By Christian Herrera
As a busy cinematographer, I find myself on the go more often than not. I’m a Costa Rican native based in Los Angeles, but my passion for imagery and culture has taken me to far-flung locations. Whether shooting a feature film in Bhutan or a New Balance commercial for World Cup 2018 in Costa Rica, one of my biggest passions is the thrill of exploring new countries and territories. That’s followed closely by new technologies and advances in gear, especially state-of-the-art tools that give me the most creative freedom and flexibility while shooting on location.
LED lighting is a particular interest area for me, and it’s why I was so excited to learn of Litepanels’ new Gemini 2x1 soft panel. I was able to have a sneak peek at Gemini before it was launched, and I was struck by three things: how incredibly lightweight the panel is (no external ballast required), how easy it is to set up and use, and how much versatility it offers for creating different kinds of lighting effects. Since I also own rental houses for cameras and lighting in both Costa Rica and Panama, I could instantly see Gemini’s possibilities not only for my own projects, but also for my rental customers.
In addition to providing really pure, full-spectrum white light, Gemini also gives us an extensive choice of control options for designing just about any type of light we might want for a shoot. It’s easy for us to select bold colors from the 360-degree color wheel, and we can also use the light to accurately render both full-spectrum white light (daylight) and warm white (tungsten). We can easily dial in a range of dynamic lighting effects and gels that complement both daylight and tungsten sources — whether we’re using available light on location or working in the studio with a mixture of other types of LED lights. One thing I particularly love about Gemini is the way it complements my camera of choice, the ARRI Alexa. I love the way the Alexa’s sensor renders color, and the Gemini’s precision LED technology makes it very easy to achieve any color with full depth, saturation, and accuracy.
Another Gemini feature that’s especially value for our music video and TV commercial work is its ability to provide flicker-free light at any frame rate or shutter angle. It allows me to experiment with high-speed shooting and different frame rates without having to worry about the quality of the light. And Gemini stays flicker-free at high shooting speeds even when we dim the light all the way down to near zero, a feat that really sets this panel apart from others.
Gemini’s ease of use especially comes into play for on-location shoots, where we’re often working with local crew that might not be familiar with the gear. The panel can be set up in an instant, and the strategically placed onboard control panel gives the crew ready and comfortable access to all of Gemini’s lighting features. It’s so easy to use that we don’t have to spend much, if any time, teaching the crew how to use the light. The internal ballast and onboard power supply are a huge plus, making it easy for us to transport the light anywhere and rig it in any number of ways, even from a boom or stand.
In addition to the onboard power, Gemini can also run on battery power without any loss of intensity or functionality. This power flexibility came into play recently for the beforementioned New Balance commercial, which involved both on-location work on a beach in Costa Rica and studio shooting here in Los Angeles. In Costa Rica, we powered the Gemini panels with Anton/Bauer’s Cine VCLX batteries, which gave me more-than-adequate run time via a 3-pin XLR 28 VDC connection.
In short, my four new Gemini panels have become essential components in my own kit as well as my rental inventory, and they join Litepanels’ Astra panels and Sola fresnels as my LED mainstays. I particularly love the combination of the Gemini and the Sola 6+, which delivers the perfect blending of soft and hard light. And the support I’ve gotten from the Litepanels team has been outstanding for both sides of my business. The team is always available to answer my questions, and they’ve provided super-fast turnaround on service – a critical requirement for a rental house.
I love to indulge my passion for testing equipment, so I’ve had the opportunity to test many high-end brands for LED lighting. The Gemini is tailor-made for cinematographers because it’s the perfect complement for their preferred cameras. It’s just the latest example of Litepanels’ commitment to offer the best tools for cinematographers and gaffers, and it’s an outstanding addition to my gear inventory.
Christian Herrera is renowned cinematographer with several award-winning projects to his credit, including an Electro Award in 2013 for Best Music Video for Destructo’s “Higher” and a Lo Nuestro Award in 2016 for Best Music Video for Ricky Martin’s hit “La Mordidita.” Based in Los Angeles, he has been a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600 I.A.T.S.E., since 2009.
In addition to providing really pure, full-spectrum white light, Gemini also gives us an extensive choice of control options for designing just about any type of light we might want for a shoot.Christian Herrera