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Old August 19th, 2006, 06:37 AM   #1
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Lighting Kit Recommendations for Mixed Use?

I'm ready to take my video to the next level and would appreciate your recommendations for a starter lighting kit. Here are my intended uses:

1. I currently shoot with a GL2 but will be upgrading to an HD cam within the next 12-18 months.

2. I need the lighting for upcoming on-site one/two person interviews and occasionally for raising ambient in small offices for b-roll shots (e.g., a pan across the office). I may have to shoot in either florescent or incandescent environments.

3. I will be transporting the lighting to the sites so portability is important.

4. For the starter kit I hope to keep the price in the $600-800 range.

Thanks in advance for your insights.
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Old August 19th, 2006, 11:13 AM   #2
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For your budget you'll be restricted to only a couple of heads. A Lowell Rifa Pro kit consisting of a Rifa light and a Pro head would be a basic interview kit. Quite a few top DPs swear by the Rifa light.

The alternative is to make up you own kit. Fresnel lights are the most useful, so a couple of 500 or 650 watt spots. Or perhaps a 1000 or 650 watt open faced light, which generally have a larger light output, if less controllable and a Fresnel spot as the 2nd light. You can put 216 diffusion in front of these lights to soften them or buy a Chimera later.

They are pretty versatile and you can use a Lastolite reflector as fill.
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Old August 20th, 2006, 08:34 AM   #3
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Brian, thanks for your detailed response. How do you think either of your recommendations would compare with the Lowell DV Creator 3 Head Kit found here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...goryNavigation ? Specifically, what would I give up by going with this kit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale
For your budget you'll be restricted to only a couple of heads. A Lowell Rifa Pro kit consisting of a Rifa light and a Pro head would be a basic interview kit. Quite a few top DPs swear by the Rifa light.

The alternative is to make up you own kit. Fresnel lights are the most useful, so a couple of 500 or 650 watt spots. Or perhaps a 1000 or 650 watt open faced light, which generally have a larger light output, if less controllable and a Fresnel spot as the 2nd light. You can put 216 diffusion in front of these lights to soften them or buy a Chimera later.

They are pretty versatile and you can use a Lastolite reflector as fill.
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Old August 21st, 2006, 04:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Norman
Brian, thanks for your detailed response. How do you think either of your recommendations would compare with the Lowell DV Creator 3 Head Kit found here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...goryNavigation ? Specifically, what would I give up by going with this kit?
That kit sounds fine, you can do quite a few things with it and is a good starting point. You can get a good wrap around the subject with the umbrella - they seem to be out of fashion at the moment, I suspect because you get nice window type reflections in the eyes with the Chimera. Having an extra light is worthwhile, although the Tota-light in the kit is a bit uncontrollable.

I haven't used the Pro-light, but seems like it's trying to take on the Dedo lights (which are great lights).

Only down side is the low wattage of those units if you need to put on gels for daylight correction.
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Old August 21st, 2006, 11:12 PM   #5
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A lighting kit is something that grows. As your needs and budget expand, so will your kit. There's no such thing as the perfect small light kit... which is why grip trucks exist. A little ingenuity and understanding of how light works can get you a lot farther than an expensive lighting kit. There is a VERY good book that I think ASC sells that looks at cinematographers' favorite scenes, and has them recreate the scene in a workshop setting. One of the most interesting scenes is lit with a single light through a window which, when bounced off the lead actor's shirt, illuminates the lead actress' face. Definitely a good read before or while you're enjoying your lighting kit.

Back to the kit. There are various forms of hard and soft light. For the most part, it is a LOT easier to make hard light soft than visa-versa. A great starting point for any kit is the Lowel Tota. You could look at productions of ANY budget, and you would most likely find a number of these hanging out. They are extremely versatile, almost always used for bounce. Off the ceiling, you can easily raise ambient... off a beadboard, you can make a nice soft fill, or into the umbrella as a soft key. Or, for super-crisp shadows, shine it direct. Go to harborfreight.com and buy a couple of their cheap $9-$12 router speed controls - work PERFECTLY as dimmers on these or any sub-1500 watt lights. And, don't forget that with a chimera and speed ring, totas make perfect softbox lights. Compare tota bulbs to photoflex starlite bulbs...for the same output the Tota bulbs cost about 1/3 the price.

Pro lights and DP lights are forms of open-face spots. Essentially, they have a lot of power but not a ton of control. If you're good with flags and nets (and have them as well as the required grip equip) they can be indispensible. But, many people choose fresnels because they are simply easier to use, albeit at lower output and much more expense.

Someone mentioned Dedolights. Dedos are unique in small-lighting. They are more or less shrunk-down theatrical lights called ellipsoidals. They are long-throw spotlights that can create extremely sharp cuts or soft blends, and can throw light over a great distance with minimal power from the wall. For portability and ease of use, there is nothing like them. But for the price of a single dedo, you can get about 3-4 full-size ellipsoidals that put out about 4-5 times the power. If you're just trying to start a kit, look elsewhere, as you'll blow your budget with a single dedo.

Also, for spots, it's worth mentioning the ETC Parnels. They are a bit bigger than the Arri or comparable 650's, but put out about 4 times as much light. And they're about half the price. And they're indestructable. And the bulbs are about half the price. And they don't get as hot. And they take less power...

The lowel kits are ok, in my opinion, and will get you by. But if you think seriously about what you will need, and build slowly you can make a kit that fits your particular needs now, one piece at a time. Oh, and a piece of advice - if you get a lowel kit, throw away the stands. Don't be tempted to use them EVER, they are crap and will fall over. Lowel lights get nuclear hot, and when one tips, it will probably shatter and set things on fire. Don't risk it. This is another reason I suggest building a kit on your own. The stands sound like a nice value, but you will have to replace them anyways, and at that point the value goes away.

There are so many options out there, but my suggestion is to first write out all the situations you need to work with on that $800 budget. Draw diagrams, scout locations, and try to know ahead of time how much light you will need and where you will need it. Shoot a couple of tapes while you're scouting and take notes on what t-stop you're at, which way you're pointing, what time of day it is, how much light is coming from outside, what white balance setting you're on. Save youself the headaches of showing up with too little, too much, or entirely wrong light. Even when you can afford a grip truck full of tricks, it is always best to have the correct tools for the job. You may be totally surprised that all you need is a bounce card and a couple rolls of ND and CTO gel for the windows. Good luck!
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 09:57 AM   #6
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Lots of good points there.

Worth comparing prices on the stands from different manufacturers. When I was buying stands a few years ago the Manfroto stands were much more expensive than the Arri stands even though they were almost identical (I suspect Manfroto made the stands for Arri).

Remember to have safety glass or wire fitted to these open faced lights. The bulbs can sometimes explode.
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 11:28 AM   #7
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Good call Bryan. In low-budget lighting, sometimes safety gets put aside in order to make things work. For instance, Lowel conveniently mentions that you can get about 2/3 stop extra light by leaving the safety screens off their lights. That's great, but when a bulb bursts and sets your actors on fire... well that screen may have been a good idea. Same goes with using paper china balls, or any improvised scheme. If you feel weird about removing a screen, or using certain stands, too high wattage bulbs, etc.. it's probably because it's a bad idea.
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Old August 23rd, 2006, 06:26 PM   #8
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I think the book that Jaron is thinking about is called "Reflections: 21 Cinematographers at Work" and is available from the ASC (www.theasc.com) While a pricey book, it provides some real insight into how light can create looks and moods.

One item to be aware of if considering stage lights such as the ETC is that they usually come with pipe hangers rather than stand adapters, so be sure you get the right mounting hardware. I don't think the light is as nice as an Arri fresnel, but they are certainly much cheaper.

One big advantage of the Lowel stuff that hasn't been mentioned is that it is really light. For one-man band sorts of things or for travelling, that feature can be a huge advantage.
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Old August 23rd, 2006, 09:49 PM   #9
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There is a lot of used lighting gear available at dvxuser.com iin the marketplace section.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 04:02 PM   #10
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I'd also recommend John Jackman's "Lighting for Digital Video" as good "how-to" primer that is sensitive to people with limited budgets.

I've had very good luck shooting basic, on-location interviews with the following setup:

-1 Lowel Pro-Light with a 250-watt bulb, shot through a 30" x 30" Lightform diffusion panel as a key;
- A second Lowel Pro-Light with either a 125 or 250-watt bulb (depending on the look I'm going for) as a backlight or kicker (barn doors closed to a very narrow vertical slit), and
- A 24" collapsible silver, gold or white disk reflector as a fill.

I have dichroic filters installed on the Pro-Lights to color balance everything to daylight. This saves you having to tape gels over the windows. By using only two lights and keeping the wattage down, you save money, keep your subjects from sweating and avoid tripping circuit breakers. This is plenty of light for most digital video cameras. The diffusion panels are much, much cheaper than a full softlight kit, and give you a bit more flexibility, too.

I recently purchased a couple of Ianiro Redheads (from the DVInfo classifieds, actually) which you can run at either 400 or 600 watts. These have removable fresnel lenses. I"ve just started playing with these, but these seem like very nice, economical, if a bit heavy units.

For the B-Roll stuff, I'd just use the office fluorescents and do a manual white balance of a white card (or maybe a "warming" card). Trying to color match tungsten or daylight video lights to existing fluorescents could be a nightmare.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 02:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaron Berman
Go to harborfreight.com and buy a couple of their cheap $9-$12 router speed controls - work PERFECTLY as dimmers on these or any sub-1500 watt lights.
That's one of the best "finds" I've ever come across. Thanks a million. I got some of them, and they work great! What a price savings!!!!!!!!!

Thanks!!!!

Tom
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Old August 31st, 2006, 04:45 AM   #12
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Hello all. Speed controlers and voltage problems

Tom, I've noticed plenty of top quality posts from you for which thanks.

I agree that Jaron Berman's reply was a real goodie and that for all of you on the other side of 'The Ditch' the $12 speed controllers are a must have. Sadly on checking with Harbourfreight.com they tell me that 120Volts is the limit. 220 or 240 European voltage would fry them. I did wonder, and hoped that as I didn't want to convert the voltage I might have been able to use them as dimmers.... but no.

I'll just have to hunt here I guess, my little dimmers are not a lot of use.
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Old September 4th, 2006, 01:39 PM   #13
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Do the halogen bulbs not buzz with those router controllers as dimmers?
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Old September 4th, 2006, 02:35 PM   #14
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The only time I've ever gotten a buzz from a dimmer is when the bulb is a household type (long thin filament). I've never had a problem with the more compact quartz bulbs like the EKB style. I think the buzz issue is one of the bulb and not the dimmer.

t
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Old September 5th, 2006, 11:55 PM   #15
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if the light buzzes in general then yes. But I've found that these buzz less than standard household dimmers. Tom's right, it has a lot more to do with the bulb itself
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