If I’m not working in the camera department or as a project manager/producer, I often get asked to work on productions as a grip, gaffer, or BTS photo operator. Over the course of my career, I have been able to build up a skill set that enables me to juggle these responsibilities. I am based out of Columbus, Ohio. Out in the midwest, it’s not uncommon to work with people who can multitask.
Recently, I was hired to help produce a music video for a local Ohio artist Jordon Schneider, otherwise known as “Frankly Speaking”. This was a traveling gig for me, I regularly work across the state of Ohio and travel often. This particular job was in Cincinnati, a city full of artists, filmmakers, and beautiful scenery. For this project, I worked as a Gaffer and BTS Photographer. Having to juggle lights and a DSLR can be a challenge so being able to select a lighting arsenal that fits your needs and manpower is crucial for a project like this.
I was brought onto this project by Simion Collins, the owner of River Sky Films. Together we shot Frankly Speaking’s most recent music video titled “Band-aid”. With the help of a PA named Previn Nobel, Simion and I worked together to shoot this project in just two days. As the gaffer, I was charged with wrangling all of our lights and grip equipment which, aside from the sun, consisted entirely of Aputure products. This included the Aputure 300D II, 300x, the Tri-8c, and even a couple Aputure MC’s. While I was working with the lights and taking photos, Simion was running the camera and directing the project.
I have been working in the field professionally for over seven years now. Over that timeframe, I have had the opportunity to use multiple lighting solutions. There are few brands or systems out there currently that are as cohesive as Aputure. Being able to control everything with the Sidus Link app was a huge help for us. I have been on many sets where lights had to be adjusted individually by hand. In the past, this ate up a lot of our time and was a very tedious process, while using Sidus, we were able to control every light from a cell phone and save ourselves a ton of hassle.
PVC has detailed what it means to move forward with production during a pandemic, and those same considerations were very much a factor on this project. While I don’t want to put words in the mouth of my director, I believe he wanted to limit the number of people on set due to safety as well as for practical, budget-related purposes. That meant we didn’t have that extra pair of hands to run around and manipulate lighting changes when the need arose.
Typically, if you’re working with lights that are not connected with an app or system that allows for remote control, it can be very time consuming to have to adjust each individual light around the entire set and tweak as you’re moving. Because this project was for a music video, it meant we were rarely staying in one spot, which means those lights need to be moved on a frequent basis. Having that cohesion saves time and speeds up the workflow dramatically, which factored into the various types of shots that we needed to capture.
Lighting the Extremes
Speed, efficiency, and cohesive control are all huge benefits that this lighting system brought to the table. One set of tools that provided us the opportunity to build on that cohesion was the individual light modifiers that Aputure offers. For this shoot, we had both the Aputure Lantern and the Fresnel 2X in addition to the classic Aputure Light Domes available for use. This set was my first experience working with the lantern and allowed me to gain some new experience and learn how to use it.
When working with these lights, one of the first things you encounter is how user friendly the workflow is. When working in the field as an electrician or gaffer, you often run into lights, ballasts, or controllers that have too many bells and whistles that get in the way of your efficiency. With this system, I know that I can quickly navigate menus and press a few buttons to efficiently get the result that I’m after. This is all done without a ton of navigation or having to consult a manual. Even if you’re not familiar with Aputure products, you can get up to speed very quickly. When working in multiple roles on set, this is an extremely helpful design choice that speeds up my workflow.
For this music video, about half of the shots that ended up in the final edit are exterior night sequences. On our first day of shooting, we were staged at a location along the Kentucky and Ohio border. This location was selected due to its gorgeous view of Cincinnati across the river which was going to be our original backdrop. On our second day of shooting, we decided to switch locations for our night sequences and ended up with a more “urban/tungsten” look compared to our original park atmosphere. The photos showcased in this article mainly reflect our set from the first park location.
In both scenarios, we were working across the board with the lantern modifier combined with the Aputure 300d Mk II as our key light. What the lantern allowed us to do was spread light from the 300d into large open spaces. We even incorporated some bounce to control the light more with our park shots. In addition to the lantern, we also had the Aputure 300x being used as a kicker and the Tri-8c as a fill light. All three of these lights combined enabled our talent to stand out from the darkness.
Ultimately, the benefits of using Aputure compared to any other ecosystem really boils down to connectivity, speed, and output. I’m sure there are many people out there who remember when Aputure first stepped onto the scene. Just like every other startup, they have had to prove themselves and build a brand that is now widely trusted throughout the world. It seems like they have kept that startup roots in mind for their pricing model. While the products offered by this retailer are by no means “cheap”, the prices for most models are very reasonable considering what comes in the package.
Options and Opportunities
Aputure has a solution for almost any lighting scenario. If you are looking for something with a punch, creators can acquire the 600D, this model is roughly equivalent to a 1.2k HMI. With a very generous throw, this fixture is one of the brightest point source LEDs on the market and can work in a variety of situations.
On the other side of the spectrum, if there is a need for something small for product shots or off the cuff interviews, the MC line of products is a great fit. While shooting some of the apartment scenes for the music video, I was able to attach an Aputure MC to the ceiling via its built-in magnets. This useful feature allows my creativity as the gaffer to flourish. Being able to hide these small light sources around the set can be a very fun task to take on seeing as they can go almost anywhere.
With the Aputure ecosystem, there are very few problems you can’t solve or places you can’t go. Each light is packaged for mobility and low power consumption which makes it a very convenient travel option. No matter how many hats you wear on set or how many roles you take on, Aputure is ready to help you see through the toughest situations.