GE SHOWBIZ® Cinema Fluorescent Lamps Let the Sun Shine On Set

CLEVELAND, Ohio — (NYSE: GE)  Stepping on to the set of Premonition, the film's chief lighting technician had a feeling the film needed more than just good lighting. It needed daylight…lots of daylight. 

"Given our location and the number of interior shots expected, I knew we'd need several types of lamps and lighting techniques to capture the mood the director was after," says 25–year industry veteran Dwight D. Campbell, chief lighting technician for Premonition and independent lighting gaffer for television and films such as The Abyss and Kiss the Girls.

"I wanted to create the perfect backdrop for the film," adds Campbell, who tapped two shining newcomers — recently introduced GE SHOWBIZ® Cinema Fluorescent Biax® F55BX/CINEMA PLUS 32 and F55BX/CINEMA PLUS 55 lamps from GE Appliances & Lighting — to play major roles in his scheme. "GE's single BIAX daylight fluorescent lamp offered the light output needed to get as much 'daylight' on the set as I could produce."

Picture-perfect color
As any good lighting gaffer will attest, all lamps are not created equal. This is especially true when budget and space restrictions are part of the equation.

With the film being shot on location in Louisiana, Campbell knew the lamps he chose would have to be readily available, cost effective and, most importantly, provide the right color on film. Because the majority of the film was being shot in small, tight spaces, Campbell faced one more challenge in creating the perfect daylight color: excessive heat during filming.

GE SHOWBIZ High–Lumen Biax lamps fit the bill on all counts. The lamps use full–spectrum phosphors to achieve a color–rendering index of 95 and a more balanced spectrum of light. "The result is light that's much closer to real daylight," says Nick Iacobucci, GE SHOWBIZ cinema fluorescent product manager, GE Appliances & Lighting.

Daylight bulbs give off a much "bluer" light. They have a color temperature similar to natural daylight — around 6000 to 6500–degrees Kelvin.

"I love the color I get and the time I save with using these GE SHOWBIZ cinema fluorescent lamps," says Campbell. "I really like how GE lamps represent on film."

It's all about technique
Campbell used three different lamp types to create the mood the director was after for indoor and outdoor shooting: ceramic metal halide lamps to reflect light evenly; tungsten lamps for texture and skin tones; and daylight fluorescent 6500–degree Kelvin and 4200–degree Kelvin lamps for a constant daylight source. He balanced and diffused all these light sources, as well as the PAR lamps on the set, by bouncing light off white foam bead–board.

"The versatility of these lamps enables greater flexibility and creativity in lighting a shot," notes Campbell. He says the thin shape of a GE SHOWBIZ Cinema Fluorescent High–Lumen Biax lamp is optimal for smaller fixtures and when space is at a premium. Using the same GE SHOWBIZ lamps for outdoor shots under daylight offered Campbell higher efficiency, softer light, and the time–saving convenience of not needing to use gels.

Specific light sources that Campbell used to create a soft, beautiful light on film include:
  • 440 fixture consisting of eight lamps in a 2x2–foot box with barn doors;
  • 220 fixture using four lamps in a 1x1–foot box with a ball and pin system for opening;
  • 110 fixture consisting of two lamps in a box that was approximately 3 inches longer than the bulb and 2 inches thick with barn doors.
He kept two of each fixture on the set to ensure fast and easy scene lighting. "I like to get it right and get it fast," says Campbell. "I don't want to contribute to any delay on set."

Lights, camera, lights!
Campbell evaluates the lighting for each scene with the director, stand–in characters and, finally, with the real actors. "The shot always requires last–minute lighting changes to enhance a mood, a character or the overall atmosphere of a shot," adds Campbell.

He often needs to make lighting decisions quickly — often between takes — and constantly changes the color of light due to the different skin tones of the various actors.

Campbell's lighting decisions are heavily influenced by budgets and by the speed and efficiency of bringing a fixture onto a scene. "Fixtures armed with GE lamps are faster and easier to use than others. Plus, with GE's 90 percent dimming capability, the color shift is very slight. I can control it with diffusion," he notes.

Whether during filming or in the editing room, Campbell says it's imperative that lighting appears balanced. "Another factor in choosing my light sources is knowing how the movie is being shot — traditional or high–definition," he says. Premonition was shot with traditional film using a 4–perf, 35mm Arriflex 535 camera, an Arricam Light (light–weight carrying camera), and an Arriflex 435 Xtreme high-speed camera.

Campbell used GE SHOWBIZ lamps on the Premonition set five days a week at a minimum of four to seven hours per day since filming began. He reported no lamp failures after 24 days of continuous filming.

"That's the kind of performance that gives me a sense — a premonition, if you will — that I'll be a fan of GE SHOWBIZ lamps for a very long time," says Campbell.