I recently wrapped principal photography on a feature film entitled The Lumber Baron. It’s a historical drama set in 1910 at the height of the lumber boom in the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin. During the shoot, we had to deal with everything from exteriors (both day and night), historical mansions (that are currently museums), original lumber camps and even real life felling of trees. As with any project, lighting each of these scenarios had their own challenges, but we found two lights from Rosco and DMG Lumière that helped us solve many of our issues.
For the interiors, we tried to use windows and practical lights wherever we could, but we faced some challenges. Being that the film was set in 1910, we needed to obscure the view out of the windows; otherwise, the camera would capture cars driving by and other modern amenities that would obviously not have fit in the film. We had custom sheers created for all of the windows to make sure we couldn’t see out, but the sheers also lessened the amount of ambient light in the room. We tried adding light from an Eco Punch LED fixture, which definitely provided more ambient light on set, but the color-quality of the light wasn’t cinematic enough for us to continue using it.
Based on my previous experience with the fixture, our solution was to bring a Rosco Silk 220 soft light on set and use it to create our “ambient daylight.” The Silk 220 is a bi-color source with excellent color rendering. It provided a beautiful soft output that we could use as direct light in certain scenes. This became invaluable to us because even though many of our locations were mansions, let me tell you mansions of 1910 were a heck of a lot smaller than the mansions we think of today. There was little to no room to add frames of diffusion, which, thankfully, the Silk 220 didn’t need.
The arrival of the Silk 220 changed everything. We bounced the Silk 220 light off the walls and ceilings to bring up the ambient light. We manipulated its color temperature to offset some of the wall colors and to match the ambient light to other practical fixtures more accurately. It became our lighting workhorse for a majority of the film. The Silk 220 enabled us to shoot faster, setup faster, move locations faster, pack less grip gear into the vans and we were even able to run the Silk 220 on batteries for a few of the scenes where power wasn’t easily available.
We were also blasting 400W Joker Bugs through the windows – and running generators to power them all. The ballast of the fixtures slowed us down because we couldn’t strike the lights, move and re-strike them as fast we liked. We needed another solution to speed us up. This time we found the Maxi Switch bi-color LED light from DMG Lumière. This light was new to everyone on our crew and we weren’t sure what to think when the fixture first arrived. As we assembled the light in the kitchen of our Airbnb, I remember doubting that we could replace the Jokers with this one light. Once we had it assembled and turned it on, however, our gaffer immediately said: “that’s an enormous amount of output from this thing.”
We decided to audition the MAXI Switch the next day, and we were prepared to switch back to the Jokers if we had to. As soon as we placed the light on the porch and saw the quality of the light coming through the windows – that was it, we had our pair of lights for the remainder of the shoot.
For our pure exterior shots, we ended up using both the Silk 220 and MAXI Switch for both day and night scenes. For example, we would have the 220 dialed in as a warm key light to match a fire or the warm ambient light in the scene, and we’d use the MAXI set at 5600K (and the Jokers, if-needed) to create simulated moonlight. This became our secret combo for lighting a majority of our nighttime exteriors.
It’s also worth mentioning that this shoot occurred in Wisconsin… in the middle of winter. It was cold. There were days where we were shooting in negative 20° temperatures. We really put both lights through some real-world testing on those days, and they both passed with flying colors.
I can’t wait to share The Lumber Baron with everyone so you can see exactly how well both of these lights performed. They gave us the freedom and speed we needed to get the imagery I wanted, on the budget that was given to me. That’s why I’m calling the Rosco Silk 220 and the DMG Lumière Maxi Switch the dynamic duo of set lighting.