With LED lighting tech and the high ISO sensitivity of digital cameras, big lights are pretty much non-existent on smaller shoots. But a few weeks ago, we had to shoot with a Phantom Flex 4K camera at 1000fps and I knew I’d need way more light than usual. I wanted the image to be mostly black with but with the backlight to be pretty bright and the fill/key to be a little underexposed for mood. We brought in two 20Ks for the backlight and two 12Ks for the key/fill. I thought for sure it would be overkill. Nope.
I have been using the Litepanels Astra EP 1×1 Traveler Kit for the last few months now and I absolutely love them. I’ve used them on so many shoots â€” almost all of them â€” over the last few months sinceÂ late August and have found them invaluable as part of my main lighting package for smaller shoots and as great supplementary units for my larger shoots. (On the larger shoots, we used pretty powerful lights and also had a full array of other units that there wasn’t much of a need for these.) I’ve found their strength, with my lighting style, is in backlighting and as background lights for interview setups, which I use them for mostly. I still haven’t been able to use them as suitable key lights because I like to have broader light sources than a 1×1 panel. Even if I try using them as a key light, I would fire them through diffusion panels but then a single panel didn’t have enough fire power to give me the light levels I needed so I kept them in their secondary roles as backlight and background units.
I love grips. You tell them what you need to do and then they fancy up some contraption that may look like “the ultimate in low-budget ghetto rigging” (as my key grip, Tom, described it) but totally works and gets the shot. This piece of work, pictured above, was a great solution for one shot we had to get over a conference table setup on the floor below. The ledge was really thick so we couldn’t just bring the sticks right up to it and lean it over, nor did we have a jib or whatnot. So Tom came up with this thing. A ladder, two full apples, a rolling cart, sandbags and some ratchet straps that suspended our camera and Ronin over the edge. We controlled the camera with the remote and there you have it! It was awesome. The rest of the shoot was wonderful as well. We got some great shots for an [name withheld for now] commercial. We shot most of it on a Red Epic Dragon with a couple of shots done with a GH4/Ronin rig and a Phantom 3 Professional drone. Here are some frame grabs from the dailies and some behind the scenes …
First off: I just want to say that, with this post, I have now exceeded my posting average of one per year for the last few years. It’s not that I haven’t been working â€” that’s for sure! When I started this blog, I had three little kids. I now have six… so I hope that explains a lot. Over the last two days, I was shooting a series of driver safety videos for AARP which consisted of mostly driving shots. As much as I wanted to shoot the driving scenes with a process trailer like the one pictured (photo courtesy of GripToyz), we had to keep it lower profile because we would be driving in various situations that prohibited it so we ended up shooting off the back of an insert car while towing the picture cars.
What do you do when your only key light is non-functional and you only have a few minutes to set up? You think fast. I had a shoot a few months ago where we were interviewing the president of fairly large bank conglomerate. He was visiting the area and had very limited time to give us on camera. We had to wait around for a while to figure out if he would even agree to doing the interview that day, and we also had to wait to see where we would be able to shoot his interview.Â He had some doubts about doing the interview that day. For us, it was imperative that the interview happen. After convincing him that today would be a fine day for the interview, and then deciding on a spot do it, we started to set up.Â We had two 1×1 LED panels and a SkyLux + RapidBox soft light. Pulling out the equipment,Â I noticed the ballast for the SkyLux unit was not in the case where it should have been. *Assume nothing. Trust no one.*
This may not be the most ideal lighting kit for the airborne shooter, but theÂ Litepanels Sola 4 Traveler Kit™Â definitely packs a healthy punch for its size, weight and power consumption.
I had the great opportunity to shoot the second season of a web series called, “Pretty Darn Funny” which follows Gracie Moore, a mom who gets more than she bargains for when she forms an all-female comedy troupe in efforts to clean up the local comedy scene. Season 2 launched with this [really, really] silly parody of “Footloose” from the point of view of under-appreciated moms.
So I just got a new app called Shot Designer from Hollywood Camera Work. It’s kind of, you know, amazing. Overhead schematics are the universal tried-and-true way of planning out your shots and blocking for a scene. Many times it’s a scribbly mess of chicken scratch on a piece of paper in a quick meeting at the end of a shoot day for the next day’s work or first thing in the morning, if you’re really tired. But when time is available, planning shots in advance is obviously the way to go. I’ve used the traditional pen-on-paper approach most of the time, but that can become a mess and a waste of paper. Other times, I’ve used Illustrator or SketchUp to plan out shots, but that’s always been a painstaking process as well. It looks great, but it usually takes way longer to do than is worth it and the pen-on-paper approach takes on a whole new attractiveness. Wouldn’t it be great to have something WAY easier, fast, and fun to use?
Last week I was hired to shoot some testimonials for an infomercial. We shot 13 people at a couple of beautiful homes over two days. We shot on the Red Scarlet with Zeiss high-speed primes (f/1.4). I had plenty of light in the lighting package but ended up using hardly anything for these setups. I’m still baffled by what we got and how we got it. The shots were gorgeous and high key; but because of the native 800ISO of the Scarlet, the high speed of the glass, the desire to have soft backgrounds, and the lack of ND filters, I needed to use so little light that it was almost disturbing.