ARRI Orbiter touches down in Romania to service feature film and workshop

ARRI’s new LED fixture Orbiter impresses producers, gaffer, DP, and actors alike on the set of “Wandering in Time,” a new Romanian feature film scheduled to release this summer.

Mar. 24, 2021

One of the initial jobs ARRI’s new versatile and directional LED fixture Orbiter took up was for the feature film “Wandering in Time” on the very first professional, virtual set in Romania. Simultaneously, Orbiter also played a leading role in an ARRI Lighting workshop that partially took place during the studio filming. This unique workshop, organized by ARRI’s local dealer in Romania, Lights Up, and film production company, Safe Frame, brought together representatives from the Romanian broadcast and film production industry to experience Orbiter and all its features live in action. During the workshop, ARRI was able to sit down with the talent behind the scenes of the film, including cinematographer Andrei Baltaretu, gaffer Florin Mihalache, and producers Sebastian Cosor and Vlad Lorga, to learn even more about how the Orbiter impacted their work on this feature film.

There’s such a wide array of possibilities on set simply by having two Orbiters available. So many things are now easier and quicker. I felt it especially when changing scenes; it was clearly faster with Orbiter -- Vlad Lorga, producer.

Could you please explain a bit about the background of the film “Wandering in Time”? Please describe the idea of the project and some certain conditions you had to fulfill.

Andrei Baltaretu: This movie is intended to be the first “movie for the whole family” made after the Revolution, which happened 30 years ago in Romania. Basically, this is a fantasy with the main characters being played by kids. This is an indie project with a small crew but with professional requirements and high expectations. Shot mainly with two cameras, in various locations, from full chroma key-studio to a deserted island on the Danube, we had it all—and for us, speed and versatility were vital. Due to the specifics of the virtual set we had in the studio, the ability to fully control the light sources was a must.

When you shot the scenes in the chroma-key studio: Did you notice any significant differences between traditional lighting and lighting in real-time?

Andrei Baltaretu: There are definitely differences. For one, you need to use the light and control it always with the idea of the final look in mind.

Florin Mihalache: Yes, you always have to have quick access and quick control between takes.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome?

Andrei Baltaretu: A lot of interesting situations needed to be mastered due to the number of the light sources and camera movements. Another challenge arose since we allowed the actors to play the scenes like they were in existing locations, without holding a specific position, able to interact with real or unreal objects. We also had great fun with unwanted shadows or spills, extreme camera angles, and positions.

Florin Mihalache: It’s always tricky to set up proper lighting in a chroma environment. It’s a careful balance between having enough light to key but also model adequate lighting for the characters. It took some fine-tuning, which took the most of a pre-light day.

For which specific scene did you use the Orbiter? Could you explain or describe the setup in detail?

Andrei Baltaretu: The Orbiter was used for specific scenes where we used a mix of real props and a virtual set. One was a scene played by two characters inside a virtual prison cell, using only the left wall and the prison bed as props. We used the Orbiter to achieve the effect of a sunbeam coming from outside, through the window.

Florin Mihalache: The Orbiter was also used for some office morning shots where the virtual set had nothing but the outside “sun” as a light source. Here, we needed the Orbiters to “raise” the room gradually, mimicking sunrise.

Sebastian Cosor: This setup wasn’t complicated: Two Orbiters with domes, and we shot the profile of a character watching the sunrise from his skyscraper office window.

Florin Mihalache: For another scene, I hung the Orbiter to the studio’s ceiling and used the 15° open face to create a shaft of light on the wall. I used the Orbiter as a spotlight for the main character by placing it on a stand on the floor using the Octa shaped softbox.

How did the interaction between virtual backgrounds and RGB panel capabilities and scenic lighting work?

Andrei Baltaretu: The accuracy and the quality of the light the Orbiter emits is just the best; skin tones are so pleasant, and it’s a perfect match with the SkyPanels.

What features of Orbiter did you find helpful and why?

Andrei Baltaretu: For the prison scene, the most crucial feature was the power to control the color and the structure of the light. That is why I appreciate this full line of Orbiter accessories and the fixture’s ease of use.

Florin Mihalache: We used the color sensor a great deal in order to match the ambiance light precisely to what we already had; a reliable color sensor is an essential feature in a lamphead. Other features that I found useful were the fixture’s weatherproofing and its ability to dim while in high-speed mode.

The ARRI Orbiter with its Spectra engine rules the lighting world -- Florin Mihalache, gaffer

What surprised you about working with the Orbiter?

Andrei Baltaretu: The changeable optics were a big plus that surprised us along with the Orbiter’s power and precision.

Sebastian Cosor: We learned that it would soon be possible to input metadata directly into the Orbiter in real-time, which will help immensely in terms of color matching on virtual sets with more complicated and colorized lighting.

Florin Mihalache: The fact that the fixture will soon be able to communicate with the camera is a strong plus for post-production.

Did you learn anything new?

Andrei Baltaretu: With the Orbiter, we had the capability to change between 2000 and 20000K and still control the harshness of the light without using gels. We got all this from just one light source!

Florin Mihalache: We also learned just how fast a lighting setup could be switched while maintaining color matching and intensity.

Regarding the workshop specifically, could you provide us with a bit of background and how you were involved?

Florin Mihalache: The idea behind the workshop was to show the value of the ARRI Orbiter fixture in different types of lighting setups. We had two objectives with the workshop. The first was to integrate the light into some sequences of the movie called “Wondering in Time,” the second was to provide a hands-on workshop and presentation of the ARRI Orbiter for Romanian professionals.

Why did you decide to invite workshop guests to participate in the movie production?

Florin Mihalache: The reason for hosting a workshop in the middle of this production was not only to present the ARRI Orbiter to representatives from the Romanian broadcast, television, and cinema industry but it also allowed the participants and our colleagues to dive with us even deeper into the fixture and all its features. They could really interact with the lamphead and gain a greater understanding of how it works.

What inspired the workshop attendees the most?

Florin Mihalache: They were all impressed with how fast you can change from one optic to another with the QLM and from one color to another by pressing a button. All the Orbiter features you can manage through the control panel is very impressive.