Director Karl Stelter loves stories with heart.
Trademarked by characters who show quiet strength and determination in the face of adversity, Karl’s films typically deliver a hopeful and thought-provoking message. These qualities were on full display on Karl’s earlier short film, “The Good Wolf,” and they even come across in his commercial work.
The latest example is “The Great Teacher,” a short film Karl produced for nonprofit GHA Autism Supports that promotes Morrow Valley Farmstead, GHA’s upcoming new residential community for persons with autism spectrum disorder. In a sensitive and understated manner, the film traces the experience of a couple as they search for a long-term residence for their adult son, Justin.
Karl faced several logistical challenges on the shoot.
“We had a tight shooting schedule, and we were filming in North Carolina at a time of year when the weather was really volatile. It could rain on a dime, so we had to be very, very nimble with our shooting setups,” Karl says. “For the interviews with Justin’s parents, we were working in a small room with very confined space. The Litepanels Gemini 2×1 Soft RGBWW LED Panel turned out to be the perfect lighting solution.”
Setting the mood in a tight space
Karl used the Gemini 2×1 Soft as the sole artificial light source for the interviews, mimicking and complementing the natural light in the room. “The Gemini was the ideal key light and a great match for our ARRI ALEXA Mini camera. It gave us the nice, clean ambient feel we were going for, slightly vintage but totally natural, as though Justin’s parents were sitting in front of a window. Gemini’s outstanding RGBWW capabilities made it so easy to create the exact look we wanted.”
Since the room used for the interviews was only 10 square feet, Karl and his crew really appreciated Gemini’s lightweight, compact form factor as well as its outstanding dimming capabilities. “We had to flip the lighting at least three times for these interviews, with only a two-person crew and in less than 15 minutes. And during the interviews, we were all crammed against the wall,” he says. “Since Gemini was our only key light, moving it around in a tight space was super-fast and easy. It meant we didn’t fall behind on an already tight, hectic day.”
Karl adds, “The Gemini 2×1 is a really powerful light, but the ability to dim it way down for the small room really made the difference for this shoot. And we could make the adjustments we needed instantly without having to use scrims or other equipment to control the brightness.”
Another versatile lighting tool – Litepanels’ Astra
Karl used a Litepanels Astra 6X Bi-Color, a high-performance LED panel, for another key scene in “The Great Teacher,” showing a person unfurling architectural drawings for Morrow Valley Farmstead on a table. As a compact bi-color light with the ability to deliver bright and color-accurate white light, the Astra was ideal for the shoot.
“We set up the Astra at about a 45-degree angle behind the drawings to add a nice cinematic feel and a backlight. Once again, we were stressed for time, and the Astra was a perfect solution to put up quickly and give us exactly the effect we needed,” Karl says. “The Astra is versatile and lightweight, so it’s great for tighter spaces – and it’s great as either a key light or hair light. I’ve flown with my two Astras easily 100 times, and I’ve never had a problem with them in four years of constant travel.”
He adds, “I love using the Astra and Gemini in combination. One of my favorite interview configurations is to key a Gemini through a 4×4 or 6×6 grid cloth and then arm one Astra out over the subject’s head for a rim light, with another Astra to give background texture. I can basically walk into any room, anywhere, and know that combination of lights will make the set look great.”
Room to grow
“When I first got the Gemini, I knew it was a tool that could meet my needs right away as an interview light. And, because it had so much functionality, I also knew that it could grow with me as I took on documentaries and many other sophisticated projects,” says Karl. “As my career has evolved and I’ve taken on more corporate and commercial-grade work, I’ve been turning to the Gemini more and more because I trust that it will help me achieve my creative vision as quickly and efficiently as possible.”