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Paul Cook

Paul Cook

Paul is a freelance cinematographer and lighting cameraman based in Suffolk. He works in TV, film, commercial, corporate and digital content production.

Bringing a fresh palate to fine dining filming

When an iconic London-based five-star luxury hotel wanted a commercial film to promote their recently refurbished prestigious flagship grill, ‘ordinary’ was not an option.  Keen to avoid the clichés common to hotel and restaurant marketing, they turned to director, Ross Turner and cinematographer, Paul Cook to devise something more. Creative.

To create a film that eschewed the quality of the fine dining eatery, while dealing with a unique set of challenges that filming in a Grade I listed building presents, Ross and Paul called on Litepanels’ Gemini series RGBWW panels. The lightweight panels with high output, natural light and a wide range of light shaping accessories provided the perfect lighting solution for the demanding project.

Ross and Paul had previously collaborated on ‘The Geometry of Pie’ – an At The Table film – that profiled Calum Franklin, the executive head chef at the Holborn Dining Room’s Pie Room.  The film dives into the inspiration and intricacies of his perfect pastry creations, and it was this film that prompted the hotel owners to contact Paul with their challenge to present a modern-day British grill with a vibrant atmosphere to match.

Creating a unique experience

“Ross and I wanted to create a look which was extremely commercial, taking inspiration from perfume adverts and high end food commercials,” says Paul, “commercials where they go quite dramatic with a subject that’s perhaps not considered very exhilarating. But, we also had to remember ‘The Geometry of Pie’ was the film that had inspired the client to reach out to us and that is not a super high end polished commercial but more of a documentary shot in a cinematic style.  The restaurant’s unique elements of service and quality and of attention to detail are what we really wanted to show off in the film. It’s all about how the restaurant makes every single diner feel that they’re having their own unique personal experience.”

Bringing a fresh palate to fine dining filming

Don’t touch the ceiling

The restaurant features an ornate ceiling featuring gold leaves and brass chandeliers. “We faced challenges because of the ceiling,” says Paul, “we wanted to get the lights up high to light the subjects from above but – due to its protected status – we couldn’t clamp to anywhere on the ceiling.”  As one of the lightest RGBWW 1×1 panels available, Litepanels’ Gemini 1×1 Soft provided a solution.  “To get lights overhead without being able to suspend them from above, the solutions was to go lightweight and use boom arms on heavy-duty stands,” says Paul, “The low weight of Gemini absolutely allows you to do that, even with a lantern attached on the front. The modifiers that you can put on the front are not very heavy either, particularly the DoPchoice accessories are lovely and lightweight, so they don’t really add much weight to an already lightweight fixture.”

With more light shaping tools and accessories than any other 1×1 panel, Gemini creates a world of creative options for filmmakers.  “The DoPchoice Lantern on a Gemini 1×1 was a great choice of light in the restaurant,” says Paul, “because we needed to cast a soft key light on a group of people, the best way to do that is to get in close or overhead to give a natural fall off of light on to all the people in the shot. If you use a light to the right or left of the camera, you will have shadows where the first person casts shadow on the second person; but with a lantern you can get in overhead and give the effect of a light bulb, it’s just a more natural way to light a group of people”.

Brighter whites for wider wides

Shooting on RED Scarlet Weapon and RED Gemini cameras with Cooke Optics anamorphic lenses delivered a sharp, cinematic look and another lighting challenge.  “We made the choice to shoot anamorphic which makes which makes the wide frame even wider,” says Paul, “you get a lot less height as it squeezes and you end up with the traditional anamorphic 2.39:1 ratio. With shots that wide you find you need to move light stands and other equipment out further because the frame is so very wide.”

LED light typically falls off shorter than incandescent light sources but we found we could rely on the output from the Gemini to be punchy enough to travel the distance with enough power to light the scene without having to be right next to the talent.

Trusted skin tones, perfect practicals

On any production, time is a precious commodity and when the set is a busy working restaurant, especially so.  “Achieving accurate skin tones is that something that you can rely on Gemini to achieve,” says Paul, “It means I don’t need to be doing lots of measuring on set or fixing in post. The Gemini 1×1 gives a very accurate color temperature, I know this because I use a light and color meter on most jobs of this nature and having measured the light on several jobs before I find myself not even feeling the need to measure it on the next job because I know that it’s accurate every time and I can confidently rely on the output to be what it says. I do a color meter check on jobs where I’m mixing practicals or natural light with my own Gemini lighting, that’s when I’ll often have to check what the other lights are and then balance to them; having the ability to fine-tune the Gemini 1×1 to any other lighting is very helpful and always very reliable.”

Trusted skin tones, perfect practicals

Faithful leaps

“For me, the Gemini is the culmination of years and years of experience and R&D,” says Paul, “I’ve been a user of Litepanels from the original Litepanels 1X1, on to Astra and then eventually to Gemini, and throughout that time each fixture has been a leap in quality, output, function and features to the point now where I can confidently say that the Gemini is an absolute industry leading panel.”

It is the first light that goes in the car when I’m on a job - every single job - it’s just amazing.

NOTE: This film was made before Covid-19 social distancing regulations came into effect in the United Kingdom.

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