ARRI SkyPanel shines in Academy Award-winning film “Parasite”

In a video interview, “Parasite” cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong explains why sophisticated lighting was a vital instrument in the making of the film and how ARRI’s SkyPanel played a key role.

Jul. 22, 2020

The South Korean film “Parasite,” shot on ARRI Rental’s ALEXA 65 and lit with SkyPanels, took home four statues from the Academy Awards in 2020: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. Apart from being well written and well directed, the multiple Oscar-winning film was also well calculated, down to the smallest light source. DP Kyung-pyo Hong revealed that 97% of the film was produced and installed on set, making almost everything controllable, including the direction and amount of light during each scene. SkyPanel was crucial to the veteran cinematographer’s visual plans as it was used to illuminate all major locations in the film.

Did lighting play a big role in your visual approach to the worlds of wealth and poverty portrayed in the film?

In the screenplay, there was already a clear difference between the two families in terms of color and light. This contrast was even more apparent in each of their homes. For the less-fortunate Kim household’s semi-basement, we installed low-end greenish fluorescent and tungsten incandescent lamps—the kinds that are usually used as practical lights. We also used very minimal natural lighting. There were days when we had to wait for the right time, so the perfect amount of sunlight would hit the set. In comparison, the Park family mansion was purposely built on a spacious set with vast amounts of sunlight to create a luxurious atmosphere. We also chose expensive indoor luminaires that would add to the lavish feel of the house.

What features of the SkyPanel led you to choose it as the main lighting fixture for this film?

I like how SkyPanel can control everything, from dimming to adjusting color temperatures. In the past, we used to spend a lot of time setting up the filters to balance the colors, but with SkyPanel, we can change the colors with a click of a button. Plus, its diffused light source offers a really smooth quality of light. All in all, we like how SkyPanel can quickly change colors, be carried around easily, and save us precious time.

As the film progressed, the story became darker; comedy turned into tension in just a few scenes. How did you adjust your lighting to match the change?

We started with realistic lighting for each scene, but as crucial turns of events unfolded, we used darker tones to build suspense and tension. For instance, at the entrance of the secret cellar, the lighting set-up was a pitch-black hollow space sitting in between shelves of ceramics lit by strong orange practical lights. At the beginning of the movie, this space was kept bright by the lights installed inside. But later on, the lights were turned off to make the empty space look more sinister. As you go deeper into the hidden cellar, the texture turns cement-like and the lighting colder. It was essential for us to have control over all the lights in every single scene. Every change in the lighting and colors was made deliberately. We tried to focus on the harmony between the rhythm and the look of the movie through lighting.

The rainstorm arc was an integral part of the film. How did SkyPanel help you with lighting these scenes?

In the flooding sequence, which starts all the way from the mansion to the impoverished neighborhood, SkyPanels were mainly used as fill light. In the mansion, we tried to make the rain look aesthetically pleasing, while in the semi-basement, we made the lights flicker endlessly throughout the sequence. SkyPanel’s features allowed us to make use of its lighting effects without any problems at all. Additionally, the lights were very portable, so it made everything much easier.

DP Kyung-pyo Hong’s video interview on the SkyPanel

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