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With a background as a gaffer on 14 features, 16 movies-of-the-week and over 200 television episodes, Stephen Thompson is a director of photography who knows about lighting. He currently shoots with Peter B. Kowalski on One Tree Hill, a Super 16 TV drama that returns for its eighth season this fall. While shooting One Tree Hill, Thompson was able to utilize the new ARRI M18s in a variety of situations.
"The M18 is my favorite light," he says. "We are replacing four 4K PARs and two 1.2K PARs with four M18s. We will no longer have to wait for lens changes in hot lights and the barn doors cut spill on these fixtures." Based on the design principles of the ARRIMAX, the M18 is an innovative lamphead that works with a new power class of lamp: the 1800W SE HMI. Now the "brightest HMI you can plug into the wall" (single, 20A 120VAC electrical outlet on a single circuit), the M18 is a lens-less, open face lighting fixture with an average lamp life of 750 hours.
Thompson continues, "They will easily replace our 1.2K PARs as they are the same size, but brighter and easier to operate. I also added them to the package on The Walking Dead [Frank Darabont's zombie TV series for AMC] in Atlanta. They are invaluable wherever speed, versatility and intensity are important."
The actors on One Tree Hill are known for being photogenic and Thompson takes great consideration in illuminating them properly. "I use a ring light, a lot of muslin and a gold reflector to light the older female actress on One Tree Hill," he explains. "She trusts me to protect her and I try my best to bring out her true beauty by using soft light to wrap her face."
Thompson recently acted as lighting designer for a broadcast basketball game where he again put the M18s through its paces. "We were able to evenly light the venue to 115 foot candles with only 12 M18 fixtures," he says. "They are brighter than 2.5K PARs and you can spot and flood them so you don't have to wait for lens changes or deal with broken lenses. They are the most revolutionary design for basic set lighting in many years."