A major portion of director Todd Robinson’s submarine thriller Phantom, starring recent Golden Globe Award-winning actor Ed Harris, was filmed in the confines of an actual Russian submarine. “While Todd and I spent a considerable amount of time establishing a look and feel that we wanted to accomplish in Phantom, I have to credit gaffer Steve Lundgren with the innovative lighting approach,” says cinematographer Byron Werner. “He built a lot of custom lights, but Litepanels® bricks were the best and only movie lights we could use in many parts of the sub.”
“We had to approach the lighting for the sub from a very minimalistic standpoint,” says Lundgren. “Whatever units we decided to use needed to provide versatility as well as concentrated output. Litepanels became one of the most obvious choices, because of the amount of light they put out and their diversity. Since we were in confined spaces that could get uncomfortable for the actors, the fact that Litepanels run heat-free was also a plus. Also important was that we needed to be able to put lights in areas where standard rigging procedures would not prove possible. Litepanels made all this easy.”
Blocking became extremely important for Werner and Lundgren while down in the cramped sub. They had to have a very precise lighting approach. If an actor missed his mark by inches, he would be out of his lighting. Being able to add a last minute, battery-operated Litepanels MiniPlus™ was often their lifesaver.
“In one scenario, we had six of our main actors sitting around a table in the mess hall of the submarine,” recalls Lundgren. “The room was actually built on a stage but Todd wanted it to still feel as cramped as it was on the real submarine, so we faced some real challenges lighting the actors individually. We ended up rigging ten Litepanels MiniPlus units to the ceiling using 5/8” rods. Each panel had a diffusion and color package we designed for the front of the units. They were then ‘sided’ off from light spilling on the walls or onto the actors in an undesirable way. We would not have been able to reach the result we got with any other units.”
“One of the most beautiful Litepanels lit moments was a stirring scene with star Ed Harris as he sits on the bed in his stateroom trying to make sense of the challenge he faces in this nothing-is-what-it-seems-to-be underwater drama,” says Werner. “A mini grid of MiniPlus units was our only lighting. Throughout the whole movie, Litepanels fixtures were always the perfect main key lighting for Ed.
“Steve and I both own Litepanels MiniPlus kits,” Werner adds. “We always have them as our ‘go to’ tools. They are versatile, give off great light and produce a tremendous amount of light for such a small footprint.”
Battery-operated, Litepanels MiniPlus is a compact, dimmable LED softlight, available in daylight (flood and spot) and tungsten (flood) models that run cool and provide soft, directional output and smooth dimming from 100% to 0.
Written and directed by Todd Robinson, Phantom is inspired by actual events. The story follows an emotionally haunted captain (Ed Harris) of a Soviet submarine who holds the fate of the world in his hands when he’s challenged by a KGB rogue group bent on seizing the ship’s nuclear missile. It opens in theaters across the U.S. on March 1, 2013.