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Old October 16th, 2007, 08:54 PM   #1
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Minimal lighting kit; filmgear lights?

In John Jackman's "Lighting for Digital Video and Television", in the low budget section he refers to the following as being the minimal lighting kit:
-(2) 650W fresnels
-(1) 300W fresnel
-(1) 1k open-faced light
-(1) 500W open-faced light
-Gels and reflectors

I'm looking to build a kit like that with my limited funds, and add to it as time goes on. I came across a light manufacturer called "Filmgear", whose lights are apparently Arri knockoffs that are actually built tougher and produce more output, but cost less. Does anyone here have any experience with Filmgear, or have any suggestions for building a basic, versatile kit for narrative film?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 05:23 AM   #2
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What camera are you using? If it is fairly light sensitive, you may get away with less light. Also, what is your projected budget? I would rather have fewer really great lights than lots of cheap ones. You may find that you don't have time to wrangle half a dozen lights and reflectors on a low-budget shoot so three or four good lights may be better than 5 or 6 budget lights.

I can tell you my dream kit for indie shorts if you are interested.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 06:03 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
What camera are you using? If it is fairly light sensitive, you may get away with less light. Also, what is your projected budget? I would rather have fewer really great lights than lots of cheap ones. You may find that you don't have time to wrangle half a dozen lights and reflectors on a low-budget shoot so three or four good lights may be better than 5 or 6 budget lights.

I can tell you my dream kit for indie shorts if you are interested.
Canon XH-A1 is the camera. My projected budget is whatever I can save in the coming months -- say $1000-$1500. That doesn't even leave me enough room for a few decent lights, though, since I'd need 3 fresnels minimum. Would my money be better spent fitting a few home depot worklights with barndoors and saving until I can one by one replace the worklights with Arris or another comparable brand? The thing is, $1000 can get me a used set of two 650s and a 350 of the Filmgear lights complete with barndoors and scrim sets, and I'm wondering if I should jump on that.

Yeah, I would like to hear what's in your dream kit -- it would help put into perspective what's useful for narrative.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 07:23 AM   #4
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Here is what I want:

1x - 6-bank PL55-type fluorescent (instead of a softbox that tends to waste light)
2x - 150W HID/HMI (similar lumens as 650W tungsten)
1x - 575/1.2K HID/HMI (freakishly strong daylight fixture that can run on household current)

I already have a few small fluorescents that can fill in the cracks. A reflector or two is also good to have around. I'm thinking of a building a mirror stand until I can afford a strong HMI/HID light for outdoors.

To do a basic shoot, you need a key, fill, back/rim light, and a background light. The 6-bank fluorescent as key, a 150W HID as backlight, another 150W as background light (maybe through cookie) and a reflector as fill from the spill off the key and backlight. That's only 3 lights and a reflector to do a small set.

Okay, all this looks out of your budget. Let's see what you can afford:

6-bank CL-655 - $430 w/tubes
150W HID fresnel - $400 w/lamp
150W HID fresnel - another $400

That just broke into the high end of your budget and that's without shipping. Tack on a couple hundred for shipping and these get you almost to $1500 without stands.

The great thing is that all these lights can be lamped with either tungsten or daylight color.

OR

6-bank CL-655 - $430 w/3200Kelvin lamps (add $80 to also have daylight)
650W tungsten fresnel - $265 w/barndoors and bulb
300W tungsten fresnel - $220 w/barndoors and bulb
This is just over $1000 with shipping. Substitute a 650W fresnel for the CL-655 and you are under $1000 for new lights.

THE CATCH:

Many of these lights won't be available until the end of next month.

I have looked and looked and bought all sorts of cheap lights from online auctions. Some of my stuff is okay, but the best light I now have access to is a 4-lamp PL55-type 220W fluorescent. There really is no great substitute for pro lights and the Filmgear stuff does look decent. Unfortunately, all the prices for their stuff I have found are in pounds. Considering the weak dollar these days, their products are more expensive than those I listed.

The products I am talking about are also from a knowledgeable dvinfo regular who provides prompt customer support:

www.coollights.biz

P.S. Go price a 150W HMI/HID fresnel somewhere else and you will be shocked. Don't forget the $2000 ballast and the $150 lamp...

Last edited by Marcus Marchesseault; October 17th, 2007 at 07:29 AM. Reason: P.S.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 10:56 AM   #5
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Thanks for that Marcus ;-). One thing though, the fresnels are 20% off the prices marked on the site if you buy other HMI or fluorescent products in the same order. That's the main reason I am starting to carry them as a lower price incentive to discover our key products.

Yes, we are running a bit late. It's the small things sometimes which cause it. This whole manufacturing run kept getting longer and longer because I kept getting new ideas for things I wanted to offer. One thing putting us on hold right now are our new carrying cases which should be worth the wait. 3 large case sizes: 2 of them are at the limits of what can be checked as baggage on an airplane and a third monster coffin type case you can just use for around town stuff carrying in your car or truck. All have wheels / trolley and are rugged construction of cordura nylon, a tough and thick inner hard plastic lining, foam padding and velcro'd inner removable partitions that allow you to reconfigure them into various configurations of flo/tungsten/hmi carrying around and accessories. I ignored many of these type things in the past in favor of the main fixtures but now Im concentrating on a lot of the little details that customers have asked for.

We'll finally have eggcrates this time too for all the old as well as the new flo fixtures. I'm including three shots of one of the new fixtures you haven't seen before--the CL-655P plastic portable lightweight model including a back view with the special lollipop and lollipop to stand adapter. This allows you to keep the center of gravity over the stand where it belongs. Also including a picture of an early model of one of our cases too--known as "CL-CCL2."
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Minimal lighting kit; filmgear lights?-cl655pmd2bluebakgndcm2.jpg   Minimal lighting kit; filmgear lights?-clccl2.jpg  

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Old October 17th, 2007, 11:06 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
Here is what I want:

1x - 6-bank PL55-type fluorescent (instead of a softbox that tends to waste light)
2x - 150W HID/HMI (similar lumens as 650W tungsten)
1x - 575/1.2K HID/HMI (freakishly strong daylight fixture that can run on household current)

I already have a few small fluorescents that can fill in the cracks. A reflector or two is also good to have around. I'm thinking of a building a mirror stand until I can afford a strong HMI/HID light for outdoors.

To do a basic shoot, you need a key, fill, back/rim light, and a background light. The 6-bank fluorescent as key, a 150W HID as backlight, another 150W as background light (maybe through cookie) and a reflector as fill from the spill off the key and backlight. That's only 3 lights and a reflector to do a small set.

Okay, all this looks out of your budget. Let's see what you can afford:

6-bank CL-655 - $430 w/tubes
150W HID fresnel - $400 w/lamp
150W HID fresnel - another $400

That just broke into the high end of your budget and that's without shipping. Tack on a couple hundred for shipping and these get you almost to $1500 without stands.

The great thing is that all these lights can be lamped with either tungsten or daylight color.

OR

6-bank CL-655 - $430 w/3200Kelvin lamps (add $80 to also have daylight)
650W tungsten fresnel - $265 w/barndoors and bulb
300W tungsten fresnel - $220 w/barndoors and bulb
This is just over $1000 with shipping. Substitute a 650W fresnel for the CL-655 and you are under $1000 for new lights.

THE CATCH:

Many of these lights won't be available until the end of next month.

I have looked and looked and bought all sorts of cheap lights from online auctions. Some of my stuff is okay, but the best light I now have access to is a 4-lamp PL55-type 220W fluorescent. There really is no great substitute for pro lights and the Filmgear stuff does look decent. Unfortunately, all the prices for their stuff I have found are in pounds. Considering the weak dollar these days, their products are more expensive than those I listed.

The products I am talking about are also from a knowledgeable dvinfo regular who provides prompt customer support:

www.coollights.biz

P.S. Go price a 150W HMI/HID fresnel somewhere else and you will be shocked. Don't forget the $2000 ballast and the $150 lamp...
Marcus,

Thank you for your input. This is a much more thorough response than I expected. The reason I was considering the Filmgear lights is because someone was selling them used for $350 per 650 and $300 per 350 -- a price including barndoors and scrims. The coollights 650 tungsten is only $265 new for the same package, and given the good reputation they have on this forum, this is obviously a better deal. You just saved me some money.

One question -- you talk about using the CL-655 as a key. I am new to lighting, but I thought in general you wanted to use a hard source like a fresnel as a key light. Don't the fluorescent bulbs provide a soft source?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 11:11 AM   #7
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You can have a soft key as well as a hard key. Soft keys are getting to be more important these days with HD cameras and all the skin details they pick up including some that people would prefer that you didn't get ;-). In general, many feel that a soft key is appropriate for older people and also for women in general. Many feel that women are more flattered with soft light over hard light for instance going back to the oldest days of film lighting and carrying on into television lighting. It's an old idea and rules are made to be broken. A lot of what you do is up to you. Just know the rules a bit before you start to break them as some have said...
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Old October 17th, 2007, 03:30 PM   #8
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I really like the cool lights products, and will probably be placing an order with them in the coming months. I just have a few more questions.

If I were to use the fluorescent unit as a key, would the CL-455P be sufficient for my uses, or should I just go ahead and get the CL-655P? I'm not sure if I would need the equivalent of a 1300W tungsten softlight if my Fresnel is only 650W tungsten equivalent.

If I go the tungsten route, will I be better off with two 650s or would the kit be more versatile with one 650 and one 300? I'm going to try to spring for two of the 150W CDM Fresnels instead (what does CDM stand for, by the way?) but it is a significant price difference, so I'll have to see how much money I can come up with.

If I did go the 2 x 150W CDM route, would I have any use for 3000k bulbs? Essentially, if my entire kit was made up such that I could use 5500k bulbs, would there be a use for 3000k anymore? Is 3000-3200k only an option because it matches the temperature of tungsten, so one could add one of these lights to an already existing tungsten kit? Or does it have its own inherent merits?

And one more thing -- how hot does the 150W CDM lamp run as compared to the 650W tungsten?

Thanks for guiding me through this.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 05:38 PM   #9
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"If I were to use the fluorescent unit as a key, would the CL-455P be sufficient for my uses, or should I just go ahead and get the CL-655P?"

I used the CL-455 and it was nice but I wouldn't mind being able to back it off a bit further from the talent in a room with mixed sunlight. HDV cameras need more light than SD and I also sometimes use a 35mm lens adapter which eats an f-stop or two of light. Remember that one f-stop is double the light so 50% more lumens really isn't that much. You can always turn off some of the lamps, but you can never make it brighter if you want more. The CL-455 is nice in that it is compact in size so it actually is not a perfectly clear choice between the two. For me, the extra ~$100 is worth 50% more light. I also think the size may be an advantage as the CL-655 is almost like a small square softbox in form. It's also in stock. :)

"If I did go the 2 x 150W CDM route, would I have any use for 3000k bulbs? Essentially, if my entire kit was made up such that I could use 5500k bulbs, would there be a use for 3000k anymore? Is 3000-3200k only an option because it matches the temperature of tungsten, so one could add one of these lights to an already existing tungsten kit? Or does it have its own inherent merits?"

You get the general idea. What you get depends on your style and typical shooting situation. I think it is best to start with daylight and gel down since it is so wasteful to start with tungsten and gel up. Daylight needs to be stronger and gelling up tungsten eats a lot of lumens. The cost of the lamps for the 150W is not prohibitive to get both if you find a bit of extra budget.

If you go with all tungsten, you probably need two 650s first and a 300 for the background. You probably can get away with a hardware store light for one of the three lights (minimum) but having a couple that look and act professional is a good idea. Your talent will feel better with a couple of pro lights on them and the fast setup of good lights pays itself off.

I thought of another decent setup for under $1000 if you like hard light:

2x 150W HID and a gelled hardware-store tungsten for the background.

Don't forget money for a pack of gels and a reflector if you don't already have those.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 04:05 AM   #10
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Marcus answered pretty well. Couldn't have said it better myself.

CDM = Ceramic Discharge Metalhalide. What we're using are like Osram HQI/HCI type single ended G12 bulbs. HQI is quartz metal halide and HCI is ceramic metal halide. The HQI and HCI types are designed for commercial applications and are longer lasting than HMI (which is also an older member of the quartz family). Ceramic does other colors besides daylight with high CRI (that's why we're using it for our tungsten color bulb). We couldn't find a suitable daylight 5600K ceramic so for now we'll stick to quartz for the daylight tube. Life of these tubes is 8000 hours vs. 1000 to 2000 for HMI. Let's just say they are all part of the same family but these smaller bulbs are more advanced in many ways (though no hot restrike for now) and tougher--less fragile from what I've seen. So our metal halide kits will fall into the more traditional HMI camp as well as the CDM camp which I hope to expand more.

If you're starting with a new kit from scratch, now you have an option to go all daylight whereas tungsten was really the only affordable hardlight until now. With something like the CDM 150 fresnel you do have this option now and not for so much more money than a tungsten fresnel. A kit of soft and hard "daylight" can now be configured reasonably.

Right now, the 150w ballast / bulb combination is in the sweet spot of cost / peformance. I'm hoping we can get the 250w down next to be the 1000w equivalent and keep coming out with more affordable models that give you an alternative to tungsten 1000w instruments. I like the CDM technology better than HMI and feel that's where I really want the majority of my fixtures in the future to be. A 400w would be the next logical step after the 250w next year. The output is about what you'd expect from a 400w HMI.

You also asked about how hot the metal halide is next to tungsten. Let's just say it's extremely and intensely hot but since you are putting out more light per watt used than with tungsten, its not as hot (575w hmi vs. 2400w tungsten for instance) and also the infrared output in the light beam is not as high. You won't want to be opening up the fixture to grab the bulb ;-) Nor will you want to look at the bare bulb while lit unless you like staring at arc welders in action and don't suffer from permanent eye damage! Think of these tubes as solid state arc lamps. I can leave the CDM 150 fresnel on all day and I can touch the lid on top. It's uncomfortable and I wouldn't leave my hand on it but I won't be burned either. I wouldn't try that with any of the 575w models or the 1200w one for sure though!

Just think of the 575w HMI getting about as hot as a 575w tungsten but putting out 2400w worth of light. That's the best way to illustrate it I think. So think of them as "relatively cool lights" or the most efficient way I know about up till now to get a hard light output when you need it.
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