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Old November 6th, 2009, 08:15 PM   #1
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FLO vs LED

I shoot corporate interviews on location. Some air travel but mostly in town. I like shooting wide open with my EX1 and having some high key daylight in the background like a window, although sometimes its just an office interior. I like pretty high contrast ratios on a subjects face that add a bit of drama and character. I don't want light splashing all over uncontrolled. The option of using battery power sounds cool but I doubt i would use it a lot.

Any thoughts on flo vs led for my situation?

thanks in advance
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Old November 7th, 2009, 09:38 AM   #2
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Hi Greg,

I just jumped over to your site. Impressive! Are you hoping to get the same look that you get in your stills? If so, you're going to find that you need a lot of light. I'd say the least expensive big, soft, portable lights are going to be the Lowel Rifa. So when traveling, using tungsten because you can leave the bulbs in the softbox and set-up fast. In the studio or local, you can get the optional Flo X3 which will allow you to use the X1-65 bulbs times 3! I'm using a Rifa 66 with Flo X3 and it works great. You might even want to go with the 88. LED's would be sweet, but for what you would want it would cost an arm and a leg. You'd want a few of the Litepanels 1x1's at around $1500ea it adds up quick. I have one with an Anton Bauer batterys for a key, and really need a couple more to get the kind of output I'm used to with hot lights or flos.

Watch the behind the scenes on this project shot with the HVX200.
http://www.apple.com/pro/profiles/wisdom/
They traveled all over - and see the light? Lowel Rifa

Good luck and keep up the great work!
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Old November 7th, 2009, 10:05 AM   #3
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Since (based on the loggers photo) you are already carrying strobes with power packs, I'd seriously consider getting a reasonable sized HMI (with ballast) light in the 800 - 1.2k range and get a set of barndoors and a softbox. Yes, it's going to be heavier but for the stuff you're going in photography, if that's what you're looking to accomplish in video, you need more light than CFLs or LEDs are going to give you IMHO.

Again, beautiful work!
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Old November 7th, 2009, 02:13 PM   #4
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Rifa's are fine. But tungsten technology is getting inexorably pushed out of the marketplace because it's simply too inefficient. Most of your power goes up in heat rather than light.

Flos are WAY more efficient.

And LEDs are WAY more efficient than Flos.

Since you like working with - rather than against - daylight. I'd say try a pair of Richard Andrewski's CoolLights LED arrays in 5600 kelvin. For less than a grand with accessories you can get two VERY efficient daylight sources with stands and bars to split or stack them to taste.

And the very modest power means you can plug them into anywhere without stressing the circuit and the same measly power draw makes it very reasonable to use them with batteries for extra mobility.

I use his 3200k versions because I'm more often shooting in tungsten environments - but other than the sometimes need for a little 1/4 minus-green gel to match them better in some mixed lighting situations, they're my favorite road fixtures.

YMMV, good luck.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 08:49 AM   #5
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Hey guys, I really appreciate your help here as well the kind words regarding my photography. Looking at my photo essays may have inadvertently lead you astray though. While shooting the loggers was fun, the portraits section of my site is actually the look and feel I am trying to echo in my corporate video interviews.

Basically its shooting wide open to push the backgrounds soft and seeking out / working with daylight in the background via a window etc. I am also usually in pretty tight with my key light. This typically involves very low power and some ND, at least in photo terms.

Lastly, we have a great rental house here in St Louis so no need, or budget to have an big all inclusive kit. I do want a key light at a minimum, and want to start down the best "gear path" for my type of work to avoid expensive back tracking later.

Hope the above encourages further discussion - again thanks for sharing your knowledge :)
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Old November 8th, 2009, 09:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Kiger View Post
I am also usually in pretty tight with my key light. This typically involves very low power and some ND, at least in photo terms.
Sorry Greg, I was SO caught up with the loggers photo and you'd need a ton more light than an LED panel would give you. If you are talking about the close up work, heed everyone else's advice.

Again, love the work.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 12:30 AM   #7
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Greg...

Great work. I was in newspaper photography for a quarter century (chief photographer at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin) and you have an excellent eye!

In still photography you can balance existing light with your strobes by playing around with shutter speed and aperature. But with film/video that trick isn't possible. Your lights have to be able to illuminate your subject with the same intensity as whatever is illuminating the world outside the window. Or you will have to darken the windows with neutral density gels.

I have a couple of CoolLight LEDs and they can't do what you want. If you're just doing head shots then maybe you can get by. But they're not nearly bright enough to create the look you're after.

I use the CoolLight LEDs, along with a small KinoFlo, to provide some directional light in a kitchen that's illuminated by daylight, but these instruments only provide supplemental lighting and aren't the primary light source. I tried to balance a scene that way but the LEDs, plus the KinoFlo, wasn't nearly enough. And the kitchen window already had tinting applied to it.

You'll need a LOT more power to do what you want, and the only way you can get the look you want is with an HMI... unless you're willing to neutral gel any any windows in the background.

Andrewsky does have HMIs. I haven't used them so I can't vouch for their quality. But the LED lights he markets are a good value for the dollar. A few quirks but not show-stopping. A 2.3 amp-hour battery can power one for about a half hour.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 02:59 AM   #8
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We have the 200W Joker Bugs from K5600 which will run off batteries, that's 4 big Li-Ion brick batteries with the appropriate AB power adaptor that takes the 4 batteries. This is certainly not cheap kit but the lights are quite small and very versatile.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 03:00 PM   #9
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It's worth noting that inexpensive Fluorescent and LED lights will have a low Color Rendering Index. Why does this matter? You might be saying, "Who cares?, I saved x amount" Well, we all want save money and have the best bang for buck gear, but try tossing a 1/4 minus green to "fix" the nasty tinge on some cheap LED's. It may seem "fixed" now right? However, the true test comes when using a vectorscope and color correcting the tinge on skin tone - when pushing and pulling to get to the flesh tone line, does it look "healthy?" You may find it challenging to get truly professional caliber results and spend more time fighting the wheels to get something that is acceptable and not posterized.

So, sometimes light that is "cheap" doesn't always mean it's a good deal. Hence, if you're on a budget, the traditional tungsten from a company like Arri, Lowel, Mole Richardson is 100 CRI - you'll always get predictable results and high output at an affordable price. The drawback is the bulb cost/life and heat, but on a budget - it's still the best short term value.

This blurb from the wiki may be of interest:
LED lamp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"More apparent to the end user, however, is the low Color Rendering Index (CRI) of current LEDs. The current generation of LEDs, which employs mostly blue LED chip + yellow phosphor, has a CRI around 70, which is much too low for widespread use in indoor lighting. (CRI is used to measure how accurately a lighting source renders the color of objects when compared to sunlight. Sunlight is defined to have a CRI of 100, while white fluorescent lamps have CRI varying from the 50s to 98.) Better CRI LEDs are more expensive, and more research and development is needed to reduce costs."
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Old November 9th, 2009, 06:39 PM   #10
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Hi Greg,

Greg wrote to me via email since the CRI issue was brought up and asked me to weigh in so hopefully this post won't be deleted. I posted a link here to an article recently in my blog about CRI and LEDs which I thought would be of interest on DVInfo.net, but it was deleted apparently because they don't like links into blogs here, so I'll just recap what it says in this post.

Yes its a common issue with LED fixtures in general. We certainly admit that and are quite open about it. We've discussed it at length here on DVInfo.net before when the LED 600 first came out. We think all the various technologies have their place and that's why we didn't stop making flos, HMI or even tungsten. Some people still prefer one over the other. Some are better than others for certain uses, but LEDs have their place in the toolkit as well for many reasons, not the least of which its the easiest and most efficient technology to operate off of DC power and therefore batteries when necessary. Operating from "caves to cars" as I always say. Try operating a tungsten unit off a battery on the street and see how long you can get for instance.

You can find plenty of comments about the LED 600 here -- a search will verify that. No one is complaining about the results and you can also see in the gallery on our site there are various videos posted that used the LED 600 so you can judge the results yourself.

LEDs, especially single, mono-color daylight ones have CRI issues at this point so its something every manufacturer of an LED fixture for film/media use has to deal with in some way. There are several ways to handle it, the most common being:

1). Use the daylight LEDs and add more magenta to the LED to filter out the extra green produced in their spectrum. Fluorescent tubes have been doing this for quite a while to make their spectrum suitable for photographic use and increase their CRI (Kino reports 95 on their tubes, Cool Lights is 90 on ours--see my articles for why we didn't go to 95). So you add magenta either internally on the LED or externally by way of minus green filter--either has the same effect. By the way, it often isn't an issue if you aren't mixing with other kinds of existing light and using such a fixture in a controlled situation. The reason for this being the white balance in your camera can correct not only whats going on the blue/red axis of color temperature and make what is white supposed to be white but also along the magenta/green axis as well which ends up being indirectly a good reference of CRI. If magenta / green is balanced well, you often find a light like that has a high CRI. When using real film you have no white balance and you therefore have no choice and must apply minus green to an flo or LED light of "offending" CRI. The minus green approach has been used on lower CRI lighting for ages and there are plenty out there that feel it works very well.

2). Use two colors of LEDs in the panel -- one high and well above normal daylight and one low, just below normal tungsten range. Have a dimmer arrangement to dim independently each color temp so you can adjust to the color temperature of your choice. The two colors mixing together will produce a higher CRI light that doesn't require other filtering. There are several manufacturers using this approach right now and its probably the best way, IMO, to increase CRI and still keep the fixture economical. We've tested this method and we really like the results. I estimate that CRI on this will be in the low 90s.

3). Use RGB LEDs to output whatever color temperature of white you want and even single wavelength colors like red, blue, etc. This also makes a good approximation of daylight thanks to the 3 single wavelength colors making up the spectrum. Just as good an approximation as full spectrum, high CRI flo tubes which are well appreciated by many. This method is not unlike the bi-color approach of method 2 above which is more than adequate to output a usable spectrum. RGB's an expensive way to go though and RGB LEDs are relatively weak compared to other kinds in output. You'll also need a microprocessor and user interface to handle the color mixing as 3 manual dimmers would be too complex to deal with. That makes it easier to dial in the correct color output you want.

Thus, approach 2 and 3 are more expensive. Approach 1 was the route we took for our first products to keep the cost affordable. Approach 2 will be what we take in next generation fixtures. We'll still make the mono-color daylight panel like the LED 256 and 600 though because they are so well appreciated as long as you know the limitations and you use it accordingly.

That's also why we include a convenient filter panel set with the LED 600 and 256. It makes up for the shortcomings in the LED's spectral output and increases the CRI to a very usable range.

As far as fluorescents go, no one has complained either about results with Cool Lights 3200K or 5600K flo lamps. CRI is in the range of 90 (we report on our site as ">88" in the interest of being conservative which we are) on our tubes we've been making in the last year and a half. CRI 90 is more than enough for use with digital mediums. We talked about this subject as well in our article and in a nutshell we centered on CRI 90 as opposed to CRI 95 because as you engineer out the green and approach CRI 99, you lose quite a bit of light. This is because our eyes are most sensitive to the spectral wavelength in the green range. CRI 90 is a good compromise between output and CRI. Otherwise, go up to CRI 95 and you knock off enough lumens that you need to come back and drive the tube harder if you still want in the range of 3000 lumens which is common for a CRI 90 55w tube.

As far as measuring CRI goes, there's only one true way to measure CRI and that's in an integrating sphere. Your eyes also count too since CRI is weighted around human perception of colors. Its a whole other long explanation. Greg, read the article I sent you a link to and if you have other questions, let me know. Thanks.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 07:36 PM   #11
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Thanks to everyone who has added to this discussion so far. Maybe its a fork in the road for many and thus this thread will prove helpful to others as well.

This forum is so packed with talent it's quite a resource and for that I am grateful.

Flo's with egg crates may be the no brainer key light in my immediate future but as usual it sounds like there are many good paths up the mountain. More reading to do and glad for additional input on the subject, especially from guys using LEDs every day.

much thanks
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Old November 25th, 2009, 07:03 PM   #12
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Greg, let's keep this thread going. I'm now looking for some good choices as well. I'm shooting with a Sony EX3 (without a Letus adaptor) and a Canon 5DM2. Like Greg I shoot a lot of interviews, but I also shoot inside in offices, hospitals, etc... I've been using powerful tungsten lights to overpower what light source is in the room. But with the new lights I'm looking at I think I could shoot in available light and use these lights to fill in the shadows or faces of the scene I'm shooting. (that's the plan.....don't know if it's a good one!)

So far I've been looking at:

Lowel Caselite 4-bulb unit (comes with stand and built-in case)
Kino Diva-Lite 400 4-buld unit (can be purchased as a 2-light kit with stands and case)
Litepanels 1x1 Bi-Color (can be purchased as a 4-light kit with stands and case)

Even though they are expensive, I'd love to go the Litepanels route, but I'm worried they don't put off enough light to be effective. Maybe the 4-light kit would provide enough....dunno.

The Caselite or Diva-Lite would be the safe route to go as the put off quite a bit of light and you can turn off the bulbs if they are too bright. Thoughts?
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Old November 26th, 2009, 07:36 AM   #13
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Love your work Greg. Most shooters avoid high contrast, you embrace it. Doing that with video will be tougher I think because you don't have the same shutter control. (Not sure I'm saying that right)
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Old November 26th, 2009, 09:28 AM   #14
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Lowel Caselite 4-bulb unit (comes with stand and built-in case)
Kino Diva-Lite 400 4-buld unit (can be purchased as a 2-light kit with stands and case)
Litepanels 1x1 Bi-Color (can be purchased as a 4-light kit with stands and case)
On the Litepanels, my question would be why. The advantage of LED over fluorescent is primarily lower wattage requirements which means they can be battery powered. However, an array of 4 1x1s would be difficult to power with batteries. For on camera lights, LEDs are great since they are very compact. But for a key light you don't want compact, usually you want the opposite which is a large area. Additionally, LEDs will keep coming down in price. Why pay a premium now when cheaper(and better) versions will be coming on the market in the years ahead.

That's not to say I shun LEDs. I have 3 LED lights I take with me. An LED 500 that can be battery powered, a Comer 1800 I can use as a backlight or fill light, and a cheap Pro 126-LED for on camera or fill. However, when I need a key light I grab my Caselite every time if I have access to AC power. It is just more flexible. It puts out enough light to compete with windows. It is color temperature flexible. The built-in barn doors and grid allow you to control spill. It is self contained in the case with everything you need - stand, extension cord, two additional bulbs. I had to add my own padding to protect the spare bulbs and when I fly I weave bubble wrap around the bulbs in the fixture. I have yet to break one. I also put it in a secondary blow-mold case for extra protection (it cost me maybe $50). I travel with 3 daylight bulbs and 3 tungsten bulbs. This allows me complete flexibility. If I'm competing with daylight and I need the extra push of four bulbs I just throw a tungsten in - it only slightly changes the color temperature and often I like the look of it better since it slightly warms it up.

So put my vote in for the Caselite. I choose it over the Kino primarily for convenience. They all use the same bulbs so light quality doesn't change. I didn't feel I needed the dimmer with being able to turn bulbs on and off and adding diffusion for extra control.

Just my .02
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