Off The Grid is a short documentary by Soul Rebel Films set in Sandwip where no state electricity exists. For this shoot, solar energy typically used to power homes in this remote island in Bangladesh was used to power efficient, flexible and discreet low energy lighting. Director of Photography, Susanne Salavati, tells us about her experiences below.

‘Electricity was always going to be a major challenge when shooting Off The Grid. We stayed in the main town complex in Sandwip, where they have the maximum amount of solar energy available. However even here the supply was limited, intermittent and just enough for us to charge batteries and download footage. Obtaining enough power to use regular film lighting was never going to be an option, especially when entering the houses of the local people we planned to interview and film observationally. Each household fortunate enough to have a solar panel can only generate enough power to run 2-3 low wattage light bulbs and charge a mobile phone.

The second biggest challenge was gaining access to people, earning their trust and shooting in their homes. Sandwip is a heavily religious, predominantly Islamic island, many of the women live alone because their husbands work abroad and there is a definite sense of caution and vulnerability. Local people were very intimidated and somewhat suspicious of any camera and lighting equipment and even more so of the attention it could easily attract. News travels fast in a place where people live communally.

For both of these reasons, along with the fact that the film is predominantly about an island that lives in darkness, we chose to shoot with natural light as much as possible. The Ice light and the additional battery were an invaluable addition to our mobile, low energy shooting kit. It allowed us to shoot two hour-long interviews where necessary without disruption, running off the batteries alone. It was reliable, compact but simultaneously punchy and very easy to rig. I was impressed with the durability of the Ice light considering the hot and humid conditions of Sandwip and taking into account the rapid set-ups and breakdowns we had to execute. The intensity and dimmer controls meant that I could create beautiful light in a short space of time when using it direct with some grid cloth or by bouncing it off ultra-bounce. The versatility of the Ice light allowed me to create subtle lighting in environments where there was very little natural light entering the space. The discrete size of the Ice light meant that it went relatively un-noticed allowing subjects to feel at ease within sensitive situations.’

Technical Info

The Ice Light is a portable, dimmable, daylight-balanced, continuous LED light source with a built-in battery. The LED array is flicker free and the rounded design gives you a reliable daylight source. The custom-designed curved front of the Icelight has a 72º wide beam spread.

The built-in battery runs for 60 minutes at full power and recharges in less than 2.5 hours. The Ice Light can be run off AC or DC power, and can even be used while charging from a standard power socket. If you need to squeeze more life from the battery, we can supply you with an extra battery pack.

More info here.