ARRI lights for an entrepreneur
Amp-light Film & TV Services GmbH is a small but successful lighting rental facility based in Cologne, Germany. It was founded in early 2008 and specializes in commercials, corporate films and music videos. Managing Director Andy Stein has over 20 years' experience as a lighting technician, rig operator and gaffer. Here he speaks with ARRI about Amp-light and the ARRI lampheads he regularly uses for his day-to-day work.
Your career started in Munich and then took you to Berlin, and now Cologne. What were your beginnings in the film business?
I didn't start out with a concrete plan to get into the business. More than two decades ago I got a job at a show lighting company in Munich, almost by accident, and after that I thought -- why not carry lamps? In the beginning I generally prepared lighting and sound equipment for fashion shows and events. I also worked in the warehouse, learning a lot about lamphead electrical systems and repairing everything from lights to dimmers. Through contacts I slowly came into the film and commercials industry. I worked for quite a long time at ARRI in Munich, in the studio as a freelance gaffer and also on commercials as a best boy and gaffer. My first feature film experiences were as a best boy and I began to mix feature projects with commercials and promos. I moved to Berlin and set up my own camera car, traveling around the world with it on different productions for two years. Since then I have built a career as a gaffer on international film and television projects.
What inspired you to start your own rental company?
After moving to Cologne I asked myself a question: what have I done over the past 10 years, what have I achieved? I realized that my expertise and experience was purely in the field of lighting and I felt very comfortable in the film business. So I made up my mind and bought two lamps, together with a Chimera, to set up my own rental business.
Did success come easily for Amp-light?
After starting in 2008, it quickly became apparent that in this business, commercial shoots are the most profitable, so I specialized in commercials, corporate videos and music videos. Over the last five years I have mainly worked on commercials as a freelance gaffer, very often with my own equipment. Currently I work on a lot of high-speed shoots all over Germany, although I also have some projects abroad. In many ways, setting up my own rental company and making it a success has been my favorite and the most challenging project of my career.
What do you like most about being a gaffer?
I love the creativity that comes with setting up lights on a film set. I have been very lucky to have worked with so many interesting DPs. I think it's the variety, the ever-changing needs of each individual project, that make this job so challenging and fulfilling. The planning and the continuous adjustments to find the best solution and achieve the best effect -- this is what excites me and gives me a lot of pleasure in my work. I love this job and wouldn't like to do anything else!
With a lot of experience of what equipment is needed on film and commercial productions, are there ARRI lights that you frequently turn to on these shoots?
At the moment I regularly use various lampheads from the ARRI M-Series. For example on my last project I used the M90 and M18. I like the M-Series HMI lights because of their diversity and the flexibility they provide; they are also superb in terms of quality and performance. Of course I do work with other manufacturers' lights, but in general I would say that there's nothing better than ARRI products, because they are so reliable.
Why did you choose the M90 and M18 for your last project?
The M90 lamphead was chosen because it has a great light output and is also more production-friendly for me than the ARRIMAX 18/12; personally I dislike the 125 A/400 V cable that I have to use with the ARRIMAX. I used the M90 with a Chimera from the outside to imitate sunlight and I positioned the M18 on a balcony, as it had sufficient luminous efficiency to be used as a top light to illuminate an actor and meant that I didn´t need a power cable coming in from outside. With M90 and M18 lampheads I was able to work very efficiently.
There was also an exterior scene where I used a 20 m x 20 m fabric above the actor to soften the direct sunlight. To create a special effect, I illuminated the scene from behind and to the left by using an ARRISUN 60 with Chimera. It was used as a backlight to highlight the actor's hair and I was very satisfied with the end result.
Is there any style of lighting that you really enjoy working in?
In general I prefer lighting from the outside and creating strong contrasts, with more black fill. I always enjoy doing more from less and trying to work as simply as possible; I would rather use two big lamps than eight small ones. I would describe the lighting style of my last project as very sunny and soft.