Recently, I was brought on as Director of Photography for a really interesting piece. Director Rozalyn Mattocks tapped me for Solo Punk, an eerie, Twilight Zone-esque narrative that follows a girl trapped alone in a bunker. Incredibly thorough, Rozalyn sent me a detailed lookbook with almost one hundred images to show me the look that she was envisioning. As I perused the images, I became increasingly excited about two things:
1. I love working with artists that are this detailed and imaginative;
2. I could tell that this would be a completely new experience, and an opportunity to try something very non-traditional.
The director wanted a very specific neon cyberpunk look, and most of the images that she sent me were very high contrast as well. Space was a concern, though; we were going to be filming in a converted meat freezer that was built in the late 1800s, which had been transformed into a bunker. As I thought about the best way to tackle this, my first thought was to bring out some ARRI SkyPanel S30s and Quasar Rainbows (RGB LED tubes). We needed to have complete and efficient control over our color effects; switching gels in and out would have been impractical. I also definitely wanted to have some tubes to potentially use as practicals. Gary Holmes, the gaffer on AMC's The Walking Dead, suggested trying Astera tubes; and boy am I glad he did.
I got with my longtime gaffer Zakk Martin, and we decided to go with a kit of Astera Titans (which we rented from Cinder Lighting & Grip in Atlanta, GA) to create our neon cyberpunk feel. They were perfect. One of the biggest benefits of utilizing the Titans over the Astera AX1s was the ability to change the color of the light directly on the tube. While the wireless DMX/Astera app option is incredibly useful in certain scenarios, taking that out of the equation was a little better for us under our circumstances. We were a small crew in a small space, and occasionally it was necessary for Zakk and his Best Boy (Josh Coburn) to Hollywood two Asteras as we moved around the bunker. In those moments, having to utilize a tablet and app would have slowed us down tremendously.
We bounced a Leko gelled with Peacock Blue into a reflector in the ceiling for ambient fill, and also snuck in an Astra LED panel gelled in Surprise Peach for 2 shots, but mostly, we did all of our neon lighting with the Astera tubes. They were incredibly clutch in such a small space, and I'm glad we utilized them. I'd recommend them to anyone.
The director said the footage is "stunning", and I'm pretty happy with it as well. Check out some stills below.