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Old April 12th, 2011, 10:11 PM   #1
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Is this a wise move?

So I'm hoping to be shooting a lot this summer while I'm out of school. Doc and sports for sure, maybe some shorts and corporate. My kit's pretty solid but I have no lighting gear. I've got about 3K give or take to invest in lights. I'm trying to put it towards a light kit that's pretty flexible and that I could build out from later and I'm leaning towards this:

Arri Softbank I Tungsten 4 Light Kit (120V AC) 571984P B&H Photo

I've used the older version of this kit with the 1K instead of the 750 which I loved, seemed very versatile. Would you guys recommend this? I figure I'd buy this kit, some gels and diffusion, and a couple c-stands. Somewhere down the line I'd like to augment this with some LED's because some of the sports/corporate stuff I'd shoot won't have power accessible.

Also is the 750 comparable to the old 1K?

Last edited by Tim Kerigan; April 13th, 2011 at 01:20 AM.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 03:50 AM   #2
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Re: Is this a wise move?

There will be people who are better qualified to give advice on actual lighting gear. My thoughts were initially a little different: "If you can't afford lighting then perhaps buy and use reflectors (and diffusers) instead?"

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Old April 15th, 2011, 11:30 AM   #3
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Re: Is this a wise move?

The kit you chose is solid and will probably outlast your next few cameras. I have a mix & match set for the corporate shooting, and the key pieces for me are a softbox (at least 750watt), grid, hair light (250 or 300 watt dimmable), and two misc. fresnels for fill and background. This is a minimum for a well-lit single person interview. Things get more complicated with a 60 Minutes style two-person interview. At that point, you'll probably want to add a 2nd softbox and hair light to the mix.
How much lighting experience do you have? I would suggest checking out some tutorials (DVD or books), that will help you narrow down your gear list to the essentials based on the type of work you expect to be doing. $3K is a decent amount to spend, but if you're not making that back, its still $3K.
LED's were all over NAB, but the good units will blow your budget, and the bad units have terrible CRI. Fluorescent fixtures seem to be the sweet-spot between price and lumens. Expect them to take up more space though.
Finally, if you're not committed to the Arri name brand, you can get a great deal on fresnels from Cool Lights: Cool Lights Tungsten Fresnel 1100w Kit - Cool Lights USA
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Old April 15th, 2011, 12:56 PM   #4
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Reflectors and Tungsten

Here is a strategy thought. As you read this "consider the source". I'm a "hobbyist", not a professional, and I'm learning the hard way via the road of hard knocks. My only lighting at the moment are three LEDs and one standard base light fixture for which I haven't found a good bulb for yet. I have a 6-in-1 reflector and a pass-through umbrella that I just got but haven't used yet.

For me, editing color temperature is very difficult - a pain in the-you-know-what. My dream would be to have lighting that wouldn't require editing afterward.

Light quality: Tungsten has the flattest color temperature of the three lighting types and for someone starting out this would be the path that would be the easiest. Of course, it would depend under what conditions one wants to take the videos in because the lighting should reasonably match. If it is outdoors then like Andrew said, reflectors could provide a lighting source, especially if it is in the summer and outdoors. Indoors, the ambient lighting can be a real mix.

Inexpensive lighting: I've been finding on craigslist and google that sometimes you can get some fairly good deals, other times they're asking retail for used stuff, and it take time to search and go after it while buying new one can talk to a store clerk for advice or order on-line and have it delivered while never leaving the house. In a major metropolitan area there are always gear ads out there. Just avoid the cheap junk stuff and read reviews.

LED lighting: In the summer this would be nice because they don't put out as much heat but the color temperature spectrum isn't the easiest to deal with. I have to gel mine and I'm finding that as they heat up the color temperature can change a bit. At the moment I'm doing product lighting so the temperature is pretty critical. LED prices are supposed to be coming down (they tell me) so if you can wait this could save money and there will probably be the added effect of better product available in the future.

Diffusers: At the moment I don't have any light boxes but from what everybody tells me, this is something that will be needed. With tungsten using a diffuser isn't a major issue but with LEDs it becomes more problematical because you don't want to loose any expensive lumens.

Reflectors: The 6-in-1 Wescott (and there are probably other brands available) can provide some color temperature on the Talent if you're talking summer. There is a gold side and black can be used to subtract light, silver to add, matt white….etc. No wires required and they will probably always be useful and not become outdated via technological improvements.

Tungsten: As the developed world moves away from tungsten it could be that finding compatible indoor lighting may become more difficult. I believe the EU has outlawed the sale of tungsten consumer lights and the USA is certainly becoming less tungsten friendly as we move toward fluorescent bulbs. I had one bad experience with a very expensive "daylight" fluorescent bulb that turned out to not be very "daylight" so I have a hard time warming up to them.

Bottom line, with the cost of LEDs vs used tungsten, doing it over again I'd probably opt for the tungsten with light boxes as my intro into lighting, in addition to reflectors for outdoors.

Remember, this is from a non-pro so consider the source.

Edit: Remember the words of wisdom from Grandma: "Haste makes waste."

Guess I forgot another lighting source: Halogen. Can't speak to photography halogen light sources, but my experience with consumer halogen lights is their color temperature changes with time quite a bit. And speaking of "consumer" lights or light bulbs, they aren't the same as photographic light bulbs. At least based on my checking into the problems I had with the fluorsent bulb I had.

And for sure, what the human and the camera see with regard to light are way different. The human "tunes out" a lot of the color temperature, probably like someone living next to a railroad or freeway, I guess. Pro photographers will probably be more in-tune with what they see temperature-wise, like someone who goes to NAB checking out lighting.

Last edited by John Nantz; April 15th, 2011 at 08:09 PM. Reason: Added halogen light comment
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Old April 17th, 2011, 03:53 PM   #5
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Re: Is this a wise move?

If you know nothing about lighting, a kit is not a bad way to go. Just realize though that a kit is assembled to hit a specific size, weight and cost, therefore it will include some gear you rarely/never use and will be missing a lot of grip gear especially that you will wish you had. Pre-assembled kits always lack grip gear and lighting without grip gear to control the light is close to useless.

I own four lighting kits and I raid each one all of the time to assemble my own "custom kits" for specific needs. I rarely just grab a pre-assembled kit and go for it. But that is what hobbyists and newbies do because they don't know any better.

If you know something about lighting, I would recommend that you could obtain greater value for your $3k than that kit you mention but it takes work, hunting and searching to assemble a kit that is customized to how you shoot and what you want to shoot. Pros like Walter Graff have a much better idea of what a "real" lighting kit consists of, but it is a mish mosh of different gear from different sources and you need to buy the components to light what YOU will be shooting. Light Kit

It takes knowledge and experience to know what you will want/need in your own custom lighting kit. If you don't have knowledge and experience, a pre-assembled kit is a fine place to start, just realize that you will be wishing you had C-stands, flags, sand bags, Flexfills, etc. etc.

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Old April 22nd, 2011, 03:34 PM   #6
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Re: Is this a wise move?

You should really consider as much daylight stuff as you can. And I've shot tungsten for years, even as a still shooter I preferred tungsten to strobe.

But the new generation of flos are daylight (or really close enough), they're cool, lightweight, and the draw far less amps than comparable tungsten. I find their light to be really pretty.

I only use softboxes for tabletop stuff and feel they're way overrated - except maybe for talking head interviews in a dark setting. That said, were I starting over (and not wanting to light big rooms for shorts or features), I'd consider:

3 or 4 biax flos with the 55 watt tubes and barn doors. Cool lights sells 'em (their shipping is really high though - I keep sticking stuff in my cart there and then choking). There are several chinese imports (cool lights are made in china) that are really nice. You can get two twin units and stands on Amazon for under $300, or one quad (I own both and they're kickass units, esp. for the $$). The Flolight brand are so lightweight I've put them on ceiling grid clamps - and that is handy!

I'd get 2 - 4 duals and 1 or 2 quads. You can make them surprisingly direct, you can scrim or bounce 'em. They'll fill a decent sized room with pretty light. I've got three broadcast spots airing this week using the chinese versions.

I'd hunt around for a couple 300 watt and 750 watt fresnels, and maybe a 1K - these can be gelled down to daylight when you need hard light - I tend to just use 1/2 CTB on them and keep 'em a little warm. Altman's theatrical fresnels (made by L&E) are nice and can be found for $100 - pyramid films is blowing out 1k fresnels for $140 this week. Get router speed controls (dimmers) from Harbor Freight.

Keep an eye out for theatrical open-faced lights on eBay - the rectangular ones with barndoors. When you just have to throw a lot of light, they're great - you can lamp them from 100 to 1K, and lamps are dirt cheap. And the barndoors on rectangulars give you more control than most round open units. And they fold down very small. And you can make giant scrims with fabric and c-stands for the world's biggest soft box with those suckers.

Avoid the massively over-rated tota light. The doors are tiny crap. See rectangular theatrical lights above.

If you get deals on theatrical lights, and they have pipe clamps, buy the Avenger TVMP - note that it has a twist handle where the matthews has a thumbscrew. Ouch.

If you need a softbox, cool lights sells a kit that uses the huge flo tube - 500 watt equivalent. Softboxes for hot lights can get pricey due to the fireproof materials.

Keep in mind you'll need scrims, fabrics, grip gear. I have used the westcott scrim jim setup for over a decade and love it for what it is; I get phone numbers at the fabric store and have little old ladies measure my westscott fabrics and make me all kinds of things for it - strip lights, silks, white and black meshes, etc. Get a couple avenger C-stands (buy 'em locally, shipping will kill ya, take a trip to the big city if you can't find 'em local). Pay a few bucks more for the turtle base c-stands - they're way easier to pack, and you can get a butt plug (baby-junior adapter) for the base for a killer low stand when needed.

Get some beefy steel tripod stands. Get some sandbags and grip heads (B&H sells a knockoff grip head for $18 that's dynamite). Get a zillion a-clamps and a lot of white & black foam core. Get a couple "real" cutters (google American Grip), they're easier to deal with than black foam core. Get some superclamps and studs. I've never in my life felt I owned enough light stands. And I have something like 20. Get a bunch of 5/8 steel tube from FilmTools in various lengths vs. buying a bunch of matthews boom arms. Sometimes you just want a 1-foot boom.

Cool lights sells affordable "HMI"s that need to warm up and cool down, so they can be a pain - often you have to leave them on when you move them vs. shutting down the shoot for 10 minutes. AlzoVideo sells a poor-man's version - same restart issues, but under $300 (open faced HID, no fresnel lens). I have three (they do turn up on eBay). Really useful lights if you're not running and gunning. They also sell a bulb & ballast combo - I instantly gutted a 6.5" fresnel and now have a 500-equivalent HID fresnel. Pretty sweet for $150.

There's really no end to it... but I really suggest you think daylight as much as possible. I have a mountain of tungsten gear here, butI consider it "last resort" stuff these days.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 11:48 PM   #7
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Re: Is this a wise move?

Just as food for thought: while a lot of indie people seem to be favoring 5600K lighting, in the conventional industry 3200 is alive and well. Both temps are well-represented and options abound--you carry both temps with your flo units, and the better LED units are bi-color (if not RGB) but tungsten remains as popular and universal as ever. You use daylight fixtures when you need to balance against daylight, but otherwise (night interior and exterior, controlled environments like stages or interiors without windows) 3200 is almost always the choice. Small units, units that allow you to control and shape the light, inexpensive units--these are the hallmarks of tungsten. I can't remember the last job that I didn't automatically spec a small tungsten fresnel package as a matter of course, unless it is known to be all exterior-based.

We are still a couple of years away from similarly-priced daylight fresnels (LED) really catching on. The Litepanels Sola is interesting and other products are on the horizon. I'd see if you can find a used kit; I found mine for about 60 cents on the dollar.
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Old April 25th, 2011, 03:46 PM   #8
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Re: Is this a wise move?

I have to agree about choosing tungsten when you're not fighting daylight... and I choose it for any DSLR footage I want to look really clean - I find Canon's tungsten footage can get a muddy look really quickly, and I seem to get more noise on tungsten (I assume the camera adds gain to the blue channel?)

I've been doing a lot of bright, high-key stuff; but I do have tungsten biax tubes on my shopping list for the future. Flolight sells a nice carrying case for tubes, about $79 I think.

So... where's the best deal on quality tubes these days?
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Old April 25th, 2011, 05:42 PM   #9
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Re: Is this a wise move?

Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Just as food for thought: while a lot of indie people seem to be favoring SNIP

We are still a couple of years away from similarly-priced daylight fresnels (LED) really catching on. The Litepanels Sola is interesting and other products are on the horizon. I'd see if you can find a used kit; I found mine for about 60 cents on the dollar.
One of my more interesting stops at NAB was the Arri setup, where they were showing their new monster sized LED fresnel. Right now, it's a HUGE beast (in run and gun video terms) but the rep manning it mentioned that they've been in research for a LONG time working out the technology of PROPERLY driving LED generated light through a TRUE fresnel lens and they feel they've finally got it right. The big honker not only put out a shapely beam that cuts properly, but had the variable color temperature of the mixed LED products and even plus and minus green compensation on board.

I asked the typically stupid question as to when they were going to adapt this technology into their smaller fresnel lines and got the typical big company show floor answer. "We don't comment on unannounced products" - but it was clear to me from the body language and manner that only a knucklehead would imagine that a company as established as Arri wouldn't be working on precisely that.

I left thinking that if they're happy with the BIG instruments, how long can it be before something in a smaller form factor is released?

We'll see.
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Old April 26th, 2011, 07:49 PM   #10
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Re: Is this a wise move?

That's cool news. I've gotta say, the last ten years of my career has been an absolute trip.I've gone from paying $3000 for 600-some MB of ram in a $2500 mac to a Mac Pro. Not even thinking about "video" to editing high def and doing killer film-look stuff in AE. From strobes for stills to tungsten to affordable daylight. From watching my neighbor dump $100k on an avid system (on a blue G3 mac) with a huge ENG cam, to plugging a DVX into my G5 and editing really pretty footage, from DIY spinners to DSLRs (with lenses I've had since I was shooting nights in my garage) and $3000 1080p cameras that look gorgeous.

It's mind-blowingly cool what's come up and what's in the pipeline. I really have no complaints! The stuff I'm storyboarding up now is cool as hell - and I have all the gear to do it right.

Yeah, still waiting on scarlet, but hey - times are good.
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