After college, Braun left Europe in the late 1980s and relocated to Los Angeles, where he continued his studies in filmmaking. In 1996, he finally stepped behind the camera to direct a solo project, "The Adventures of the G-Man," the first installment of a successful series that would earn him his first taste of both critical praise and commercial success.
Braun's big break in the American adult video market came in 1997 with "The Book of Lust," followed the next year by "Sexcape." A proud, hands-on filmmaker, Braun wrote, produced, directed, shot and edited both of these features. In 1999, he released "Fleshlight," a no-holds-barred feature that topped the charts in several countries, as well as "Libido" and, most notably, "The G-Spot Chronicles," one of that year's top-selling adult videos in his home country of Italy.
In June 2002, Braun signed an exclusive directing contract with Elegant Angel, and over the next year he made "Gigolo: A Love Story," "Delusion," "The Bachelorette," "Seduction," and three chapters of "The Squirting Adventures of Dr. G." After a brief stint as general manager of Elegant Angel in 2003, Braun decided to concentrate on his own Axel Braun Productions — but before he left, he produced the ambitious, high-budget feature "Compulsion," shot entirely on film. After its late- 2003 release, the movie earned Braun numerous awards from a variety of critics associations and industry groups.
Fascinated by the psychological aspects of sex and sexuality and obsessed with the depth and believability of his characters, Braun delivers visually and dramatically compelling tales that provide a solid foundation for the sexual situations. As an eagle-eyed auteur, Braun is exceptionally attentive to every technical detail of his movies, from color and shadow to set design and sound. His success with "Compulsion" firmly established him as a director who is comfortable being at the forefront of both the artistic and technological advances in adult movie-making.
XBIZ spoke with Braun about one of the director's favorite subjects: the state-of-the-art equipment he uses, as well as a few favorite high-tech toys.
XBIZ: Which cameras, still and video, do you use for blocking out and filming your movies?
AB: My camera of choice right now is definitely the Canon XL-H1. It's a hi-def camera with interchangeable optics, certainly not the lightest, but definitely much better balanced than, say, the Sony Z1U. The Sony model is actually very top-heavy. As far as still cameras go, it's Canon again with the EOS-1Ds Mark II. It's a 16.7 megapixel SLR camera that can capture up to 32 consecutive shots at speeds of up to four frames per second.
XBIZ: You're known for obsessing over color and light just as much as you do over characters and camera positions. How do you get those big, dramatic, shimmering back-lighting effects of yours?
AB: Lights? Well, depending on the shoot, it'll be a mix of big Kino-Flo banks and HMI. On the "Wet Room" shoot, we used a couple of 12K lights for back-lighting this huge plexiglass wall.
XBIZ: I am curious as to whether you use an Avid workstation or other standalone linear system for doing your editing and post. Or do you use a PC with Sony Vegas, or a Macintosh with Final Cut Pro? I know that there are directors who swear by one system or another, like Michael Ninn, so what decision did you make regarding the many technological options for editing and post-production?
AB: I do everything on Mac, and I personally use Final Cut Pro HD. My friend Michael [Ninn], on the other hand, is an Avid guy. Normally I'd hammer people with a series of pro-Final Cut rants until they give up and switch over to it, but with Michael — I mean, have you seen his editing? The guy is a fucking master, and there's no reason to mess with perfection.
XBIZ: What about the audio side of the equation? This seems to be somewhat of a weak point in many adult productions — not just the dismal soundtracks with canned tunes but dialog that's hard to hear. What kind of recording is happening on your set? Do you use Automated Dialog Replacement (ADR) technology and techniques?
AB: ADR is something we use only in big-budget features with lots of dialogue. When I did "Compulsion" for Elegant Angel, which was shot on film, we used a LarTec custom ADR console and monitor matrix and a Tascam MMR8 digital multi-track recorder.
XBIZ: Enough about work. Now tell me about some of your favorite gadgets. Any portable, hard-drive-based video player yet? Are you a BlackBerry or Sidekick kind of guy? Or are you not really a gadget guy at all?
AB: Oh no, I am definitely a gadget guy. My favorites right now? My 60GB iPod, or maybe the 250GB hard drive with about 15,000 songs that's installed in my 2007 Mercedes S550.
XBIZ: That Mercedes is one of the biggest and nicest gadgets I've ever seen, by the way. What else?
AB: Well, then there's the 65-inch Panasonic plasma HDTV in my bedroom. And, of course, I can't forget about my T-Mobile Sidekick II. I mean, why even talk to people when you can just "txt" them?
XBIZ: Click, click, tap-tap-tap. Beep.
AB: Give my best to your readers, and thanks. That last beep was "goodbye," right? All right, then, bye now.