On Reflection

On Reflection

For most of us using reflectors is such an integral part of the way we light our sets and subjects everyday that it becomes easy to disregard the possibilities for experimentation and innovation.

I’ve always liked the quality from bounced or reflected light, from buildings, glass, water and from vehicle bodywork and chrome (come back 1974) and I enjoy replicating it when lighting sets. 

The progress of photographic sensor design and expansion of useable ISO range is ever opening new possibilities for photography and I’ve become very interested in a technique that Cinematographer Christian Berger has been developing since 1999. It’s a system for lighting films that utilises reflected light almost exclusively. Dubbed Cine Reflect Lighting System (CRLS) the technique involves reflecting beams from a light source that produces a parallel and concentrated beam of light as close as possible to the parallel light produced by the sun.  The RLS 70, specially developed for this purpose, uses a 1200W HMI lamp and is manufactured by Pani Projection of Austria together with a range of reflectors also designed by Berger and creative partner Christian Bartenbach for the CRLS. In association, Dedolight have also created a Parallel beam lens attachment for their 200,400 and 1000 series of lampsmaking them more suitable for use with the CRLS range of reflectors. Competition comes from Kaczek Visuals with their KFLECT system.

I’ve yet to get my hands on any CRLS kit but I continue to use reflection a lot and at the moment it’s the ideal way to pick outsome black leather boots on a moodily lit set without spoilingthe contrast and feel of the overall picture. 

Aside from the usual pop-up reflectors, California Sunbounce, Scrim Jim and mirror board options I often carry celotex insulation board (other brands are available) Lee Mirror Silver (No. 271) and Soft Silver Reflector (No. 273) both useful for making hard / soft reflectors of whatever size and shape you need. Mirror, or silver-backed acrylic can be cut to any size and I favour using small piecesfor still life sets adding accents of light when direct light doesn’t have the right feel or the set is just too crowded to squeeze another lamp in. 

Adjusting the quality of light from a reflector is achievable with diffusion gels, I usually carry 1/16th white diff and Hampshire frost.  When time allows applying dulling spray is a good way to make very fine adjustments. I also have a range of nets, both black and white, to soften the reflection from harder reflectors. These can be standard double or single nets as carried on all our Gripvans, but I’ve often found the local haberdashers a great place to pick up a wide range of different mesh, perfect for diffusing mirrorboards, household mirrors or any other hard reflector.

In the past I’ve custom mounted reflectors to armature wire or fixed them to baby pins to make it easier to Grip them, now I’m excited to explore the versatility that the magnet based systems offered by Pani and Kflect have to offer. Much as I’m looking forward to working with a full set of Paniflectors or K-flectors in the near future, I cant ever imagine not needing to improvise at some point. You can use so many materials as reflectors and often on set I’m scrounging mirrors from make-up artists or raiding location kitchens for shiny saucepans, silver trays or the old favourite bacofoil. I’ve used shaving mirrors, stainless steel plate, glass windows, aluminium of various finishes and the case of my Macbook Pro in the past and who knows what I’ll use in the future, I knew I kept those old CDs for good reason...



New Kit at Gripvan

New arrivals at Gripvan, ready for your next shoot.


Shown above in 700, 1000 and 1500 models, the APC Back-UPS Pro series are the industry standard for uninterruptible power supplies. Whether you're working on the street or in a warehouse, if you're running an iMac or other equipment that needs to remain powered at all times, the APC is a must. Gripvan have added the 1500 model to our rental stock as it offers the most power and flexibility of the range.


Litepanels Astra Bicolour LED

The Litepanels Astra 1x1 BiColour LED panel is one of the most versatile light fixtures we've encountered. Slim and light enough to be mounted almost anywhere and with an impressive output .....

The ASTRA 1x1 Bi-Color panel builds on the legacy of the original 1x1 fixture, which revolutionized the lighting industry. This innovative daylight to tungsten tunable color model was years in the making, with every design element of this next generation panel being meticulously crafted. Following the Litepanels tradition of a one square foot form factor, the ASTRA series is designed with select premium quality, high CRI, surface mount LEDs and paired with custom designed TIR optics. These tightly binned LEDs and fine-tuned optics provide the ASTRA 1x1 with superior color reproduction and a light output that is up to four times brighter than traditional LED panels. This higher intensity results in a longer throw and illuminates a wider area, allowing the panel to compete with strong exterior light sources or illuminate a large area effectively with just a single fixture.

New Honda EU70is Generator

We’re pleased to be able to offer the latest generator from Honda. Very similar to the Honda EU65is generators already in stock the new EU70is portable generator matches it for its near-silent operation but has the added ability of being able to link together with another unit to deliver around 11kW of constant power. This gives the ability to run a huge light source from two portable generators where previously a large trailer mounted generator would have been required.

The Honda EU70is Deluxe Series Generator offers 6500 watts of portable, inverter power. The EU70is is ready to join you on your next location shoot. Location owners will love its ultra quiet operating sounds level (52 to 60 dBA) and so will your team.

The i-Deluxe Series is the first to use Honda's proprietary "i-Monitor" technology which provides information for hours of operation, wattage and engine speed; as well as diagnostics for convenient servicing.

Standard features include electric starting, Honda's patented Eco-Throttle for extended run time, two-wheel transport kit and folding handles. 

Kit Focus: Andrew's Shoot Essentials

Kit Focus: Andrew's Shoot Essentials

Of course the first thing I would never want to be without on a shoot is a Gripvan but I think that’s the Desert Island Discs equivalent of having your entire record collection and reading library as your luxury item.

So, assuming all the really important stuff, like cameras and lighting, is taken care of... when forced into working with minimal kit due to travel or budget restrictions what essentials get pride of place in my Grip case?

Kit Focus: iPads on Set

As far as my ten year old is concerned the only use for an iPad is Clash of Clans, FIFA 15, True Skate and Fruit Ninja but I’ve been finding a lot more use for the iPad than gaming or idle surfing on the sofa.

Capture Pilot from Phase One has been no secret for the last five years and Hasselblad’s Phocus mobile wasn’t far behind. Since then I’ve been using both Apps mainly for client playback. As the Apps have become more stable and I gained confidence in the Retina iPad with the release of the fourth generation at the end of 2012 I’ve found over the last 18 months I’m rarely without an iPad close to hand while I’m lighting.

It’s often impractical to walk back and forth from the set to the laptop or monitor when you’re adjusting lighting ‘hands on’. Capture Pilot on the iPad is an invaluable tool that speeds up the lighting process massively. With the added benefit of remote camera control it means you can even carry on working alone when everyone else has disappeared to stand around and drink yet more coffee!

As digital continues to increase the pace of most shoots, it is essential that I can review the images coming in and make immediate adjustments to the lighting without diving in to the mosh pit around the monitor to elbow it out with the Client and Account Handler so I can catch a glimpse of what’s going on.

I like to run two or more iPads on a shoot as you can offer creatives and clients the option to rate images as they are shot on one, whilst using the other for checking lighting, styling and hair/make up. It’s also a great way to show your talent how things are looking without having them step off the set.

I’ve missed the 10x8 Polaroid so much these last few years and though the iPad can't compete with those beautiful colours, in some ways it can be just as useful.

It’s surprising how quickly an iPad can chew through its battery and how long they take to recharge so I recommend always having a charger on set and plugging in whenever possible. 

Download Color Cards from Les Herstik or Focus Chart from distant blue and your iPad just gets more and more useful. Not to mention Helios, Sun Seeker and the host of other apps out there, waiting to make our lives easier.

Right now though, I'm getting back to beating my daughter's Fruit Ninja score!

Kit Focus: Gitzo GS 5562 GTS Giant


This month Andrew takes a look at Gitzo's gargantuan GS 5562 GTS 'Giant' tripod, full of new features, some of which he loves, others less so!

The first thing I noticed was the new top casting - the bit all the legs bolt on to. Gitzo have redesigned it and the new triangular shape both looks and feels really good. On a practical note it's also lighter than the older casting.

Anyone who has used a Gitzo will be familiar with the modular system that uses a bolt to pinch the various columns or plates into the top casting and with the classic 10/13mm pressed steel ring spanner Gitzo supply to do the job with. Well not anymore. Perhaps the most useful feature of the new tripods is the integrated ratchet locking lever which you operate with your thumb, no spanner required. I have found though that the spring loaded thumb lever is quick to jam up in dusty or salty conditions and wiggling it loose again can take longer than delving in your bag or case for the good old spanner, so keep your tripod clean and dry.

Another feature that suffers with dust and dirt is the safety catch which now holds the plate or column into the top casting. The catch is released by pressing a spring loaded button in the bottom of the casting and the button can become jammed due to the ingress of dust or grit. Even with the top casting left undone I can't imagine the plate or column falling out unless the tripod was upside down and I feel this safety catch is an unnecessary complication that I could easily live without.

The leg angle selectors work in the same way we're all used to with Gitzos but they've improved and have a more positive action and are quicker and easier to use. The same is true of the "G-lock" leg locking collars which only need a quarter turn before they positively lock the leg at any given point.


There are three options for the tripods feet and I needed all of them on the first job I took the tripod on. The rubber feet, perfect for concrete, hard floors and interiors simply pull off exposing spikes underneath which are good for grass and softer surfaces. I was interested to try the sand feet supplied by Gitzo and the 2nd section of the job was all on beaches - perfect !  Fitting the plastic sand feet involves unscrewing the spike from each leg pushing the sand foot on and screwing the spike back into the leg. A bit more than a two minute job but still quick and simple. More importantly they worked really well and prevented the legs sinking in the sand. 

Overall it's a great tripod with good stability and torsional rigidity even at 2.77metres with all 6 leg sections extended. It's easier and quicker to use than the old aluminium versions I've been using for the last twenty years but the way I handle it and the techniques my muscles have learned are the same because it still feels like the same tool.

The Gitzo GS 5562 GTS is available as an addition to any of our Gripvan Packages, just request it when you call or email!

Kit Focus: Arca Swiss z1 MonoBall Head

Kit Focus: Arca Swiss z1 MonoBall Head

Having never been much of a fan of ball heads it came as a surprise to me just how much I like the Arca-Swiss Z1. I've used a host of different ball heads over the years and have latterly been very impressed with the Really Right Stuff models but I feel the Z1 has the edge on everything else.