“Having a DoPchoice accessory up your sleeve is a great solution for instant control of any light.”
Jonathan Franklin, Chief Lighting Technician on a number of commercials and feature films including the Oscar winning Phantom Thread, is not only on top of the latest in lighting, but also ways in controlling the light and regularly uses a wide range of DoPchoice products on set.
When you say the word “gaffer” to anyone familiar with the movie industry, their immediate reaction is, “oh, that’s the person who sets the lights”. Absolutely true – with a few caveats, depending on that person’s point-of-origin or where the production is finding a home. For example, if you ask what “gaffer” Jonathan Franklin’s duties are, he’ll tell you that they are “ever so slightly different in the UK system.” Whether it’s on commercials or films (recently The Secret Garden, Teen Spirit, Chaos Walking, and Phantom Thread), Franklin is known as the Chief Lighting Technician. “As well as setting the lamps, we are also in control of all flagging and diffusing that has to happen. So, in addition to keeping up to date with the lamps, we need to also be on top of methods of controlling the light.”
For a number of years, some of his most important support products have been DoPchoice SNAPBAGS®, SNAPGRIDS® and Butterfly grids. “I've also recently started using the 4x4 SNAPBOX® that’s great for using with LEDs like Litegear’s Litetile+ Plus 4. DoPchoice gear allows Franklin to shape the light and have full control of the source – something really important to him.
Butterfly Grids get a serious workout on most every project. “I have a couple of light boxes on electric tackles sitting above set, and with the Butterflies I can have two nice soft directional sources that I can manipulate rather than have two sources that simply merge into one,” he explains.
Butterflies, SNAPBAGS® and SNAPGRIDS® are crucial now that with modern digital cameras Franklin is usually working with DoPs who want to shoot in low light levels. “Which means you have to think about and control your shadows a lot more," he adds. “If, for example, you decide to put a 4x4 diffusion frame in front of a 650W Fresnel to soften it, that 4x4 frame then becomes your light source. The only way to control it is to use multiple flags and stands. But often, when you are shooting on location, there is not enough room to control a light that way.” That's where 4x4 SNAPGRIDS® become invaluable.
“I always try to have a SNAPBAG® standing by to be put on at the last minute,” he adds, “because they are fast and make a nice soft quality of light. For example, when you have a Skypanel® equipped with a SNAPBAG®, you can quickly add a nice source without worrying that it is going to spill everywhere and need flagging which could hold up filming. The great thing with the SNAPBAGS® is they fold up compactly, and you can even have them standing by hanging on the lampstand, without really getting in the way.
Franklin says that SNAPGRIDS® and Butterfly’s get used differently on every production. With Phantom Thread, the locations were extremely challenging. “We often found ourselves in situations where we couldn’t flag efficiently without creating a large footprint, so we implemented a lot of SNAPGRIDS® and Butterflies into the way we were working.”
Perfect example: Cyril’s Office in Phantom Thread. There were major restrictions on the location chosen. The production wasn’t allowed to place any lights on the street. “That meant balancing exposure onset to outdoors – very difficult,” he says. “The day we shot the scene was extremely sunny. We ended up having to use a lot of light on the set. The problem with doing this was that it’s much harder to control. So, we ended up using some well-hidden LiteMat 2L’s with custom SNAPGRIDS® placed above the windows to push light from the direction of the windows. We then keyed using 2 ARRI M4’s through a 12x12 diffusion frame with a DoPchoice Butterfly, some more LiteMat 2Ls as kickers, along with some smaller LiteGear units to add highlights.
“If we hadn’t had DoPchoice accessories on this location, our job would have not only been a lot harder but also a lot slower. The room wasn’t the biggest. Add a 12×12 with M40s and you soon start to lose real estate. If we had used conventional flagging, we’d never have been able to get the show the way we wanted."
On Chaos Walking with Ben Seresin, Franklin was faced with lighting Montreal’s Olympic Stadium – a huge concrete structure. “We were filming on a balcony,” he explains. “It had a curved roof and a small gap where the floor met the roof. First, we had to control the light flooding in. Then we had to replicate it with our own. We ended up using about 42 ARRI M90 lamps all the way around the stadium. To soften that, we had 12×12 diffusion and a Butterfly grid on each one. We used the grids to direct the soft light to emphasize the architecture with light and controlled shadows.”
For Franklin, it’s all about adapting quickly to his DoP’s style. “Being with them for 6-7 days a week, you get to know them and see which way they are going to go with lighting. Part of the skill you need is to always be prepared for what the DoP is going to throw at you and have a solution ready before they ask for it. Having a DoPchoice accessory up your sleeve is a great solution for instant control of any light.”