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Old June 18th, 2002, 03:37 PM   #1
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let there be light

OK, I need to buy some lights. If I could get your opinions on what to get, I'd appreciate it.

I need something cheap. Not Home Depot worklights cheap, something pro-summer level. They would have to come with stands, barndoors, adjustable light (narrow or wide) I guess.
I know cheap is bad, but I don't plan on having these forever, just to get me started.

How much wattage (per light) should I get for general use?

Photography lights seem to be cheap compared to video lights. Is there much of a difference between them besides the fact they photo lights come with umbreallas instead of barn doors? :)

I think someone mentionned an article on the Watchdog about modifying Home Depot lights. I looked for it but couldn't find it. Could someone post a link if it's there?

Thanks!
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Old June 18th, 2002, 05:00 PM   #2
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Dylan,
Good for you! Taking the next steps towards learning how to light a scene is a huge leap towards getting a professional-looking result. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Using the Search button (above) will probably be productive, since this is an oft discussed topic here.

2. If you're a novice to lighting take a look a some of the books featured in the "Read About It" forum here. There are several very good books on the principals of lighting noted in that forum. Good, reliable lighting equipment is not cheap. In fact, even a basic set of good lights will run you $1,000. Point being that leading the effort with your credit card rather than your knowledge can get -very- expensive. Other than Home Depot work lights (which you said you discounted) there's no point to just getting something to tide you over. You might as well get good, general-purpose lighting gear that you can use for years.

3. Consider one of the basic lighting kits made by Lowel and other mfrs. One of Lowel's kits, for example, features two of their "Omni" lights and one "Tota" light and includes stands, barndoors (for the Omnis), a few color-correction gels, etc. all packed in a handy case. This would be enough to give you a decent 3-point lighting setup for a small scene.

Good luck!
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Old June 18th, 2002, 05:11 PM   #3
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Dylan,
I have the light kit that Ken has mentioned, about $700. It is a good all around starter kit. Be warned though, the stands included with this kit are flimsey, and shouldn't be used in strong winds, or left near unattended children. Also, the knobs to tighten the lights are kind of weak.

The only other items I added to it, were:
-A heavy duty extension cord w/ extra outlets and surge protecter built in
-Umbrellas to bounce softer light
-A dimmer box

The dimmer box I ended up building, because any commercial unit I found was highly priced.
Keith
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Old June 18th, 2002, 09:53 PM   #4
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I did a search on lights and read until my eyes went blurry. :)
The questions I posted were the ones that I couldn't find answers to.

Lowel does seem to have the best all around basic light kit at a reasonable price. Someone mentionned Smith Victor lights in one post, and from doing a quick search, they seem to be cheap (possibly in construction as well). Much cheaper than Lowels.
Anyone used these before?
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Old June 18th, 2002, 10:25 PM   #5
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Dylan,
Re: lamp wattages, it depends on what you're lighting and how you're using each light (key, fill, background, rim, etc.). There's no "standard" answer. If you go with the Lowel's you will see that each light's permissable lamp size is listed on the light. BE CAREFUL! These lights can be operated from either 12v (battery) or 120v power. The lamp wattages are not the same for both! Don't buy expensive lamps and then blow them out acccidentally. Sounds dumb but it's an easy mistake for a novice to make (speaking as an ex-novice ;-) ).

BTW, re: using a dimmer with tungsten lamps, note that it will change the light's color and may well dramatically reduce the lamp's life. To change brightness you might be better advised to use physical controls (ex: move the lights, use flags, etc.).
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Old June 18th, 2002, 11:35 PM   #6
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In video you don't need alot of light but you do need quality light. I usually recomend that people read the text on a few educational and suppliers sites. They should then formulate an idea of what they want to do and what their budget is.

Good instructional site
http://www.cybercollege.com/tvp027.htm

Arri lighting handbook
http://www.arri.com/infodown/light/broch/li_hand.pdf
While your in the Arri site look at their product.
I absolutely love their fresnells. The 300 watter is just about perfect for my needs

Don't settle for cheap crap, buy one piece at a time if that's all you can afford. Start out with a good sturdy light stand, a lowel open face (tota, Omni(with barn door) or a DP(with barn door) and an umbrella. Buy a 4'X8'sheet of white foamcore (foam cored hardboard) to use as a reflector and build from there.

A low priced lower wattage hairlight or kicker could be a lowell pro (250 watts). they're very small and portable. (with barn doors)

Most of the pros here will tell you to build your kit piecemeal.

I'm particular to softboxes and fresnels. Some people like hot wax and whips. To each his own.


http://www.lowel.com/
B&H are about the best price. the omni and DP may be more versatile but the tota broad light works best with a softbox. the tota also works well with an umbrella. while an umbrellas is hard to control (spillage) it's dirt cheap and gives a soft and decent spread. JMHO

Photoflex are about the best price/quality match for softboxes. A Chimera will cost almost double.People talk about the Riffa being easy
to setup. I can set up a photoflex in about 2 minutes. Most of the time I leave it up. http://www.photoflex.com/photoflex/Default.asp

The manfrotto 052 is an excellant stand and rock solid ( Bogen 3086 and 3086QL (quicklock) only $45 and $47 at B&H.) The stand will hold 11 lbs. The OO5 master stand is good for 20 lbs, it's a few bucks more but twice as sturdy.
http://www.manfrotto.com/


B&H Lighting dept http://www02.bhphotovideo.com/default.sph/FrameWork.class?=ParentActivator__Aproduct_html___CatID=1161___SID=EC0E79D51D0

If you want to go exploring click on any of the sites at
http://www.cinequip.ca/sales.htm
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Old June 18th, 2002, 11:42 PM   #7
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The wattages I use are fairly low. I use 750 watts in my medium softbox (24x36) and have lamped it down to 500 watts. You can get a 650 watt HIR bulb that will give the equivilent of 1000 watts of light. This would be handy in keeping the total wattage down so as not to pop a fuse or breaker. The standard fusing is 15 amps (1800 watts)

Also, realize that the light in a softbox is bounced and baffled. This does reduce the intensity more than somewhat but leaves you with a beautifully flattering and softly forgiving light.

I have a 300 watt Arri fresnell and an Omni at 420 watts. Most of the time I use the softbox, foamcore and the arri. My next buys will be another medium softbox with Tota and a lowel prolight with battery pack (with some sort of mini softbox or diffusion hood)
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Old June 19th, 2002, 04:56 AM   #8
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Keith, which lowel kit do you have exactly? (use there codes
please). I don't know how long you have this kit, but they are
including new stands and some other new stuff with the current
kits. They claim it too be much better.

I have been looking into Lowel kits and I might be getting
one myself. It is very difficult to choose between the different
light types though, primarely because I don't have the "feeling"
of how they will "light" and "handled". I'll make a list of possible
kits I'm consedering and let you guys comment on it.

Thanks for the information, invaluable!
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Old June 19th, 2002, 06:45 AM   #9
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Bryan, you are too much! I should know better than to read these boards before I am fully awke, but it took me a minute to try and figure out how hot wax and whips are used for lighting! Duh!
Rob, I have the Vip Go kit, and I got it about 8 months ago. Any more specifics will have to wait till I get to the office, I just can't remember the model number. It is the same kit you were talking about- two omnis, one tota, gels, etc. And by the way, thanks for the heads up on lowering wattage damaging my lamps! They cost me about $35 each, and I never thought I might be killing them.
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Old June 19th, 2002, 08:48 AM   #10
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Another newbie comments on lighting.

After reading most of the materials mentioned in this thread and spending hours with the Arri and Lowel catalogs, here is what I did...

I bought a Lowel Riffa (600 watt) and a Lowel Pro. I had inherited three cheap 600 watt lights (Acme-lite Q-brites -- anybody ever heard of them?) with my used XL-1. I use two of the Q-brites behind umbrellas for background lighting, one of them on a dimmer for backlighting, the Pro for key and the Riffa for fill. I have added a couple of foamcore bounce cards and a Photoflex PhotoDisc to tame the shadows.

I really like the Lowel lights. Arri's are apparently better, but with a price tag to match. My next step if my web video experiment is a success will be some fresnels and some serious overhead grid for my mini-studio.

If you guys ask questions and I don't reply, it's because I am headed out of town for a couple of weeks with no internet access, not because I am ignoring you.

See you all (and this interesting thread) 07/08/02.
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Old June 19th, 2002, 03:02 PM   #11
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Don't forget ebay. We have bought some Arri Fresnels on ebay for significantly less than discounted new prices.
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Old June 19th, 2002, 03:26 PM   #12
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Rob- While I was at the office today, I dug out the info on my Lowel kit. It is the Vip 89 kit, but I only remember it being called the Vip Go kit.
Keith
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Old June 19th, 2002, 03:31 PM   #13
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If you are looking for a good alternative to the high prices of the Lowel lights take a look at Photoflex ( http://www.photoflex.com/photoflex/index.html ) they have a series of products called Starlites that come in a series of kits. The lights are expandable by adding more stars to the basic light as your budget and needs expand. I have been expermenting with one for several months now and find it a very usefull accessory to my standard Lowel kit. Very light weight, very sturdy and very expandable. It's worth a look for anyone considering a light kit. Oh, cost is also reasonable. I paid $279 for a kit which includes a 500 watt lamp, litedome (softbox), connector, stand and an instructional CD.

Jeff
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Old June 19th, 2002, 06:44 PM   #14
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before you BUY i suggest you use different lights. try to get out on a shoot to see what is being used.

if you ask 10 DP's to light a room using 4 lights ( any 4 manufacture/models they want) - you will find 30 different model of lights waiting to be used ... they all prefer this over that ..

use/ rent/ borrow / watch before you buy a light you won't like 2 months from now ..

i know many that use lowels but i just don't like the light quaility from em.
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Old June 19th, 2002, 07:26 PM   #15
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Donatello,
I agree with you that you, should try before you buy. I have the Lowels, and like the light. But, they are rather flimsy in construction. However, I am in such a backwoods area, nobody has ever even seen an XL1s. What are the chances of finding video lights around here to try or examine? None.

This is why this forum is such a blessing. If I had found it BEFORE I bought my equipment, I might have found reasons to buy something else. Live and learn.
Keith
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