Since 2006, CEO Greg Johnson and DP Denver Robbins have been collaborators in The Brute Squad, their boutique production company based in Utah. They keep busy with a broad range of commercial work as well as educational and promotional films. “We get excited about projects that let us flex our creative muscle and use tools in new ways,” Denver says.
One such recent project was a 20-episode video series for client Owlet Baby Care, a company that makes high-tech baby monitors and other products. As part of Owlet’s parent education series, the videos focus on training infants to sleep through the night and develop healthy sleep habits.
Just like most of our projects, we were working with a tight time schedule and a limited budget,” Denver says. “The subject matter calls for scenes that are lit at different times of the day – morning, nighttime, sunrise, dusk. We also had only four days to shoot all 20 videos. That meant we had to get really creative with lighting."
For the series, the Brute Squad crew built a set with three different rooms, one of which served as the baby’s nursery, and lit the set with a combination of Litepanels’ Gemini 2x1 Soft and Gemini 1x1 Soft panels together with Astra 6x LEDs. An important aspect of the shoot was the ability to create beautiful and realistic lighting effects, save them as presets, and then call up the presets instantly via remote DMX control.
Because of the short timeframe of this shoot, the DMX control was really important. The lights were all mounted on booms or rafters, so we couldn’t go around on a ladder and manually change each light as the scene dictated,” Denver says. “Instead, we were able to program a preset for each room and then just push a button for the lighting scheme with proper color temp and brightness as we moved from room to room. It was a tremendous timesaver for our crew.”
In one example, for a scene in which the mother walked into the nursery in the morning and raised the window shade, Denver was able to use a slider on a fader board to raise the lights naturally as the shade came up. The intensity increased in an absolutely smooth and natural manner, perfectly on cue with the mother’s movements.
The Geminis’ presets and DMX compatibility have come in handy for other Brute Squad projects as well. For a series of product videos for another client, a provider of outdoor and camping equipment, the crew built an elaborate set to mimic a campground complete with forest and campfire. The Geminis were used as primary key lights and also provided realistic special effects – including the flickering firelight – all of which were controlled remotely with DMX.
“The Litepanels lights work beautifully with any type of DMX controller, from a computer to a standard fader board. It’s incredibly convenient to be just sitting at my computer and be able to implement direction from my DP,” Denver says. “If he says to bring up the #4 light to 100 percent, or make it a little warmer or cooler, I can do it instantly with a few mouse clicks.”