It all started back in film school. I remember I was getting ready to shoot one of my student shorts I made. The actor wanted to do a screen test one night so I just set up a camera on a tripod and had him rehearse in front of it. Well since it was dark I just took a flood light and shined it at him to get exposure. Nothing special because after all it was just something so he could watch playback and improve on his technique. Well a few weeks later I was digitizing the mini DV tape and I realized what I shot looked amazing. It was like he was lit up with a classic 3 point lighting and all I had was the one light. I went to the room we shot this in and noticed there was a mirror which reflected light back into the actor and then the wall on the other side acted as a big white bounce. I remember thinking how simple that was to get such a good look.
Well cut to several years later I was working as a gaffer on a Discovery show called Dead of Night episode 210. Well the DP had a different way of doing things. He just used two source four tungsten lights for everything. He would use them inside and outside. The show rented a air B&B like those smaller shows usually do. We had to finish a full 30min episode in 3 days so usually we hit the ground running. Well I remember when we first got to the house the DP had the key grip and myself collect all the mirrors in the house and he would slap that source four in the center of the room and just use mirrors and white bounce to light the actors. When the camera would flip to the other side he would just pan the light and move the bounce. It was quick and looked surprisingly well for how fast we were moving. Around this time in my career “2014” I was gaffing a lot for EPK’s “electronic press kits or behind the scenes” for shows like breaking bad, game changer, etc. So I was pretty comfortable with taking hours to light a chair where a celebrity would come and be interviewed. To go from taking hours to light to just a few minuets felt crazy, but more so it felt good knowing I could get great results and save time. I know in this industry time is money and I want to be the fastest their is but while keeping high quality material. Anyone can make a scene look good but how many people can make it look good and still stay with the schedule of the production. After all thats how I get the repeat jobs and clients. They like my work and they like how quick I can get it done. Working on a lot of these indie movies means we usually only have a few weeks to film a feature. Don’t get me wrong I love it when a show gives me the flexibility to take my time and make quality however, I am also a realist and know that usually that is a rare case. So seeing this DP light these setups very quickly in a way that reminded me of my beautiful mistake in college re ignited the flame within to start pursuing that kind of lighting more often.
In 2015 I was Gaffing a feature called Furthest Witness. I remember we were behind schedule in a scene that took place in a cafe. Well the whole crew was on edge because we knew we were falling behind and we were trying to rush as much as we could. So I ran and got a Jo-leeko source four and set it up in the middle of the room and would just bounce light from that one source to light the scene. After I did that I remember the UPM, Director and Producer took me to the side and thanked me for lighting it and saying it was the best lighting so far. Such a simple technique yet effective. We ended up making our day and everyone was happy.
I wanted to expand on this system. Up until this point I would just bounce from foam core or bead board or 1’x1′ mirrors that shatter and break. Well thats when I started to see things about this Kflect company out of austria and how they were disgning kits full of all kinds of mirrors. I immediately wanted them all! So I waited until I had the perfect project where the DP was open to it before buying them because they are expensive. Thats when I got the Key Grip job on Ice Box. Carolina Costa was the DP and she loved the idea to using mirrors. So I ordered the Kflect DoP Extended Kit and the guys over at Kflect were more then helpful. Once I received it we used it everyday on set. It was amazing. I’ve never thought of the possibilities like this before. We did a scene where there is supposed to be a hole in the ceiling of a truck that a kid looks up through. Well we wanted moon light coming down and hitting him in a hard shaft of light while seeing most the truck. The only small sources we could get in that space was LED strip which hardley makes a shaft of light then you have the problem of powering it. So we just popped to small mirror on the ceiling with a magnet and lit the whole scene with one 800w Joleako source 4. We ended up having a total of 4 mirror in there. One was the whole in the ceiling, another was a slash on the back wall, one was a key light and the last was a fill light. A scene during the scout that had all of us worried how we would pull it off took a few min to light. The hardest part was deciding where the camera went.
This is the part I geek out on and Ill just touch on briefly. The math behind using this method is just amazing. Its so simple it works. The inverse square law is the law of how light falls off as the distance from subject to light grows. Basically in a nut shell if you double the distance from your subject to your light you only get 1/4 of the light you had. A very handy technique if you need to dim a light but have no squeezer or scrims just walk it back a little. However, the part that I have struggled with in past years is how the light interacts in a scene. Lets say you have a scene where the subject walks out by the camera and the light source is on the same side. Chances are your subject can gain several stops of light as he walks out of the scene towards the light. Well how do you fix this is simple get a bigger light and move it further away so the light change is so small we don’t notice. Well what happens if we are in a small space where we only have a few feet to work within. The other solution is make it so soft it doesn’t matter. This is the method i chose for years. I still choose a book light or some kind of soft source if we have a lot of movement in the scene. But what happens if you want hard light? Thats why the above scene we did in the truck was so brilliant. We can take the light from the frot of the truck bounce it from the back to the front again and then back at the subject. So when the walk out of the truck the light hitting them is over 40ft away so the light fall of is nothing. It it was just straight lighting them from 10ft a way then the people 5 feet closer are 4 stops brighter. So this is the part I love and it changes how I light everything.
I even shot slow motion 180fps wasps flying by using these mirrors and just bouncing light into the underside of my porch where the nest was. Took about 10 seconds. If it was a matter of a few months ago I would have gotten a joker 400w out, extension chord, and been fighting stinging wasps while trying to get the light set. Well with this kit I just set up a mirror to the right side of the nest and went about 40 feet away with another mirror and bounced into that mirror so when the wasps were pissed that I lit them up I was no where near them. I panned away the mirror 40 feet away then they calmed down and I got the other mirror. Such a simple yet effective tool. Book Trevor Rogers and T-Ro Films for your next shoot to see this kit in action!