The brainchild of experienced grip Michael “Mick” Smith, Mick’s Gripping caters to Australia’s best-known grips, gaffers, and camera operators. Mick and his team have a sweet spot for car commercials – and they’re doing some innovative things with Litepanels’ Gemini Soft LED.
In the growing dark, flashing lights of red and blue bounce off tall corn plants and light up the clouds of dust billowing under the wheels of a car as it recklessly speeds away. There must be at least two police vehicles in hot pursuit of this character – or maybe not?
Take a closer look, and you see that the hyperrealistic “cop light” effect is not coming from police cruisers, but from Litepanels’ Gemini 2x1 Soft RGBWW LED Panels – mounted atop two separate vehicles using an impressive array of “Magic Arms,” suction cups, and other grip equipment. With the cheeky title of “Run, Forrest, Run,” the film documents a proof-of-concept/training exercise for Mick’s Gripping, a commercial video equipment rental house based in the Gold Coast country of Queensland, Australia.
Mick’s Gripping is the brainchild of Michael “Mick” Smith, who started the business from a shed in the back of his house.
With a track record of more than 20 years working as a grip in the Australian film industry, Mick has grown the business to a 250-square-meter factory with 10 vehicles and about $200,000 worth of stock in gripping and gaffing equipment – lighting, green screens, jib cranes, and much more. Mick’s Gripping also now rent top-of-the-line cine cameras such as the RED DRAGON and Sony FS7.
“We cater to Australia’s best-known grips, gaffers, and camera operators,” Mick says. “Our sweet spot is car commercials, but we can build gear for just about any type of project that calls for special camera or lighting mounts in challenging spots. For instance, we just built a crane from the 8th floor of a building overlooking downtown Brisbane for a big production called WaterFire, a fireworks show on the river.”
“The first thing gaffers and cameramen notice is that the Geminis are similar to the ARRI SkyPanel, but with a lot more capabilities. Since the SkyPanel is just an RGBW light, they have to steal from the red channel to create a tungsten effect, which compromises the quality,” Mick says. But the Litepanels Gemini is an RGBWW panel, with separate tungsten and daylight white LEDs, which means they can more accurately create full-spectrum light. Also, Gemini’s daylight is outstanding, especially when we’re shooting outside in the early morning and need to match the sun. It’s so easy to warm up the light temperature or cool it down as needed.”
Mick’s clients also appreciate the Gemini’s light weight and easy rigging with its built-in power supply. “Just yesterday on a shoot, we had to mount a Gemini 2x1 on a high roof beam. The fixture was incredibly light and easy to mount, and then we were able to control it using the Litepanels SmartLite Director app on our smartphones via Bluetooth.”
Mick adds that the Gemini’s easy-to-use controls also set the fixture apart. “It’s fantastic to be able to quickly set color temperature or dial in specific gel color just by with the twist of a dial. And we love being able to save presets for specific lighting configurations and then just call them up when we need them or transfer them to other Gemini lights. It’s a huge time-saver.”
The film started out as a proof-of-concept for the Gemini 2x1s and a brand-new MotoCrane. The mounting points on the Geminis, and their light weight, made it easy to rig them on the tops of the cars using suction cups and Magic Arms. Another big plus for the shoot is Gemini’s ability to run at full power using batteries.
“We basically got the idea of shooting our own commercial to show what the MotoCrane and the Litepanels lights can do – and also as a way to train our own crews,” Mick explains. “That’s where the idea of mounting the lights, and the crane, on top of vehicles came from. Now, when we’re pitching a new car commercial or similar project we have real video footage to show, rather than just sketches.”
The “cop light” effect is only one example of Gemini’s large portfolio of special effects and dial-in gel colors that Mick loves. On another recent shoot, a commercial for Hot Wheels toy cars, the Mick’s Gripping crew used two Gemini 2x1 and two Gemini 1x1 panels. One of the Gemini 1x1s created the effect of a red light shining from a boy’s torch and spreading across the bedroom to bring the toy cars to life.
“There’s also a project we just completed with a girl playing the piano in a lake, by moonlight,” he says. “The moonlight effect was really easy to create by dialing in cyan in the Gemini 2x1. It’s so easy to create exactly the look we need, without having to carry around a lot of extra gear and bags of gels.”
Mick adds, “A DP I work with told me recently that we’re in a new age of lighting, where anything is possible and it’s never been easier. That’s especially true with Gemini – it just makes everything so much quicker, which lets us unleash our full creativity.”