Cinematographer Justin Aguirre’s film, ‘Sleep Tight,’ will make you do anything but.
This short film, released at Halloween, brings together plenty of spooky themes: a dark and stormy night, a monster in the closet, and a demonic possession. With Litepanels’ Gemini Soft LED panels, Justin called on a variety of lighting effects to dial up the “creep factor” and help create the film’s moody, suspenseful feel.
“With lighting, it’s not just about what looks the coolest. I like to use lighting to spur interest and get viewers thinking. I tend to use lower-key light and a lot of contrast to convey the emotion of the scene, and I’m not afraid to go dark.”
Justin’s approach works especially well for a horror film like ‘Sleep Tight’ and is perfectly enabled by the Geminis.
For “Sleep Tight,” most of the action takes place in the boy’s bedroom. To light the room, Justin and his crew deployed two Gemini 2×1 Soft LED panels in a specially constructed black box outside the window. One of the Gemini 2x1s simulated moonlight, and the other was used to cue lightning effects when needed during the “storm” sequences. “For the moonlight, we were able to dial in the perfect ‘steel blue’ colour using the Gemini’s gel mode,” Justin says.
In addition, a Gemini 1×1 Soft provided side-lighting for the actors and special effects. Powered by Anton/Bauer Dionic XT batteries, the Gemini 1×1’s light weight and portability offered a big advantage for the crew, who worked in cramped quarters inside the rented house that served as the production’s set. Dionic XTs also powered Justin’s RED camera on the shoot.
“The compactness and mobility of the Gemini 1×1 really saved the day for us. We were able to place the light exactly where we needed it at a given moment in the story,” Justin says. “Plus, we were working in a high-traffic area. We wanted to keep everything as safe as possible, especially with a child actor on the set, which meant running as few cables as possible. The Dionic XTs were so reliable that we actually forgot at one point that the light was battery-powered.”
Bring on the hair-raising effects
For one intense scene, Gemini’s pulsating Party Lites mode provided flashing lights to accompany the boy’s toys as they came to life and moved around the room. In another climactic scene in which a demon was trying to possess a main character, Justin and crew made creative use of a one-inch gap at the bottom of the closet door. “We attached a red gel to the Gemini 1×1 and then used it in lightning mode inside the closet, with the door shut. The flashing red light through the crack at the bottom of the door created the impression of the demon coming to life,” he said. “It was only possible with battery power, since a cable going under the door would have ruined the shot.”
Gemini’s outstanding dimming capabilities also played a key role in the production of “Sleep Tight.” At one point, the Gemini 1×1 was dimmed down to 5% to cast the slightest hint of light on the boy as he slept. “We were very impressed with the intensity and quality of the light, at even as low as 2%,” Justin says. “It’s astonishing that the light can go that low and still be registered on the camera.”
A versatile tool for any genre, including horror
“I’ve been using the Gemini 2×1 for almost a year, and it’s my hero light every time it’s on set,” Justin says. “I also own a lot of tungsten lighting, but I’m pulling the Gemini out of my truck more and more often – not only because it’s so easy to rig and use, but also because it frees up my creativity.”
He explains: “Lighting is like painting. The more brushes and paint you have in your palette, the more options you have for creating your masterpiece. The Gemini is such a multifunctional tool – it gives you any gel or RGB colour in an instant, with fantastic special effects, and the ability to run off battery power makes it even more versatile.
“With the time you save in setup and by not having to manually attach different gels, you can experiment and create your vision in real time. What happens if we add a little Tokyo blue – what would that look like? It’s so easy and fun to be creative because it’s all at your fingertips.”