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Old March 8th, 2005, 01:39 PM   #1
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Problems Using a Tota as a Soft Key Light

I have a DV Creator Kit 1 that I really like. I will eventually get the Rifa soft light but for right now I want to use my Tota light with an umbrella as a soft light. So far I've noticed that it needs to be rather close to properly light the person I'm interviewing. Do other people notice this as well? Is there something I'm missing? Is it worth it to just get the Rifa sooner rather than later and not fuss with getting the Tota to work as a soft key?

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Matt Bauer
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Old March 8th, 2005, 08:17 PM   #2
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Hi Matt, the Tota has been the workhorse of hundreds of sets. It can easily be used as a soft fill. You need to remove the umbrella, which is most probably a small size one. It forces you to get the light too close to the subject in order to get a large diffuse highlight on their face, thereby acting as a second key light. Instead use a reflector on a stand, or bounce the light off a cheap matte-finish showcard. That will spread the tota's beam over a larger area, and therefore create a much larger source that does not generate shadows, but simply fills in shadows created by the key light. Make sure you don't use glossy foamcore, it defeats the purpose. Also make sure that the fill light is coming from near the camera, so that it fills in the face evenly. There are other ways to use the tota. Bounce off ceiling to create top light, or flood a background, and use a cukaloris to cut out patterns, or stack 2 through a 4x4 full stop silk to get a 1500W softsource.......
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Old March 8th, 2005, 08:40 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info. I'll give that a try tomorrow. What do you think about using a diffusion gel instead of bouncing off a reflector?

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Matt Bauer
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Old March 10th, 2005, 09:04 PM   #4
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Diffusion gels don't have the reflective qualities neccesary to bounce light properly. They will eat up too much of your light. reflectors like these:

http://www.evsonline.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=DL42MULTI

http://www.evsonline.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=1037

...will reflect a much higher percentage, thus getting about 500W from a 750W bulb. The silver side will get you almost mirror reflection, but not much softening. I have bounced 4 12K HMI's into a large polished steel pan and reflected them through a thick high-heat diffuser to get a very bright, far, soft hazy light like the sun. You can do something similar with reflectors, stack 2-3 totas and bounce them from one reflector. Just keep track of the heat rating on the reflector...
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Old March 20th, 2005, 04:09 AM   #5
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Lightbanks will do what you seek

However since you can get an 8000 kit for under 600 dollars with www.lighttool.com grids and an Avenger lighstand you may want to considerr the kit and use a bounce card for your tota.

However the options are endless. Get the 8000 kit and a tota ring plus a pancake lantern. Use the mogul kit light in the lantern and the tota in the 8000 kit.
Then get an avenger a 475b and kick some butt.

Thanks

r
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Old March 20th, 2005, 04:17 PM   #6
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I'm sorry, but I just have to take issue with Rush's comment that "the Tota has been the workhorse of hundreds of sets." What "sets" Rush? Motion picture sets? Or, interview "sets"? I have worked in the industry for over twenty years, and I have never seen a Tota used on a major studio set. Am I implying that Totas are never used? Absolutely not. I am certain there are some low budget shoots that may have a few. Somebody may even use them inside a soft box, which is probably their best use. And certainly there are many independent shooters that use them in softboxes for interview lighting. But to suggest that they are an industry "workhorse" on sets is an exaggeration.

The fact is that Tota lights are like using a chain saw when you need a scalpel. By design, they will spread light everywhere, which is why they have some value as a bounce source, as Rush points out. Unfortunately, this source will spray light into your background as well as your subject, which is usually not desireable. This is a big reason softboxes have replaced umbrellas as the method of choice for soft key lighting.

Sure Matt, you can add a few layers of diffusion to the Tota to try to make a soft key out of it, and even add black wrap all around it to help keep it off your background, but these are band-aid solutions and your time could be better spent elsewhere. Since you are thinking of buying a Rifa for a softbox, my suggestion would be to get an adapter ring and a softbox for the Tota. The top of the line is the Chimera, but there are less expensive alternatives from Photoflex and others. But maybe Richard will give you a deal on the Chimera with the student discount. That would be sweet. Now you have a dedicated use for that Tota, and you can concentrate on using more sophisticated instruments for the rest of your lighting. BTW, you will need a beffier stand than those standard issue Lowels to hold up a decent sized softbox.

As always, this is just my opinion.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old March 20th, 2005, 04:32 PM   #7
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Hey have you seen the Barger Baglites?

www.barger-baglite.com

I really like Ed Barger and his lights are being used on

Desperate Housewives and Joan of Arcadia and that is a fact, I was there.
Soon they will be using Liteshaper.com and Chimera's new Octaplus.
Why no one really uses a round bank in film or tv has yet to be explained but look for it soon. Why? Round Catchlight! Who cares? The artist doing the lighting! Why now? Why not!

As for as Tota's on Set it could happen but no one really goes out of their way to do it.

also I am thinking of selling a non rex bolex with pan cinar zoom that has rexviewfinder sharp but a little weird compared to today split but it is spit.
and some primes that work on non-rex. I have rangefinder viewfinder for side. Great spring ect, clean. Of value to someone who knows what it is and can do.

I will have to reboot my memory to get it all straight and I know our world is DV but I know Wayne for one understands the use of a good Bolex everyonce and a while.

Also since I am totally out of place yet talking to the write people

any Window person with a good palm like the T3 and bluetooth I have this awesome gps thing that is new and won't work for apple.. duh..

peace out..

I must say in the tota defense that if you take care of them, use correct bulbs and open barndoors.. they are a useful tool to have.
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Old March 20th, 2005, 05:01 PM   #8
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C'mon Richard. It's not really fair to say Totas are being used on Joan of Arcadia and Desperate Housewives because Ed Barger modified them and placed them inside the "Baglight."

"I must say in the tota defense that if you take care of them, use correct bulbs and open barndoors.. they are a useful tool to have."

No argument here, just wouldn't be my choice of "tool." My problem is in calling them a "workhorse" and giving the misleading impression to people trying to learn the business that they are buying real professional level gear. That would be like me saying that the JTL Everlight is the same as a Chimera because they are both softboxes. wink-wink, nudge-nudge. BTW, I never looked, but I would bet there are a lot of used Totas that show up on e-bay.

Good luck with the Bolex. Great camera.

Wayne
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Old March 20th, 2005, 05:23 PM   #9
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why did i know you would misunderstand

Wayne I am glad you wrote.

No I am not saying that.. Baglites are a whole species and they are doing great on those sets as well as fabric grids. The grips are sleeping the spill is so under control.. and I expect them to use the www.liteshapers soon as well as our Octaplus.

But I swear I got all caught up in the threads.. still trying to get on my bike.. and I had this cool vision..
you come to the nab booth. go.. hey richard.. what do you think of this and break a tota in half... pretty easy I am sure..

you throw it and I use a barger baglite as a Shield...

hey chris you might have to ref this match.

I acceed to the better man.

tota's don't fit the bill...

Ok am I still in trouble.. I just like the lowel guys .. if you have lowel problems and I can help let me know.. they recommend Chimera.. look for Eric at lowel nab booth but don't buy for the set or wayne will find us.

just kidding.. wayne I am working on a dinner. chris, me, you,HenryP
I am bringing the 6light baglite just in case though.
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Old March 21st, 2005, 02:18 PM   #10
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Hey Richard...are the Baglites rigged with Totas? I thought they were using the GE FCM lamps. Anyway, we're looking at a couple just now for some bigger set work than usual and they look really interesting. On that note, would I need different speed rings form our chimeras?
Thanks, Jim
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Old March 21st, 2005, 03:03 PM   #11
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Baglites

The Baglights use the same bulbs as the tota although Ed was re rigging his components to use the cheaper 1000 watt bulb instead of the 650 watt with the infarred coating that still gives out 1000 watts

And each baglite is like 3 or 6 tota's in a strong housing with the speedring built into the unit.


The 3 light uses video pro's or shallowbanks with shorter rods Chimera makes special to fit the Baglite.


the 6 light uses quartz banks

the coolest thing is you can carry 10 6k lights in your trunk.. maybe more.
If you need soft 6k's that is and a large source works great.

Each light has a seperate switch and the 6k has 3 powerplugs so you can balance out the power in a15- 20 amp situation

They have a wooden handle and burn even and all day.
Some of my dealers have them in house and I might be able to arrange a demo.

So if you Imagine the tota quartz ring with three totas but in a green heavy duty but not real heavy housing with a strong grip head like head so the bank does not nose dive on you under the weight of the Quartz bank - you have a Baglite... with better guts of course and they are on those sets I can pull a not so great still off my dv with terry hatcher and send it to you.
You really only see the Lightbanks more than the Baglites but that is what is in there.
The 3 light works pretty good with the Chimera Shallowbanks and those banks are great but really need an open source like a tota or a buglite head ect.
Thanks for your interest. ED is a good friend and I love to help him out

Ed can provide more materials and I can try to help
you can get more information from ED, me or www.filmtools.com stan
PS the tv sets were new to me having been more around motionpicture.
I was amazed at the minimal lighting.
A few baglites, a few chimeras, some fabric grids from www.lighttools.com
not many flags and a few fresnels about.

It was the desperate housewives ep where hatcher serves punch at some school thing

and joan of arcadia's god in the episode is a black woman janitor.

she is trying to get out the door and god is messin with her.
never saw either ep but I was there..
and so was chimera and baglites and lighttools

thanks

r
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Old March 21st, 2005, 08:51 PM   #12
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Heh, here we go again. I think Wayne has something against Ross Lowel :~).

On lower budget films and student films, Lowels are pretty common so I wouldn't necessarily argue with the term "workhorse" in that low budget context.

On larger, big budget union gigs where Wayne would be operating, Totas would be non existant.

A sizable chunk of the people on this forum are amateurs and students. They aspire to major studio sets where Wayne works, but don't have the budget, so they sometimes use Totas.

I love the Bargers, they're great. The six light pumped through a large Chimera gives beautiful light.


The Tota is good for using in a softbox, as a bounce, as a wash, background light, for copy work and a few other things I can't think of. The main problem is that it throws light everywhere, making it hard to control.

Get the Rifa, or a Chimera, or Photoflex softbox. The Chimera is the better box, in my opinion. Get an eggcrate, or some barn doors on the front that will help prevent light from spilling onto the background. Spill is probably the biggest problem with a softbox. The eggcrate will add a little more contrast and make the light more directional.

You can use your tota and bounce it into a white card, but you may also have to put up some black cards, or flags to kill the spill.

As was suggested, get the Tota speed ring #9510 and get an XS, or S Video Pro or Quartz bank. If you area getting a larger bank you'll probably want to get a larger light, like a 2K. But it depends on what you are tryng to accomplish.
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Old March 21st, 2005, 10:53 PM   #13
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Poor tota's....

I can wholeheartedly say that I know tota's are used on hundreds of sets, because I have personally sold and assisted my customers in setting up hundreds of kits with tota lights, as well as numerous other lowel, kino, and arri fixtures and kits. No, they are not Major Motion Picture sets, obviously, they are starter sets, photo shoots, interviews, small commercial interiors, TV productions, small documentaries, reality TV pilots, student films, small independent films, and what have you. You know, things people do to eke out a living in a tough world. There are people out there who don't have a "budget" to shoot with.

I personally started out with a Lowel light kit, and I still have a double tota kit with stands, that is the most compact kit I have ever seen. True I have grown my kit with Rifa's, pro-lites, arri's, and some mole's, but they are all good lights. And there is always a right time to use a certain kind of light, like the flood pattern of the tota.

I know that the soft light that comes from a Barger lite, or the tight controlled pattern from an Arri Fresnel, are much more of a DP's tool than a tota light, but those devices are not within the reach of most of my customers, and also a portion of the people reading these forums.

People want to learn how to use the tools they already have, or can afford, and the last thing they want, is a guy like me telling them they have to buy new lights for hundreds of dollars more because they are "better". There is no such thing as a better light. A thorough professional can easily make a tota's light look better than a nincompoop with 10 HMI's.

I have worked with many folks who only had $500-600 to spend on a light kit, and they have more time than money. In other words they would rather slowly sculpt light with reflectors and cine-foil than have to spend more money on new lights. Maybe, when they get better at their craft, they can afford more focusable lights with less spill. But as in the case of the gentleman I responded to, Matt Bauer, his quote was, "I will eventually get the Rifa soft light but for right now I want to use my Tota light with an umbrella as a soft light". So he didn't ask whether the Barger lights are better, or whether he can use the tota like a scalpel. He is not looking for advice on what to buy. He knows he wants a rifa, but for now, he has a tota. So how does he use it better? : )
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Old March 21st, 2005, 11:53 PM   #14
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Thanks Rush,

<< A thorough professional can easily make a tota's light look better than a nincompoop with 10 HMI's. >>

And this is an excellent point, in fact, it's the best statement yet in this thread. I would like to ask one particular individual here to please temper his continuous passionate crusade against Lowell, VariZoom and any other brand he deems to be the spawn of unholy evil this week, and concentrate instead on usability. The original poster asked for assistance with a particular set of tools. Let's discuss that instead of waging pointless brand wars, please. Many thanks,
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Old March 22nd, 2005, 12:14 AM   #15
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Thanks Chris.
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