VR and you can actually see a 360 view, so you can dive with me. That’s what I’ve been wanting to show people the past 15 years,” explained Michael. “What we did with Aston Martin is give people the opportunity to experience what it’s like to drive the car. When you have hands on the steering wheel, the camera is where your head would be. The only way to capture that was with CGI so you either CGI the car or the outside background. It’s just like a video game. We were able to get that perspective, the driver’s POV, in camera. It's a game changer.”
Michael sees this technology as a turning point for not only the automotive industry but commerce as a whole. “It’s really cool, your phone just turns into a headset. So you can turn your phone around 360, point it anywhere and you can see any part of the commercial. It’s not as immersive as a headset, it’s another tool. It’s a really powerful medium that hasn’t even been tapped yet. It’s fun to be on the forefront blazing the trails. As an innovator, you gotta make stuff yourself and figure it out as you go, there’s no path no one has come before us,” explains Michael. “You’ll be shopping in your headsets soon; you’ll get on a plane and half the people will be in headsets.”
Michael Muller Shoots Marvel's First Leading Female Superhero
For the past decade, superhero movies have broken records and topped the box office charts. Marvel’s Universe is home to the big screen’s most beloved superheroes, including Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most recently, their first leading female superhero: Captain Marvel. The Universe paved the way for this progressive addition to its franchise earlier in 2018 with the debut of their first African American superhero, Black Panther. In his latest collaboration with Marvel, photographer to the superheroes, Michael Muller, shot the movie posters featuring the super woman for her own movie debut.
Michael is no stranger to shooting superheroes on set, and he sees each of his Marvel shoots as their own unique experience. His shoot with the cast of Captain Marvel was extra special. “The process is always a little different…” explains Michael on shooting characters from Marvel’s Universe. “When you do the Marvel superhero movie posters, you have these big casts of 12 Avengers, and sometimes up to 20 or 30 actors. Capturing each unique suit also makes it interesting. But I think the main, unique and cool aspect with this particular shoot was the fact that Brie Larson, the lead, is a female. And without going into too much of the story, a female that is going to save the world."
With each Marvel movie franchise comes a different set of superheroes, each with their unique set of skills and powers. During the two days of shooting with Michael, Captain Marvel’s powers stood out. “All the superheroes always have different powers, but Brie’s character sort of has all of their powers - one of which is flying,” Michael reveals, delving into some of the behind the scenes work that isn't shown in the final images. “It was cool to use Brie in harnesses. We use harnesses, and the stunt team comes in and we actually fly the talent. So she flew, without ropes… because she’s a superhero."
With ten years on the job, Michael knows how to capture and inspire the strength that boldly shines in each superhero shoot. “I’ll direct the way they stand, how they position their body, where they’re looking, and especially the angles I shoot them from. The angles and the lighting make it the whole combination – the superhero recipe, with the actors adding their character to it. This is her first superhero film, but it’s interesting to watch the actors, as the sequels develop, watch the characters perform their craft. After 10 years doing this, I try to direct the new superheroes as much as possible.”
When asked about whether one of the shoots stands out as his favorite, Michael admits that it’s too hard to choose. “There are no favorites because they all have sentimental value, you know what I mean? I enjoy all my shoots…but I would say, the one that’s got a lot of sentimental value would be Iron Man 1 because it was the first one I shot. I remember Robert Downey Jr. showed me the sketches, and how excited he was. And then the studio called. I did two weeks on that shoot, I did hyper unit where we go and shoot the actors on set as well. My assistants have portable strobe lights, and that’s when I have access to all the sets. When I do hyper unit it’s amazing. I love to get those shots on camera because we have the backdrops right there. The actors are in costume, in uniform, all that good stuff. That one has a lot of sentimental value, but you know my favorite I would say is “Captain America 2”. I think it had the coolest costumes and uniforms. Those costumes, that style; they were just amazing."
Through all of his superhero experience, Michael keeps one simple goal in mind. “With a movie poster you know, there’s 1.4 seconds to stop someone in a magazine or stop them on Amsterdam. You got one shot to make people say to themselves in their car like, “that looks cool,” or “that looks dumb”. The way you look at a movie billboard can really affect the box office. And that’s my job, to make them look cool. I know the comic book fans are going to come to the movie. My goal is to get my wife into the movie theatre. To get the people that are not the superhero or comic book people into the theater, into the seats."
Michael Muller's Heaven On Earth
For their annual gala to celebrate the beginning of awards season, The Art of Elysium tapped Photographer and VR artist Michael Muller to express his own idea of “Heaven on Earth.” The Art of Elysium was founded in the 1990s to support creatives and artists whose work focuses on helping individuals navigate illness, hospitalizations, homelessness and many other very human situations. Michael had the honor of serving as the 2019 Visionary for the 12th Annual star-studded Gala Event held in Koreatown in Los Angeles earlier this month.
The gala itself is a piece of art, as it’s the result of the collaboration between artists to put together an iconic art installation. “Asking Michael to be the Visionary has been a long time coming,” Jennifer Howell, Founder of The Art of Elysium, told Flaunt.com. “Watching him evolve as an artist and expand into the virtual reality space has just shown the infinite depth of his vision.” Michael's job was to interpret the theme “Heaven on Earth,” which meant going deep into the depths of one of his favorites places in the world: the ocean. Using four main distinctions of the charity - Fashion & Design, Fine Arts, Music & Movement, and Theatre & Film - Michael envisioned an alternative reality under the sea for his guests. Using 3D and virtual reality technology, along with artist Bea Dunn, gala attendees were let inside Michael’s imagination as they passed by life-size sharks Michael photographed in their own environments. He received the 2019 Visionary Award at the end of the night.
It’s important to note that Michael doesn’t just find inspiration in the ocean, but he has dedicated his life to the preservation and education of keeping our oceans clean and safe for all. One of his favorite VR endeavors includes giving children and those affected by paralyzation the unique and often once in a lifetime opportunity, to swim in the ocean through the use of his photography and a headset device. Michael believes in the dedication to volunteering and how it plays an important role in connecting us as humans.
Anyone wishing to help support The Art of Elysium, please click here to make a donation or bid on an item from the auction to help continue their amazing work.
Michael Muller Goes Big for Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe was upended at the end of 'Avengers: Infinity War,' and as the world awaits the next Avengers sequel the MCU has dropped a little piece of narrative candy to help us get to the next chapter: 'Ant-Man and the Wasp.' The first Ant-Man movie was a comparative light-hearted romp compared to the recent developments in Marvel’s universe, and the latest installment is in the exact same vein. Scott Lang, the alter ego of Ant-Man, is the perfect modern underdog, almost an anti-hero, but when Michael Muller came on to shoot the key art for the blockbuster he kept it classic.
Not only did Michael create an epic poster featuring all the actors in costume in an update of the traditional Drew Struzan style, he also photographed character posters for each of the main characters. It is a blistering cast of the highest talent. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Laurence Fishburne and Hannah John-Kamen in the images that are at once energetic and engrossing. Part of what makes the posters so exciting is that they reveal pieces of the story without giving it all away: Pfeiffer is dressed up in her own superhero costume, Douglas and Fishburne’s wardrobe imply an unknown history, John-Kamen (who plays the billed villain) is the only one looking away from the audience, focused on another outside threat. Michael has used the opportunity present in each composition to give us more than just an aesthetic treat: he’s giving us clues to draw us into the story.
'Ant-Man and the Wasp' is expected to dominate the box office for most of the summer, but one thing is for sure: Michael has given us a taste and we cannot wait for more.
Michael Muller Knocks 'Em Dead with 'Deadpool 2'
You’ve already seen the images that Michael Muller shot of Ryan Reynolds dressed up as the fan favorite Marvel superhero Deadpool. With the release of Deadpool 2, the sequel to the massively successful initial offering, the posters are not only in every city on practically every surface, but the marketing extended far beyond traditional advertising. Michael photographed the cast of the film for what has turned into one of the broadest media blitzes in recent memory. Everything from classic blockbuster movie posters, to parody work that plays off classic imagery, all the way to co-branded material with Trolli, all of it has Michael’s touch on it. You cannot escape America’s favorite antihero superhero and with images like this, why would you want to?
The original Deadpool film ended up as the highest grossing rated-R movie in history, with materials shot by Michael as well, so it was a no-brainer that the studio would come back for round two and invite Michael to be a part of it again. One week in and the sequel is on track to take over the popularity and the numbers as the original.
For the Deadpool 2 shoot, Michael met up with the actors Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, and Zazie Beetz in what started as a traditional image capture session but turned into a creative and collaborative session, playing off of Reynolds’ creative riffs. Michael guesses they shot “45-50 completely different shots/concepts in a day.” Reynolds and the Deadpool team were able to take those shots and turn them into a series of inventive images that lampoon other concepts like World War Z, moments from Flashdance, and even the Sistine Chapel. As Deadpool 2 continues to dominate the box office, let us not forget its the franchise's signature humor that keeps fans coming back and Michael created the perfect facsimile of that humor to extend into the promotional work.
Robert De Niro Gives Two Thumbs Up to Michael Muller's Cannes Bound "Into The Now"
You haven’t had a real swimming with sharks VR experience. Not yet at least. Maybe someone created a gorgeous digital approximation or you’ve seen some cool 360 videos from underwater, but there hasn’t been anything on the market that makes it feel like you’re actually there with the sharks. Until now. Michael Muller just debuted his underwater VR experience ‘Into the Now’ at the TriBeCa Film Festival that builds off his expertise of photographing sharks underwater. The experience is on its way to the Cannes Film Festival now, but before they left New York, Robert De Niro took it for a spin and gave a very worthy two thumbs up.
'Into the Now' is traveling all over the world because it offers much more than a traditional VR experience. “The same way Jacques Cousteau inspired me and planted that seed to go out and explore and swim in the oceans, I hope that a little young girl or boy watches ‘Into the Now’ and it plants a seed,” says Michael. “I want to really educate and inspire this next generation to fall in love with our oceans, to learn that we still have such amazing oceans and there are so many amazing things still there.”
The journey to ‘Into the Now’ is decades long and the results are hauntingly inevitable. The first photograph Michael ever took was of a shark. Well, kind of. It was a photograph of a photograph of a shark he found in an issue of National Geographic. He snapped the photo on his first camera, got the film developed, and told everyone he took it, and then he spent the rest of his career turning it into a reality. He began photographing animals underwater after establishing himself as a celebrity shooter, including the posters for the very first Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. After photographing high profile subjects with impeccable lighting and controlled sets for so long, Michael found himself unimpressed by underwater photography equipment. “I wanted to light a Great White like I do Iron Man,” he says. So instead of operating with the status quo, he created a whole new lighting system for underwater photography, working with an engineer from JPL and ending up with four patents.
This set him up perfectly for the VR project years later because he ended up having to create a new image capture system almost entirely from scratch.
Before even experiencing VR for himself, he knew it was the movement of the future and wanted to get in on the ground floor. So before he got on a plane to shoot a campaign in Antigua where he'd be off the grid for a few weeks, he sent out a flurry of emails looking for partners on what would eventually become ‘Into the Now.’ Three weeks later he got back home to an email inbox showing interest from everyone he reached out to. At the same time, some very high-level neurologists showed interest. “Two days later I got a call from Andy Huberman at Stanford University and he said, ‘We’re really interested in your shark work.’” Huberman was studying PTSD responses and was thrilled by Michael’s story of starting deathly afraid of sharks to swimming with Great Whites outside the cage. He saw an opportunity to use Michael’s work as a blueprint to help those affected by the disorder.
One by one the pieces came together for the project to turn into something massive.
Michael quickly secured the funding he needed to create the picture. He developed the technology he needed to capture the picture. And he worked with Huberman to get the data that they needed to extend the picture beyond a one time experience. The results are a fully immersive experience that confronts the viewer with the reality of being with the intimidating creatures, allowing the audience to live through those moments as truly as possible without getting wet. It’s available to anyone who can get to it, and Michael and his team have even created an educational portal so kids can study the ocean biology under the waves, plus it’s being used with military veterans and at Children’s Hospitals to let them explore the ocean. But in the end, it was the experience that was most important to Michael and you’ve got to experience it if you want to understand the full story. “I don’t really want to go into that too much because it will give away the film, and I want the film to be a bit of a surprise for people,” he said on the eve of ‘Into the Now’s premiere.
‘Into the Now’ is set to show at the Cannes Film Festival that opens on May 8.
Michael Muller Joins the Roster at B&A
We are thrilled to welcome Michael Muller to the roster here at B&A.
Michael’s career began in earnest after a childhood of world travel he settled on photographing snowboarders. The excitement and explosive energy in that sport appeared on every frame, priming him for a career that’s all about finding excellence stored in a fraction of a second. “When people view my work, I simply want to evoke emotion, and let the viewer feel they are in fact alive,” he says.
Michael is a Hollywood favorite photographing the official art for huge movie franchises like Marvel’s Avengers, Iron Man, Captain American, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool (and a bunch of those sequels), plus another superhero movie dropping later this year that we can’t wait to share with you.
Outside of photographing celebrities and blockbuster films and editorials for the best publications in the world, Michael is known for his series of underwater photography, chasing sharks all over the world and getting intimate with them, capturing unprecedented imagery that’s as shocking as it is enticing. Checking the photos out online isn’t enough: you’ve got to grab the book published by Taschen.
If you love Michael’s work as much as we do and want to learn how to do it yourself, check out his iPhone app MullerPhoto that offers editing techniques that match his style.
Please help us in welcoming Michael Muller to the B&A family!