Ama MacDonald is a highly experienced gaffer whose credits include music videos for Justin Timberlake and The Killers; commercials for Cadillac, Verizon and Budweiser; and features such as Brick and Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour. As a DP, he recently shot and lit the HD film Hyperfutura. “It’s a low-budget feature that we shot on location in Southern California with the Panasonic HVX200 HD camera,” MacDonald explains. “We shot in a lot of different locations with a lot of day and night exteriors, so we had a lot of different lighting challenges to deal with every day on this. Often, we didn’t have a large enough crew to go in and change out all the lights at a location, so we had to work with the lights already there and then change the color temperature of our lights to match those. That way, we’d have the look of a big-lit location.”
MacDonald used a mix of Kino Flos (“our main lights”) and tungsten units, which for the most part he bounced, instead of going direct. “It’s my experience in HD that you need to watch your ratios,” he says. “And by that I mean that when you’re looking at the frame you want to shoot, you don’t want something really bright with something really dark in the same frame. Video doesn’t like that as much as film does. Film loves that contrast, but with video you need more balance. So if you have a scene where the sun is hitting an actor and the background is completely dark, I’d add some diffusion over the actor to get a better balance.” As an example, MacDonald cites a scene he shot in a foundry: “We had all these bright sparks and lights in the background, so I put a lot of light – almost every light I had – on the actor in the foreground. So that was my approach for the whole shoot, to maintain an even ratio between dark and bright in every scene.”
For Kino Flos MacDonald used 4-foot 4Banks, which “have a lot of punch.” As for the tungsten, he preferred to use the open-face lights, which don’t have the Fresnel lens. “They have a real nice quality and bounce to them, and they’re not so unidirectional, so when you bounce them they look very naturalistic,” he says. “My whole approach to lighting is that, with experience you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every shot. You can come up with an idea and approach, and keep it uniform through the whole shoot. So on this film, the key light was always the Kino Flo, the background light was always a tungsten open-face, and that gives you such ease of fuse. Every time the crew got to a new location, they knew exactly what we’d be doing, and that way we’d make all our shots, and we’d get a great look too.”
All the lights for the shoot were rented through Paskal Lighting in North Hollywood. “They were really great to work with,” MacDonald adds.
Kino Flo, Inc. www.kinoflo.com