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Photon Management
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Old September 4th, 2006, 05:53 PM   #1
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Lighting Recommendations (both kits and on-camera)

I need to get some lighting gear (don't have anything right now). I'm using an FX1 and occasionally use an HC1 as well. I'll be shooting weddings and training videos and hopefully some very low budget shorts and music videos. Also I do a decent amount of photography in addition to video, so I'd like something that I can use for that purpose as well for basic portrait photography, maybe even something that I could hook up to my D200 to flash simultaneously with my SB800.

I'd like a on-camera light for weddings, and the 3-point kit for the other stuff. Realisticlly I hope to be under the $1300 mark for everything, I'd been looking into some of Lowell DV kits, but I'm just not familiar with what I need. (I've done a lot of theatrical stage lighting, just not for video) Training videos will usually include interviews as well as dramatized reinactments and roleplays. Music videos I haven't done yet, but may very soon, and I don't know what I might need.

Basically I'm looking for a good basic kit that I can have a good upgrade path for as my needs change. I don't want to have to replace my entire kit in 6 months. Thanks!
Noah Hayes is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 5th, 2006, 10:52 PM   #2
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Luckily, lighting is almost format independent. Good lights are good lights, as are good lighting techniques. HD vs. SD shouldn't matter a bit, they're both basically on par when it comes to sensitivity. Film on the other hand, sees things differently. Regardless, lighting well should cover most any format, including film. Now, to clear something up right away - unless you're using units called "lightning strikes," your lights shouldn't "flash." Lighting for film and video is continuous, not strobe like for your Nikon, so finding a system that will "flash" with your strobes is either VERY expensive (lightning strikes) or unnecessary. it is easy, however, to balance continuous and flash lighting for still photography, so whatever hot lights you get for video will certainly work fine in your photography as well. Keep in mind that to do that though, you'll need to gel your flash to tungsten balance (full CTB), and white balance your camera to tungsten as well. Then all is good. But, that's another topic entirely. back to lights for video-

As your needs grow, so should your kit. One basic light that is great to have around in any situation where you need more ambient light level is a light called a broad... a great example is the Lowel Tota or Lowel V-light. Bounced off the ceiling, they can raise the level so you have enough to shoot. They can also flood a background, or bounce off a white board for soft fill or key. About 130 each.

You will want a couple spots too. I prefer the altmans, they're just a bit less than Arris, but my experience has shown they're built a little better. 2 x 650's and 1 x 300 should do nicely. Get the barndoors with them - no point in light you can't control. Only thing you may want in addition to all that may be some sort of soft light. If you're saving cash, get a speed ring for the tota light and a nice soft box. Photoflex boxes are a great value, but don't skimp on size. W/ photoflex don't go smaller than 24x32, or it's basically the same as putting diffusion over the barndoors on the fresnels. As a starter kit, those lights with stands should be under your budget and get you by almost any situation. Obviously as your needs grow, so will your kit, but that's a pretty complete kit for location lighting.

As for on-camera... do you like that look, first off? If you don't mind it, I would suggest the little sony 2-bulb deals. They're cheap, use cheap cony aftermarket batteries, and put out enough light to get by. That's all the on-camera is for really, getting by. if you want nice catchlights in the eyes, or stronger on-camera light, chances are you'll be setting up other lights too, and can use one of your spots on a stand next to you. Bt for run-and-gun, simple and light is best. I have a Kino Kamio setup which is a daylight or fluorescent ring-light around the lens... It's fantastic but very expensive and isn't great for all situations. I almost only use it with other lights, to add a nice glow to the skin. In general though, it's a LOT better to light the space and work out blocking with your subjects/actors than it is to rely on an on-camera light. Plus, lighting a space means that you should have a pretty consistant exposure no matter how close or far you are to your subject. On camera light means that the subject must stay the EXACT same distance from the camera or else the exposure on him/her will change.

Good luck!
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Old September 7th, 2006, 10:26 AM   #3
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Nice tutorial.

C100, 5DMk2, FCPX
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Old September 7th, 2006, 02:03 PM   #4
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I agree, very good information.
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Old September 7th, 2006, 03:53 PM   #5
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Thanks. I did, however leave out something pretty important if you're coming from a still-photography world. Flash untis are rated in watt-seconds, or joules. That is literally the amount of energy that the capacitors can store before "flashing" it out to the tube. This is confusing because it is NOT the same as the "Watt" rating on a continuous light. On a continuous light, you need to know the total number of watts you're putting on each circuit so you don't blow the circuit. With strobes, the "watt seconds" are often 6-12 times the amount of "watts" you're drawing from the wall (depending on the charging circuits), so forget everything you know about the power of lights as soon as you switch from photo to video/film.

So where we may be able to light an arena with four 600-watt-second strobes hung from a catwalk, good luck trying that with 4 x 600 watt continuous lights! What's more important is that in either case, the Watts you're looking at measure the electrical energy, not light energy. So a 650 W open-face light vs. a 650 watt tungstend par vs. a 650 watt hmi-par (just an example) will all have drastically different amounts of output for the same amount of input. Look at Kino-Flo's - the 4-bank draws a total of about 220 Watts from the wall, but makes more light than a typical 2000 watt softlight. A light from ETC called the "parnel" uses a 575 watt bulb and makes about the same light as an Arri 2K fresnel. And it's less expensive than an Arri 650. Higher numbers aren't everything.

In the movie world, they don't often use huge lights to make things super bright. They use big lights to place the lights farther away, while making the light levels even. I know this is way off topic from the original post, but it's pretty key to understanding why some lighting looks supe amateur and some looks fantastic. The inverse square law, which applies to ALL light, strobe or continuous comes into play. A light that's 2' from the main subject and 4' from the secondary subject will be 4 times brighter on the closer subject. Just imagine what that looks like... video barely has enough range to hold both subjectsin the image at all - one person is in shadow while the other is perfectly exposed. or one person is nuclear over-exposed while the other is correct. Not so pretty. Now imagine getting that same f-stop, but the light is much bigger and 30 feet away. The difference in exposure between the main and secondary subjects is now hardly noticeable. That's why big lights are nice. They can achieve the same light level from a lot farther away.

If you're working in a small space, there is no practical use for large lights, so consider that as well. You may be able to get by with household lamps in the set itself. Unfortunately, building a light kit is a very personal thing. What works for someone else may be terrible for your needs. The best advice I could ever give is to plan out your setups and know what you're getting into. You can get away with some pretty sneaky solutions if you plan ahead. And owning lights doesn't automatically make your work better either - there are a LOT of people who work wonders with natural or bounced light. Scout, draw diagrams, and plan ahead for the f-stop you're looking to achieve. When you know what you need, you can save yourself TONS of money, headaches trying to knock down the levels from oversized lights or cooling down a room, and even your back from lugging around too much of the wrong gear.
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Old September 8th, 2006, 06:19 AM   #6
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Jason! Thanks so much for the info, that was exactly the stuff I needed to know! Looks like I'll be holding off for a while on lights, gotta do a lot more research and thinking into what I need. I'd just started looking into some of the Altman lights, I just don't know if I want to haul around a bunch of fresnels all over the place.
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