Stranger Things - Netflix

Movie

With a title like Stranger Things, one might expect a world that’s intense, mysterious and dark. And one would be exactly right.

However, dark isn’t always metaphorical; the Netflix series often takes literal forays into the dead of night, darkened rooms, and ink black tunnels.  When it was time to shine a light into the void, the Stranger Things lighting team turned to RC4 Wireless.  “On Season 2, we were told a couple days into principal photography that there was going to be a lot more lighting effects than Season 1, especially involving flashlights and other custom-build fixtures. Not only that, but we were going to need to start to modify the flashlights not just to flicker and pulse on command, but to swell and get brighter during the scene.  And all of this had to happen in a much smaller package so it could easily be carried in a flashlight by multiple members of the cast,” explains Jeff Harkes, Lighting Console Programmer – Stranger Things 2.

To make those flashlights work, Harkes and his co-conspirator on set, Fixtures Foreman Antimo Ponticello, turned to the LumenDimM2micro from RC4 Wireless. “The LumenDimM2micro was a good choice for this project because it’s a Swiss Army knife for portable applications of this nature. Because of its size [2.9” x .77” x .4.3”], it is the obvious answer, but it’s also extremely responsive on a cue. The LumenDimM2micro’s CRMX integration through the LumenRadio transmitters and its ability to be remotely managed with RDM is unparalleled right now.  There isn’t anything like it on the market for portable handheld lighting control,” Harkes states. The LumenDimM2micro features two channels of dimming, includes multiple PWM frequencies, as well as the majority of the RC4Magic Harmonized Design features that RC4 Wireless users know and love.

To create the flashlights, “We basically made it all fit into the flashlight sleeve and soldered it all back together so that the power signal from the RC4 dimmer was feeding the flashlight directly. That gave us full control to flicker, pulse, swell or dim the bulb on command all while allowing the actors to complete their actions unencumbered by wires up their sleeves or having to rely solely on visual effects to complete the look,” says Harkes.

Intensity control was also critical to the show. “This came in handy in a lot of applications — not only was Jeff able to run any effects he had programmed on the lighting console through the RC4 LumenDimM2micro we built into the flashlight, but we could also turn it off or dim the bulb down between takes to save the lithium batteries.  Being able to dim the bulb would allow us to set the level for the camera and it took some of the responsibility of handling the flashlights out of the hands of the actors by letting us handle that remotely,” explains Ponticello.

There are over a dozen flashlights used on Stranger Things. Harkes notes: “Each flashlight across the whole show acted as its own separate project.  No solution was going to work perfectly for all of the flashlights so each one had to be approached in its own way.  However, in the end, every flashlight ended up using a LumenDimM2micro.”

This is the second year with RC4 on Stranger Things. Harkes explains: “In Season 1 the work with the RC4 LumenDims started in episode 1 with the bike lights. Jim Dornemann, our Dimmer Board Operator, wanted to use the RC4’s to control the lights on the bicycles remotely during the scenes. We did, and it went off without a hitch.”

As for the future, Harkes notes, “RC4’s products can really solve some of the common problems that we face every day in dealing with fixtures.  Their technology is reliable and their customer support is very knowledgeable, helpful, and very quick to respond.”

As Stranger Things 2 moves into the future, RC4 Wireless will be there, helping them illuminate the cast’s forays into the darkness and the Upside Down.