For Emmy-winning filmmaker Tanner Shinnick, documentaries are the best form of storytelling.
“There are so many great stories out there, true stories that have yet to be told. It’s a documentary filmmaker’s responsibility – and privilege – to tell those stories,” he says.
Tanner’s love of a good story is evident in his work. His film “Llama Nation,” which won Best Documentary in both the Utah Film Awards and the Omaha Film Festival, is a beautifully shot and whimsical look at the world of competitive llama breeding and showing. Another project, currently in the works, is a film to document the restoration of Andrews Chapel, one of the oldest African American churches in his home state of Georgia.
Tanner is based in Atlanta, but his work takes him everywhere.
“Since I travel often for my work, I’m always on the lookout for gear that can withstand the rigors of the road,” he says. “The Gemini is a game changer – I don’t know of any other portable LED panels with this much power and with so many robust features, and yet are so easy to travel with.”
He adds, “Gemini is incredibly versatile across multiple genres of filmmaking – I’ve used it on corporate videos, documentaries, commercials. It lends itself well to so many different kinds of shooting workflows. It’s rugged enough to withstand rough handling on a big set with 20 or 30 people, but it’s also perfect for ‘one-man band’ shoots with just me, a camera, and the light.”
Power to go
With his highly mobile work style, Tanner relies on the Titon batteries to power not only the Gemini panel but his Canon C300 Mkii camera, a SmallHD 502 monitor, a wireless follow-focus unit, and sometimes a Teradek Bolt wireless transmitter/receiver. Often, he’ll use the Gemini 1×1 with two Gold Mount Titon G150s in a dual-mounted yoke for extra power.
“I’ve used a lot of competing LEDs, but the Gemini is the only one I’ve found that can actually work at 100% output running on compact batteries. At best, the others can do 50%, and to output at full power they require a big, heavy, block-style cine battery – and that’s just not practical for travel,” Tanner says. “The ability to run at full power, with enough power to get you through an entire shoot, is huge. And I love the USB port on the Titons for charging my phone on-set.”
Tanner relied on the Gemini/Titon combo for the Andrews Chapel shoot. “The church had been vacant for decades, so it had no power. But running off the Titons, the Gemini gave us a beautiful key light for interviewing one of the last surviving members of the church,” Tanner said. “It really saved the day for us.”
The perfect key light, and more.
Tanner’s go-to combination for interview shots like the one at Andrews Chapel is the Gemini together with a three-foot Snapbag Octa softbox from DoPchoice. “Over my career, I’ve used many different lights and diffusion materials, and I was never able to find the perfect key light until now,” he says. The Gemini/Octa combo is fantastic, and best of all, it travels really well. It all fits nicely and neatly in a hard case that I can take on a plane as checked baggage.”
Often, Tanner will expand the lighting setup to include his Litepanels Astra 6X LED Panel for backlighting. “I’ve probably used the Gemini as key and the Astra for backlight on just about every commercial and interview shoot I’ve done recently. The two lights complement each other beautifully,” he says.
The robust color capabilities of the Gemini 1×1 have enabled Tanner to develop some signature techniques.
“With just the turn of a dial I can match the color temperature of the ambient light at any location. And I absolutely love the gel settings,” he says. “Take, for instance, a window that has light coming in at about 5,600 kelvin. If I key the subject at 4,000 kelvin using the Gemini’s CTO gel at about half and then set the camera’s white balance also at 4,000, the subject is perfectly white-balanced – but the light coming in is a little blue. The result is a beautiful teal/orange effect.”
He adds, “Instead of having to go over to a gel cart, find the right gel, and cut it to size, being able to set the Gemini at half CTO gives me a huge advantage. These kinds of capabilities make workflows so much easier and faster for an independent content creator.”
The journey is the reward
“I love what I do, and I love where the stories take me. For me, as a documentarian, it’s all about the journey,” Tanner says. “Gear like the Gemini and Titons give me the ability to go places I might never have dreamed of otherwise.”