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Old February 16th, 2011, 07:51 PM   #1
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Loss of stops and lighting rigs

I've been shooting with various adapters and cameras for a couple of years and am comfortable with the process and the results.

However, a degree of my shooting is solo. In these instances I do not have the luxury of a DOP's kit and/or gaffer truck. It's just me setting up the two redheads I have in my run and gun kit to shoot something like an interview indoors. I have a little sungun I use on the camera for a bit of extra kick or 'starlight' in the eyes.

With my current EX1 and Letus Elite, I really struggle for light. I have a range of Nikon lenses but need to shoot with a zoom to get a variety of frame sizes. Mostly I shoot with a 28-70 f2.8 and end up with the stock lens and zoom aperture wide open and still often needing another couple of stops. This is because I refuse to use the redheads undiffused because of ugly shadows and it's hard on the subject's eyes, etc. So I bounce one light off a large reflector and put trace over the second. And hey, presto, I can just get enough light for a subject placed 1-2m away but the background is dim.

So, thinking of chucking a few hundred at an old fashioned 2K blonde which, bounced off the large reflector, wall or through a scrim, will serve as the fill and hopefully let me shut down the zoom and stock lens by another stop closer to the sweet spot. Any alternatives to this? I've looked at the kino flos, HMIs etc and there are few options in terms of low-cost, rugged, gusty lamps.

Intrigued to hear feedback other than: get Canon 5D/don't use adapter/pump up gain/wait for F3/don't shoot inside.
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Old February 16th, 2011, 09:07 PM   #2
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The Chinese 1K and 2K fresnels can be quite good and attractively priced. You need to have them checked on arrival as international fast freight can be quite violent and abusive.

There may be problems with spot/wide control knobs coming loose and cracking. With the 2K light, the in-line power switch may come apart from screw threads stripping in the plastic due to having to cope with a thicker cable.

You might have to replace broken knobs with ordinary domestic stove knobs or grubscrewed metalcentred knobs from electronics stores like Tandy, Dick Smith, Jaycar or Altronics.

You would also have to fit or have fitted, an Australian standard 240v mains plug and change out the globes for 240v Philips Broadways or similar. The supplied globes are for asian 220v and blow very quickly.

The Chinese vendors claim european CE compliance for their lamps but whether this is valid or not I do not know, nor have I investigated.

Because you have to import them direct, they have not been signed off by Australian regulators for use in Australia, so you might have a worker's comp or public liability issue if they go dangerously wrong. That said, I've seen some redheads and blondies I would not care to be near either due to owner-operator vigilence or lack thereof.

Steven Studio is one Chinese vendor who has provided very satisfactory service to me with no failed consignments. You'll find the vendors on eBay if you search for "fresnel light" in "camera/lenses" or the "lighting" subsearch.

The fresnel lights require a heavier light stand than the blondie.

Compared to the blondie, the upright globes in the fresnels seem to have a much longer working life.

Gavan O'Sullivan, a DOP who helps me out with tech advice commented that the Chinese 2K fresnel was smaller in diameter than the mainstream industry lights he is accustomed to. Apparently the large the lens diameter, the more controllable and evenly dense the light throw is.

In bounce lighting, the Chinese fresnel and Ianiro blondie seemed to be of identical utility with the blondie being more convenient to set up with its lighter stand and inbuilt gel clips on the flags.

I am not a qualified lighting technician or electrician so please regard my comments with some healthy suspicion.

Last edited by Bob Hart; February 16th, 2011 at 09:09 PM. Reason: error
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Old February 16th, 2011, 09:57 PM   #3
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Gidday Bob

Thanks. I was looking at Chinese made fresnels imported by Dragonimage.com.au here in Sydney but they're weaker than blondies. Just looking at steven studio. Fresnels tend to be heavier cos of the lens but yes they're a better light. But I'm gravitating towards the blondie.

Have you struggled with the same lighting issues shooting with an adapter?
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Old February 17th, 2011, 07:35 AM   #4
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Yes. Light is an issue.

However the upside if there is one is that you are forced to use lighting, consequence tempts you to do some value adding, which you might not bother to take the time on if going au-natural with available light only. I think we are going to see some lesser work being done with the faster DSLR cameras as magic as they may be.

On groundglass work, I am part way through watching a third release DVD-Video feature, "Salvage" which I have identified as having been shot on a groundglass device.

The giveaway in this one is a stopped groundglass motor in a shot and apparently going for excessively shallow depth-of-field just because one can. I concede, outdoors lighting conditions in the UK might also represent a challenge which could force this.

However none of these features looks any the worse otherwise and this one has the BBC moniker on it.

Given you are already using the redheads indirectly, the blondie is likely the sensible choice for indirect light via bounce. It is also less heavy to carry about. I am not a lighting tech so a little knowledge is dangerous in my case.
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Old February 17th, 2011, 08:26 AM   #5
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I had a Mini-35 with DVX100 for a few years and I remember well fighting for exposure on interiors sometimes. It was sort of an interesting concept that I ended up needing four times (i.e. two stops) as much firepower as I was used to, which either pushed me into a larger lighting package or compromising the lighting in the name of exposure. Since the poster is describing a scenario where the latter is still going to be the case even with the addition of one or two lights, I'd have to say that this represents more of a visual compromise than the possibilities allowed by the DSLR's and their low light/high ISO capability as Bob suggests. Certainly there is room for laziness there and many have demonstrated that--but the ability to capture or mold natural light is a valuable one and it is easier to achieve a good look under these circumstances. Ultimately all that really matters is the final footage, not what it took to get there.

Regardless, point taken that this is not the subject of discussion. I would suggest that given that the background of an interview is going to go somewhat soft (the whole point of using the adaptor in the first place), the best looks will be achieved by creating patterns of light and dark, rather than uniform medium tone. Rather than an overall fill, a better look may be achieved by moving the background source away from camera and becoming a sidelight, which will pick up highlights here and there, creating contrast. One of my favorite units is the Source 4 Leko, with or without gobo patterns, which delivers a controllable light that is easy to shape as desired. The 750 watt is strong enough to work with the stop loss of an adaptor when aimed at a wall and has many other uses as well. I'd consider adding one of these to your kit, although they are bulkier and heavier than most portable lights.

Other "easy" ways to create contrast are the use of light sources in the frame; the classic one is a practical lamp. Carrying a few strengths of household bulb in the kit can be handy here, as well as a dimmer or two (although you'll more likely need a full-strength bulb with the stop-loss situation. The bright shade and/or spill from a practical can be a nice texture in the background of the shot. A more modern addition is a few lengths of color corrected LED strips, now becoming more commonly available, even with integrated dimmer. You can mount these behind objects right in the shot, giving you another source of light with unlimited possibilities. Stick one behind a sideboard or equivalent in the shot and you get a nice soft aura around the object. Be sure to use quality ones--the cheap ones have a wonky color temperature and may strobe at 24/25p.
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Old February 17th, 2011, 09:34 PM   #6
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Good on yer, fellas, for your thoughtful words. It really doesn't seem there's much of an alternative to the blondie if it's a low cost, easy travelling, single source of light for some fill.

I've worked with kinos but I'm not sure the size to light ratio works out.

Charles, I've often used practicals just to pad things out. I'll check out the LED strips.
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Old February 18th, 2011, 03:05 AM   #7
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Charles.


Thanks again for your input and generous valued information.
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