Ed Moore

“When prepping for the new Sky Atlantic HD comedy drama series Common People, I knew I needed something a bit special on the lighting truck to help me deliver the high standard of look I wanted within the constraints of time and budget. The ten-part series takes places entirely on location around London’s Clapham Junction, and many of the locations presented challenges in terms of the space available. It was clear from the start that I wasn’t going to have room for big, beautiful bounce light sources so any soft lighting needed was going to have to come from the fixtures themselves and any compact modifiers. It was also impractical to take a generator truck with us in addition to the main lighting truck (getting an entire film unit parked around the busy streets of Clapham is a non-trivial task !) so wherever possible I wanted to rely on house power. Fortunately I’ve had a long standing relationship with sales agents LCA who have an enviable reputation for representing the innovative, modern end of the lighting market. Having played around with the K5600 product line at trade shows etc, this production seemed the perfect chance to take it into the field. LCA put me in touch with fantastically-helpful London-based rental company Pixi Pixel who share their enthusiasm for innovative equipment and carry the full range of K5600 products (along with every other bit of lighting kit you can think of).

We ended up taking a package that included three Alpha 4Ks and seven Joker 400/800 kits with pretty much the entire range of light modifiers. I couldn’t resist ordering a tungsten and Kino Flo package out of old habits but in all honesty, the K5600 products lit 95% of the shots in this series. I barely used the conventional and Kino kit. The key word for me with these products is versatility.

With the Jokers I could have a head in a Chimera pancake softbox providing a soft, overhead key. Another could be in a Source 4 profile spot giving an extremely controllable gobo projection on some background. Another could be in one of the superb Softube adaptors (I find the Softubes exceptional useful ; their size makes them perfect for hiding in locations whilst providing a lovely quality of light. They also don’t look too unnatural if you catch them in reflections). Another could be direct through the beamer reflector or with one of the par lenses. And with seven kits on the truck and a couple of each of the adaptors there were very few situations in which Mel Hayward the gaffer and I didn’t have the perfect tool to hand. The output of these fixtures is very impressive for 400 and 800W HMIs and yet the ballasts are extremely compact. And of course you can easily plug a handful into a domestic ring main with power to spare. They’re also extremely small and lightweight which opens out a huge range of rigging options. There’s a new 1600W version out which I look forward to trying next time.

The Alpha 4Ks (which we occasionally used with a 2.5kW lamp) were equally impressive on a larger scale. They are physically compact and rugged compared to a “typical” 4K and can be used in all orientations - even straight up or down if you need to. We were able to squeeze them into spots which would have required a lot more rigging and time with a larger lamp. We carried a very compact Honda 6K generator which allowed me to run a 4K wherever we were, and occasionally brought in a larger generator for days when I needed to run all three. We had a 5’ shallow bank octodome for the Alphas which gave a depth of maybe 2.5 ft from the back of the lamp to the front of the softbox. This created a beautiful source of light with the punch to balance windows. The Spacebeam lens adaptor which refocuses the light into a very powerful and narrow beam was a shot-saver on a long lens, slow motion shot at night as two characters walked up a long piece of pavement towards the camera. With the power of the 4K through the beamer I was able to back the light itself right off which meant a much more even light level from the actors’ start to finish positions.

The K5600 kit is a little more expensive to rent than conventional HMI equipment but I think the versatility it provides more than makes up. Rather than having a 12T truck full of lighting kit of which only a handful of units are ever being used at one time, of our 7T truck we were using nearly all our lamps every day thanks to the myriad of ways they could be used - that’s more efficient for me, the truck, the best boy and the production. Ultimately as much as all DPs like to think we’re judged on our images, we’re judged just as much if not more on the speed and efficiency with which we can create them. For me on this shoot, with an average of 9 pages of drama to shoot a day, the K5600 kit enabled me to get a more sophisticated, glossy look within a limited lighting time. And I can’t ask for more than that !”

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