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Members talk about their work...
Lighting for Inner Peace
John Gates talks about lighting the PBS Special

By John Gates, Gates Service Group

How It All Started: This spring, director Tedd Tramaloni asked me to light the PBS special program Inner Peace For Busy People and a companion piece The Power Of The Mind To Heal. I thought that Inner Peace was something that all of us in the television & motion picture business really need and said 'Yes'.

This program is typical PBS pledge-time programming. An expert, often a best selling author, tells the home viewer (you) and a studio audience some useful information in an engaging way, and they usually have a new book to back it up. Inner Peace had all of that. From the Hay House web site (production partner): Dr. Joan Borysenko, founder and president of Mind/Body Health Sciences, Inc., shares ways to be more creative, productive and relaxed in a hectic world?... Author of ten books, including the New York Times best-seller, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, Borysenko is a licensed clinical psychologist [and a Doctor of Medical Sciences, Harvard Medical School - ed.]. Through science, anecdotes, humor and psychology, she integrates mind, body and spirit in a unique and powerful way.?

A Little History: Tedd & I are no strangers to this PBS program format as we had collaborated a few years back on Suze Orman - The Courage To Be Rich, produced in the studios at KTCA, St. Paul, MN during a VERY cold January. Suze is Oprah's financial guru and I felt, since I had the courage to be poor all these years, I might as well try rich. Tedd and I had a good time on that program and made some very attractive pictures together, so I was looking forward to working with him again.

Inner Peace also gave me the chance to work with Set Designer Mary Laurie Shea again. Among other projects, Mary & I had worked together on two earlier PBS special programs with Dr. Ned Hallowell: Worry: Controlling It & Using It Wisely and Connect: The Power Of Human Relationships. Both programs were shot on location in the beautiful wood-paneled library of a mansion on Massachusetts? North Shore. Inner Peace would be a studio shoot.

The Design Approach: Mary, Tedd and I worked extensively with the program producers, Niki Vettel & Dennis Allen, in pre-production. Based on these discussions, Mary designed a very ethereal and open set that was fun, and a bit of a challenge, to light. Starting with a surround (soft) cyc lit with shades of blue and very subtle patterns, Mary designed set pieces with opaque, translucent and transparent components to create and contain the performance space for Joan. These set pieces allowed many opportunities for me to add layers of color and out-of-focus patterns, enhancing both the dimensionality of the space seen on-camera and the desired open feeling, supporting the program content.

Tedd & Mary worked to ensure plenty of separation of the performance area from the rest of the set, so that I could light Joan Borysenko in the most attractive manner possible, without wiping out the lighting texture I added to the set.

I used a conventional tungsten lighting package in Hearst-Argyle Television Productions' Studio C (at WCVB, Needham, MA). Three linear arrays of softlights attractively created the exposure and desired face shadow quality on Joan. These arrays gave me a coherent, yet gentle ?push? on the primary close-up camera angle and some controllable fill to ease the transition to the over-the-shoulder shots that included the audience. Two large, but not bright, crossed backlights (more for hair detail than any real separation) and some high angle, low intensity side lights (more hair detail) and the talent lighting was complete.

PBS is big on audience shots, lots & lots of audience shots: clean singles, groups and over-the-shoulder with the primary talent in the foreground. The base of the audience lighting was side light, so they would not have to look into, or through, too many lights to see Joan. There was some high angle, soft, fill from the front and some backlight to separate them from the dark background seen behind them on-camera. In all we used just over 160 lights for the entire show.

Its A Wrap: Inner Peace For Busy People had its initial broadcast during the August 2001 PBS Pledge Week and I?m sure it will be playing during pledge time in the upcoming months. The Power Of The Mind To Heal is a companion videotape program available to ?members just like you? who pledge to their local PBS television station during Inner Peace broadcasts.

Inner Peace was co-produced by RealityCheck & ZMedia and presented by Hay House, in association with WNED/Buffalo. My long-time friend Mike DiIeso was the Assistant LD and we were assisted by electricians Mark Casey & Bob Colman.

More Program Participant Information:

John Gates is Principal of Gates Service Group, Inc., which specializes in lighting design and consultation for television and film. He can be reached at 508-651-7889, liteguy@bu.edu.

Posted: 27 November 2001
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
blamm@cync.com