Richard P. Ulivella

Gaffer — Chief Lighting Technician — Lighting Designer

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Some of the early layout work in progress. Note the SquareSpace admin UI in action.

Why am I here?

I built my first self-promotional website in 2005 for my work as a gaffer. That site was hand-made using the techniques of the time and with a clear focus on business. A lot has changed since 2005 and I felt it was time to build something new and fresh. Besides the obvious technological differences, the climate on the web, even for business and self-promotional sites, has become much more social. If you are not blogging, even on a business-oriented site, you are falling behind in visibility.

This will be my place to showcase specific projects from my work as a gaffer, discuss the business, explore techniques, and ponder technologies. It also will give me a space to flex my writing muscle periodically to keep my higher communications ability fresh. Although the primary goal is to attract new business and keep connected with current clients I hope to create some discourse in the filmmaking community, especially around those who make images or contribute to making images.

Who did the design work?

Let me make this very clear — I am not a web designer, I do not practice web design professionally, I make $0.00 annually on web site design work, and I have no plans for that to change any time soon. In the past I designed web sites professionally but that was a time long ago and I have become a professional gaffer, cinematographer, and other things. All of that being said I did create this site from scratch using several basic tools and techniques retained and refined from my past experience. I would be happy to share information if you have questions.

When and how?

This site was designed in the fall of 2010. The initial graphics work was completed over the summer of 2010 but it was not until the fall for me to make enough time to build and program the layout. Most of the graphics work was performed in Adobe Illustrator, including all the initial mockups. All computer generated imagery was built in modo. The “spinning light” logo around my name required the combined efforts of Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator to create, since the image you see here is actually a freeze frame of a animation. A simple still-frame composite from Photoshop took much longer to produce and looked less than dynamic.

This web site is hosted and published using the SquareSpace publishing platform. I cannot overstate how awesome it is to build a website using this amazing tool. Although the design preparation took months, the basic execution (90% of the layout and design, programming, etc.) was complete in two hours.

Why bother?

It may sound cliché, but let me first ask, would you show up to a career changing job interview in a ripped tee-shirt and jeans? As a freelancer, every moment is a job interview, so the time, effort, and expense building a good looking site is worth it since I can sit at home in my ripped tee-shirt and jeans † while my site dresses up for the interview.

† For the record, and those that know me well can confirm this, I do not own such clothing and I merely state this for effect. Hopefully this footnote does not dilute my point.

Design Brief

Before the first line of code was written I designed the model of an antique lightbulb in Luxology's modo software as an exercise in computer graphics. I was looking for a tool to help with previsualizations for some of the lighting work I do in the real world. Until that time, the last bit of true CG I made were pure experiments, using LightWave back in the 1990s. My antique light bulb model inspired the header image of the site and in turn inspired the design brief.

  • Elegance and simplicity trumps all other ideas. The site should look clean, crisp, and refined.
  • A visitor should be able to find content quickly — especially contact information.
  • The site should be easy to maintain using either a CMS or extremely simple X-HTML, CSS, and hand-coding.
  • A blog, work showcase, the usual self-promotional about page, and contact information will be the main features of the site.
  • Mobile platforms (such as the iPad and small screens such as on smart-phones) will be specifically targeted and not afterthoughts.
  • Every effort will be made to deliver typography that equals that of the printed page with hanging punctuation, proper captions, baseline grid alignment of body text, measure length, etc. When considering type, adhere as much as possible to Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style.

Useful Tools & Links

Here is a short list of tools and resources for those looking to build websites such as this one. It is by no means exhaustive.



† First — long live OpenSolaris. OpenSolaris is an amazing server-grade operating system which includes features such as the zettabyte filesystem, popularly known as ZFS, kernel-level SMB and CIFS, bomb-proof security, and tons of other Unix features. Solaris has a long and rich history that is now steeped with controversy due to Sun's acquisition by Oracle. If you like characters and stories, Solaris and Unix history is full of interesting personality clashes. Its open-sourced cousin, OpenSolaris, is just the latest chapter. See the Wikipedia entry to get started reading and to find download links.

‡ I have spent a lot of time with this camera starting with the second feature film to shoot with it in NYC. It is included here because several of the stills that are included on this site are color grade reference stills taken from the camera original material.


This site is published and produced by Richard P. Ulivella in New York City. All words, images, and other media are protected by copyright unless otherwise noted. No copy of any content on this site may be made without the written permission of Richard P. Ulivella.