Desperate Housewives Magic Light
Wisteria Lane might be on the Universal backlot street facade, but most of the front rooms of the various Desperate Housewives houses have been built out. So, cinematographer Lowell Peterson, ASC has a challenge similar to location shooting – eight-foot ceilings and the need to match daylight-balanced light up there with the light used on stage sets. He must maintain soft wrap-around lighting close to the actresses' faces.
"Litepanels are really crucial to my lighting," says Peterson. "We carry about 35 of the 1x1 units and use them singly or ganged together in 2x2 or 1x3 configurations. In rooms with tight headroom, we'll string three units side by side for a very soft and flattering wrap-around key light. The 2x2 size makes a perfect fill light. The fact that Litepanels can be dimmed without color shift makes them very versatile and easy to work with."
"One of our electricians has created a grid system for the 1x1s. Each unit has been fitted with a slot in front that accepts a 30, 45, 60 or a 90-degree grid. Behind the grid are slots for laminated diffusion and colored gels. With this combination of focusing grids, color and diffusion, we can have a very soft light at any desired color, but with control to keep it from spilling on walls or other characters in the scene."
Recently, Peterson was faced with a complicated shot of several actresses walking around in one of the front rooms on Wisteria Lane. "There have been more times than we care to remember when we have had all 35 of our Litepanels 1x1 units hung for such a complicated scene," he explains. "Some of these shots have required cross-fading of many of the lights, for which we have remote-controlled dimming. It's hard to imagine how we could light such a scene without the 1x1s."
Peterson relies on the variable color 1x1s, so he can carry through the lighting when a character walks from a daylight shot on the street into a tungsten shot on stage, with the same quality of light. "Our actresses have come to love these lights," he says. "If there isn't a Litepanels by the camera, we'll get a comment: 'Where's the magic light?'"