Hue Bulbs and the Indie Renaissance by Cameron Caves

Right now, we’re on the brink of a Renaissance. With services like Netflix and Hulu starting to create their own series, and deals for platform exclusive films, (such as Adam Sandler’s Netflix contract) there is plenty of space in the digital marketplace for films, and television level programming. In fact, Harmony Korine, a well-known film director, has made a short documentary, ‘Alone In The Woods’, and one third of the film ‘The Fourth Dimension’, made in collaboration with two other filmmakers, which are both Internet exclusive to the VICE website and YouTube channel. This, combined with the lowering cost of filmmaking equipment, is making for interesting, innovative filmmaking. Stories that were taboo, or silenced, or weren’t told fifteen years ago, can now be written, filmed, directed, and edited by the same auteur. The low budget distribution studio, A24 is one of my favorites, and they constantly put out these art pieces (‘Spring Breakers’, ‘Locke’, ‘Enemy’, to name a few). Soon other small studios will follow suit. Films aren’t nearly as unreasonably expensive to produce as they were in the past. These lower budget studios, such as A24, have a massive profit margin, and the large studios are noticing. All of these elements, the easily available platforms to distribute films, the availability of filmmaking equipment, and the availability of the filmmakers themselves, are all working together to create a fertile creative environment, that in the next five years is only going to increase the potential for filmmaking. I’ll go more in depth about this in a future article, but to call it a Renaissance is not an understatement.

One such easily available, reasonably priced pieces of filmmaking equipment is the recently released PHILIPS Hue light bulbs. Lighting, as any other one element of filmmaking, is a very important aspect of the story. It sets the tone, (such as the blue lighting in any psychological thriller to come out in the last ten years) it can enhance the method in which exposition is delivered, or it can create relationships between scenes and emotions. (Such as the orange light emanating from the briefcase in ‘Pulp Fiction’) For a long time, lighting for filmmaking was incredibly expensive, sold by few retailers, and difficult to manipulate. In the age of LEDs, however, it is much easier to acquire, and manipulate lighting. The lighting from LEDs, and products that use LED lights don’t feel cinematic; they feel cheap, and flat. This can be used to the filmmakers advantage, but oftentimes, more often than not, the LED lighting just looks wrong. The only real modifiers are diffusers, reflectors, and other methods of covering the light source with a fabric or piece of partially translucent material. Philips is an American electronics company. Recently, Philips released a series of LED based light bulbs (multiple LEDs contained in one light bulb) that have revolutionary features that could, if applied correctly, forever change the process of lighting in filmmaking.

The Hue bulbs have an accompanying app for smartphones, which allows you to control the features easily. One of the unique features is the user can control the brightness of the bulbs. Another feature is that you can control the bulb’s color. No, not twelve or eighteen colors. Thousands. Any color that can be embedded in html can be used in the Hue bulbs. In fact, you can click a spot on a photo and the bulbs will change to that color! You can even control the color of each individual light bulbs. Meaning, that if you crafted a crude light board of nine of these bulbs (the starter pack comes with three), you could potentially have nine different colors lighting the actor’s face in a scene. Or nine different shades of orange. Or three shades of yellow, two shades of pink, two shades of orange, one white bulb, and one blue. This technology could be massively useful in filmmaking. They’re even relatively cheap: The starter pack, which contains three Hue bulbs, is $200. Compared to lighting boxes that cost several thousand dollars, this is nothing. Even with a very low budget film (less than $10,000), the investments in these incredibly useful, incredibly cheap lights is worth the budget. The ability to change colors and dimness alone with the touch of a button is worth far more than the other lighting setups. Think of your favorite scene from your favorite film. Think about how many colors are used to light that scene. Think about the implications of using more colors in that scene. What emotions would that evoke? How would the use of those colors impact the story? The way this technology could be implemented, and used in films, such as those distributed by A24, is intriguing, sure to be innovative, and will undoubtedly change the way that lighting, and colors are utilized in future filmmaking. The Hue light bulbs, and the filmmakers that will use them, are sure to be artists of the upcoming Indie Renaissance.