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Old June 28th, 2008, 05:09 PM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
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A few thoughts on lighting kits from a new buyer.

I am a professional/amateur videographer. Meaning I shoot professionally at work, and I shoot as an amateur on my own time. I have been a fan of films and cinematography before I knew what the word meant. At work, I have a small production studio and have for about 6 years. Over time it's been tweaked and improved, but it's never been professional by any stretch of the imagination.

About 2 years ago, things ramped up at work, and I requested a set of lights so that I could do my work more effectively, but budget constraints didn't allow it. So I stated getting ASC magazine, Videography, Videographer, Indie Slate, and anything else I could get my hands on to learn my craft better. I made do with bedsheets, and lighting from Home Depot. I learned to soften hard lights. I made something with nothing and got the shots I needed.

Last week, I was approved for a new lighting kit and a bunch of other gear. But what to buy? A Mole Richardson kit with Fresnels and a Softbox? An Arri Kit? Maybe a Lowel kit. How many soft sources should I get? I thought it might be prudent to get the Lowel 3 softbox kit, but then realized how limiting that would be.

After some more reading and soul searching I ended up with the Lowel DP Super Remote Kit. I also ordered some Matthews C-Stands, clamps, duckbill clamps, a Manfrotto background kit, and a few other items. So why did I go this route and what do I think of it now that I have set it all up and played with it some?

My decision to go this route was based on a few factors. First, most of my shooting is indoors. So Tungsten lighting made the most sense, and was the most cost effective. The kit has the largest softbox in the Lowel line. The EX-88. A 32"x32". It could also be used with 3 CFL lamps with the optional head, so I ordered that too. This softbox would allow me to do the quick and dirty interviews that I am often asked to do. I could take the RIFA kit, my backdrops, and be done with just one light if necessary.

The kit also contained 2 DP lights. I hadn't read much about them, but a focusable 1k light with barndoors couldn't be too bad. When I got the kit I realized that it came with an umbrella for each giving me a very nice semi-soft source, came with a set of gels to move it do Daylight, came with a frost diffusion and both a full scrim and a graduated scrim. Lots of flexibility.

The kit also containted a Tota light. I've been very disappointed to read on this forum and others about how poor a light the Tota is. Frankly, I disagree completely. I feel this light is the most flexible light in the kit. The accessories for it are pretty crappy though, but with some imagination and creativity, the light can do so much. I played with it today with great results. I used it bare and pointed away from the area of the talent in a large office and it gave me several stops of ambient. It can light a background area like no tomorrow. I used it behind a 4ft x 12ft silk and with some basic controls, it lit most of the silk, giving an incredible wall of diffuse light. And because the beam thrown is so wide, I could back the light off far enough not to cause any heat issues and have it stretch the full 12ft. I will probably rig it sometimes as an overhead with diffusion light toughspun to light a meeting room table or the like. I can use it like I did today when I need to light 4 people or a small crowd in tight space.

The kit contains 4 stands. They are very lightweight and I would caution anyone to make sure they sandbag them. The stands are nothing to write home about. The kit also contains a rolling hard case which is a VERY welcome addition, and frankly was what sold me on this kit over some similar ones.

I spent some time today at the hardware store and the fabric store. I'll be making some butterflys, some silk nets, some reflectors, and other grip gear. It's amazing what you can do for not too much money when you put your mind to it.

So for those of you out there wondering what kind of kit to get, maybe do what I did. Do your homework, and learn about HOW to light and that will tell you what to buy. You can ALWAYS soften a hard light, but you can't make a soft light source hard. I also watched every "Making of" featurette on every DVD I have. On each, there were a few moments of shots with how scenes were lit. And in nearly all of them there was a net, a scrim, a butterfly, or something with a hard source behind it. Usually a fresnel. Lesson learned.

Best of luck!
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Old June 29th, 2008, 10:28 AM   #2
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Perrone: on a stand note: The friction couplers on Lowel stands are SOFT aluminum (unless they've changed the design recently) and are prone to cracking if over tightened. Be VERY careful not to overtighten them. I use Manfrotto stands with my Ianiros and Lowels for this reason. The Lowel stands sure pack up nicely but the failure rate made me stop using them. For the record, Lowel is very good about repair/replacement but that doesn't help you in the field if one of your stands fails. Good luck and thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old June 29th, 2008, 12:44 PM   #3
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Shaun,

Good comment. And I completely agree about the Lowel stands. Fortunately, I have some Manfrotto stands and some MSE C-Stands (and will be buying more) so the Lowel stands will ONLY be used when I have to. "Out in the field" for me generally means upstairs one or two flights, so nothing is going to be a showstopper. If it's a paying gig somewhere, I'll be taking the C-Stands instead.

-P

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Perrone: on a stand note: The friction couplers on Lowel stands are SOFT aluminum (unless they've changed the design recently) and are prone to cracking if over tightened. Be VERY careful not to overtighten them. I use Manfrotto stands with my Ianiros and Lowels for this reason. The Lowel stands sure pack up nicely but the failure rate made me stop using them. For the record, Lowel is very good about repair/replacement but that doesn't help you in the field if one of your stands fails. Good luck and thanks for sharing your experience.
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