Here's a good starter light kit at

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Old January 16th, 2005, 05:12 PM   #1
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Here's a good starter light kit

Before I get into my suggestions for a basic light kit, let me say that I would prefer that you rent as much as possible to try different types of lights and different manufacturers. Not everyone has the advantage of living close to a rental house, but for those of you that do, I strongly recommend making contact with your local lighting professional, and pick their brain. They are also a good place to find bargains when you are ready to buy. Almost all rental houses require a certificate of insurance, but often they will roll a rider into the rental agreement for an additional fee, typically 10% of the total rental package. Also, rental houses usually rent on a three-day week. You pay for three days, and you keep the package for a week. A couple of Los Angeles rental houses who are friendly to dv shooters are Hollywood Studio Rentals in Burbank and Wooden Nickle in North Hollywood

Here are some ideas for building a basic light kit that uses mostly professional grade gear that you will still be using for years to come when your skills have improved. The idea is to buy equipment that is professional quality without breaking the bank, versus acquiring a lot of low-end gear that won't hold up over time just to save a few bucks. Remember, good quality lighting gear holds its value and delivers professional results. This is not a kit that fits easily in one box to stow on a plane.

Small Photoflex SilverDome softbox $109.95
Small Photoflex Softbox grid $ 50.00 ??
Photoflex speed ring for Tota $ 80.00 ??
Lowel Tota light $109.95
LTM Pepper 420 w/scrims, barndoors $350??
2-Avenger A630B light stand @ $ 92.00= $184.00
Matthews C+ Stand w/40" arm $170.00
Home Depot 300w dimmer $ 20.00
3-Home Depot a/c extention cables $ 30.00
Rosco Cinegel Sampler kit $ 35.00
3 sand bags $60.00
2 sheets of foamcore, wht/blk @$7 =$14

This is just an example. You can tweak this list to your specific needs. Add or subtract as you see fit, for example:

Instead of the Photoflex softbox, I also have recommended the JTL Everlight Kit. You get three 500w, softbox lights with stands (that are way better than that other company's), and it all goes in a nylon carry case for only $500.00. This is not the quality of the Photoflex softbox, but you get 1500 watts of lighting for a modest cost. Try this: take one of the lights and its softbox out of the kit and leave it at home for a back-up, and replace it in the kit with the LTM Pepper 420, which will mount nicely on the JTL stand. Now, for only $850.00 you have a great three-light kit for doing interviews that travels in one soft case.
You can see stills from a shoot I did with this kit at The JTL Everlight Kit is available at Adorama, on e-bay, and at More info on the kit can be found be searching the posts here.

Other goodies

Flexfill. Any one of the number of highly portable reflectors on the market. You can find these in various colors (the gold and white are the most popular) and sizes. You may want to add a holder to mount the flexfill to a stand. Or, use your C-stand. You can also purchase hard reflectors for more serious output. The shiny side will bounce sunlight into a shady background, or can be used as a key light outdoors when you need serious output but cannot afford an HMI. You can soften the hard light by punching it through a sheet of 216 diffusion, or similar.

Any quality professional light you can add to your collection. Usually you will want a fresnel because they are more useful than open faced lamps. You simply cannot achieve the control over the light using open face units. This is one of my major problems with the Lowel kits that rely on Totas, Omnis and DPs. These are all open face units. Look for names like Arri, Mole, LTM and others for quality. Limit your wattage to 1000w. Fortunately, today's cameras don't require a lot of light, so don't go for the big guns. Firing up a couple of 1K's in a small room will generate a lot of heat, and possibly trip a breaker. But sometimes you need the output, especially if you are correcting a 3200K lamp to daylight. You can easily lose over half your output with a daylight color correcting gel (CTB). Conversely, don't spend a lot of money on low output lights. A 150w fresnel is cute, but add a gel and it soon becomes worthless. It's easy to knock down the output of a higher wattage lamp by adding scrims.

ETC Source Four Jr. Here is the secret weapon of professional shooters doing lots of interviews. This is an ellipsoidal instrument that allows you to project "break-up" patterns on backgrounds, which is a great way to add visual interest to backgrounds with very little work. You use this light instead of setting up a seperate light shooting through a gobo on your background. There are numerous patterns you can purchase to use with the Source Four. Sometimes you will want to soft focus the patterns on the background, other times you may want to use something like "stars" to create a special look on a smooth background wall. I like the 50 degree lens, but they also have a zoom lens for more money. The Source Four light with a standard U-ground connector will run about $250.00. Available with 375 and 500w bulbs. You will need a beefy light stand to support the instrument (see below). It can also me used as a cheap follow spot.

Light stands and C-stands are available from a variety of retailers and on e-bay. C-stands are the Swiss army knife of the motion picture industry. They work for everything from holding flags and nets, to supporting background drops, to hanging lights, to holding mics in place, to holding bounce cards (that foamcore above). But the down side is they don't transport easily other than stacking them in a truck or van. Besides e-bay, there are many companies selling used grip equipment, such as Wooden Nickle Also, Norm's in North Hollywood makes a good line of economy priced grip equipment. Unfortunately, I don't believe they have a web site, but they probably have a catalogue. Norm's Studio Equipment: 818-766-6676

Oodles of odds and ends. C-47s are wood clothes pins and the cheapest item on the list. Use them for everything from clipping diffusion to barndoors, to pulling out red-hot scrims from your lights. Buy em by the bag. Maffers and grip clips. China lanterns. Gaffer tape. Work gloves. Large piece of duvetyne. The list goes on. Items that are constantly being used up are called "expendables."

Need a case to carry the gear? Check out a SKB golf club case at Nevada Bob's or other discount golf supply store. It's a rigid ABS plastic roller case with a ton of space; it doesn't look like an expensive tripod case (like one with "Sachtler" or "Vinten" emblazoned on the side); and airlines regularly handle golf club cases. In fact, AA exempts golf clubs from the domestic 50 lb limit on checked bags. Pack whatever you want in it, but the C-stands won't fit, of course. Use extra packing foam to snug everything up. costs around $120.00

Exotic lighting: HMI and Kino Flos. Now we are talking some serious money for real high end gear. The HMI lights are balanced to daylight, and are easily gelled to match 3200K light. They provide the output necessary to shoot in daylight, while remaining cool when used indoors. Kino Flo broke new ground with stable fluorescent lighting without the green spike associated with fluorescents, and the ability to dim the units. They come in a variety of sizes and applications. Work great for lighting car interiors.

This list is by no means complete, but it has good variety and comes from years of experience. I welcome and encourage any additions from the shooters out there. Hopefully we can come up with a consensus on what is a "good starter light kit."

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old January 16th, 2005, 09:01 PM   #2
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Awesome, Mr. Orr.
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 07:01 PM   #3
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Re: Here's a good starter light kit

not bad.. I would be carful with the JTL stuff doesn't hold up real well but it is affordable. And some of my dealers say it is really hard to get parts.
The Chimera QR ring coming in April lets you mount the tota behind the light for less hotspot, the current ring is of the same design with out the QR feature .
the Silverdomes are not bad but won't hold up as well as the Chimera Videopros and the Videopros will look better, not go yellow and can be repaired out of warrenty by Chimera.
I like the tota though and love the Lowel guys and girls.
I use the Chimera 8000 or 8005 kit and it is cheaper or around the same price as a starlite kit and so much nicer with REAL grids that won't fall apart in a year and an Avenger A675 lightstand.

I like the tota for gels with the barndoors

I like the Chimera Panel kits AKA the ENG kit Item 5830 if you need scrims and two 48x48 panels that fold up to 24 inches and mount on grip heads.
1 stop trans. 1/2 trans, b/w, silver/ gold, single and double scrim and a duffle bag. Great for outside inside. knock of background light ect.

Just make sure any fold up reflector you buy is flat and not potato chipped since that will not bounce light evenly.

Look at Avenger A475B convertable boom and maybe a Fresnel from MOle, arri or LTM.. go dedo if you have the money.. look at the 650.

Chimera has window pattern kits you can use like gobos with a FRESnel.
or LTM makes an optical spot for the Pepper 100.

I am always available to help.
I have worked for BH, PHotoflex and now for Chimera and I won't let you down.
PS. Photoflex is sueing some Chinese company for copying them which is really funny since I watched them copy Chimera products when I worked for them. what comes around goes around I guess.

pss. it was my buddy jeff at who told me about the jtl problem and if you want jtl or the 8000 kit let him know he usually has good prices.

Strength and Honor
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 08:23 PM   #4
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Thanks for your contribution, Richard. If I may, I'll make a couple of comments. First of all, I actually bought and tried out the JTL Everlight kit before I ever recommended it to anyone. My comments included warnings that it is not of the same caliber as Chimera (which I consider to be pretty much the "gold standard" in softbox gear), or Photoflex. But nowhere else can you get three very usable 500 watt softbox lights in a kit for $500.00. Treat them with care, put up with the extra set-up and tear-down time they require, and they will be a sound investment. The many positive responses to the JTL kit on this forum and others attest to their value. (One Chimera 500 watt softbox in the the 8000 kit will cost more than the three light JTL kit.)

That said, for those who can afford it, the Chimera will be a great investment that will last for many, many years. And if you will rent your gear first, please look for Chimera when you need a softbox. Even in cities that don't have a motion picture lighting rental house, you can usually find a photo rental house that will stock Chimera gear. Check it out.

Thanks again, Richard
Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 09:11 PM   #5
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Thank you Mr. Orr.

Let me know if you need anything..

AKA.. TEE shirt and hat?

You make a great contribution to this site.. Thanks!
Strength and Honor
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Old January 26th, 2005, 10:57 PM   #6
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Great suggestions, Wayne.

Regarding the Source4 Jr. ellipsoidal spotlight, you can get them for a lot less than $250.00! The lamps for these are actually 375 and 575W.

I am a theatrical designer, and use these instruments a lot.

My favorite theatrical supply house is Production Advantage - These guys sell the Source4 Jr. 50 for $167.00 plus shipping and the 25-50 zoom for $205.00 plus shipping. The pattern holders are $5.75 from them, and patterns are available at any local supply shop for usually about $15.00-20.00.

I use a lot of theatrical lighting equipment to light for video. I have made a number of frames from 1x4 lumber to hold sheets of diffusion gel, mount the frames on a C-stand and hit them with either PAR64 cans or ellipsoidal spotlights, depending on the situation. Works great. Provides a nice, directional but soft source. Takes up a little bit more space than a softbox does, but I find it is more controllable. When I need a lot more intensity, I just double up the lights behind it.
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Old January 27th, 2005, 12:02 AM   #7
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If we're pimping people, I consider to Pyramid Films to be decent human beings. Got a B&M 650w fresnel from them via eBay, and it's sweet, maybe not as "tank-like" as an arri, but it'll do. They have new and used stuff.
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Old January 27th, 2005, 12:08 AM   #8
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Excellent Brian. Those are great prices.
How about explaining a bit more about the PAR64's, and how you use them for theatrical lighting? And the cheap rental price?

What are you using for diffusion?'
And what are your favorite "party colors?" (Explain)

You didn't think you were going to get off that easy, did you?

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old October 27th, 2005, 03:25 PM   #9
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Starter Lighting Kit - 300W Dimmer

Originally Posted by Wayne Orr
... Home Depot 300w dimmer $ 20.00
Sorry Wayne to bring up such and old (but excellent) thread. I need some help understanding the dimmer that you recommend. Are you referring to this dimmer? Lutron 300 Watt White Credenza Lamp Dimmer / Store SKU # 862779 / Internet # 162668 / Catalog # 100001525 / Price $16.50? Also, I assume that you are recommending this dimmer for use with practicals - yes? Or did you have something else in mind?

To see the dimmer just enter any one of the numbers above in the Home Depot search box (
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Old October 27th, 2005, 04:43 PM   #10
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Actually, Shawn, I was kind of fudging on the dimmer. I suggest you "DIY" and get the parts in the Home Depot electrical department. What you want is a wall dimmer, a knock-out box, male and female U-ground plugs, and about three feet of cable. Cut the cable in half, and put a plug on each piece, then run the cables through the box and connect them to the dimmer. Screw the dimmer into the box and put a faceplate on it and you are good to go. (Someone correct me if I forgot something.)

Now you have a nice rugged dimmer that you can put in line for any light up to 300 watts. BTW, you can do the same thing with 600 watt dimmers.

Have fun.

If it was easy, they'd get a relative to do it.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 05:05 PM   #11
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Careful with that dimmer. A DP we've been working with made one of those and it makes his Arri 650 buzz like an SOB.

Wayne, did I actually see a Tota on your list? Glad to see you've come around. :)
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Old October 27th, 2005, 07:11 PM   #12
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So is this a warning to stay away from lower-end kits like the Briteks?

I'm a total newbie on a tight budget. I went with Briteks over Home Depot work lights and in my 2 light kit I can't get one of the lights to work at all. Already spent $12 to get a replacement but I think they sent the same light back to me. It worked for 20 minutes and then died again. Now I'm upgrading the bad 300W to a 650W in hopes that I'll get a good quality light that will last.

You get what you pay for...
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Old October 27th, 2005, 08:02 PM   #13
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I am sorry to hear your problems with the Britek lights. For my part I have a totally different experience. I bought a kit of two focussables 600 W (GY-650) and one 200 w (G-200) and have used it for at least 100 hours, manly for corporate work, interviews, and a few shorts movies. I found the britek lights to be really reliable.

Sure, I haven't used the 300W or the 650 W, but I am really happy with my kit and I think that the quality is here with Britek. You must have some bad luck. Have you purshased yours from Rostronics? If so, I am sure Tom will be able to resolve your issues.
Jean-Philippe Archibald -
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Old October 28th, 2005, 10:12 AM   #14
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Marco wrote: "Wayne, did I actually see a Tota on your list? Glad to see you've come around. :) "

LOL Nice catch, Marco. Yeah, I am not a fan of a lot of Lowel gear, and judging by some comments here, I am not alone. But if one chooses wisely, there are some handy items. The paradox is, the more you know about lighting, the easier it is to work with "different" gear.

I don't personally own a Tota light, but I would recommend it for its high output, small size and low cost. I don't own a Rifa light but I think it would be a good addition to anyone's kit, if they can afford it. I actually have a couple of Lowel stands in my SKB case, but I don't try to use them to support a softbox. (I use the stands to support light weight items, like a bounce card or flag) I make these comments based upon my experience. And experience has taught me that a Lowel kit is not the best way to spend your money. They do certain products very well, but I am not a fan of the kits. Hey, just my opinion. ;)

If it was easy, they'd get a relative to do it.
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