Utilizing the Orbiter’s versatility with shaping, directing, focusing, cutting, and softening the light, cinematographer Christopher Probst creates an environment that moves people through expressive lighting. The western-themed scenario features a nameless cowboy confronting a dishonest card dealer, all lit by the Orbiter on the one-day location shoot. Probst sees the Orbiter as a major step forward for directional LED lighting, offering color control, output, and flexibility for a wide range of applications.
“An Ace up the Sleeve” offers filmmakers the opportunity to see what the Orbiter can do in actual production conditions on a narrative project.
Showcasing the Orbiter by Christopher Probst ASC
To exhibit the various application ideas and possibities possible with Orbiter, ARRI’s technologically advanced LED light for image capture and color fidelity, the company asked director of photography Christopher Probst ASC to create a short film demonstrating the unit’s capabilities.
Probst’s vision for the film
Probst’s body of work encompasses high end narrative (“Mindhunter”) as well as beauty and car spots for the most demanding clients (“Nike,” “Lululemon,” “Audi,” “Samsung”), and in the case of his music video work, for artists like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake, some of the most widely viewed moving images in history. Naturally, Probst imagined a film with emotional resonance rather than a dry, technical demonstration.
Details of the shoot and the equipment used
“No matter what I’m shooting, my goal is to create an environment that moves people,” Probst says. “Light is always a huge part of that expressiveness. Color contrast, atmosphere, flare, changes in light—these are the tools of the trade. And a unit I can use to quickly mold those elements on the set is a valuable tool indeed.” Probst envisioned an expressive slash of light across an actor’s eyes, and from that seed grew “An Ace up the Sleeve,” a western-themed scenario in which a nameless cowboy confronts a dishonest card dealer. A suitable location was found—the Sassafras Saloon on Vine Street in Hollywood—and the concept began to coalesce. Probst wrote the scenario and the dialog and developed a list with about three dozen varied shots to tell the story and to put the Orbiter to the test, using the fixture’s versatility with shaping, directing, focusing, cutting, and softening the light, not to mention its 6-color ultra-bright LED output. Simultaneously, a behind-the-scenes film was produced with Probst talking viewers through his process and the capabilities of the lamp.
Probst’s creative use of lighting and color
“It’s like the MacGyver of lighting tools,” Probst says of the Orbiter. “Through the different modes of operation and a series of attachments from both ARRI and third-party companies like DoPchoice, the light can become a Leko, or ellipsoidal light, for example. Diffusion attachments like Chimeras deliver softness, and reflectors with different angles turn it into an open-face reflector lamp. It’s very modular, quick and easy to change between the different configurations, which came in handy on our one-day location shoot. With a couple of minor exceptions, we lit the entire piece with six Orbiters in a range of setups.”
Probst’s assessment of the Orbiter’s capabilities
Overall, Probst sees the Orbiter as a major step forward for directional LED lighting. “Older LED fixtures often lacked the output to work in such a wide range of applications,” he says. “It’s cool to have the color control of an LED unit along with that much punch, and the flexibility that comes with that. It gives you much more bang for the buck. It’s RGBWACL, and it’s dimmable, and it has the ability to sense the ambient color and match it.”
Probst’s hopes for “An Ace Up the Sleeve”
Probst hopes that “An Ace up the Sleeve” offers filmmakers the opportunity to see what the Orbiter can do in actual production conditions on a narrative project. “It’s a fun, atmospheric and moody piece, a little bit gritty, with a smoky atmosphere, desaturated tones and a wider color contrast,” he says. “I can definitely thank the Orbiters for helping me achieve that. I’m grateful to ARRI and Samy’s Camera for their help in making it happen. Any tool that takes a significant step forward like this requires cinematographers to adapt, to learn how it fits into their approach. I hope the film is helpful in that way.”
"An Ace Up the Sleeve" was only illuminated with the ARRI Orbiter LED fixture and captured with ALEXA Mini LF and Signature Prime lenses. This expert combination of equipment played a crucial role in setting the desired mood and capturing stunning images for the film.