Fast horses, thundering hooves - just two elements to consider if you want to document the all-American rodeo sport of Barrel racing. 1000lbs of unpredictable equine muscle racing around a tight arena is challenging enough, but add ‘at night’ to the mix and a filmmaker with intimate knowledge of horse movement is essential.
Writer and Director Amy D'Allessandro Stolz is such a person, together with husband DoP James Stolz, they took on the challenge of capturing night-time barrel racing at the Gibson Ranch in California. See how they used Litepanels’ new Gemini 1x1 Soft to ‘Light up the Run’.
The two are currently wrapping their latest project, a short film titled “The Subconscious Dreamer,” a tale authored by Amy about the power of dreams in an AI-controlled future featuring a powerful image of a dark horse. “The most gratifying projects are the ones in which you can collaborate with your director and actors to tell stories and visually create a mood or scene,” James comments. “And then there’s a moment of magic when the story ends up on the screen.”
Horses are an important inspiration for Amy as a writer and director.
A new project focused on barrel racing is taking that inspiration in another direction.
The promotional film, “Light up the Run,” is designed to showcase the Gibson Ranch equestrian facility near Sunland, California, and depicts the rough-and-tumble world of barrel racing – a fast-paced rodeo event in which horse and rider race through an obstacle course of barrels.
The sport takes speed, precision, athleticism, and the skill to make split-second decisions.
As James and Amy developed the creative treatment for the film, they realized the conditions called for lighting that was lightweight, rugged and versatile. Features all-present in the new Gemini 1x1 Soft panel.
The 1x1s were perfect for this film, this light takes all the features we love– incredible light quality, color versatility, ease of use – and bundles them in an incredibly lightweight, rugged, and easy-to-rig package.
Amy adds, “I always envisioned this film in a night-time setting, so the right lighting was critical for accenting the intricate details of the sport – the movement and muscle structures of the horse and rider going around the barrels, and also the intensity and speed involved in the sport. The Geminis were ideal for this.”
Gemini 1x1’s ruggedness and intensity on battery power were critical factors for the fast-paced barrel racing sequences.
The crew lit the arena with eight Gemini 1x1s mounted on Mombo Combo stands and C stands with Gobo arms. They placed some of the Gemini units on the ground to provide backlighting as the galloping horse rounded the barrels. All of the lights were powered by Anton/Bauer Dionic XT batteries.
“The safety of the horses was one of our top concerns for this shoot. It’s critical that the lights be able to operate on battery power, because you can’t have power cables running everywhere for the horse to trip on. Plus, if a shod horse steps on a broken cable, there’s a real danger of electrocution,” James explains. “That’s a big reason the Geminis were so perfect for this project. Their ability to run for so long, and with such great output, on battery power alone is a real game-changer for remote and action shooting.”
Amy adds, “Horses can be fragile animals physically and mentally, so being able to get the light source close enough to highlight the horse in motion, but still out of the way, was a key factor in our decision to use the Gemini 1x1s.”
James was impressed by Gemini’s rugged design. “We were able to just set the lights in the dirt for the backlighting, without having to worry about them malfunctioning or breaking. That’s exactly what you want from your gear – a hard-working tool that can take a beating and still operate like it’s supposed to.”
“The beautiful thing about the Gemini range is the quality of its full-spectrum white light. With other similar LEDs, we’ve had to adjust plus or minus green to closely mimic daylight, but Gemini’s rendition of actual daylight conditions is almost flawless,” James remarks. “And if we we’re in a room where we need to mix in different light sources, we can quickly and precisely adjust the Gemini output to match the scene’s ambient light.”
He adds that Gemini’s dial-in gel colors came in handy for creating the mood for the barrel racing film. “Since rodeo is such an all-American sport, we had the idea of lighting each of the barrels in red, white, or blue. With the Geminis, it was super-simple – we just dialed up the colors we wanted. With Gemini, we’re able to bring more color into our projects without having to carry around a tungsten light and a set of gels.”
Not only can Gemini 1x1 do everything its nearest competitor can do, and in many cases do it better, it’s available for about half the price.
“Not only can Gemini 1x1 do everything its nearest competitor can do, and in many cases do it better, it’s available for about half the price. That’s really critical for independent shooters on a tight budget,” James comments. “When Amy and I are working on our film projects, in some cases it’s just the two of us – she directs the film and I shoot it. For us, the Gemini 1x1 is a no-brainer because it gives us all the functionality we need for maximum creativity at an affordable cost. We can achieve any kind of look we want and do it with ease.”