Some wounds never heal: Cinematographer David Wright crafts 9/11 story with Litepanels


David Wright


Even after 15 years, the memory of the September 11th terrorist attacks is still fresh in the minds of Americans across the nation. With the country still mourning the loss of thousands of loved ones, filmmakers work to accurately portray and retell the tragic events of that day through the eyes of those that were there.

For such an emotionally intense story, Lone Wolf Productions and Director of Photography David Wright set out to shoot a PBS film covering the September 11th attack on the Pentagon, which includes interviewing people who were in the Pentagon, the first responders, and others present that day.

 “This film features powerful stories of survival and heroism and the crew and I have been completely moved by the depth of emotion behind the stories that people have been willing to share with us. To do the subject justice in the film, we wanted to make it both visually powerful and memorable, despite having technical challenges and a limited budget,” said Wright.

Instead of using the artificial look of a green screen, the team decided they would project video clips behind the interviewees. To accomplish this, they used two cameras – one fitted with a device called the I-Direct that lets the interviewee look straight into the lens, the other one attached to a motorized dolly that moves in an arc around the subject. For Wright, this camera setup mixed with the footage from 9/11 would truly hit on the raw emotion behind the stories being told.

With the camera movement in place, Wright needed to perfect the right balance of light or risk the whole mood of the film. After researching his options, Wright decided to use Litepanels Astra 1x1 panels as secondary lights while the Sola 9 Fresnel were used as the main lights, resulting in a dramatic lighting effect with deep shadows.

“Instead of a studio, we shot in an old legion hall in Portland, Maine. The technical challenge with that was it had an extremely old electrical system and old-fashioned lights that would have tripped every light in the building. In this case, the Litepanels LED lights were a huge advantage since they use low power and don't generate as much heat,” stated Wright.

Designed with premium, high CRI, surface mount LEDs and custom-designed TIR optics, the Astra Series of LED lights offered Wright superior color reproduction and a light output that’s brighter than traditional LED panels. With this higher intensity, Wright’s Astra lighting resulted in a longer throw, allowing the panel to illuminate a large area as effectively as a strong exterior light with just a single fixture.

 “For a film like this, you need the right storytelling techniques and equipment. So having something like the Litepanels Astra and Sola really gave me the edge that I needed to get the job done and represent the story of 9/11 attacks in its truest form.”

Click here to view our range of LED Lighting products

Featured Products

Explore Litepanels

Go behind the scenes with filmmaker Matt Siegel

Go behind the scenes with filmmaker Matt Siegel

Go behind the scenes with filmmaker Matt Siegel to see how mobile power and lighting can help tell your story. On the set of an upcoming independent film, Siegel uses LEDs for the first time. See how he used them to tell his story and hear his thoughts.

Read more

5 Tips for Lighting a Green Screen

5 Tips for Lighting a Green Screen

With over 35 years of experience in lighting sets like It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Practical magic and The Crucible, Litepanels co-founder Pat Grosswendt shares his simple tips to achieving perfect green screen lighting.

read more