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Old April 17th, 2005, 08:54 AM   #1
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Fluorescent design... what do YOU want and how much would you pay?

We've got a couple DIY threads going for lighting right now and I've been doing fluorescent DIY lighting for about 2 years... (I guess 7 fixtures so far... just for myself and my friends).

Well in the last 2 months I got really serious about trying to develop a REALLY practical location flo that would be as good as anything out there... or better... and a whole lot cheaper, when you compare apples to apples.

So my question is, what would you look for in a fixture?

My short list is as follows:

1) first priority is the highest possible CRI.
2) portable... the smaller the better.
3) controllable... you gotta' get light where you want it and more importantly, keep it away from where you don't.
4) durable.
5) dimmable.

Okay number 5 is a kick in the crotch... dimming fluorescents is a big deal... it's hard to do and it's pricey. That's why the dimming versions of Gyoury and Kino cost WAY more then the non-dimming lights. I'm still working on that problem.

But as for the rest of the list... can you add to it? Be specific about what you'd like to see in a lighting design.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 09:16 AM   #2
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If you're talking about multiple tubes on each fixture, it'd be sweet to be able to control each tube separately (on and off, that is), like the Kino ballasts can.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 09:43 AM   #3
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Funny Josh should ask for separate control of each light, because I was about to suggest that that is the most economical way to provide constant color-temperature dimming...
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Old April 17th, 2005, 12:06 PM   #4
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I can deliver that affordably. Switchable lamps don't affect the design cost nearly as much as dimmable lamps do. I agree that it's a big help to switch tubes for output control... but it's definitely not the same as dimming. (Mr. Obvious here) I'm finding in my designs that a dimming circuit typically costs more to develop and produce then the ballast it controls... by a fair margin. The circuit which creates an even drive load, even with differing numbers of lamps switched isn't nearly as high.

There's a few designs that I've been experimenting with for a couple months now... as time allows... Anyway, I've got a design which would be a little more like dimming when it switches seperate lamps... in that it gives you 1/3, 2/3, and full power... it's the configuration of the tubes and the fixture which gives the illusion of 1/3 increment dimming. The problem I've found with switchable fixtures is that there's a combo-factor which is less light, but from a more concentrated emission area... i.e. if you have a Lowel CaseLight and you switch off one of two tubes... you eliminate the light from one tube AND you eliminate the surface area of emission by about 1/2. So it's a little bit like having a shrinking softbox... where as you dim the softbox gets smaller, so per square inch the intensity stays the same (approx) but you're actually accomplishing dimming by reducing the square inches of emission. Follow me? You can see where this is a compromise solution... it works, but not as well as dimming the whole spread of tubes.

You are right on with the color temp issue though. Even on the Kino ParaBeam... which is $1500... I can clearly see the color temp changing as the tubes are dimmed. In practical use it's probably not that big of a deal... but I'd always do a white balance after you get the lights where you want 'em... not before.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 03:37 PM   #5
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Forget real dimming. Separate on offs is the way to go.

I think the things you listed are what I'd want - along with the different tubes on/off. Rugged is one thing too - a case that's built solid so I can chuck them in the van, or on a plane OK. Not that I've done that yet, but I've heard of people having problems on planes. Dunno if it's something that can be fixed, or whether we should really just courier our gear around instead.

Also, price is a HUGE factor. I would have gone flourescents when I got m lights but they were about twice as expensive as the hotlights I got.


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Old April 17th, 2005, 03:43 PM   #6
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Something I've been drooling over for years is the portable Gyoury light system that attaches to a boom pole on one end, covered by a nylon Chinese lantern, and then the ballast clips to the handle end, while the power comes from a belt with inverter.

Unfortunately, that's a pretty expensive rig... a cheaper version would sell like hotcakes, I bet.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 05:42 PM   #7
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You were talking about controllability (that a word?) too. What about barn doors on the short side, instead of just the long sides (like kinos)? I don't know how feasible it is, but every little thing helps.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 06:04 PM   #8
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What about a convenient filter holder which lets you insert scrims, neutral density, opal (or spun glass) / diffusion, and other gels like that? Maybe use a mechanical holder thing, someplace to attach clothespins, or maybe even magnets (magnets squeeze the gel in place)?

A diffusion gel combined with switching lights on/off should give a wide range of light intensities? (Without changing the softness of the light that much.)
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Old April 17th, 2005, 08:21 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input guys. It should be fun to see some of your ideas realized in an actual product. Since I'm just a guy... and not a corporation... don't expect something that looks like a Kino ParaBeam to come out of my shop... but I'll do my best to come up with something that addresses logical wants and needs.

I really like the Gyoury system also. I especially like their approach to the actual connection with the compact flo tubes. Gyoury has integrated the normal 2G11 endcap into a molded connection that's one with the tube... and then it's got a pig tail which ends in an Amphenol connector. That's a thing of beauty for booming a light... I'm going to see what I can do about that. My only bitch about the Gyoury tubes over Kino tubes is that the Gyoury's use Sylvania Studioline tubes which are 85 CRI versus the Kino's 95 CRI... but I doubt most people could spot the differences in real-world use.

FYI B&H has some KILLER deals on a few barely used Gyoury's right now... KILLER deals. 'nuff said.

It's going to be hard to have a flo that does a lot more then a hotlight... and is yet in the price-range of a hotlight. As a simple light source the price could be competitive (albeit with fewer lumens)... but all the things which make a light controllable increase the cost. I've been using MR Tweenie II's with barndoors and scrims and each unit (with a bulb) is over $500. So if you mean comparable like that... then we're good. If you mean a flo with all sorts of options at the price of a Tota... then that's impossible.

I'm thinking of offering a really basic flo for around $150 complete with HF electronic ballast and some special touches. Switchable tubes will add a hundred bucks to that... and overall dimming would add ANOTHER $100. I'm not trying to make a single box which simply adds each new feature... but rather the quality and design of the overall fixture will go up as the features go up. If somebody made a really nice flo with dimming, complete with tubes for $600... I wouldn't have started this thread. Even a $150 simple flo with nothing special would have kept my experiments in the closet... but so far I'm not very impressed with the "affordable options" out there. Everything cheap is either cheaply made or comes with a set of low CRI tubes factored into the price... and so they may as well come tube-less at a lower cost 'cause you'd need to get something good in there anyway.

I STILL want to get a Paterson Digitlite and see if it's worth a damn... 'cause that's the ONE product that seems to be aiming right at the DV users who are on both limited sets and limited budgets. It's a super-portable flo with adjustable output... but it may be TOO small. Sooner or later I'm going to find out. The only other annoyance with Paterson is that it took me 3 weeks and several emails trying to get an answer on what tubes are inside... and I finally got a worthless reply that referred to a Sylvania tube which doesn't exist... so for all I know the Paterson may have a stupidly low CRI?

One of the ideas I'm working on is 2-3 tubes within a fixture similar to a China Lantern... This way you can switch out the tubes and it mainly affects the overall output of the "lantern" surface... without strong directional characteristics of where the light went away... or came on. With this design the fixture itself is an expensive component... you'll understand why later... but the gist is internal barndoors and that's all I'm saying.

Even the cheapest "entry level" fixture will have a track for extra diffusion and that will allow a frame to slide in, holding gels in place if the diffusion screen isn't wanted... or you could use the diffusion AND the gels... but that will probably cut light too much unless you just want a face light or some other localized lighting. Also the cheapest light will only use one biax tube... which not only keeps the production cost down but makes it a really small light for special situations. A couple of 'em would be perfect for a one on one interview for example.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 08:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
It's going to be hard to have a flo that does a lot more then a hotlight... and is yet in the price-range of a hotlight. As a simple light source the price could be competitive (albeit with fewer lumens)... but all the things which make a light controllable increase the cost. I've been using MR Tweenie II's with barndoors and scrims and each unit (with a bulb) is over $500. So if you mean comparable like that... then we're good. If you mean a flo with all sorts of options at the price of a Tota... then that's impossible.
I wasn't meaning at the cost of a Tota :) For me I meant the costs of a Tota, Barn Doors + Softbox. So what would hope to get the most of in a system like this is

- similar light output with LOW HEAT!


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Old April 19th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #11
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have you thought about possibly making a guide on how to make them. then just sell the guide for us DIY guys... i duno if you are actually trying to make money or not, but thats just an idea...
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Old April 19th, 2005, 07:58 PM   #12
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Unless you're a DIY guy in basic construction... and also in more complicated electronics... what I'm working on is outside of the typical DIY category. If you're the kind of guy that would buy a pro-light... then rip apart the ballast to see how you could engineer a circuit... then you may enjoy a breakdown on this.

The only problem with that is... who's gonna' get my $500 worth of R&D back for me?

I'm honestly hoping to sell some flos that are very well done, very effective, and at a price that makes it stupid to try copying my ideas... and as for the dimming models... there's only a couple guys on here that could do it... and they're the guys who don't bother with DIY stuff anyway.

Sorry it's taking so long to get something good up here for you to look at... I'm buring the candle at both ends and in the middle. It's gonna' be a couple weeks yet before I post some video and/or pics to show what I've got.

That's why I want all the input I can get on what people would like. I've been in mostly interview type situations and it didn't take all that long to realize what could have made my job a lot easier and a lot more fun... I'm trying to make the lights I wished for on those shoots.

In a nutshell, one of my favorite flos is the Kino ParaBeam... which is in the ballpark of $1400 EACH... I want lights like those... at least in function and versatility... but mine probably won't be quite as pretty.

Let's suppose you could have a light like that for under $500 (without tubes... just like the Kino for $1400 without tubes)... would that be worth something to you? It is for me... I'm also working on some bare minimum lights that could be in the ballpark of $150... and then a model in between.

I can guarantee one thing... nobody could make the $150 light themselves and save a single dime. I'm working on several angles to eek out a couple bucks on it and see what happens.

This forum is a weird place when it comes to money... maybe a lot of us think the same way in the DIY arena. All I know is that in the past I've ALWAYS offered gear that was a bargain here FIRST... and then offered it on ebay after it didn't sell here... and made WAY more on it then I was asking here. Chances are that's where my little projects will end up... but you guys will get a look at 'em anyway... and get the best deal if you want one.
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:08 PM   #13
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Matt, I'm definately interested. One thing though, is there *anyway in hell* that they can support 240v/50Hz, or am I out of luck there.

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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:31 PM   #14
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Aaron... I'll look into it. I expect I could do a couple special rigs for you. Hang tight and let's see if the one's I'm working on now are worth a damn... if so I don't see a problem with making yours... but I'll have to figure out a way to test them before shipping...?
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Old April 20th, 2005, 09:58 AM   #15
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I can second that 240v/50Hz request, if it's more worthwhile to make a couple more... A pair of switchable barndoored and filter-trayed flouros for around $1000 would definitely be on my shopping list!
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