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Old August 14th, 2005, 12:07 AM   #1
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chimera/photoflex lanterns - function as key light?

i'm looking to augment my set of lights with some decent softboxes, and after doing some research, i'm interested in the lanterns offered by chimera and photoflex (the whitedome).

i understand these are more like soft omnis, but both have attachable black flaps to stop unwanted light spillage. my question is, when all the black flaps are attached, can these lights function as more directional, traditional softboxes -- or am i missing something?

the reason i ask... i'm coming off a gig where lighting for a chroma key was really horrible and i'm paying for it in post. i was hoping one of these lanterns would help the next go round, and, in the spirit of saving some cash, wanted to know if it was feasible to use the light as a soft key as well -- when i'm not doing the chroma-key stuff.

i'm not opposed to getting another, more traditional softbox like the chimera video pro or photoflex silverdome if i need to.

your input, as always, is greatly appreciated.
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Old August 14th, 2005, 07:34 PM   #2
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after talking with a few people, i decided to go with a large photoflex whitedome AND a medium silverdome. apparently the large spread of the whitedome, even with the flag attachments, would not make it an ideal key light. also, the whitedome is not capable of taking attachments like louvers and egg crates. in retrospect, the chimera lantern, because of the way it hangs, wouldn't really work as a controllable key either.
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Old August 14th, 2005, 08:25 PM   #3
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Actually, Henry, I just got off a feature where the "behind the scenes" guy was using a Chimera lantern for a key light for interviews. Wouldn't be my choice, but I can see it. He was shooting hi-def with a Sony 950.

But were you intending to use this light for a chroma key shoot? That I don't understand at all. Actually, I'm not sure about the softbox either. Is your thought to light your subject with the softbox and use the other to light the background? How big an area do you need to light? Full figure, or just portrait?

Since you are in NYC, you should be able to get your hands on lots of quality lighting gear for reasonable prices. Can you give us more info?

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old August 14th, 2005, 11:32 PM   #4
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hi wayne...

i was shooting a music video a few weekends ago, and we covered a 25' wide x 12' tall studio wall with savage chroma key paper. without a budget (what else is new), i used my existing lights the best i could... i bounced two 650w fresnels off the white ceilings to light the bluescreen. i wanted to shoot high contrast, and i used the rest of my lights to light the talent -- another fresnel as the key, and a tota with some diffusion as the fill... i also used a couple of lowel pros as backlights. that's pretty much my entire kit. probably not the ideal lights for the situation, but i worked with what i had. i just couldn't get the light coverage on the bluescreen i needed - it was looking spotty at best. the camera was dollied around the stage throughout the song -- the widest shots were were 6 or 7 people dancing full frame. the light on the bluescreen was constantly fluctuating. i've done chroma key work before, but it was never on this physical scale.

after the fact, i read a few case studies where larger backgrounds were lit with two or more softboxes. my intention with the whitedome was to get a broad light source on the background for the next go round. i thought a large whitedome on a boom would work out much better, as long as the light was flagged behind the talent. and since the whitedome physically resembles a more traditional softbox, definitely more-so that the chimera lantern, i was wondering if i could use it as a key light as well. i talked to a lighting rep at b&h earlier today, and he recommended against it, saying the light would be a little harder to control. so, i picked up a medium silverdome as well.

if you think i made a mistake, please let me know. thanks for responding...
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Old August 15th, 2005, 11:56 AM   #5
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Oh boy. 25x12? That's some serious acreage you're trying to cover. OTOH, you are spending some pretty good coin for those softboxes. Unfortunately, the Silverdoom won't give you 25' of even coverage. Obviously, that's not what they are designed for. A better solution would be to use Kino Flos. You could probably get by with four units, spaced evenly, about eight feet from your background. Your problem will be hanging them. The operative word is rent. Shouldn't be a problem in NYC. Then use your softboxes for key light on your performers.

A less elegant solution I encountered a number of years ago was to use photo lamps. The DP had his crew make up strings of bulb sockets about eighteen inches apart, into which he placed photo bulbs. There must have been close to fifty bulbs dangling from the ceiling, but they provided a nice even light on the large backing that made a very clean key. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. This can be a real DIY project, but be sure to check on the proper gauge zip cord to use, and how many bulbs to a string. Sorry, but I don't give electrical advice. You could start with maybe a dozen bulbs to see if you are getting enough light. Then just add more as needed. And then use your soft box on the talent.

Wayne
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Old August 15th, 2005, 06:56 PM   #6
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What about using florescent lights from a hardware store to light the blue screen?

If you get the socket types, maybe you can use those bulbs in your house afterwards. So in a way, it's almost free. You just have to figure out how to mount it and use blackwrap to control spill (or use something like a lamp where the housing controls the spill).
Issues to watch out for may be:
color temp
CRI (although this wouldn't matter for blue/green screen)
flicker (although you're not shooting on film)
noise
how to mount the lights

Kino Flos would be more appropriate in other situations for the high CRI. Matt Gettemeier on this board is also making "Kino Flo-like" lights but at a cheaper price... you could also look into getting one of his lights when he finishes them.


I don't have that much experience with this stuff so it would pay to do your own research on this.
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Old August 16th, 2005, 12:52 AM   #7
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i recall the lighting folks over at vasst had a little chapter on their dvd about stringing together a couple of zip cords with low draw/high output household flourescents bulbs to kick out soft lighting on the cheap. i'll have to give this a test.

in any case, thank you both for your replies -- those are some good suggestions on lighting the background. i'll definitely keep them in mind...
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