For its third season, the sitcom The Hughleys is changing networks, from ABC to UPN. But other than that, it will be the same old show: same cast, same director of photography - Bruce Finn - and the same GAM Box. "I was on The Hughleys from the beginning, from the pilot," says Finn. "I had been developing some sort of diffusion box for quite some time before, in all kinds of disposable versions. When it got to be what is now called the GAM Box [pictured], it was between the first and second seasons."
The impetus to create the unit came from Finn's preference for "really soft, pretty, projected light," he says. "My background is in single-camera feature work and commercials, where we'd often start by banging Maxi Brutes through an 8'x12' frame of light grid for a big, soft source. When I started doing more studio and multiple-camera work, I noticed most people were doing very traditional, back-crosskey kinds of techniques. I thought I could get a much more natural, flattering look in single-camera style, but the problem is, when you have an audience and a camera aisle and so forth, you can't put any lighting equipment on the floor.
"So I thought," Finn continues, "what if I got a big, soft, projected bank of light up and out of the way? Build a piece of equipment you can put PAR cans into and project through diffusion to get soft frontlight into the actors' eyes, and put it into a package that you can hang from pipe or stirrups under the green beds." After he came up with such a unit, tentatively named the Finn Box, he met with Joe Tawil of GAM Products. "I'm a big user of GAM's patterns on my shows," says Finn. "We got together for lunch, I explained the diffusion box to him, and five minutes later, he said, `You need a partner.'"
Tawil and his company work closely with Finn on manufacturing and making improvements to the redubbed GAM Box, and they aggressively took on marketing it to other lighting professionals. GAM has also helped Finn develop a second product, the Top Box, "basically a horizontal version of the GAM Box, a foldable, lightweight modular diffusion box that takes the place of a chicken coop or any kind of rig you would build yourself. It's rugged and fireproof, you can put whatever kind of instruments you want in it - one nook light or 10 PAR cans. I put two in each sitcom set, and three lamps in each. One lamp is half-blue for night, two are clean for day, and I put those two at half for dusk."
As for the GAM Box, Finn also used it recently as a source for CBS's fall promotional campaign, which combined 60 of the network's stars - photographed on separate occasions - into one motion-control greenscreen shot. "We did it on a Raleigh Studios stage, with an action area 60' deep and 40' across," says the DP. "They had to be able to place an actor anywhere in that area and make them beautiful, whether they're 6' or 46' from the camera. The GAM Box was the solution - I put six of them across as key and four of them as fill. I used my standard configuration: two wide PAR cans in the bottom, two medium PAR cans in the top, and a narrow at the top to push strongly upstage. We basically had the same footcandles throughout the whole area - and it was pretty."