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Old May 30th, 2012, 02:07 AM   #16
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

On the sets I've worked on with new filmmakers, there always seems to be at least one kit of lowel lights floating around. They are a good first set of tungsten lights.

The great thing about the lowel lights is their portability and light weight; the stands and lights fold up nice and tiny and 2-3 non-soft lights fit into a large-suitcase size hardshell case. I don't think there is anything with the same quality level that is smaller or lighter. Schools often use them as the kits they let students use.

I also like the way they have foldable frames for holding gels away from the hot lights; I don't know why other manufacturers don't have something similar. And the prices are quite reasonable.

But even though they are present on most of the sets I've been on, usually they are used to supplement other more powerful and/or more controllable lighting (big heavy Arri, Mole, or chinese knockoff Fresnels or softlights). And the lowel stands are fragile enough that C-stands or even Manfrotto stands are always preferable.

As mentioned, the Rifa softboxes are the most professionally useful part of their line: tough and even illumination. But not as portable or cheap as their other lights.

I'm considering getting some used lowel lights to supplement my daylight balanced lights.
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Old May 30th, 2012, 06:55 AM   #17
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Allright then I guess I'll just get a lowel or 2 to get my feet wet and when I have a higher budget, I'll get an arri 650 for my main light.
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Old May 30th, 2012, 09:24 AM   #18
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

My quickee interview light kit consists of a RIFA 55, a Pro Light, and two collapsible reflectors, plus stands, two 25' stingers and a dimmer. It all fits in something the size of a small tripod bag.
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Old May 30th, 2012, 10:33 AM   #19
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

My small interview kit same as Kevin's. I do a lot of doc interviews.

To which I frequently add a second Rifa 55, sometimes a pepper 300w fresnel, maybe a tota for backgrounds. Some 1/2 CTB, a couple reflectors, misc lowell gadgets for floor, ceiling, railing mounting...

For me, this approach came from needing to develop a suitcase kit that could be checked for air travel without large fees. But, I found that I liked it for around town shoots, too. Small, light, fast...

But that's for one or two subjects who don't move. If I were shooting drama, my needs would be quite different. For a heavier kit, I like an Arri kit with two arrilites with medium chimeras, and a 650 fresnel. For only three lights, that's pretty versatile on a small set.

Frequently working alone, I've come to value small, light and fast!
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Old May 30th, 2012, 10:59 AM   #20
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Hi Victor,

I started out with some Lowell lights because they were the right price when I was starting and they were good enough for me to learn about basic lighting techniques. They are pretty durable and will hold up to a fair amount of abuse. As I started to focus more on the types of projects I wanted to do and what types of projects I was being paid to do I was able to better define what I wanted in my light kit.

A lot of what you will end up having depends on two things. One, the types of projects you will be doing. And two, how easy is it for you to get other lighting instruments when you need them and don't have them in your kit. My desired focus is to do narrative films. I work on about 5 to 8 independent (ultra low budget) movies a year. My kit consists of enough basics to be able to light a small 2 to 3 person scene. Because of that I have 4 daylight balanced 650 equivalent Fresnels and one 300 equivalent. I went with the Cool Lights CDM's because I knew I wanted daylight balanced lights but couldn't afford HMI's. I also have a few Chinese lanterns with assorted bulbs, a few small LED portable lights, and one Comer LED on camera light (mostly used when I have to do run and gun interviews or just need some lighting on a guerrilla shoot). Along with that I have C-stands, a few boom arm stands, an assortment of various grip gear to be able to mount lights on walls, in doorways, or off of other places. I also carry an assortment of gels, scrims, bounce cards, cutter, flags, etc. However, for most of the movies I work on, there is a Gaffer so I don't have to use my lights and they will have or be able to get the needed equipment. And, don't forget lots of sand bags to hold down all those lights.

Making movies doesn't make any money so for most of my paying jobs I'm shooting one or two person interviews, product demos, live events, or seminars for corporations. I've also got two soft boxes that go onto my 650's that I usually use during interviews. For my paying jobs my light kit is very well suited. It's not as quick as say a Rifa to set up but I also have the ability to go with hard lighting if the situation calls for it.

As Tom mentioned there are a lot of people who use Lowell's. They set up quickly, are well built, and are affordable. Almost all of the local news stations use Lowell kits for their field reporters. I would not feel comfortable using the Lowell stands as they are not very sturdy. A lot of people go from the Lowell kits to ARRI's because they are well made and affordable Fresnel lights. There are other lights out there that are more expensive but the ARRI's are good basic lights (Mole-Richardson, Kino Flo, Dedolight, LTM, K5600 to name a few). To answer Tom's comment about the gel holders, just about everyone I know just attaches gels to the barn doors of their Fresnels with C47s (clothes pins). When I had my Lowell kit I never used the gel holders.

I would recommend that you look for some good used lights. Going with a small Lowell kit to start with isn't a bad way to go but if you know you are going to eventually be selling them and moving to something else later, you could basically get the use of them for little to no cost. My first small Lowell kit was used, and when I eventually sold it I got all of my original investment back so I got to use them for a year+ and it didn't cost me in the end.
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Old May 30th, 2012, 01:23 PM   #21
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

I have Lowel lights that are around 25 years old. They last forever. An original set of Lowel Quartz-D lights, precursor to the DP, is still in use by a friend I sold the set to.

As far as stands, nobody's stands are sturdier. Usually when people complain about the stands, they are referring to the light weight smaller ones that come with some of the smaller light kits. Not the bigger ones you use with DPs.

Moving to an Arri, or Altman, or Mole Richardson, or any other brand of fresnel is not an upgrade--it's a different kind of light. I use open face lights, mostly Lowel, and fresnels as well, and LEDs and fluorescents and HMIs. Depends on the shoot. There's no one type of light that's best for everything. If I had to only have one set of lights, it would be four Lowel DPs. I can always diffuse, snoot, and flag open face lights. Sure, a fresnel makes it easier, but there are times the broad evenness of an open face light is needed, as well as the long throw in other instances.

Somebody said get a book about lighting before buying anything. I'd second that and add that if you're new to things, see if you can rent before you buy as well. What you think you need may be different from what you really do need most of the time. For about half of what I'm doing these days, I use three LED500s and one LED1000 and some daylight fluorescents. For other things I rent HMIs, and for still other things I use the ancient Lowels. Unless you have unlimited money, you can never have all the lights you need. Best thing to do is rent for awhile, then if you shoot regularly so it's better to own than rent, buy a basic set that'll do most of what you need and rent the rest.
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Old May 30th, 2012, 06:09 PM   #22
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

I agree that Lowel is a good value lighting, unfortunately they stopped making Fresnel lights several years ago so you have to mix with other manufacturers if you're looking to put together a good light kit.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 01:29 AM   #23
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Since nobody mentioned Lowel Omni lights, I will. They are very rugged and versatile. I use them as-is to fill a large area with light, or with an umbrella for a soft light. They come with a socket to accept an umbrella, and they can be focused.

My light kit consists of 3 Omni lights with barn doors and umbrellas, a Rifa 55 with egg crate, and an LTM 2" Fresnel spotlight.

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Old June 5th, 2012, 01:49 AM   #24
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

One major design flaw with the Omni's (unless something has changed in the past 20 years since I used them!) is that the bulb is mounted sideways, compared to the DP series. This makes it possible to mount the unit with the bulb upside down if you aren't careful (via simple 180 rotation on the tilt pivot), which will result in the bulb burning up its fixture due to the heat rising. Used to have quite a few bulb failures due to this. I also seem to remember a fair amount of failure at the power cable socket, had a few finicky units that required jiggling the cable to keep it working.

Not everyone experienced those issues but I always found the D's or DP's more rugged and foolproof.

For what it's worth: you will rarely if ever find any Lowel units on a "legit" feature or episodic television set. Even the D series would generally be represented by redheads/blondes (Desisti) or Mole open faces (Arri is using their excellent Arrimax reflectors in their latest Arrilites, resulting in a much improved open face product, but I haven't had a chance to spec them on a project yet) . Every now and then you come across a Rifa, but they are generally more of a personal kit item favored by a given DP.

That all said, there's a place for classic Lowel units for those who need compact and inexpensive units and don't have the most stringent requirements for light quality or output. And they continue to put out new instruments like the Prime LED that represent forward thinking.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 04:33 PM   #25
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
One major design flaw with the Omni's (unless something has changed in the past 20 years since I used them!) is that the bulb is mounted sideways, compared to the DP series. This makes it possible to mount the unit with the bulb upside down if you aren't careful (via simple 180 rotation on the tilt pivot), which will result in the bulb burning up its fixture due to the heat rising...
Charles, looking at my Omni lights, I would say the bulb is mounted vertically, not sideways. The glass part is up, and the pins are pointing down. The unit's 5/8" stand mounting socket can be rotated all the way around, so I guess you could rotate the unit upside down, but I don't see why anyone would. If you did, you wouldn't have the handle pointing down for easy adjustment.

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Old June 5th, 2012, 05:04 PM   #26
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
For what it's worth: you will rarely if ever find any Lowel units on a "legit" feature or episodic television set. Even the D series would generally be represented by redheads/blondes (Desisti) or Mole open faces (Arri is using their excellent Arrimax reflectors in their latest Arrilites, resulting in a much improved open face product, but I haven't had a chance to spec them on a project yet) . Every now and then you come across a Rifa, but they are generally more of a personal kit item favored by a given DP.

That all said, there's a place for classic Lowel units for those who need compact and inexpensive units and don't have the most stringent requirements for light quality or output. And they continue to put out new instruments like the Prime LED that represent forward thinking.


Here in Venezuela it seems to go like this:

Big productions like movies, tv shows, commercials, etc. seem to be mainly using Arri and Kino Flo lighting 90% of the time.

TV shows covering events and doing interviews on location all seem to be using Lowel lights 90% of the time.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 06:33 PM   #27
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Ken, generally the issues I recalll were with units hung from the ceiling like from scissor clips. You just have to be careful to make sure the head isnt just flipped upside down to avoid the inverted globe issue.

The difference between the Omni and DP globe mounting is that the pins on the DP globe go straight back into the unit (i.e. you push the globe down into the fixture to mount), so the only scenario to avoid there is to point the unit straight down.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 10:23 PM   #28
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Coincidently, I had two Omni's on scissor clamps running for over 2 hours just this past Saturday. It's the only configuration I use them in studio as well. I haven't lost a bulb since I bought them used 8 years ago.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 02:06 AM   #29
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

There's an old thread about this very issue--some had the problem, others don't. Lowel themselves indicate that hanging the Omni's upside down will shorten the bulb life.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 06:59 AM   #30
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Re: how good are lowel lights?

Dag nabbit Papert. Now you've jinxed it! Ignorance was mighty blissful. I bet those lamps start popping this week now that the cat is out of the bag. Good to know... :-)

FWIW, is this a problem with Fresnels with a bottom mounted lamps or just the Lowel lamp design?
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