Professional filmmakers Ben Marlow and Jack Tompkins began their collaborative journey at an unlikely place: a wedding. “About four years ago, I had just booked my first wedding project but had never filmed a wedding before. I was introduced to Ben and his partner Kate, who at the time owned one of the U.K.’s leading wedding cinematography companies, and they invited me to come along on one of their shoots to assist and learn from them,” Jack explains. “From that first shoot, we really hit it off – and our relationship grew from there.”
After working together on more wedding shoots, Ben and Jack expanded to fashion and corporate projects. Today, they work side-by-side in a shared studio space and collaborate on projects ranging from hospitality, sports, and corporate projects to high-end fashion shoots and short films. They have also recently launched Sixty Second Film School, a series of 60-second Instagram videos providing filmmaking tips, tutorials, reviews, and news.
As creative filmmakers and DPs, Ben and Jack jumped at the opportunity to test Litepanels’ Gemini 2x1 soft LED panel.
“Our projects and client list are really varied, interesting and ever-changing. We’ll take on anything that might make a compelling story that can be told in a creative way, and of course lighting is a big factor in that creativity,” Ben says. “I’ve worked with Litepanels for a number of years now, so I knew Gemini would be something special. I was sold instantly — these LEDs are truly revolutionary.”
Jack adds, “Ben first introduced me to Gemini back in 2017, and the more we use it, the more we love it. Over this past year, Gemini has become such an integral part of our lighting strategy that I can’t really imagine not having it.”
Gemini scores when time and portability are of the essence.
“On sports shoots, we often have only minutes with athletes. The ability to set-up and be ready to shoot quickly is a massive thing for me,” Ben notes. “That’s where Gemini’s simplicity and user friendliness come in. In a few seconds, we can pop the light on a stand and switch it on, and the menus are super-easy to navigate.”
Jack comments, “To me, Gemini seems much too easy to use, given the outstanding light quality it puts out. We don’t know any filmmakers, ourselves included, who want to spend hours reading manuals to learn how to use a light. Gemini is so intuitive that you can very quickly dial up the mode you need and create perfect colors.”
Since Ben and Jack often find themselves shooting in obscure and tight locations, Gemini’s light weight and portability are other key factors in creating a perfect lighting effect.
“We’ve used Gemini on rooftops in Shoreditch, abandoned warehouses, and lots of other places that are difficult to get to. It’s so lightweight that Ben or I can hold it by hand for several minutes if we want an unusual angle, rather than having to spend time setting up an unorthodox configuration with a lighting stand,” Jack relates. “And, with the dual V-Mount battery bracket for our Anton/Bauer Dionic XT's, we can take the lights pretty much anywhere and run them at full power, without having to worry if there’s a power socket nearby!”
The first project in which Ben and Jack fully appreciated the potential of Gemini was a volleyball promotion for the University of East London.
Jack explains, “We had an empty sports hall and a team of volleyball players for just a few hours, but we were determined to be unfazed by these constraints and create something really special. With Gemini’s color mode, we dialed in the university’s signature blue and pointed the light at the ceiling. Gemini flooded the entire hall with this great blue backlight, which made everything look amazing.”
Ben adds, “I was immediately drawn in by Gemini’s gel and color modes. On corporate projects, we can dial in the color of a company’s logo and add it into the background. The volleyball shoot is a great example; we were able to recreate the university’s color scheme, which gave the whole film a look that is completely in keeping with the school’s brand. And we did it without having to carry a bag full of gels.”
On sports projects, such as the volleyball film, Ben and Jack will often use slow-motion action with the players that requires flicker-free light. With Gemini, they don’t have to think twice about the camera settings they want to use; the light performs flawlessly at any frame rate.
“We’ve received a lot of compliments on the volleyball piece, but honestly, Gemini did all the work to give us the in-camera look we were going for,” Jack comments. “We know we can make an entire scene look good in seconds simply by bouncing the powerful but soft Gemini light off a ceiling or a wall. Whether I need a key light, a fill light or a creatively colored background light, I don’t need to spend time debating what light to use.”
Moving forward, Ben and Jack will rely even more on Gemini.
“We have three Gemini's now, but we’re looking forward to adding even more to our kit. We literally use them on every single shoot, but we feel we’ve just scratched the surface of what they can do,” Ben says. “Gemini’s versatility is its biggest asset – not only can we match ambient light, but we can let our creativity run wild with the ability to dial in so many colors. And the fact that it’s so portable means we can get into locations we never would have considered before.”
Jack adds, “Personally, I’m really excited to start taking the Gemini's outdoors on sports projects, because even in daylight we’ve found they make a huge contribution to the lighting of a scene. For instance, we just completed a big martial arts documentary, and we were able to take the Gemini's into the woods in the early mornings to create some stunning images. And with a lot of my work in the ski industry, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a few snowy days here in the U.K., so I can use the lights to shoot some nighttime urban skiing.”
Commenting on his long-term relationship with the Vitec Group, Ben says, “I value my partnership with their brands and can’t wait to see what else they will develop, because their products truly are game-changing. For instance, we also use Litepanels Caliber lights for hair lights and little fill lights that we can place anywhere due to their size. And, I was lucky enough to be one of the filmmakers chosen to use the amazing flowtech® tripod from Sachtler and Vinten, another revolutionary piece of kit which comes on every shoot with me.”