By day, Gary Scullion is an accomplished film editor with a string of high-profile projects to his name – ranging from three-times-Emmy-nominated miniseries “The Bible” and BBC hit comedy “Big School” to “Babylon” the comedy-drama cop show created by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle.
But Gary has a ‘sneaky’ alter ego...
While his day job leans toward the more analytic side, outside of the editing suite Gary is free to let loose his creative indulgences - making fan films for the hit YouTube channel “Sneaky Zebra”. Browse the content on the channel you’ll instantly see that cosplay is a big theme; in fact, Sneaky Zebra films have won multiple awards at several Comic-Con conventions.
“We have a lot of fun with Sneaky Zebra. It’s a great outlet for us to create new content including original short films, geeky cosplay, and comedy sketches,” Gary says. “We love to take a crazy, nerdy idea – say, a fight between a lightsaber and Thor’s hammer – and turn it into a film.”
Litepanels’ battery-powered Gemini 2x1 and 1x1 Soft LED panels set the mood for the latest Sneaky Zebra project, the Star Wars-Inspired “Echoes of Darkness.”
As a huge Star Wars fan, Gary and the Sneaky Zebra crew devised a cast of original characters for “Echoes of Darkness,” a collaborative fan film set in the Star Wars world. The film will get its first screening at the epic New York Comic-Con.
One of Gary’s biggest challenges on “Echoes” was shooting several scenes in a remote woodland… at night! “For any small indie project, night shooting is always difficult. And shooting in the woods at night is even more challenging. Usually, you need a generator to deliver enough power to provide enough light, and then the noise from that generator means you must re-record all your sound,” he says. “That’s why the Geminis really saved the day for us on this project.”
For the woodland night shoots, Sneaky Zebra used a quad configuration of Gemini 2x1 Soft LED panels to simulate moonlight. Powered by Anton/Bauer Dionic XT V-Mount batteries, the four Geminis provided long-lasting and ample light for the scenes, even when dimmed to only 15%.
“The power of the Geminis is insane, even using batteries. If we had them powered all the way up to 100%, we could have simulated daylight. But four lights at 15%, yoked on a tall stand and using a soft box, gave us a wonderful, soft moonlight glow.”Kerry MartinDoP on "Echoes of Darkness"
In another scene, the crew created the effect of people emerging out of a bright light and a cloud of smoke by setting the Gemini quad intensity to 80%. “For that scene, we just moved the quad behind the smoke screen and shot directly into the lights, to silhouette the people walking out,” Gary says. “With a generator and cables running everywhere, we would not have had this kind of flexibility – but we could place the Geminis wherever we wanted them. And we also didn’t have to worry about generator noise ruining our sound.”
In addition, two Gemini 2x1s provided fill and effects.
“The 2x1s were super-useful,” Gary says. “We were able to tweak them on the fly and create the exact look we needed just by dialing in the gel color settings. We could test different effects and colors in an instant without having to waste time cutting and applying gels, and we could adjust the intensity in an instant.”
While the giant Gemini 2x1 quad stack stood in for the moon, the Sneaky Zebra crew used a pale teal blue gel setting on the 1x1s to provide perfectly color-matched fill light. Laser blast effects were created by setting the 1x1s to flash bright red on demand. “We also used the 1x1s to create an electrical flash effect for a scene in which someone was holding an object flickering with energy,” Gary adds. “Before, we would always have devised something very makeshift using odd tools on hand to create that type of effect. But the Geminis made it quick and easy – we could tweak them to our heart’s content until we got the exact effect we wanted.”
Anton/Bauer Dionic XTs provide the force
In addition to the Gemini 2x1 and 1x1 LEDs, the Dionic XTs powered the production’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K Cine camera. “I was so impressed with the Dionic XTs,” Gary says. “We had 20 batteries on set, and that was way more than we needed. I couldn’t believe how long a single battery lasted, and how much power it delivered for the lights. I think we only changed batteries twice throughout the whole shoot.”
Gary especially appreciated the Dionic XT’s LCD screen, which gives an at-a-glance reading of remaining battery life down to the minute. “That readout is one of the most useful things about the Dionic,” he says. “So many other batteries just quit without warning, but with Dionic, you always know where you stand – and you can be prepared with a backup before the battery is depleted.”
The power to unleash a creative vision
“Making an indie fan film like “Echoes of Darkness” you are always looking at what’s possible, and what’s not,” Gary says. “The ability to shoot scenes in the woods at night was a big part of the creative vision for this film, but we weren’t sure how to pull it off. The Gemini LED panels and Dionic XT batteries really made a key difference for us on this project, without them it simply would not have been possible to achieve our vision.”