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Old July 14th, 2003, 08:12 AM   #1
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Light by Light

At the moment I have a Varalux Pro w/Photoflex Actiondome on top of my DVX100 for run-and-gun situations. Now, try this as a lighting challenge: if you could only buy >one< pro light at a time for a more rounded setup, which would be the first one to get? It would be primarily for interviews or small areas; nothing too elaborate. I was looking at an LTM 300w Pepper, for instance. I prefer to put together a lighting system piecemeal, and would like to get the most out of one light at a time--each light with its scrims, barn doors, etc. Or am I acting dim?

Thanks!
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Old July 14th, 2003, 12:23 PM   #2
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Barry,
I don't think you're "dim" at all to start small and build. For what it's worth, I started out thinking I was going to buy an Arri D1/D2 kit, but the more I read (and studied the diagrams of how people lighted various shots) the more I realized that for what I wanted to be able to shoot, or rather, the flexibility I wanted to have on hand for various lighting options/scenarios on the horizon, meant I was going to be spending $3k or more before I was done. And I don't have that. As a result, I threw myself into research and decided to build piecemeal like you. I'm starting out with two Lowel Pro Lights ($99 each at B&H) and the same light stands in the Arri kit, though one is taller than what they package to have another height option. I chose the Pro Light over the Pepper or Arri 150/300 because I liked it when I saw it an the Expo last month, it can be used at 150 or 300 watts (the Arris have only one wattage option), and I like the price. Plus it has a gazillion accessories. I've had a lg Photoflex 5 in 1 for some time, and it's great for fill as well as outdoor work (supplimented with a large foamcore board), so they'll get me started quite nicely I think. Next up on my "to buy" list, I'll probably go with two Lowel Omni lights, again because they can be 300 to 500 watts, they can be hooked up to run off battery power for location work, and again, I like the price. Plus, the Omni's can work with a Med Photoflex (same as a small Chimera). Eventually I'd like the Arri 1000 and a large Scrim Jim, but that means three more stands (two c-stands and weights), grip heads, etc., so they're going to wait.

I'm sure the Arri fresnels in the D1/D2 kit are a superior light source compared to the way I'm going to go. They look cool, too, and hauling in that (50 lb!) case no doubt gives off a professional appearance. But I want to build lighting options that include everything from small interview settings for a doc, to green screen work for a small indie. And given that I'll be doing as much as possible myself (along with friends, family, interns, and film students for crew) I want to own them for both the flexibility of when I shoot (ie, on short notice) and the ability to be able to practice until I have the look I want before the actual shoot (as opposed to renting for the day, as Scott Billups argues that filmmakers should do).

I may regret doing it this way at some point, and wish I'd gone with all Arri's and just made due until I could afford all I needed in the same class of lights. But for my present situation, this is the best work-a-round I can think of to complete what I'd like to have to work with in the not too distant future.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your search!
Marcia
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Old July 14th, 2003, 12:42 PM   #3
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Wow, thanks for the detailed report--you made a good point by choosing a Lowel that has alot of options and accessories--that's what I'm looking for: maximum efficiency and versatility per light at a workable price. I too have looked at the pricey Arri kits with a certain wistfulness, but I'm sure it'd be overwhelming to absorb their potential at this point even if I could afford it (and alot of new DVX100 owners are depleted enough, thank you, heheh). Costs aside, the methodical light-by-light approach nonetheless seems the way to go--and learn--in my case, as exemplified by your insights. Very instructive post; thanks again.
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Old July 26th, 2003, 08:38 PM   #4
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Seems like a long time ago when I last posted (only two weeks, I think), but alot has happened. It's been exhausting but fun. I visited B & H, where a demonstration of the Lowel Tota/umbrella sold me. Then I ordered a 300w Arri Fresnel (somehow I feel compelled to have at least one Arri in my setup!). I next plan to get a Lowel Pro. Meanwhile, I had to tape an interview at a church, and the Tota/umbrella and some foam core made a dramatic difference. In the past I've been too lulled by available light (however effective at times) when some discreet, enhanced lighting now proves a revelation. In time a more creative pulse will take over--I'm still making myself familiar with basics--but the study of light is a very rewarding and exciting pursuit; I've known it as an artist/painter, and now taking it into video is just as much a fascinating situation.
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Old July 26th, 2003, 09:16 PM   #5
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Hi Barry,
Sounds great. I've been looking at the Lowel Tota myself. Contrary to my initial post, I ended up buying one Pro Light and one Omni light, figuring I'd order more if I liked them enough. I'm more impressed with the Pro light than the Omni, but I haven't used either live yet... only around the house. Thing is, the Omni and the Tota both use the same speed ring for the Photoflex softbox I'm interested in, so I'm thinking I might go with a Tota to have "broad" in my stock as well. Then again, reviewing my budget, some days I've found myself questioning whether or not I even need a Photoflex (given the cost), and whether or not a few umbrellas, as you mention (found one at B&H online that has interchangeable skins which gives you gold, silver, white) would suffice for interviews. That umbrella was around $60, compared to the $350 or so for the Photoflex plus $75 speed ring. Still want an Arri on hand, like you, but if I go with the Tota (750 watts) I'm thinking I should stick with my initial plan and get the Arri 1000 instead of the 650.

Decisions, decisions...

Nice to hear your thoughts. Thanks for writing. I've learned a tremendous amount from everyone around here, as we all share our choices. Keep in touch with your saga!
Marcia
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Old July 27th, 2003, 09:14 AM   #6
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Glad to know of your further progress too--not to pun, but I now feel I've emerged from the Dark Ages with my video work, which goes back a dozen years, much of which was outdoors and the need for lighting was not so urgent.

I have found these forums indispensable in formulating buying decisions; I was wavering between a Pro and Omni, but opted for the Pro both for budgetary reasons, and also because I didn't want to add too much wattage. I also got a Dichroic filter for the Pro; each light I'm assembling has its own unique attributes to offer.

I'm pleased with the Tota/umbrella--it offers alot in its simplicity. I have yet to use the 300w Arri, but I have some projects in the
near future that I'm sure will require it, and in retrospect could have used it very much elsewhere.

Two other additions: for my backup camcorder, a Canon Optura MC100, I bought a Bescor Luxman 12v DC light, which connects into the same NRG battery belt (XLR/cigarette combo) I use for the DVX100/Varalight / Photoflex setup. Each light is put on a bracket, not on the camera.

Then I began thinking of lighting cases, and could not quite manage the expense of the lovely stuff offered by B & H. So I went to Kohls department store and found a wheeled Pullman black Samsonite at 60% off. Inside it I keep a Storm case that contains my precious light heads, and a large array of pockets and other features in the 30" upright to store what I need when I go on location. So far it seems a reasonable solution.

And the saga continues. :)
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Old July 27th, 2003, 11:34 AM   #7
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Barry
Search back on this thread and you'll find a write up i did on building a light kit. Frank posted my comments from another forum, someone took exception and trashed the thread. I still feel it has some good info though. Don't bother reading beyond the first post.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?s=&threadid=9225
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Old July 27th, 2003, 06:50 PM   #8
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Actually, I know that post very well (especially the first part), and always thought you were downright inspirational in outlining a sensible startup lighting set. I'm sure you've helped alot of people with your carefully considered advice, and it's been instrumental in helping me make my choices. Thanks again!
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Old July 28th, 2003, 06:50 PM   #9
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I have a varilight Pro and dome as you do. My second light for really portable work is another Varilight Pro. Those two and a battery belt and I can be very portable. Deep cycle marine battery for longer work.

I bought one of ths soft-side lowel pro light kits with the small lights for use at the local community college. That is a very nice and portable setup although I don't think it is up to much rough handling.

How about a pepper with a 12 VDC bulb?
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Old July 28th, 2003, 07:10 PM   #10
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I've looked at the Peppers too. As time goes on I'd like to see how I can try out other lights.

Today I got a batch of gels from Studio Depot--diffusion and other recommended choices. I have alot of experimenting to do.
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Old July 28th, 2003, 11:07 PM   #11
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Barry,
Just FYI for future purchases... I really like Filmtools.com. I've checked out both Filmtools and Studio Depot in person. Bottom line... the staff at Studio Depot are off-the-street hires (can't say for sure that they're certified idots) who don't know squat about film, video, or anything that wasn't in their (however few hours of) job training when they were employed. It's a big, soul-less place that is Mole Richarson's brand name entre into the "expendables" biz. By way of comparison, Filmtools is a tiny hole-in-the-wall on a side street in Burbank where working film/video stiffs shop, have accounts, etc. and EVERYBODY who works there, from the kid who looks no older than my son, to the more "senior" staff, know everything imaginable there is to know about just about any question you can come up with. It's become my favorite shop. They'll answer any and every question with the utmost patience, too, never talking down to you if you're obviously not as experienced as some of their customers/established accounts, and then they recommend cheaper options/the best/the better options for you to evaluate. They've saved me tons of money with their honesty and patient candor. They're great on the phone as well.

Happy shopping,
Marcia

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm not related, and don't get a cut. :-)
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Old July 28th, 2003, 11:17 PM   #12
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Marcia,
Thanks very much for your remarks concerning Filmtools and Studio Depot. I've ordered materials from each and have never had a problem with either. But my contact with them has been strictly on the Web. It's very interesting to hear someone's in-person perspective.
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Old July 29th, 2003, 08:52 AM   #13
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Yes, nothing like actually >being< there, much like I can vouch for, along with so many other store visitors, the celebrated B & H Photo in Manhattan. I will definitely check out Filmtools. Thanks!

P.S. I was last in Los Angeles in 1970. Has it changed much? ;)
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Old August 6th, 2003, 02:03 AM   #14
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good idea

You are on the right track. If you want a focusing light consider the Arri 650 since you can use a 650 or 300 watt bulb in it. Peppers are ok too but I like the Arri 650 plus for the reason stated. Although I prefer the Moles when price is not a factor. They have better yoke locks.. that is my humble opinion
I think it is better to get things as you understand and need them. I hate waste. good luck
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Old August 6th, 2003, 08:51 AM   #15
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Thanks; I figure a subsequent light would be such like a Arri 650w, but at this time I'm seeing how well I do with my current assemblage. I just recently added a Photoflex 5-1 kit, and it's enormously useful.
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