New World of Light

Hollywood & Independent Artists

John Fraim


Modern American society has access to most of the magic technologies the nation produces at its faster and faster pace.  For example, in the film industry, independent filmmakers have access to cameras used by the major studios. The focus has been on how to capture the scene with a particular type of camera. Using a special type of recording. The image captured by our latest technologies matches what the industry feeds the nation. The modern parity of independent filmmakers with the larger players in the industry, the sole artists bucking the entire system in many ways, has gone across almost areas of filmmaking.

The two sides of entertainment industry for instance. One is the Hollywood side. In other words, the corporate and political side of (my old hometown) Hollywood, California. The “deep state” version of Hollywood. The worst things you’ve ever heard about it are mostly true. Just like those horror story of Hollywood books you pull off the shelves of the big used bookstore in town.

There are stories of Hollywood’s association with aliens as well as sex cultists and occult groups. This is the usual theme of that strange Hollywood “Insider” genre of books. There is little Just like Washington DC, there was the same type of “deep state” in Los Angeles. They ran the film business and to suspect there was no connection with DC was to be more naïve than (even) the average American.

In the 40s, 50s and 60s, DC realized (and believed) their control through the mass media of TV, radio, film, music, magazines and newspapers. However, the 1970s ushered in the era of segmentation. In effect, a break-up of the mass media control of the three networks and the major Hollywood studios. The major newspapers and magazines in the nation continued to lose readership.

The relationship of DC with Hollywood underwent great change in the 70s, 80s and 90s. The relationship had to change for the psyche of Americans changed as modern American marketing celebrated a newly found demographic “toy” called market targeting and segmentation. The original three television networks now became little more than numbers on the vast cable spectrum. From a choice of just three combinations of letters in the early 20thcentury in America – CBS, NBC and ABC – Americans now had the choice of five hundred different viewing options.

Mass culture, production and communications died in American after the 1960s. No longer could one person like Walter tell us “And that’s the way it is” each day. There were other sources of news on a daily basis in a type of competition with one of the grand, authoritative, voice of Walter. Not just from the other two networks of NBC and ABC. But rather competition from a growing new thing.

* * *

This thing was called the Internet. In many respects, it seemed to represent a type of symbolic swing in the grand symbols of America – from equality (feminine, commonality) in the 40s to 70s and then a shift to freedom (masculine) symbolism dynamics from the 70s to the early years of our the 2000s.

The Internet is constantly criticized for the sea of “fake news” it has become. Yet for me it has been an amazing window (so to speak) into an entire new world.

Which gets me back to my story above.

As I mention, the art/craft of filmmaking has leveled out in many areas of production of films.

However, perhaps the major area that this has not happened is in that important element of creating images called lighting. Perhaps the most important.

Of all the things that made things unfair between the independent filmmaker and the Hollywood studios, the lighting system might be at the top of the list. This is especially true when one considers that the studios built aircraft-size sound studios to contain not only sound but light.

A New Type of Lighting

The past five years have seen an incredible rise in a type of lighting for movie or photography scenes called LED lighting.

I’ve been a collector of them for a few years. Not putting my foot too deeply in the water but buying a set of LED lights here and there. Then playing around with them and seeing how they might be used in our studio. I’ve been using Litra lights to light a lot of our scenes and are happy with them.

But I continue to explore new ways of lighting dramatic and symbolic scenes. This seems to be the major area of my interest these days. The fact that lighting interests me right now is not surprising. I’ve been interested in it for years now. My major area of interest in a photography store is the lighting section.

I remember the hot lights my father had on his camera to light up our birthday party scene so bright that no one could look at the camera directly. All the prey of my father’s movie camera in those years usually put their hands up in front of their face to reduce the glare of dad’s hot, blinding lights on his movie camera. The lights were so hot they melted the frosting on the birthday cake for my (fourth?) birthday when dad tried to get a close up of me blowing out the candles.

* * *

So, LED lights come as major pieces of magic for members of my generation who grew up under the hot lights of home movies of the 50s. They have some incredible advantages over the old types of lights used to illuminate scenes … in Hollywood … on Madison Avenue. They are incredibly lightweight. They put out hardly no heat. They are brighter than the old, heavy lights.

Perhaps the major theme at America’s big photography show this year was RGB LED lighting. For years now, independent filmmakers have been used to choosing between two major color temperatures in creating films. There was the indoor Tungsten temperature of 3,200 K and Outdoor Sunlight temperature of 5,500 k. I have a few LED lights that do exactly this. Put both indoor and outdoor light on the subject. But the 2018 show would break LED lights out of these two molds and offer full spectrum LED lighting to the budgets of independent filmmakers, and all independent artists. I add artists because I truly don’t know what the ultimate scope of use of the new full spectrum LED might mean.

The emergent winner of the show and perhaps the lighting news of this year is the Luxli Cello lights. These are a 9 inch by 3-inch conglomeration of LED lights that can change (per the commands of an app) to reproduce any color in the color spectrum. Colors can also be produced on the Cello in degrees of power. You do not have to use the 80% Blue saturation and can dial things down to 20%. The lights are the most amazing pieces of technology I have seen in a long time. Perhaps ever.

Figure In Front of Church Painting (Me Discovering What the Luxli Cello Light Can Do)

Midnight Oil Studios got our first Cello a few days ago (at an incredible price!) and have been playing around with it. And, playing is the perfect word.  We can’t think of a time we’ve had more fun with technology. And, at the same time, been impressed by it.

Not only can one create any color on the lighting device. But colors can appear in Special Effects in the Cello app for iPhone. This means that you can program the light to go into Strobe mode, Rainbow Effect or Sine Settings. Speed of the cycle, a starting hue and an ending hue of color can be selected. The ability to loop this can be enabled. Programming into the Sine Effects produces some of the strangest lighting effects I’ve ever experienced. One of the more interesting effects is programming a long cycle for the lights between the various color hues set for beginning and ending of the loop.

It seems to me that entire stories might be filmed using these new LED lights. Whether film or photography. Or some other use. It still seems too early to tell. But the availability of this little magic light is one of the best pieces of news for independent artists.

And, I heard all about the light and read about it on the Internet.

The Internet has re-introduced a new artistic medium to me. The medium of light.

More later. Now back to playing with the Luxli Cello. (Maybe this is its major purpose? To simply be played with.)

One thought on “New World of Light

  1. Your Luxi Cello lighting looks like a great way to portray your scenes and make them so
    interesting with the different shadows falling on the background or figure and the color is
    so much realistic. Barbara

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