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Old February 18th, 2003, 12:37 PM   #1
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Soft Box or Umbrellas

I'm looking to buy my first lighting kit. I'm looking at a few kits on Ebay, a lowell beginner kit, and a few from posts I've read here. Some use umbrellas and some use soft boxes. I'm using it with my XL1 to shoot shorts and some interviews. Which should I go with?

Do I also need a set of lights that has barn doors and can hold gels?

The only thing I've used is work lights from Home Depot that are way too harsh. Thanks.
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Old February 18th, 2003, 12:42 PM   #2
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Your could also look fluorescents. They have a much softer light, but require a little more care. Just search this site.
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Old February 18th, 2003, 06:20 PM   #3
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I have fought with umbrellas, never really liked them. I recently bought a set of softboxes that I like. Much easier to manage.

I also really like flourescents because you can change from daylight to tungsten tubes without difficulty.

Rick
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Old February 18th, 2003, 09:42 PM   #4
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Here is something I wrote recently for someone in your situation:

This is a question that comes up often, although usually it is predicated with, "I have very little money to spend," which is understandable for young people getting into lighting. Here is a link to a three light kit that I am testing out to see if it will be the answer for tight-budget lighting: http://www.jtlcorp.com/kits/10.html
The kit consists of three lamps that can use up to 1000w lamps, although it comes with very adequate 500w bulbs, along with three soft boxes, stands, cables, and a carrying case for the whole thing, at a price below $500.00. This is pretty amazing to anyone who has ever priced out Chimera's with Arri lights, or, similar soft box kits. OK. That's the good news. What's the bad?

These soft boxes are definitely not the rugged quality of Chimera, as to be expected for the price. But they will do what they are supposed to do, they just won't take the abuse the more high end units can endure. So, you have to treat them a bit more carefully. Also, the softboxes take a little longer to set up than a Chimera-style soft box.

The lamp units are made of plastic! That's right. They have a metal front end where the bulb slips in, but the housing is plastic! Sounds weird, but it seems to work just fine. Nice to be able to tilt a lamp without burining your fingers. How well they will hold up, is a question my testing should answer over time.

The stands are very sturdy for a kit of this price, and shows that it is possible to come up with a well built stand for a reasonable price. They are way better than the crap that comes with the basic Lowell kit. I can't imagine any future problems with the stands.

The whole thing packs into a nylon case that may not be suitable for airline stowage, unless you can "beef" it up some way. But certainly fine for throwing into the back of a van. You might want to pack the bulbs in a separate hard case where they can be protected.

If you understand how to work with soft boxes, this can be a very useful kit, and will serve you well if you don't subject it to a lot of abuse. Add a dimmer, some correction gel material, and extra diffusion material, and you have a kit that will give you great bang for the buck. Excellent for interviews and product set-ups. You can remove the diffusion material if you need to add more light to your set. Options include louvres for more control. Very versatile, and from my early tests, certainly well worth the price.

Bulletin: Here is a link to a site on e-bay that is selling the kit. But the price sucks. You should be able to get it for just under $500. http://www.stores.ebay.com/jandkgroup/plistings/list/all/dept8/index.html

Bulletin-Bulletin: Here is a link to David Dicanio's site where you will find a series of clips that were his very first interviews, which he did with the Everlight Kit. You will need Windows Media Player. http://home.mindspring.com/~daviddicanio/
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Old February 19th, 2003, 01:10 PM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback. I've heard a lot of negative things about umbrellas so I'll stay away from that.
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Old February 19th, 2003, 02:03 PM   #6
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Wayne, that's an awesome lighting kit for the price! I wonder where else those kits are sold? It seems like the most bang for your buck. Does anyone know if this is appropriate for shooting a MiniDV feature length production? Or is this only for interview setups and photography?

Thanks again for the info!
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Old February 19th, 2003, 07:14 PM   #7
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Jaime,

As recommended by Wayne I bought the JTL Everlight Kit at Adorama in New York City for less than $500.

Very nice if slightly odd softlights. The case is extremely nice, well organized and relatively easy to carry, as light kits go. The three light stands are also quite nice. Subtracting what I would have paid for the case and the light stands, the soft lights ended up costing about $100 each. (Isn't rationalization great?)

The softlights are good, if a bit cumbersome to set up. They reminded me of pitching a tent as a BoyScout but on a much smaller scale. The lights themselves are odd. The halogen bulbs stick out from the lights. The lights have nice plastic covers which I presumed were intended to protect the protruding bulbs. Of course the bulbs are longer than the covers, so I have to carefully take the bulbs in and out whenever I use the lights. Not a big deal, just a little inconvenient. The diffusion screens on mine are also not removable. I think I am going to look into having some removeable baffles made.

Overall a nice kit at a great price. I also liked Adoroma. Reminded me of a little B&H.

http://www.adoramacamera.com/
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Old February 19th, 2003, 10:22 PM   #8
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on umbrellas

For those just starting out and considering on buying some lights, you could consider beginning with the tried and true Lowel Tota light. This is one light that you can use in many different ways and it is not expensive, considering that you can always find a use for it. You can use up to a 750watt bulb. I have a few of these, among some other lights, in my kit and I carry a small assortment of different wattage bulbs - 150w, 300W, 500W and 750W.

Attach a Tota-frame and you can use daylight correcting gel.

One very easy and highly affordable way to turn it into a "softbox-style" light is to attach a PhotoFlex RUD White Satin umbrella.
http://www.photoflex.com/photoflex/i...umbrellasRud&1
This is slightly different from the standard types of umbrellas you see in that it does not have a shiny reflective surface, rather it is a white ssatin material. Hence, when you reflect a light off of it, the light will be very pleasing and soft and not as specular as a standard reflector umbrella. You can also flip the Tota around and direct the light through the umbrella, creating an "instant soft-box" by using the umbrella as a shoot-through. You can usually pick up one of these umbrellas for less than $50.

If you are in a room with a lot of ambient daylight from open windows and need to kick up the light level on a subject, try using a Tota, a Tota Frame with a full-value CTB gel attached, 750w bulb and the PhotoFlex RUD umbrella as a shoot through. If you need more kick, remove the umbrella.

So, if you can only afford to buy just one light to start off with - or if you are running and gunning and can only pack one light, this is a good solution and highly affordable, easy to pack and very durable.

- don
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Old February 22nd, 2003, 01:37 PM   #9
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Don has the right idea IMO.
Buy a Tota ($110)and an umbrella ($27) and a Bogen/manfrotto 3086 light stands ($45). When you can afford a softbox buy a speedring and medium photoflex kit from B&H. You will get soft affordable light until you can get the whole rig. The umbrella will always be something you can use.
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Old February 22nd, 2003, 11:16 PM   #10
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Some questions about PhotoFlex umbrellas

I like the sound of the PhotoFlex RUD umbrella, but I wonder about a couple of things. Will they cause problems by throwing light in places I don't want? If I use it as a softbox, won't it be bouncing light back at me and over the crew? If I reflect off of it, won't all kinds of light still be spilling behind it?
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Old February 23rd, 2003, 12:04 AM   #11
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Re: Some questions about PhotoFlex umbrellas

>>>>Will they cause problems by throwing light in places I don't want?
- The quick answer is "no". The RUD is not your standard umbrella that has a shiny reflective coating on the inside... it is made of a heat resistant (very heat resistant) fabric that resembles white silk.

>>>>If I use it as a softbox, won't it be bouncing light back at me and over the crew?
- Only if you and your crew decide to stand directly behind the light... In any case, I'm assuming that you are pointing your camera towards your subject and not your crew.

>>>>If I reflect off of it, won't all kinds of light still be spilling behind it?
- Again, the quick answer is 'no'. Wer'e talking about one (of many) solutions which can be applied to the basic style of three point lighting. This is not the be-all-and-end-all solution, rather, it is one of many solutions that you can apply on occasion. It can be used as either a Key (typically with a 750watt bulb) or a Fill (stand the light back a bit and use perhaps a 300watt bulb) or a Kicker (your choice of wattage).

- don
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