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Old August 9th, 2011, 11:46 AM   #1
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Lighting a small studio

Hey guys,

Setting up a small studio space of around 14 feet wide x 25 feet long. Most of the setups will be 1 or 2 subjects and possibly some occasional green screen work.

So far I've looked at 2 Arri Studio Control 2x2s for a flat light and an Arri 650 kit for keys. Any other thoughts on what other lights I could use? I need some kind of softbox for sure...

Thanks!
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Old August 9th, 2011, 12:51 PM   #2
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Re: Lighting a small studio

It appears you're doing a typical "if I build it they will come" deal.

Without a more detailed business plan, what you're doing is simply building a space in which to learn how to do studio lighting. Which is fine, but incredibly risky.

I'd suggest you stay away from the expensive gear like Arri - since at this point you don't actually have any idea what lights you'll really be needing until you see what types of work your future clients actually want.

Go cheap. Keep your lighting gear budget as low as possible. If you do land clients, rent more expensive versions of the inexpensive stuff you learn on - and replace the crap gear on a schedule that is driven by which types of lights you use most often for paying clients. Learn what light does (and doesn't do) and avoid being left with expensive gear that has a very limited market.

You're taking a big risk here. So hedge that risk wherever possible. That's my advice.
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Old August 9th, 2011, 01:09 PM   #3
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Re: Lighting a small studio

Actually it's for an internal corporate setup, so the work already exists and I'm working within a budget. Money (within reason of course) isn't really a big issue. I've done plenty of studio stuff before but always with a space that was outfitted with gear. I've never started from scratch so I was hoping to get some other peoples experiences.
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Old August 9th, 2011, 03:33 PM   #4
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Re: Lighting a small studio

Good, That's easier to figure out.

Start with the most likely thing you have to shoot. What's the setup? What's in the room now. What NEEDS to be in the room. What camera(s) will you be shooting. And most critical - what's the required end result. Are you shooting catalog pages? Talking heads? Do they need to look great - or merely "in house work acceptable."

All of these things and a whole bunch more are important if you want specific light recommendations.

For instance, you note greenscreen - if all you want is a single talking head green screen shot - a pair of 2' fluors might work great - but they also might not. It depends on camera to subject distance, subject to screen distance and your ability to control light spill on everything.

Everything is variable. The fewer variables you provide to us, the more accurate our advice can be.
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Old August 9th, 2011, 07:19 PM   #5
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Re: Lighting a small studio

If it is a small space, I'd say try to go florescent & LED as much as possible. They cost more than halogen, but they'll keep the small room cooler & getting cooler lights is usually alot cheaper than getting a new HVAC system for just the mini studio.
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Old August 10th, 2011, 11:10 PM   #6
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Re: Lighting a small studio

That would be a great strategy - except for one thing.

Good lighting is about controlling light. Fluorescent and LED lights are both much, MUCH harder to control than traditional tungsten lights.

If your lighting skills start and end with turning a light onto your subject in order to make it brighter - then by all means go for these options. They're perfectly capable of doing decent lighting in simple setups.

But when the bald guy's head shines, or you don't like the shadow cast by someone's nose, or you want to make your background more colorful, more interesting, or even just bring it down a couple of stops compared to your keylight - and you find you can't do that because all you understand is how to stick low energy lights up and turn them on or off - you might begin to understand that good lighting - and efficient lighting - are sometimes two different things.

Don't get me wrong - the web is AWASH in simplistic lighting.

And today, good enough, is often all you get. And if that's all you aspire to - then by all mean make energy savings or heat control the ruling concepts in your business video studio.

Just understand that a couple of your competitors might eventually figure out that they can make their products and services really POP by learning to control the production variables and aesthetics that make up the difference between OK and really nice lighting.

Just saying.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 10:18 AM   #7
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Re: Lighting a small studio

as a "crossover" shooter doing both stills and video in a smaller space I've found that the LED's and Flos do make it more comfortable for all involved...a $1,200.00 studio electric bill was all the encouragement I needed to research the options.

If you go with Flos like the Spiderlights then you retain the ability to add modifiers and control your lighting. I've compensated for the normal low light output by replacing the 27 watt (100 equiv) with 85 and 105 watt bulbs and have more than light to work with...

this teaser from a Boxers promo was shot with 3 Spiderlights (2-TD5's and one TD-3) in 2-photoflex strip boxes and a 3' Medium Octo and 2-680 bulb round LEDs (the cheap ones ;-) with gels and diffusion socks.


so you CAN control those lights...

btw: one thing that has been a tremendous help when shooting in my small space is wall mounted boom arms...I have 9 mounted in strategic positions that give me complete flexibility and keep the floors free of stands and cords.

HTH...Ric

Ric Kasnoff | Photographer
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Old August 12th, 2011, 12:34 AM   #8
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Re: Lighting a small studio

I'm not saying this image requires ANY improvement in order to do it's job.

This is just a thought exercise for the folks here who want to learn to look at video compositions image and assess if there are things that MIGHT improve it. Often, I try stuff like this, it does NOT work in the larger scheme of things, and I go back to where I was. So take it with a large grain of salt.

Personally, I would have added three more steps to the process. To my eye, (and this is all TOTALLY subjective) this composition CRIES out for catch lights in the eyes. I might even have tried candlelights. The "black pool" pupils are a defensible approach, but I think the impression of fire in his pupils or at least a slightly better look at those "windows to the soul" would have enhanced the composition and done an even more dramatic job of shouting "this guy is scary" - which is the whole point of the image in my mind. This loses too much of his eyes for my taste.

Second, this is very minor but his left shoulder (trapezius area) is currently pushing to be the brightest object in the frame, and that pulls a bit of focus from his face. A well flown scrim or flag might have knocked it back to be equal to or maybe a half stop lower than the shoulder which would have made more sense. That face is the whole point. It's a great face. That's what I'd want the audience FIXED on so I'm make SURE it was the brightest object in the frame.

Finally, maybe it's my monitor, but like a lot of Flos I'm seeing some green tinge in the midtones. This might be a monitor issue on my side (this is my computer monitor, not my field monitor after all) so it might be a spectrum issue that's fixble or it might be nothing.. It's always hard to tell with limited spectrum lighting.

I want to emphasize that I'm pointing out these OPTIONS. Not saying in any way that they're something wrong.

And it's always a whole lot easier to "armchair quarterback" stuff after the fact than mess around making everything PERFECT in the field. .

But a lot of guys come here to learn. So those are some things that came to my mind as I looked at the image.

Overall, it should be a very effective piece once it has the "call to action" element added.

My 2 cents worth anyway.
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Last edited by Bill Davis; August 12th, 2011 at 01:29 PM.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 05:40 AM   #9
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Re: Lighting a small studio

With smaller studio there are two very important features that often get left out.

Ventilation - tungsten lighting kicks out huge amounts of heat - and once you have two or three light sources in a smallish space, it will get hot very quickly. Big ventilation systems will be essential - suck out the hot air, and get outside in - quickly and silently. Pretty difficult.

As has been said, LEDs are pretty bright now, but rather an imprecise tool. Fresnels, like the Arris (and the clones) have barndoors that are pretty useful and have a nice cut off - not too hard, but not too soft - they just work nicely. You can move the lamp backwards and the beam concentrates in a nice gentle way. The brightness fall off towards the edge of the beam is gradual. LEDs don't behave quite the same way. They're not Fresnels, so you can't narrow or widen the beam, although you can on some fit barndoors to reduce spill where you don't want it. The edges look a bit different, but they work. The difference for me is that you can't change the beam angle to concentrate or spread the brightness, so you only have distance (unless you have more expensive ones that have DMX control.

Distance is the problem, because if you are using stands (yuk) or a pipe grid with hook clamps, then moving your lights is a major job. A track system works much better, because the lights can be moved around with a pole, so moving one away from the subject a metre or two is much simpler, and you can do it from the ground.

I said yuk to stands, because they are unstable, difficult to move, and trail cables. You can of course use the heavier duty Manfrottos or similar - but they are heavy, have wide spaced feet and moving them with them extended and a heavy luminaire at the top is not a simple job. I do have a nice heavy stand on castors, for those times when I need lower level lighting, but they still trip people up.

With a lower budget, you can fit 48/52mm tube with longer distances between support and buy some clamps with rollers - these will sit on the top of the bar and let you move the fixture between supports. A good half way house!
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Old August 31st, 2011, 09:36 PM   #10
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Re: Lighting a small studio

Hi Jeremy,

I use the Arri Fresnel Combo 4-Light Kit (2x300 watt, 2x650 watt, 4 stands with single and double scrims) in combination with an extra 650 watt Arri. With the addition of a flag kit a couple of c-stands with gobo arms and heads you should have everything you need for a variety of setups in the space you're talking about. Even though the lights are hotter than some of the florescent and led's, they are easier to control. If you need a soft box, a lot of the flag kits available come with an artificial one and two stop silk or you can go with a traditional soft box with a grid.

In my opinion you should be good to start with the Arri light kit, an additional 650, a couple of c-stands with arms and grip heads, a flag kit and several sand bags.

Light kit:
Arri Fresnel Combo 4-Light Kit 571985 B&H Photo Video

650:
Arri 650 Watt Plus Tungsten Fresnel (120-240VAC) 531600 B&H

C-Stands: Digital Juice Grip Stand Set :: Digital Juice

Flag Kit:
Westcott Fast Flags Scrim Kit 1937 B&H Photo Video

Hope this helps, and good luck with your new studio!
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Old September 20th, 2011, 11:55 AM   #11
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Re: Lighting a small studio

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Spruston View Post
Actually it's for an internal corporate setup, so the work already exists and I'm working within a budget. Money (within reason of course) isn't really a big issue. I've done plenty of studio stuff before but always with a space that was outfitted with gear. I've never started from scratch so I was hoping to get some other peoples experiences.
SInce I'm looking at the exact same situation, all the responses here have been a great help!
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Old September 21st, 2011, 09:30 PM   #12
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Re: Lighting a small studio

I'm not saying I know everything, but I very rarely do I see any hard light sources used in corporate videos (unless they're trying to be dramatic) If money is no object, I'd go for a couple of Kinos and maybe one or two small HMI Fresnels. HMIs are great because the CRI is high and they still use a lot less energy than tungston. They can still get a little warm, but you'll be using 125s and 200s vs. 300s and 650s.

My ideal setup for this would be
4 4 foot 4banks from kino
2 200W HMI Pars or fresnels from Arri with softboxes
2 400W HMI Pars or fresnels from Arri with softboxes

It's a lot of money, but you get almost any lighting set-up covered

For greenscreen you have 2 4banks for the background and 2 for the floor and then you use the 400s for key and fill and a 200 for a back light.

For a white seamless, you do the same thing

for a textured background, you use the kinos as key and fill and then use the hmis to splash light onto the background and use a 200 for a back light

for a black background, you have 4banks for key and fill, 2 4banks for kickers and a 200 hmi for a hairlight

for 2 people, you can do 3 point lighting on both of them and still have 2 lights left for the background.

It may not be cheap to start out with, but it's a lot better than tungsten and It will look beautiful (assuming you set it up right ;) )
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