Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blinded By The Light.

"Hey guys," the Gaffer's voice came over the radio. "We're getting some complaints from people about being blinded when we turn on the lights. Can we please try to remember to call it out when we're hitting the switch? Thank you."

His very pleasantly phrased criticism didn't surprise me. I was more than halfway through the day on this new-to-me crew and I noticed early on that the other lamp ops almost never called out "Striking!" or "Watch your eyes!" before they turned on a light they just set.* I guess we've just been so busy that none of the guys thought anything of it. Besides, anyone who's been on set for a while (and I mean, on set. Not watching from the safe confines of video village.) knows not to look directly at a light right after it's been put down and plugged in. Of course we're going to turn it on. It's not like we're putting them on set because we thought the lamps could use a change of scenery.

Anyway, we acknowledge the note and got back to business as usual. A few minutes later, I bring a blonde in and aim it at the set as instructed. I plug it in and right before I hit the switch, I belt out a hearty and courteous "Striking! Watch your eyes!"

To my surprise** almost everyone on the set looked over just as I snapped on the 2K light; blinding them all in what was essentially a pretty dark room.

Sigh. I shook my head. Announcing you're going to turn on a light is like walking into a room and telling people not to look. Of course everyone's going to look! And then half of them realize what a stupid mistake they just made as they blink furiously in an attempt to regain their vision, while the other half complains to the Gaffer that they keep getting blinded.

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.


* We're supposed to call out a warning as a courtesy so people can look away instead of being blinded by the light.

** Not really. This happens way more than you'd think.

Okay, so there are a few ways around this:

1) You could give a slight pause between the warning and flipping the switch. People will still look over at you, but hopefully they'll realize what's about to happen and quickly look away.

2) If possible, turn on the light with the barn doors closed and open the leaves one by one so the light doesn't hit people all at once. (Note: Some Gaffers will hate this and some colleagues will think you're an idiot who forgets to check the barn doors before turning on a light.) Alternatively, if the light's small enough, you could put your own hand in front of it and remove it once it's on.

3) Specifically warn the person who's in your line of fire ("Hey Samantha. Close your eyes/look away because I'm about to turn on this light."). But that's a kind of time consuming and harder for a new dayplayer to do if he/she doesn't know everyone yet.

4) Some Gaffers will let you wait (or even prefer) until the Grips throw some diffusion in front of the light before you turn it on to soften the blinding. However, some Gaffers don't like having anything in front of the light at all before they get a chance to focus it in.

5) Just blind them. They'll eventually learn to look away before it's too late.


Michael Taylor said...

I usually try to point the lamp towards the sky or down into the ground when striking, so it won't blind anybody on set, then tilt it slowly to the desired aim, giving people a chance to avert their eyes. There haven't had any complaints when I remember to do this -- only when I forget...

A.J. said...

Michael - That's one I forgot to add in. Thanks for the tip!

Allison said...

This is cool!

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