Home Cinematography Filmmaker’s Spotlight – Tenebrae Lux

Filmmaker’s Spotlight – Tenebrae Lux

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Ryan Boran’s opening title to his trailer stating “one person, three cameras, around the world to make a science fiction film” says a lot. As a result, Tenebrae Lux is a very cool looking sci-fi film that takes place in various locations around the world, from his apartment in Brooklyn, to Peru, California, Bolivia, Chile, the Bahamas, and even Iceland. How many low-budget films even make it past the front door, let alone around the world? Ryan Boran is an inspiration to the indie filmmaking community, and we want to congratulate him for getting selected for this month’s Filmmakers Spotlight.

Tenebrae Lux

Ryan hails from Florida and currently lives in NYC. His first feature film, Devils and Dust, inspired him to make another one immediately following its completion. With a degree in Ecology and Evolution, Ryan has always had a passion for science. He decided to make his next movie science fiction because he felt it was a great genre to demonstrate his creative writing and effect work. Tenebrae Lux was created on a shoestring budget, funding everything out-of-pocket, and taking advantage of credit card perks such as frequent flyer miles and worldwide rewards.

Like other indie filmmakers, Ryan needed to save money where he could. He wore many hats in his production, serving as the Producer, Writer, Editor, Director, DP and Lead Actor. Although it might seem impossible by most to accomplish this, he took on many of these roles simultaneously. By using a three camera set-up and some unique editing techniques, the viewer would never know that Tenebrae Lux is a one-man band production. At times, when Ryan was acting without any extras nearby to stand in, he would place a tripod at his mark, pull focus, roll camera and then run into the scene for action.

Tenebrae Lux

Most of the film was shot using his Canon 5D Mark IIs. A few pick up shots were done with a GoPro and some additional underwater shots were produced with a Sony camcorder model HDR-SR11 and an underwater housing by Sony. As in most low budget productions, Ryan used what he had available to him, filming with three prime lenses by Canon: the EF 24mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4, and the 85mm 1.2. Not only was Ryan doing everything on set, he was also his own sherpa, carrying all of his gear from country to country, which required careful selection of each accessory for the trip. In bigger productions, Ryan felt that it can be so easy to get wrapped up in all the gear, but for his needs, the smaller and lighter the better.

While shooting his film, a monitor would have been handy to have, but Ryan could not afford the extra weight and hassle with more batteries. So instead, he used a Zacuto Z-finder and trained his eye to adjust to a smaller image.

Using a matte box to hold filters in place is a staple for most Hollywood cinematographers. Instead of carrying such a bulky item, Ryan opted to use the much smaller Variable ND Lens by Genustech and their rubberized collapsible hoods with step up rings.

Genustech Lens Hood for ND Fader Circular Filter System 82mm

Genustech Lens Hood for ND Fader Circular Filter System 82mm

To help with the sun on his wider 24mm lens, he also made good use of what is known as a French flag assembly (made by Dinkum Systems) to act as a lens shade and eliminate any stray light.

Dinkum Systems CINE Screw Mount lens shade (French flag)

Dinkum Systems CINE Screw Mount lens shade (French flag)

Lighting in countries with different voltages while still trying to keep his backpack lightweight could have been a disaster, but not for this guy. He took this on as a challenge of pre-planning and tried to be as resourceful as he could. Before traveling, he purchased a bag of LED light bulbs usually used to light car dashboards. He then connected the LEDs to a series of watch batteries using electrical tape and clothespins. This small, inexpensive DIY gear work around provided Ryan with long lasting light for accent lighting.

Vidpro Professional Photo & Video LED Light Kit

Vidpro Professional Photo & Video LED Light Kit

One of the many benefits of shooting with the 5D Mark II is its adaptability to low-light conditions. Using the 5D’s strengths, Ryan was able to get away with smaller portable LED light panels to light up his scenes while using gels to make for a more interesting look and feel.

Beach Screen Grab_sm

Wherever Ryan could, he used practical elements to help create the special effects for the scene. For example, during this jungle scene in the Bahamas, he was able to create all of the effects on location. To produce the effect of glowing sap coming out of a tree, Ryan rigged up tubing into the branches overhead and used the liquid from industrial strength glow sticks (typically used for diving) to appear as glowing sap coming out of the tree itself.

Jungle Screen Grab

When Ryan didn’t feel as though getting the shot he needed in field was practical, he made use of green screen techniques in studio. For example, this shot would have required an additional cameraman to dive down at least 85 feet in open water. Instead, Ryan chose to create this scene in his Brooklyn studio.

Swimming Screen Grab

Tenebrae Lux has recently been submitted into several major film festivals. As a result, we cannot show you the full-length feature here, but we can share the trailer. Let’s check it out:


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Brendan July 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM

This is awesome. When you really want to do something, go out and do it. Can’t wait to see the final film!

Matt Jacobs July 14, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Very inspiring stuff. I thought first of the Carlos Reygadas film when I saw the title, but noticed this is something else. Will have to check it out!




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