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From Big Screen to Wider World

When transferring skills within industries, it is not a leap into the unknown but discovering a language that connects both sides.

Melissa Byers is our new Lighting Designer at Michael Grubb Studio. She brings a wealth of experience as a photographer, cinematographer and stereographer, in 3D, in 2D for film and television.

Melissa has worked on projects that include, major films such as “Gravity”, documentaries such as David Attenborough’s 3D project, “Conquest Of The Skies” and lighting iconic structures such as the London Eye.

Whilst Melissa’s career has been working with light it has been within different mediums.

This now represents the next natural step in Melissa’s career progression.

From working with 3D, Melissa was able to create depth. With 2D she was able to craft light to give the illusion of space. She now makes a step into the world of architectural lighting design. A world that represents a sense of realism where depth, light and space intertwine affecting people in the moment they’re in.

What is different, what is the same?

Let us find out the similarities and the differences from the world of film and TV to the world Melissa now settles into.

Whilst lighting is the connection, where are the biggest differences from cinema to architectural design? Melissa explains, “I would have to say that the lights themselves present the biggest variance. In the world of film, light fittings that are seen are regarded as ‘practicals.’ The actual light source is out of shot, so when it comes to location lighting, you select a source, a keylight, that maybe much larger and then you control it in a myriad of different ways to get the effect you want.”

“Access to lighting within the world of film normally means top of the range, expensive lighting from a smaller number of key suppliers. In the world of lighting design, the options are much more plentiful.”

“As a cinematographer work requires a sense of speed. For instance, when working on Tim Burton’s, Corpse Bride, I may have been working on four or five sets at a time.  You light every shot for each lens or camera angle and so gain a lot of lighting experience in a short space of time.”

As Melissa becomes settled in her new role, are there lessons already learnt that can be transferred to architectural lighting design? Whilst we believe, at Michael Grubb Studio, the importance of being brave and trusting our instincts, Melissa recognised the importance of keeping the needle moving. She says, “My decision to move from one discipline to another is based on the fact that we all need to keep innovating.”

“When you spend your working life within one aspect, you become embroiled in what you are doing, perhaps life starts to become too routine driven. We all have to keep challenging the obvious.”

In the world of film, there was a filmmaking movement called Dogme. They created a set of rules to abide by opposing some of the well-known conventions in filmmaking.  Out of limitation comes innovation.” 

“If you have limitations you are encouraged to use your imagination and think more freely.”

The open book

Melissa recognised that within the world of TV and film the sharing of knowledge could sometimes be closely guarded. How does she see this in her new future as a lighting design?

Melissa explained, “We can all learn if people share their experiences”

“There is a real openness from the Michael Grubb Studio team where everyone is prepared to share. There is so much for me to learn from others and to impart from my career. It’s good to bring in tools that I use such as my colour light meter and to be able to use it alongside becoming familiar with terminology from an architectural side.”

“It is not learning a new language, it is about applying what you have learned to a new environment. It has been unusual working in an office. Rather appealing in contrast to a 6am start in a muddy field somewhere on location in winter – although I’m still happy to do that!  At Michael Grubb Studio having a studio space to test lights and use the stills camera on location visiting clients in an industrial unit, brings me back to familiar territory. I feel at home – just like a studio location at Shepperton or Pinewood.”

Time to bring to a close

It does not matter on what side of the industry fence that you reside, light is meaningless without purpose.

Whether you’re creating a narrative or focusing on a physical space, it all comes down to making a connection with someone else.