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Old March 14th, 2003, 08:11 AM   #31
 
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So you "go out like a light." Interesting! Wonder what Dr. Freud would have to say about that?
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Old March 14th, 2003, 10:44 AM   #32
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Re: A summary of things I've learned so far

<<<-- Originally posted by Will Fastie

2. I've yet to hear a bad word about the Lowel Tota light, here or elsewhere.

7. I can get good to excellent results using almost any equipment if I learn how to light. (Also a Walter Graff maxim -- "Although the more expensive hammers have their appeal, in the end the person who's using the hammer, not the hammer itself, is going to determine how well a project turns out.") -->>>

2. OK. Just to be ornery. Here is a bad word about Tota Lights. "Ouch." Totas are Lowell's original Home Depot work light: a bare bulb, usually a 1K, in a mediocre fixture that simply blasts light everywhere. This will work fine in a soft box, except you are left with the other Lowell shortcomings.

Here is a short list of bad experiences with Lowell gear:

Lowell uses a funky method for keeping the light where you aim it, so, eventually you find the lights "go to sleep" on you. That is, they start tipping down on their own, especially with additional weight from an umbrella or soft box.

Lowell stands from their kits are so rickety they fall over easily, especially with additional weight from an umbrella or soft box.

They burn your fingers!!!

The cheesy barn doors that attach to the Omni lights eventually will fall off the head.

Eventually the barn doors themselves become loose and the blades start slipping out of position.

The spot/flood adjustment on the Omni is a joke, compared to a real fresnel.

Eventually the bulb in the Omni will come loose and short out on you just when you need it.

They burn your fingers!!!

I'm sure others can add to this list. On the plus side, they are cheap. The end. These are my opinions, based on experience, you are welcome to yours.

7. Walter Graff's comment about tools is absolutely correct. But I notice he is not using any cheap tools in the photos where you can see his kit. No Lowell lights in evidence. It's a lot easier to concentrate on the craft when you don't have to worry about your tools.

Will, I lost your e-mail address. Send me a message wayorr@hotmail.com. And anyone else is welcome to send me a message also.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 12:26 PM   #33
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Re: Re: A summary of things I've learned so far

I own Lowel Omni's and Tota lights as well as Arri fresnels. Fundamentally, it is a mistake to lead people to an A-B comparison of the two. They have very different priorities for design and functional objectives. There are also some misstatements in Wayne's post which I'd like to correct.

The Lowel lights discussed here are designed for extreme lightweight, compact portability, something important for the typical 1-man crew found with many amateur video projects. A good 3-light Lowel kit with stands, filter frames, barndoors, etc. will generally weigh in th 20-30 lb range. A comparable Arri or Mole-Richardson fresnel kit will easily top 50-60 lbs.

Quote:
2. OK. Just to be ornery. Here is a bad word about Tota Lights. "Ouch." Totas are Lowell's original Home Depot work light: a bare bulb, usually a 1K, in a mediocre fixture that simply blasts light everywhere. This will work fine in a soft box, except you are left with the other Lowell shortcomings.
Lowel's Tota is, indeed, an open-faced light which accepts double-ended tungsten lamps. It does not use "1K" lamps; in fact it only accepts lamps up to 750w.

Quote:
Lowell uses a funky method for keeping the light where you aim it, so, eventually you find the lights "go to sleep" on you. That is, they start tipping down on their own, especially with additional weight from an umbrella or soft box.
I've never had one "go to sleep"; on the contrary, as it heats up I sometimes find it a bit harder to rotate. But I agree that the Omni really needs a better rotational tension adjustment that does not require needle-nose pliers.

Quote:
Lowell stands from their kits are so rickety they fall over easily, especially with additional weight from an umbrella or soft box.
Lowel's kit stands are designed to be light-weight and are more than adequate for the Omni and Tota. All light stands will become top-heavy with accessories added. That's why you generally see sandbags used as counterweight ballasts on most sets. If you plan to use a softbox I recommend that you invest in a heavier light stand, such as one from Manfrotto, that has a wider leg radius.

Quote:
They burn your fingers!!!
All tungsten lights get very hot. But actually, I'm much less prone to be burned by the Lowels than by the Arris. Lowel Omni lights have a flip-down handle which makes adjustment, and even holding, very comfortable. Arris have no such facility and the only cool spot on those lights is the small focus adjustment knob. That's why grips wear leather gloves.

Quote:
The cheesy barn doors that attach to the Omni lights eventually will fall off the head.
I've not had that happen to me in 2 years. Actually, the Omni barn doors have a more flexible design than Arri's, with 2-part side wings that can act as extended flags.

Quote:
Eventually the barn doors themselves become loose and the blades start slipping out of position.
Also, I've not had that happen to me.

Quote:
The spot/flood adjustment on the Omni is a joke, compared to a real fresnel.
It's not a "joke"; it's just not a fresnel. The spot/flood adjustment on the (open-face) Omni does have limited abilities. It repositions the the lamp with respect to the reflector to slightly narrow or broaden the beam. In contrast, a fresnel repositions the lamp/reflector assembly with respect to the fresnel lens to vary beam width. Other manufacturer's open-faced lights either offer no beam adjustment or the same as Lowel's Omnis.

Quote:
Eventually the bulb in the Omni will come loose and short out on you just when you need it.
Never happened to me. The basic ceramic socket on the Omni is no different that any other such light I've used. I've long suspected that there's one factory in China that supplies the whole world. But I do wish that Omni's has an easier lamp insertion/removal design. It takes patience and finesse to avoid breaking the lamp.

In the end, how you use lights is infinitely more important than what lights you use. A good Lowel 3-light kit will serve most people very well. Forgoing the use of lighting until you can afford that $3,000 kit is a bad mistake that limits your exploration of videography. Light is the paint of the medium. Get the best lights that fit your budget and your honest needs. Getting a wonderful set of fresnels that are too heavy to schlep on 1-man-shoots or too powerful to use on many of your sets is not a good solution.

One last suggestion. B&H Photo has just published their first professional Lighting Catalog. If you don't have one, call them to order it (they might charge you $10). It provides the largest collection of lighting equipment information I've ever seen and will be extremely instructive to most folks shopping for lighting.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 12:29 PM   #34
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Wayne:

Lowel info noted. Thanks. As an aside, I went to the DV show in NY last month and stopped at the Lowel booth for a visit. Unfortunately, my mission at the show focused me elsewhere and I didn't explore the equipment like I should have, thinking I wasn't buying anyway. But here's what I did note -- the booth pitch was all about HOW to light, not what to use, despite the equipment being in evidence. That's all I know about Lowel.

Mr. Graff looks like he has serious stuff in his kit, but he mentions the use of hardware store equipment many times. The 20W flourescents are one example. In one of the other articles, he mentions trips to the hardware store to solve several problems. So I think he practices what he preaches. At the same time, he's on the move a lot a clearly has invested in stuff that will last. His real point in the quote is that I should know something about lighting and worry less about the lights.

In looking through Graff's articles, I haven't yet seen a softbox.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 12:53 PM   #35
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Ken:

You know, I appreciate the reminder about the B&H pro catalog. I've had it for months and used it to find some parts I needed, and of course I browsed it. But I'll haul it back out to browse in the light of the things I've learned in the last month.

I got the catalog for free, if free means dropping $4 grand at B&H last year. It just showed up in my mailbox, along with a dirty look from the mailman. It's huge.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 01:04 PM   #36
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Indeed, B&H is sending the catalog free to many customers; I received it, too. I've no idea what their criteria is.

Two other points about Lowel worth making.

1. Lowel's primary objective with the Omni, Total, V-light, andd many of their other products is to make good lighting more financially-accessible and logistically practical for amatuer videographers and photographers. Professional crews with big budgets will rent truckloads of gear or be able to afford to own a staple of good lights. They also do not look down their nose at the amatuer. I shorted an Omni (my fault) and Lowel treated me as if I was Spielberg. They turned-around the repair (no charge) within 5 business days. Very impressive service.

2. The Omni and Total can be used with 12v (battery) power sources (using different lamps in the lights, of course). That's not true of the Arri fresnels which would require other power management equipment.

Have fun!
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Old March 14th, 2003, 02:15 PM   #37
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Speaking of financially accessible, does no one use Smith-Victor? Except for the JTL Everlight kit, the SV stuff seems to give a pretty big bang for the buck. I'm just surprised that I'm the only one who has ever mentioned SV in these forums, especially in this "El cheapo" thread.

I've called my 30-year-old SV lamp junky, but that's mostly the head. The 2-section stand, while not as compact or light as today's models, seems strong and serviceable to me.

I suppose I could take DVi's member's silence on SV in these forums as a strong, negative indication. I just wish I could get something concrete on SV, especially because it's so hard to find the equipment to look at. Ah, well, maybe the thread I started will catch a fish.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 03:48 PM   #38
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Ken-
I like you, and respect your comments and experience. However, I still have to stand by the prior comments made about Lowell light kits. They do tend to dip, and the stands are extremely flimsy, even without the extra stuff. The barn doors are also a little flimsy, but serviceable.

It is a nice setup for under $1,000- but if it is too wimpy to be practicle, what good is it? Again, it comes down to the same old song and dance... If you didn't spend at least $x,xxx on it, it is junk. I spend $300 on a Bogen head and tripod. It sucked. Then everyone says " The GOOD Bogens are at least $1,000". The same goes for the Lowell kits.

It isn't a bad deal, unless you expect professional quality. In that case, you need to spend the big money and buy Pro equipment. If you don't have several grand to spend, you might as well buy from Walmart and Home Depot, make do, and save a butt-load of money.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 03:56 PM   #39
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OK. Seems there is a "War of the Words" starting with Ken Tanaka, who has accused me of making "misstatements" with regards to Lowell lights. The only real misstatement I made was with regard to the wattage of the Tota light. Lowell says this light can be used with wattages up to 800 watts, not the 750 watt that Ken indicated in bold. So, we are both incorrect. As a practical matter, I have seen Totas with 1000 watt bulbs in them, but obviously this is beyond their rating and should not be used. OK?

My additional comments were all clearly stated as my opinions based on experience. Ken Tanaka may have different experiences, but that does not make them facts either.

"forgoing lighting until you can afford a $3000.00 lighting kit" was never my suggestion. I have always attempted to lead people to what in my opinion represented the best value for dollar, while investing in equipment that would provide years of service, at a professional level. I do not believe it makes good sense to buy low end "professional" gear, that still costs considerable cash, that will not perform as expected over time. That is my opinion of the low end Lowell products. Certainly, a Lowell Tota light in a Photoflex soft box with a speed ring, with a Manfrotto stand will make an excellent piece of gear. But, at a cost of over $400.00. The JTL Everlight Kit will provide 3-500 watt soft boxes in a nylon carry case for just under $500.00, with the caveats that I mentioned. There is nothing in the Lowell kit line for this price that I would come close to recommending, based on my rather extensive experience.

Sure, you can create "home made" gear for less money, but to the novice who has next to zero lighting experience, it is rather difficult to build a wheel, if you don't know what a wheel is supposed to do. But hey. To each his own.

BTW, Ken, "grips" don't focus the lights, the lighting crew does. The grips set the flags and cutters and such.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 06:01 PM   #40
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Ken said:
-----
Arris have no such facility and the only cool spot on those lights is the small focus adjustment knob. That's why grips wear leather gloves.
------
Just to clear it. Grips wear gloves not to touch the cool part but to touch the hot. therefore they dont focus the light. I know sometimes when there is alot to read I always read things the wrong way. I guess it is a bad habbit. Anyways thank you all for the good information. I really dont know squat about lights and this has help to dip my interests.


Rob:D
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Old March 14th, 2003, 07:58 PM   #41
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There are a lot of theories as to what level of gear to buy.
There are only two absolute facts:
1) Not everyone has the same needs.
2) You get what you pay for.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 09:24 PM   #42
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Pretty well everything Ken said was right on.

If everyone had the same requirements and the same expectations kits would be a no brainer.

I still think that the newbie is better off building a kit based on his perception of need as it happens.

In my opinion the kit stand is too light for a tota and softbox so I bought the heavier manfrotto. The master 04 stands won't win prizes for being small and compact but they'll hold a softbox and light like the Rock of Gibaralter . I'm happy, that's all that matters.

For some one that has to lug his kit through airports and accross country, lighter is better. A little more care has to be taken in the set up and balancing. A few sandbags and everything is fine.

The lowel won't win any prizes for beauty but it's functinality is well theought out. It can be serviced easily and parts are abundant. you also don't need a second mortgage to buy it.

I do have arri fresnels and while they are certainly prettier they cost a fair bit more.
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Old March 14th, 2003, 10:20 PM   #43
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Keith (and All),

I really did not mean to sound like a spokesperson for Lowel. I like their lights' flexibility and lightness.

But, as my profile notes, my experiences with their gear are those of a hobbyist, not a professional. I can certainly see how Omnis, et.al. might not withstand daily heavy crew use for long. My intention was to simply share my personal experiences with, and knowledge of, this equipment.

So for those reading this thread and considering lighting alternatives, please take my remarks for whatever they may be worth, if anything, to your search. As I said earlier, the most important thing is that you are thoughtful about the aspect of lighting in your shooting. Experiment with anything financially or logistically available to you.
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Old March 17th, 2003, 02:39 PM   #44
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Will's Excellent Adventure

Today I continued my education in lighting equipment by visiting all stores in my neck of the woods that sell any continuous lighting. This gave me the ability to do a little touching and feeling. I thought I would share my impressions. Maybe I should call this my mediocre adventure; Baltimore is not exactly on the cutting edge of video and my options were few.

Store #1: My first look at a piece of contemporary SV gear, the only continuous lighting sold by the store. They only stock the Smith-Victor 710 focusing head. Not beautiful, not terribly rugged, but not as cheap as I had been led to believe. The store sells these for still work and could not speak to video. Store #1 is the best known and most loved camera store in Baltimore.

Store #2: Except for used equipment, this store only stocks Lowel and only the Tota light (no stands, lighting control, etc.). They rent the Totas and sometimes sell a few. The store personnel knew very little about continuous lighting and admitted it. The fact that the Tota is rented says something about reliability, but I was not particularly impressed. The main lamp housing seemed sturdy, but the rest of the unit seemed flimsy.

Store #3: Lots of lighting here, mostly strobes, but more continuous equipment than the other two put together. On display, nothing but SP Studio Systems including strobes, floods, and quarts. The quartz offering was a 2x600W kit (B&H item SPFLKQ2), $300 for the pair with stands and lamps. El cheapo applies; these lamp heads are really flimsy, open face with 2 thin barn doors. The salesman offered to order Arri or Photoflex, but couldn't make any specific recommendation when asked. Strangely enough, I thought this the best photo store of the three.

The only opinion I can draw from today's 70-mile drive is that Smith-Victor equipment may deserve more respect.

Respectfully submitted,
Will
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Old March 17th, 2003, 02:54 PM   #45
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Will,
Thank you for your follow-up. You would think that a city the size of Baltimore would have more to offer, eh? You would certainly think that a city the Chicago has alot to offer. But it doesn't.

If you're so inclined (which I certainly would not be after a 70 mile multi-hour quest) you might consider looking at a local equipment rental shop. They often have the most professional equipment and the best knowledge of its capabilities and use. Since they're in the rental business they will often show you the equipment (if it's on-hand) and you can sometimes see how well it withstands hard use.

Just a thought. Good luck on yor ongoing quest.
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