Film & TV Lighting

Mad Max Fury Road

“I love working at speed, so anything that helps me to do that is very advantageous. Creamsource is so quick to adjust – you can change them quickly and easily between takes, which minimises fuss and distraction for the actors and director. ”

John Seale’s list of cinematography credits is impressive, to say the least. Among other notable titles he shot The English Patient, Rain Man, The Talented Mr Ripley, Cold Mountain, Dead Poets Society and Gorillas in the Mist (as well as the cult classic BMX Bandits), working along the way with talented directors such as Peter Weir, Michael Apted, Sydney Pollack, Rob Reiner, Anthony Minghella and Barry Levinson.

For the project Mad Max: Fury Road, he inherited a pre-arranged camera and lighting set-up – which saw him shoot digital for the first time, and light a tight set with Creamsource LED lighting units. While on his travels recently, John very kindly took time out to tell us about his experience on this unique shoot.

I was asked to shoot Mad Max: Fury Road at quite short notice, so the kit and crew were already settled. This included ARRI ALEXA cameras, which would signify the first time I had shot in digital negative, and we also had some prototype 3D cameras that Kennedy Mitchell Miller were building.

The 3D cameras meant we would require a lot of light in the form of HMI’s to balance the interior to exterior, especially since much of the film was shot inside trucks. We needed a lot of lighting power in the trucks, and we knew it would be quite a challenge to get the contrast ratio and balance between the 3D and 2D cameras. A short time into the project, George decided to omit the 3D cameras; that took the veil off our lighting issue and we were able to contemplate the LEDs that Shaun [Conway, the gaffer] had in his package, to balance the light. It reduced the amount of light we needed, so apart from a few occasions where we used a larger source, we could do everything in tight with handheld units.

This was where the Creamsource+ lights really came to the fore. With multiple cameras and a small set, space was extremely limited. The Creamsource lights had plenty of power and were actually well-suited to the set situation, since they were small and lightweight enough to be held by hand or squeezed between cameras. Shaun could lift the lights up and out of the way, and the movement created shadows that showed that the trucks were moving and the lighting conditions outside were changing – even though 95% of the time the trucks were static.

I had first used LED lights on The Tourist, balancing them with Kino Flo lights, which worked very well. LED technology was just coming in, and they really brought a special sparkle to the actors’ eyes.  A couple of years later I came across Creamsource lights and found them extremely adaptable.

I love working at speed, so anything that helps me to do that is very advantageous. Creamsource is so quick to adjust – you can change them quickly and easily between takes, which minimises fuss and distraction for the actors and director.

Creamsource would be well up the list on any lighting package I put together now. The versatility is phenomenal, they are always the first lights we put out and the last ones we put away. If you’re using them on a stand, they are lightweight and you can change the height very easily. Once you get in close, the Creamsource style of light unit is great for manoeuvrability – which is exactly what we needed on Mad Max: Fury Road.