How DMG Lights Solved The Frightening Challenges Of Lighting A Western Horror Film

The versatility of filmmaking gear is truly put to the test in diverse and challenging filming conditions, such as shooting alongside real firelight or filming within the spatial limitations of a cave. Cinematographer Nate Doane, who was the Gaffer on this project alongside Cinematographer Luke Holwerda, experienced both of these filming hurdles, and more, while shooting his recent horror sci-fi film, The Vast Lonesome. Continue reading to learn how Nate was able to trust his DMG Lighting fixtures on that project and how the versatility of these high-quality film lights helped him stand firm and solve those challenges.

DMG Lights illuminate a talent inside a prison cell while shooting a Western horror film The Vast Lonesome.“The DMG MAXI, SL1, MINI & DASH - all of which were new to Arizona - became our hero fixtures on this project.” – Nate Doane

Replicating Firelight Without Sacrificing Skin Tones

Fire can enhance the production design or emotion in a scene, but it can rarely act as an actual light source. There typically isn’t enough light output from an actual fire, candlelight, or lanterns for people or objects to be readable on camera – and introducing more fire into a scene for this purpose could become a safety hazard. This is where the handy Firelight Effect found in all DMG Lights can come in to reinforce the practical flames on camera. This effect, which can also be controlled via the MIX controller or the myMIX® app, allows filmmakers to vary the maximum intensity of the flickering flames, as well as the speed.

“We had A LOT of torchlight scenes with real torches, and the fixtures we had been using had a very bucolic, yellow, sallowed look on the skin. Nothing like the torch that was in the scene,” Nate shared. “We started using the DMG Lights for our main fixtures because they could do torchlight way better than any other fixture we had, but also because they were just as reliable in other color temps.”

DMG Lights mimic the firelight from the hanging lantern on the set.DMG Lighting fixtures replicating the firelight from the lanterns that were lighting the scene.

“I knew the DMG Lights had an amber chip and fantastic performance around 1700K,” Nate continued. “So, we tried the Firelight Effect on the DMG MAXI™ and DMG SL1™. It was absolutely perfect and blended with both the color and speed of the torch light perfectly.” The amber chip that Nate mentions has been phosphor-converted to enable all DMG Lighting fixtures to produce the wavelengths present in all skin tones. This helps to enhance the talent’s skin tone and avoid the “sallowed look” that Nate mentioned his other fixtures produced.

DMG Lights illuminate an actor on a horse while shooting a Western horror film The Vast Lonesome.When the light from the practical lantern on set isn’t enough – supplement it with DMG Lighting fixtures.

DMG Lights - Lightweight And Compact Lights For Filming Anywhere

When filming in a compact space, it still takes a room full of equipment to get the shot, and Nate took on a serious spacial challenge when shooting inside a cave location. The story follows a group of renegade cowboys who set out on the trail of lost treasure, so the crew needed to film a variety of scenes on location inside the caves of Arizona. Nate shared how his DMG Lights were an ideal choice because of their compact, lightweight build, and their ability to run off batteries. They took up very little space on set while still providing great light output.

DMG MINI mounted on a tripod lights the cave interior. for the shooting of a Western horror film The Vast Lonesome.When shooting inside a cave, you want a lightweight and portable solution like the DMG MINI or SL1!

“When it came to shoot the cave scenes, I had to pick which fixtures were coming down into the cave with me. We were not right inside the cave, we had to maneuver down six flights of stairs, deep into the cave system. It didn’t take me long to decide on the DMG SL1 and the DMG MINI™ with a couple of DMG DASH™ fixtures as backup. They were incredibly reliable, no matter what we needed them to do. I ran the MINI on a gold mount battery and the SL1 off of the camera team’s 26v battery bank. Not to mention they were the lightest and most contained fixtures we had on the truck. No ballasts hanging down, and I could attach a handle to the MINI via safety cable in case I wanted to switch from the lollipop mount and walk with it for a moving shot – which I did a few times.”

DMG MINI lights the cave interior for the shooting of a Western horror film The Vast Lonesome.No power? No problem. The DMG MINI and SL1 can be operated via industry-standard batteries.

DMG Lights – The Ideal Lighting Choice For Challenging Locations


What makes DMG Lights ideal for filming in challenging locations? Consider these three reasons:

  1. Their built-in lighting effects for replicating a variety of practical effects such as firelight.
  2. Their six-chip technology, which includes a phosphor-converted amber chips that creates enhanced skin tones.
  3. Their compact, lightweight build, and ability to run off battery that allows them to take up minimal space.

All of these features – and more - made it so the DMG Lights didn’t even flinch while lighting this challenging western horror.


Stay up to date with The Vast Lonesome by following their Instagram @vastlonesomemovie and learn more about Nate Doane by checking out his website or following him on Instagram @DoanerOfPhotography. If you would like to learn more about the DMG Lighting fixtures that Nate used on this project – please visit the DMG Lighting product page on the Rosco website.

Find Your Local DMG Lighting Rental House

About Lacey Colter

Marketing Manager - Film/TV/Broadcast: Lacey Colter has been working in the entertainment industry since 2015. She started in production before transitioning to a cinema lens manufacturer and now covers the film and television market for Rosco. She has spent years of her career interviewing a variety of industry professionals.