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Old December 19th, 2008, 12:57 PM   #1
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Lighting kit for small studio

My boss has suggested that I turn one of the empty offices into a more or less permanent small studio. It's about a 9" by 9" room, whiteboard on one wall, painted white. Sound quality is pretty good.

Ceilings are pretty high - I'd say about 8, 9". There's your bog-standard corporate flourescent lights up in the ceiling overhead in the middle of the room - we're hoping to get better lighting than that.

To give you a rough idea of our production value, our in-house camera is the HG10, and we film almost exclusively in 1080i/60f - what would you recommend for lighting, and how would you go about it? I'm thinking of taking one of those beginner portrait lighting kits sold to amateur photographers for $200-300 and using that. (Halogen work lights were also a possibility, but there's the very real chance they might catch on fire, so no.)

There are two shots we want to make in the studio - one shot is in front of a whiteboard, illustrating problems, the other is a sit-down in front of a computer screen. (we don't need the computer screen to be legible as we can capture relevant information immediately and do a split-screen.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 01:18 PM   #2
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It's amazing that without fail, people without much lighting knowledge can ask a question that is completely out of all proportion in terms of difficulty!

I am going to assume the room is 9 FEET square and not 9 inches as you've indicated. In you're place here's what I'd do:

1. Paint the walls medium gray. White will cause you no end of trouble.
2. Replace the bulbs in the ceiling with 3200k fixtures.
3. Put some diffusion material over the entire ceiling. That will give you a lovely, soft light throughout the room. This way, you'll only need to light with a key light.
4. Abandon the idea of using photographer lights. They are not made to be on all the time. You'll burn them to the ground trying to use them for video.
5. Purchase a Lowel Rifa 55. This will be your key light.

This is FAR from ideal, but it's cheap, easy, and will get the job done. As you (if you) get more resources, you can improve slowly.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 02:21 PM   #3
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I would only add at some point some foam core board as reflectors (cheap at hobby store) and some sort of light stand with arm and clamps to make use of reflections for the eyes, and help fill in any dark patches or opposite of your key light. Some people spray paint portions of one side of the foam core to help add color in the reflections.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 02:30 PM   #4
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I would only add at some point some foam core board as reflectors (cheap at hobby store) and some sort of light stand with arm and clamps to make use of reflections for the eyes, and help fill in any dark patches or opposite of your key light. Some people spray paint portions of one side of the foam core to help add color in the reflections.
Have you stood in a 9x9? By the time you get a camera, a softbox, a desk, chair, person, etc. in that room, there isn't going to be much room (or need) for reflectors though in principle I agree. 9x9 is pretty dang small, and you're going to be WELL zoomed out in there to get any framing.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 02:39 PM   #5
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I've worked in smaller areas. Navel to to of head in the shot, talking head shots (though two at once would be super cramped).... reflectors just out of the frame or perhaps proped up on the floor. As long as there is no camera movement it could be done. (oh and maybe the camera in the hallway out the door)

the best method of course if there is the budget is Kino Flo. They are made for this situation. 2x or 3x the price of a softbox, but 1/5 the depth.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 05:43 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Perrone Ford View Post
Have you stood in a 9x9? By the time you get a camera, a softbox, a desk, chair, person, etc. in that room, there isn't going to be much room (or need) for reflectors though in principle I agree. 9x9 is pretty dang small, and you're going to be WELL zoomed out in there to get any framing.
I agree with Perrone, that is ridiculously small to shoot anything, even tabletop. Is there any way you can get a larger or longer room? Too small to shoot green screen and no matter how you light, you are going to get shadows on the wall. If you use soft sources, they will be soft shadows, but shadows on the wall nonetheless.

Dan
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Old December 19th, 2008, 05:58 PM   #7
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Or in lieu of Kinos if the price is too high, Cool Lights (studio models since you'll be leaving them there) will more than suffice.

9'x9' is small, but not impossible - especially if you shoot diagonally. If I've got my pythagorean theorum right, it's a bit over 12 feet. Camera in one corner, subject 6' away and 6' back should work well.

If you're going to implement the overhead flos, consider skirting them to keep light off of the walls (unless you want it there). Better yet, make adaptations to them. Line the rims with velcro and line some duvetyne with the other side. Easy on, easy off. If you want just a big spill, high key look, leave 'em off. When you need something more controlled, contrasy, skirt them.

I think if with the right tools, you could really make the space a nice, simple and yet somewhat versatile space. Among the changes you may make, I definitely agree with Perrone on (among other things) repainting the walls to a neutral gray and swapping out the overhead bulbs for some color-correct ones. You can get those from Kino Flo for a pretty reasonable price. Go with a fluorescent for your key light though. It'll keep the space nice and comfortable.

You don't necessarily have to scrap the white board if it's in a spot that can be framed out. You can even use it as a bounce for fill. And when you don't want any bounce from it, cover it with Duvetyne.

Good luck.

~~Dave
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Old December 19th, 2008, 06:31 PM   #8
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But how much width do you have shooting corner to corner if you place the talent 6' from the camera... Room to get a green screen in there?

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Originally Posted by Dave Dodds View Post
9'x9' is small, but not impossible - especially if you shoot diagonally. If I've got my pythagorean theorum right, it's a bit over 12 feet. Camera in one corner, subject 6' away and 6' back should work well.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 09:44 PM   #9
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I didn't see anything about Brian needing to shoot green screen stuff. Though I do agree that 9'x9' would be rather small for green screen shooting. For what Brian said he needed so far and for future things of a similar nature, I think it's workable with enough thought and careful work put in.

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Old December 19th, 2008, 10:01 PM   #10
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Oh, sorry. I got two separate threads mixed up in my head.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 02:47 PM   #11
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9x9 is small. My studio is 13x13 but I do more things in it. Since you are single purpose, you can design to the one purpose.

THe approach someone mentioned of replacing the ceiling flos with 3200K ones is an excellent idea. Just add a key. If it works, you are done. But where do you put the key? What if you have shadows you don't like? Then what?

In my studio, I ran 3/8 threaded rods thru the ceiling and hung them from U-channel that spanned the rafters. Then I used four 1 1/4" galvanized pipe with holes drilled for the 3/8 threaded rod. The rig put the pipes about 20-30" set in from the walls and 12" down from the ceiling. All said and done, I can put lights and mic booms pretty much anywhere to achieve the lighting I want.

If you have a hung ceiling, there are scissor clamps that clip onto them so in effect, the ceiling grid does what my rig does only better.

In all cases (especially the hung ceiling clamps) include safety cables.

For fixtures, eBay is your friend. There's alot of Tungsten lighting that comes up there as people convert to LED. I like the Altman Fresnel and Par lights. THey have a nice small unit that may do you well and fit your budget. Lowel Omni and Pro lights are another one and are very versatile. You can put a softbox on some of them and the ceiling mount helps keep them away from getting in the way.

Ultimately, you need to learn lighting. Buying a kit isn't enough. You have to know what to do with it. You have to do it to learn it. Having a grid or ceiling grid will let you do a lot of experimenting for learning. My ceiling grid keeps all the wiring up off the floor too where as the hung ceiling approach leave that to be solved some way.

My tip would be to think about lighting the background and the foreground (your person) separately. This lets you use dimmers to adjust the relative brightness of each.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 04:18 PM   #12
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of course you;re ignoring the other real problem, SOUND ! in a square room, you'll make perfect standing waves : translation - you'll get funky sound in the room from reflections even with a lav.

solution would be to put sound blankets or wedge foam on two walls to help deaden the space. if I had to work in there regularly, I'd only consider flo lights, or at most very small tungsten like 150''s or maybe a 300 or two.

I agree with the others :

paint the room medium gray ( trust us ! ) on of the problems will be that your camera will see all that white and underexpose the foreground.

** leave ** or change the ceiling fluorescent lights to 5600K. why ? because with a 5600K white balance, your _computer_ screens will look correct. go with 3200K and your computer screens will always be blue ! if you go 3200K you'll fight this all the time. just because you are inside doesn't mean that 5600K isn't the better color temp.

I'd get a 2X24" flo light, or two as key and fill. with the overheads on, you'll have a ton of light, and I bet, will probably remove a few tubes to dim them down. given that you are shooting tight shots, one or two small flo lights will do. you'll be much happier with 40 or 80W of flo's rather then a couple of 300w tungstens + your bodies + computer. it will get too hot to work in.

also consider that you'll want to baffle the HVAC duct. if you can turn it off, thats ideal, you may have to hang a towel or sound blanket around it to kill the noise. some hVAC systems are just too noisy and there is nothing you can do...


and really, why doesn't your boss let you hire a pro shooter + sound person who has the right gear and will get you better results ? I know, I know, he's being cheap. no insult to you, but you sound like you've been thrown into a job you weren't expecting, and really aren't educated enough about yet, but are being expected to turn out results a pro would get. not fair to anyone. I know, you'll say its for web training. well even if it is, making it look & sound decent will make the message a lot easier to be gotten by the people who have to watch it, and that is what its all about - delivering a message people remember.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 04:25 PM   #13
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** leave ** or change the ceiling fluorescent lights to 5600K. why ? because with a 5600K white balance, your _computer_ screens will look correct. go with 3200K and your computer screens will always be blue ! if you go 3200K you'll fight this all the time. just because you are inside doesn't mean that 5600K isn't the better color temp.
Steve, this is a GREAT point. When I recommended 3200k fixtures, it was because I figured he'd likely be able to get a tungsten key light easier than he could get a daylight balanced one. But I forgot about the computer screen. Mine allow for different temps, but many don't.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 06:04 PM   #14
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Go all 5600K and fluorescents for soft light and metal halide/cdm/hmi for hard lights. You don't want to operate tungsten lighting in a 9x9 room. The heat will be terrible in the middle of summer even with air conditioning.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 06:11 PM   #15
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He's got a $700 camera, I doubt he's going to buying $2k lights. A couple of CFLs in clip on lamp holders is probably more realistic.
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