As a director and DoP Joe brings a unique approach to his work. He’s a creative thinker and is adaptable to the everyday demands put before him. His work has taken him around the world both directing and shooting for clients that include; Disney, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Nickelodeon, ITV, Playstation, Vodafone, Amazon and B&Q.
In 2021, Litepanels launched the super bright Gemini 1x1 Hard. A 1x1 fixture capable of 3,000 lux of output at 10ft. With that launch came a challenge – create a cinematic short sequence using 1x1 Hard fixtures as the only light source. Meeting the challenge: British DP, Joe Ransom. Joe created The Heist, a fast-paced, multi-location action short, taking viewers on a high-adrenaline journey to an ending with a twist.
Fast forward to 2022, Litepanels significantly up the game with the Gemini 2x1 Hard, an insanely bright LED panel throwing out 23,000 lux at 10ft. Who could show off the awesome power and beauty of this new light? Hello Joe.
Playing on the big stage
“We wanted to approach the film very differently to the 1x1 Hard launch film as this light is for the high-end film world.” Says Joe. But how do you make something that looks like a movie without spending what a movie spends? high-end filmmaking and high budgets normally come hand in hand. Joe continues, “We wanted to play in the way the big players play but in a way that was achievable for us, so we tried to box clever. Stripping back the set build to reduce the budget, we could put all our effort into showcasing the light and making that the star of the show. Really putting it to the test”.
The brief called for the film to show the light's unique capabilities, an incredibly bright output from a 2x1 fixture that at just 25lbs is hands-down the lightest in its class. One idea was to show a ceiling of light controlled by a DMX desk. But Joe had other ideas. “We tried to think outside the box”, he says. “We are talking to people who know. We don’t need to show them things they have already seen or tell them how a hard light source works.”
Developing the concept, Joe wanted to show that there was no other light on the market that could achieve the same output as the Gemini 2x1 Hard. The idea of hard tunnels of light was born.
“The hard tunnels of light really formed the basis of our creative.” Says Joe. “Simply put, we wanted to show that it was possible to use an LED panel to create a hard, direct source of light with RGBWW capabilities in a huge scale studio”.
For a huge scale studio in the UK, look no further than the legendary Cardington Studios. The 180ft high former Royal Airship Works hangar has been home to epic movie franchises such as Batman, Star Wars, and Legendary Beasts. The cavernous space would now host Joe and 100 Gemini 2x1 Hard fixtures.
The awesome power of the Gemini panels would create three tunnels of hard light from the ceiling to the ground. Inside each tunnel, aerial acrobats would perform a dizzying high altitude routine. For each tunnel, Joe and his team created a 12x12 ‘hard box’ made up of 22 Gemini panels and a Correx end cap to form the square shape. The light would blast through a giant egg crate fashioned from black bolt-on to create the sharply defined shafts of light. Eight more Gemini units with domed diffusers would create vertical runs of light behind each tunnel.
Joe continues, “We rigged up three ‘hard boxes’ 45ft from the ground. The aerial performers rarely get the opportunity to work in spaces with over 30ft of free fall height, so for them, the higher the better. And we really wanted to test the power of the Gemini too, so we rigged as high and as close to the gantry as possible.
The tunnels of light were just a theory, but with no lights available to test before the shoot, and only one day of pre lighting on the schedule for the ambitious shoot, there was no time to test the theory before the crew arrived at the studio. “I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sleepless night or two in the lead up to the shoot”. Says Joe. “My plan was all based on theory, so it wasn’t until we saw all the lights working together at the end of the pre light I knew it was actually going to work”.
With the punchy, defined hard light output of the lights successfully demonstrated with the tunnels of light, another scene takes the lighting to the opposite extreme with a softbox setup.
“This is where the classic phrase ‘you can make a hard source soft, but you can’t make a soft source hard’ comes in” says Joe. “I was really excited about this scene because I knew just how much punch the lights would give me so I could really go to town with my layers of diffusion”.
To create a large pyramid-style softbox, the crew transformed one of the hard box setups, increasing it from a 12 x 12 box to a 20 x 20, using the same 22 fixtures. Adding a full grid cloth just under the lamps, a half grid cloth was added 8ft below that and another full grid created a third layer of diffusion. An 8ft Bolt-on skirt completed the softbox. “The quality of light was just sensational on all skin types” says Joe. “For a piece focused so heavily on the performer and different skin types, and shooting on a Sony Venice, we needed the color accuracy of the Gemini lights to be on point.
In the softbox and the tunnels of light scenes, banks of 2x1 Hard fixtures are seen in shot, providing spectacular lighting effects to accompany the performers. “I thought it’d be a great way to include the fixture in the commercial without it being in your face!” says Joe. “But on a practical level the lights in shot provided a great back light for the performers, they allowed us to play with different effects and chases to mimic some of the performer’s routines. And allowed us to play with color”.
The vertical banks of lights were rigged onto ladder truss and wired to a DMX control desk for control of the lighting effects. “The beauty of the 2x1 Hard is the built-in ballast that makes it so compact and so versatile to rig.” Says Joe. “The actual rigging of the fixtures in all our form factors and structures was simple enough. To be able to use a single barrel clamp and not exceed weight limits on the chain hoists or truss or anything just made things incredibly simple for us”.
Run forest run
The final setup was the ‘Forest of Steel’ - a corridor of steel girders at the side of the sound stage.
“This was the third and final of our setups.” says Joe. “Every time we moved on to the next setup, I remember thinking ‘this is my favorite set up yet’ but this one really was a beauty.”
Gemini 2x1 Hard fixtures with softboxes were spaced out along the corridor to form pockets of light that individually illuminate the dancer as she moves through the space.
“It reminded me of the night-time motorbike chase scene in the heist film when we rigged the 1x1’s at the height of lampposts.” Says Joe. “That gave us the perfect amount of level at 100%, and the 2x1’s through their softboxes did the same in this set up. Beautifully soft but still direct, giving us the pockets of light we were after. I could have watched our dancer perform this routine all day. The piece and the setup worked perfectly in unison.”
This last scene would also highlight the versatility and lightweight of the Gemini 2x1 Hard by attempting something that has never been done before with a panel of this size: flying the light around the performer on a drone. “The idea was to show the light continuing to move after the dance has finished.” Says Joe. “As the dancer stopped, all the top lights were turned off and the single drone light creates a lovely moment where you see long shadows dancing around her.”
It’s a unique thing to have something so punchy and controllable but also lightweight enough to put on a drone.
“By flying the 2x1 Hard on a drone, we were showing not only the lightweight nature of the fixture but also the ability to use the powerful light anywhere – even in the sky – on battery power.”
That’s a wrap
The final commercial can be seen here and a behind-the-scenes video here. With Joe and his crew meeting the Litepanels challenge two for two, the ball is back with Litepanels to throw down the gauntlet for the next game-changing light fixture.
It’s a light that’s so versatile because its RGBWW, it’s lightweight, it’s incredibly punchy and can provide a huge source on battery power. As a filmmaker, that’s invaluable