Apr. 25, 2017

High-speed lighting

Gaffer Andy Stein works with M-Series daylight lampheads and ARRI high-speed ballasts on a slow-motion ice hockey shoot.

Apr. 25, 2017

Based out of Cologne, Andy Stein is a highly experienced commercials gaffer whose rental company, Amp-light Film & TV Service, boasts an inventory that includes ARRI SkyPanel, L-Series, tungsten, and M-Series fixtures. For a recent corporate promo film that involved shooting at frame rates up to 1,500 fps, Stein selected M18, M40, and M90 M-Series lampheads, combining them with ARRI ballasts.

Can you describe the concept for this shoot?

It was a short movie for a company that makes ice hockey pucks and the plastic body protection worn by players. The concept was to use high-speed filming to show in slow motion the sheer power and physicality of the impacts in this sport – a puck crashing into the transparent wall that protects spectators, or two players smashing into each other, or a player striking the puck.

What lighting challenges did you face?

We were shooting in a real ice rink so we needed a lot of lighting power, because you can see so much when you’re in there. Our main considerations were power and output, but we also had to find a lighting solution that would work with the hockey players in the rink, as they needed space to skate around. The other factor was time: we were on a tight schedule so we only wanted a few fixtures on the ice, with as much flexibility as possible.

Which fixtures did you choose and why were they the right solution?

I used one M90 for a backlight and another to light from the front. Then I used an M40 as a hard kicker from the side and an M18 for details with the goalkeeper and the puck. These M-Series lampheads allowed me to react quickly if we needed more or less light, but also if we needed it to be harder or softer. The output range is extremely wide, so I was always able to give the director more when he wanted to increase the frame rate. Also we could change the bulbs to vary the output, for example the M90 can be 6 kW or 9 kW. 

Did the ARRI ballasts work well for you?

Yes, they did. We were using the older high-speed series, but also the new ARRI AutoScan ballasts. The great advantage is that you can really focus on getting the lighting right, and let the ballasts determine the correct frequency for you. 

What are your general thoughts on the ARRI M-Series?

At my rental house we have the M8, M18, M40, M90, and ARRIMAX, and we use all of them. The M-Series is the best choice for high-speed shoots, but the flexibility of these lamps allows me to use them for all kinds of different situations on different sets. You can use them close or far away, hard or soft, and the light quality is always great.

The M18 is a real all-purpose weapon and I have it on every shoot; it’s compact and you can use it with domestic power instead of a generator, but it has enough output for a Chimera. The M40 can be used with a 2.5 kW bulb if you have limited power on set, while the M90 is great when you’re outside, fighting with the sun, or when you need to punch daylight into an interior. On this shoot the M-Series gave us exactly what we needed, with great pictures, no flicker problems, and really versatile light output.