Great Cinematographers Part 2-Owen Roizman

It’s often the case in popular culture that only posthumously do we acknowledge certain artists.  This is despite the fact that as far as the medium of film goes, we are impacted by their works for a lifetime.  We view examples of their craft repeatedly and they become a part of our culture.  However, sometimes credit is given when it should be.  This is the case with legendary film cinematographer Owen Roizman.  owen-roizman-07

Roizman is responsible for such iconic films as The Exorcist (1973), The Electric Horseman (1979), Tootsie (1982), Havana (1990), Grand Canyon (1991), Wyatt Earp (1994) and many others.  Each demonstrates in its own way the influence of light on the canvas of film.  Each are examples of the hundreds of decisions that must be made by an artist as he decides to use color and light in particular to help convey a story or illustrate a scheme or character.

Owen Roizman was born in 1936, in Brooklyn, New York, as son of the Sol Roizman, a newsreel  for Fox Movie tone News.  Later, he graduated from Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania with a BS in Physics & Math.  In 1997 Roizman won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers for his work in film.  Some of his most influential works are:

The Exorcist (1973):exorcist  In this iconic horror movie Roizman uses special backlighting to illustrate Linda Blair’s bedroom as she is supposed to be inhabited by the devil.  The people who enter the room are supposed to be entering a place that is cold, eerie and forbidding.  Backlighting helps in this case to create atmosphere and to also give the room itself character.  Roizman’s use of sparse lighting in this scene was also practical as strong lights would have heated up a room that was supposed to be cold enough for each entrant to see his or her breath.

The French Connection (1971):  In this movie Roizman uses the very simple but effective technique of actually spray painting a bulb in an already dimly lit bar scene in order to create a grungy mood.

Three Days of the Condor (1975):  In this movie Roizman says that he used, “four #2 photofloods on the backs of actual streetlight to give them a bit of modeling.”  Here he also says he used dimmers to accentuate the feeling of movement and changing light during certain dramatic scenes.Three Days of the Condor

Finally, Roizman is one of the rare artists whose work is appreciated by many in his time and not just after he has passed which is all too often the case.  This is perhaps because of how important film and storytelling is in our culture and how lighting contributes to filmmaking.


The Importance of Lighting in Theatre Productions

                                                                               “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes peo42nd-Streetple to make the dream a reality.” ~ Walt Disney

Think about any play you’ve ever attended.  Think about how the best plays you’ve seen stuck out in your mind and made a lasting impression on you.  You’re probably recalling the actor’s performances, story, the direction, the moral and the plot.  But enhancing all of these elements of any and every play is lighting.  Lighting is one of the most important, yet at the same time underappreciated, parts of any production.  It is more than just being able to see the play and the actors.  It is the medium through which entire plays hinge.  Lighting is critical in conveying the proper atmosphere.  It is essential in setting the time and place, mood and focus of the play.  Lighting pulls all the elements of a play together and helps the director convey his/her message.  The director works intimately with the lighting people to help it enhance and embrace the story.

Today, as in all aspects of life, technology plays a huge role in making it easier for directors and lighting designers to enhance the set (and various actors, scenes, etc.)  This is why tools such as wireless dimmers have become so common place in both major and minor productions.  What is wireless DMX (DMX512)?  Wireless DMX is a system used to transmit light data without using traditional wireline DMX cables.  It is used in many venues because it is more convenient, practical and versatile that any system that preceded it.  Thus, it is used in theme parks, concerts and other events as well.  Its features make it particularly useful when lighting theatre productions.  A play depends on the elements of lighting to create or enhance a mood in a way that book cannot.  Our wireless DMX systems are designed to send data across Wi-Fi radio links to control when lights are turned on and off.  Thus wireless DMX systems can even help create the illusion of light being animated.  In other words, they give professionals who control the lighting at concerts, plays and other large scale productions a freedom in setting a scene that they would otherwise not possess.

At Ratpac Dimmers, we manufacture our own state of the art dimmers for use by a variety of industries.  We design equipment that is compact, durable and affordable.  We even rent equipment where budget is a major concern for businesses.  So, the next time you see a play think about the lighting that changed from scene to scene.  The next time you attend a concert think about how the light was nearly a performer in and of itself.  Think about those things and our more than 20 years of experience the next time you need lighting equipment.

Strand Lighting: The Journey Between Then and Now

It didn’t just happen overnight.  Phillips Strand Lighting Company evolved from the dream of two London born electricians – Arthur Earnshaw and Phillip Sheridan to what it is today – a high tech provider and developer of electrical components and systems known the world over.  Of course early 20th century technology was primitive compared to today’s digital circuitry and the company’s Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) technology, but the commitment to service, innovation and excellence are those intangibles that have not changed.  They have not changed from what began then and continues now and into the future.  However, the trip between there and here is an interesting one as few great companies simply spring up overnight without a past or story to share.

Strand Lighting’s journey began in the heart of London’s Theatreland in 1914 when it was originally Strand Electric.  Arthur Earnshaw and Phillip Sheridan set uPiccadilly at nightp the company then to produce lighting supplies, fixtures and controls for the entertainment industry.  It quickly became an integral part of London’s cultural fabric.  In 1923 it installed the famous ‘Centre of the World’ façade in London’s Piccadilly Circus.  By 1929 Century Lighting opened in New York Theatre district (Broadway) to expand its reputation for innovation it had already begun.  By 1936 – after innovations such as the Strand light console and the first 1kW and 500W ellipsoidal profile spots – Strand Electric Company becomes a public company – Strand Electric Holdings Limited.  By the late 1960’s both Strand and Century lighting were bought by Rank Film Corporation and renamed Rand Strand Electric and Strand Century.  (Strand was eventually bought in the 1990s and sold to the Genlyte Group in 2006.)

In 2008 Strand Lighting became a part of Phillips.  Philips Strand Lighting along with Philips Vari-lite and Philips Selecon are part of the Philips Entertainment group.  Today Strand Lighting has teams based throughout Europe, Asia and America.  Ratpac Dimmers shares the same commitment to excellence and service that Phillips Strand Lighting Company does.  We are experts who can easily service Strand Dimmers.  Strand Dimmer repair is a complicated job that should only be entrusted to a company committed to exceptional service.  At Ratpac Dimmers we strive to gain your trust and to show you that our commitment is similar to those two men who started Strand Lighting all those decades ago.