What is your current job and function?
I graduated from the cinematography program at the American Film Institute in 1998. Since then, I have been working as a cinematographer shooting primarily commercials around the globe.
How long have you been working in this position?
My first job was as a prop assistant in Austria. After my studies in still photography and photo design in Berlin, Germany. I realized very fast that being a part of the camera department is the way to go for me. I gained my first experience as a camera trainee at the Panavision facility in London and at a public television station in Hamburg, Germany. Later, working as a loader for several years, taught me to organize the camera truck and communicate with the rental houses and labs.
In Oslo, Norway, I offered my services as a focus puller and first assistant cameraman to the local film community before I finally was accepted at the AFI in West Hollywood and moved to the States. There, I worked as a freelance Wescam technician on various large-scale feature films and focus puller on independent films.
A director I met on a shoot in New York asked me if I would like to shoot his next music videos back in Germany. This gave me the opportunity to mainly work in Europe again. After a time of commuting, I decided to move back and I started to shoot commercials – since then, this is my passion.
Did you work together with ARRI before?
ARRI was always a big part of my journey. Not just using the ARRI equipment but also collaborating with the ARRI Rental facilities. They always have an open ear for my feedback and I am able to try certain configurations or test new gear before productions.
My dream came true when ARRI approached me to shoot their new lighting showreel. The release of the LED fixtures like the ARRI SkyPanels changed everything in my department. After shooting more and more with digital cameras, the revolution happens with the lighting gear. If you use LED lighting fixtures once you are hooked. No way to go back.
What was your goal in shooting the video?
We wanted to show what the ARRI SkyPanels and L-Series Fresnels are capable of. Building a cube out of the units had not been done before and gave us the possibility to light the dancers first in a more conventional cinematic way but then focus on the SkyPanels as an effect lighting source as the story proceeds. We showed the entire range from the presets like tungsten and daylight via cosmetic and more monochromatic color settings to wild effect colors on the Hog console.
What features of the ARRI SkyPanels have been important to you for this video?
In this project, it was mandatory that all lighting units react consistently, reliably, in unison, and with no time delay. Due to the tight schedule and the kind of precise rigging, it was not possible to change units. We used more than 250 units and we didn’t have a single one drop out.
What have been the major advantages of using the SkyPanels?
The SkyPanels are very, very strong and they output the cleanest colors you can imagine with no color shift at all. You can dial in any gel by number and the construction, handling, and durability is just outstanding.
I mean, the latest LED generation is just perfect: adjusting Kelvin and offset in no time via your phone, dimming capability, low power usage, no heat, lightweight, no cutting gels, and the built in lighting effects are the main advantages for me. Relighting a scene is done much faster nowadays. Between setups, it became easy to look at different lighting settings or adjust the lighting cues of a certain scene without disturbing the flow of the set.
Was there anything that was only possible to shoot or realize with the help of the SkyPanels?
This is an example of another project, but I used various SkyPanels on a commercial, which we shot in a field of sunflowers just outside Bucharest in Romania. We shot a scene at sunset and dusk.
The gaffer adjusted the units constantly and matched it to the overall color temperature. This would have been a bigger task without ARRI LED lighting fixtures and we wouldn’t have got so many takes out of it.
What was the major challenge with this project?
The biggest challenge of this shoot was to meet the tight schedule. Rigging and actually building the lighting cube took more than a week. The units we used came just out of the factory in Stephanskirchen. After everything was unpacked, rigged safely, wired, and powered up, the programing took place. Thanks to a pre-visualization and a fantastic crew we managed without delay. We shot for two days. After day one, we had already gone through pretty much all the planned shots so we were able to use day two to just have fun and play with the settings. Scott Barnes on the Hog, the director duo Kaiserreitz, and myself just got crazy.
We captured tons of cool styles, colors, and movements but unfortunately in the showreel we could only accommodate a small variety of these lighting effects – and trust me, we had a hard time picking the final scenes for the video.
The choreography of the two dancers wasn’t finished prior to shoot, because the dancers wanted to be inspired by the cube. So, we had to be very spontaneous; tweaking lights on the go. Sometimes, I told Oliver Müller, my gaffer, to change certain parameters and when Oli finished on the walkie-talkie, Scott Barnes our lighting designer had already completed the change. There was absolutely no waiting for any sort of relighting. It’s just fantastic to have a lighting designer like Scott Barnes on set.
Was there anything that surprised you?
I use the SkyPanels on every shoot but what still surprises me every time is just how strong they are in intensity. You can even use them on sunny day exteriors as a fill-light.
What was your best moment on set?
My best moment on set was when we stepped into the SkyPanel room the first time. The rigging was finished and the dancefloor was laid out. Scott Barnes showed us what just random settings on the console could do.
Finally, he pumped up the signal and I needed my sunglasses. My jaw dropped! It was so bright.
To see that every unit acts like a unique, programmable pixel in a three-dimensional-grid is just mind blowing for a DoP.