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Old March 5th, 2011, 10:21 AM   #1
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Determining Your Lighting Needs

As I have perused the various lighting threads in the Photon Management section, the common questions and answers discuss the types of lighting available and compare them in terms of their source of lighting.

Over the past four years, since becoming involved in video production and editing, I have found it easier to determine my lighting needs based on color (degrees K) and luminous flux (lumens). I have found this to give a more consistent comparison.

How do the rest of you determine what you will purchase (after considering your budget)?
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Old March 6th, 2011, 12:59 AM   #2
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Re: Determining Your Lighting Needs

The versatility of the lighting unit is also a factor. For instance, I really like the Lowell OmniLight. It is an efficient light which can be focused from flood to spot. It can accept barndoors, as well as an umbrella, which turns it into a softlight. Also, it has a nice big insulated handle which makes it easy to aim.

Soft lighting is something I find myself using a lot, and a Rifa light is convenient for a strong location softlight.

Sometimes a very small Fresnel spotlight, such as those made by LTM, Arri, or Mole Richardson, can be useful.

Another consideration is how heavy the unit is. Will it need a heavy-duty stand, or can I use one of my inexpensive lightweight aluminum stands. Also, does the unit have a power cord with an in-line switch, so I don't have to lower the lightstand whenever I want to switch the unit on or off.

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Old March 6th, 2011, 08:38 AM   #3
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Re: Determining Your Lighting Needs

I think Ed is on the right track - colour temp and brightness are the solid foundation. In the 70s and 80s, we used to blast the hell out of everything just to get the light levels up to something the cameras could deal with with their lenses closed a little to get better DoF. As cameras got better and better, the need to go silly with light has made better lighting much more possible. I remember very well, being from a theatre background, how much the theatre LDs hated the news that the show would be televised, because the TV LD would come in and destroy everything (for the audience, not the viewer at home)

The difference for me is that when I smashed my blond, I replaced it with an Arri 1K - dimmer, but more versatile, more precision, less blam. Same thing with Redheads - smaller Fresnels do their job much better.

LEDs are getting closer, but aren't there quite yet. My view of them at the moment is they are the LED version of the blond - a bit brash and crude. I like the way with a Fresnel, you can blend them, chop bits off the beam with more precision than a redhead, and the beam quality from spot too flood is better. The lighting quality is better.

So matching the colour temp maximises efficiency. Light output just needs to match the job - in terms of distances and the light level you actually need.
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Old March 6th, 2011, 10:49 AM   #4
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Re: Determining Your Lighting Needs

I agree with Paul that less is more and I recently got two sachtler 1k fresnels as a bargain off e-bay(75 inc flight case and five bubbles), they are far more useable than the five redheads I have but I have also been able to adapt two of my redheads into more complimentary lights by putting 250w bubbles in and adding a fresnel lens to one of them and some strand gel frames that make a mini type softbox.
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Old March 7th, 2011, 02:38 AM   #5
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Re: Determining Your Lighting Needs

Lighting needs vary so widely depending on what one is shooting. The package to use on a one or two man band travel gig to shoot interviews will be very different on the one to use on a narrative project; interiors will have different requirements than exteriors; and night exteriors different needs than day exteriors. Fresnels are great all-purpose units for sure. Although people are working at lower light levels due to more sensitive cameras, I think this actually makes higher wattage fresnels even more useful as they can now do the job of other units such as open face units like blondes and redheads. If I needed to recreate ambient light coming through a doorway after the sun goes down, I might in the past use an open face with full blue bouncing off the far wall in that room (on a small job, that is--an HMI on a larger scale job). Between the bounce and the stop loss from the CTB, I would need the punch of that unit. But with a more sensitive camera--I regularly rate my 1DMKIV at 1250 for interiors--I can do the same with a 1K Arri fresnel.

A lot of people are reluctant to buy into tungsten units now because they are "old tech". Certainly compared to LED's they are inefficient, run hot and require bulb replacement. However they are still the workhorses and offer the most flexibility. You can use them direct, through diffusion, into a softbox, as a bounce; they are easily gellable. For those just looking to amp up the level a bit with soft light, fluorescents are still good and there are many cheap options out there. LED's are great, although many of the cheaper units have a slight funkiness to their color cast. I just evaluated the Litepanels Sola fresnel and it is impressive in many ways. Obviously we will see a lot of growth in this area.

In terms of evaluation of a unit, my list includes (in no particular order)

Color temp (including bi or fully adjustable option)
Quality of light
Durability of build
Flexibility of use
Operating cost
Manufacturer support

I shoot such a wide array of projects but I like to own a few things that allow me to shoot something on a zero budget that precludes rentals and avoids borrowing. My personal package:

Arri kit (one 300, two 650, one 1K fresnel)
Gyoury 2-light kit (similar to Kino Diva 200), dimmable, with 3200 and 5600 lamps
Zylight IS3 with softbox
Zylight Z90 (AC and DC operation)
Litepanels Mini (AC and DC operation)
Tota with softbox and mounting ring (softbox will also work with the small Arri's)

I always carry a few dimmers (the Harbor Freight router speed ones) so that I can tweak tungsten units and practicals, and I have scrims for the Arri's. The Litepanel has its own dimmer, and the Zylights are controllable in output, color temp and green/magenta shift on their rear panel and the wireless remote.
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