Practical Lighting in Cinematography: Insights from James Friend ASC, BSC and Gaffer Harlon Haveland

Following the new release of our LunaBulb, we spoke with Cinematographer James Friend ASC, BSC, and Gaffer Harlon Haveland to discover how they’ve been using these innovative new ‘practical’ lights, and what they think of them.

Launching the LunaBulb

Which is why we were so excited to talk with Cinematographer James Friend ASC, BSC and Gaffer Harlon Haveland – two respected industry experts – about our newly released LunaBulb. Launched on 4th June, the LunaBulb is deceptively simple; what appears to be a traditional lightbulb from the outside is actually packed inside with all of Astera’s expertise and innovation; creating a lightbulb that can be controlled with absolute precision – both in terms of colour and brightness – using CRMX, Astera’s intuitive app, BTB link or using Astera’s White and FX Remotes. A slip-on fascia changes the light between a slim and ‘conventional’ bulb style, whilst the accompanying PrepCase allows for ultra-quick setup and synching. Put together, these features deliver a light that is perfect for maintaining the illusion of realistic ‘diegetic’ lighting on set, whilst in reality delivering all of the control, precision and flexibility that gaffers need from a practical perspective.

It was exactly this point regarding flexibility and control which BAFTA and Academy Award-winning James Friend latched on to in his interview with us. James has worked on productions such as All Quiet on the Western Front, so he knows what it means to add atmosphere and mood through lighting. Speaking of the LunaBulb, he identified how this new innovation helps cinematographers return to a more ‘pure’ vision: "Practical lighting is essential on set for authenticity. In earlier times, when cameras were less sensitive and lights dimmer, enhancing the scene with supplementary lighting outside the frame was crucial."

This means the traditional way of achieving the appearance of diegetic lighting is cumbersome and time-consuming. But with the power and control of the LunaBulb, James identified that it’s more than possible to use the LunaBulb as not only diegetic lighting, but as the single lighting source overall. And time and ease are not the only things that the LunaBulb does better than the conventional approach; James also identified that the overall aesthetic of the shot was far preferable: "With conventional bulbs the output is very sharp and quite unflattering on actor’s skin. What’s absolutely magnificent with LunaBulbs is that you can dim them down in less than one-degree increments, it gives you total control without any colour temperature shift”.

Harlon Haveland – who has lit the Marvel, Bond and Witcher universes, to name but a few – expanded on these ideas in terms of the atmospheric value and the time spent on set trying to make traditional lights work. He said: “Practical lights are important because they add story to a scene. They illuminate the face, which makes it makes it more moody, so you’re not really relying too much on a big film light coming in and blowing everything out”.

However, when it comes to achieving that through conventional means, Harlon explained that not only would one need a dimmer desk, but they would need to cycle through tungsten bulb wattages, which was not only time consuming, but means the gaffer would need to maintain a large box of glass, which is expensive and subject to damage, as well as risking being potentially insufficient on a large lighting job.

Fully endorsing James’ support, Harlon concluded, “I would 100% recommend LunaBulbs to other people, as they’re an essential part of the kit now, you know, the way it renders on camera, how authentic it looks, the rendition of colour, and the accuracy of colour, and the luminance as well, with the LunaBulb you have complete flexibility.”

If you’d like to watch the interview, you may find it here: