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Old March 25th, 2007, 09:47 AM   #1
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Adding softboxes to my kit?

Hi everyone,

I have a Smith Victor lighting kit that has 3 650W lights in it. I've got stands, barndoors, scrims, filter holders, etc. for all of them (and even a dimmer). The one thing I don't have is a softbox. I'd like to either buy some inexpensive (money is definitely a factor) softboxes or make my own - I was thinking about building one out of foamcore w/ a plywood back. Any suggestions on either building my own softboxes or on finding some inexpensive ones?

Thanks in advance...

Luke
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Old March 25th, 2007, 03:28 PM   #2
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Check eBay. There are usually some inexpensive ones there that work pretty well.
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Old March 25th, 2007, 06:11 PM   #3
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650 watt foamcore

I have some 650 watt bulbs in some SV fixtures.

At once time I built some nice softboxes from foamcore and aluminum foil, ceiling light diffusers and wood trim. They worked well with strobe lights and low wattage modeling lights.

However,

If you point the SV light with the 650 watt bulb at some foam core, you won't have any foamcore for very long. Once for fun, I pointed my sv light at a paper light bulb container. It burst into flames in under 3 seconds when held close to the bulb.

You could use some heat resistant white diffusion material on a frame kept away from the light, that would be the cheapest way other than bouncing the light off the ceiling. Umbrellas might come third.

To avoid the fire danger, buy softboxes made for incandescent lights.

Last edited by Larry Vaughn; March 26th, 2007 at 11:57 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old March 25th, 2007, 08:36 PM   #4
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I agree with all that. Those foam core softboxes are just too fragile from a number of different standpoints. When I went with fluorescent bulbs like this one though I haven't had any more trouble with potential fire hazards though:

http://www.servicelighting.com/catal...m?prod=MX35871

Draws 200w but puts out around 800w equivalent light.
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Old March 26th, 2007, 04:53 AM   #5
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I recently read that the fluorescent energy saving bulbs miss out parts of the lighting spectrum...I have a few in my house and there definitely seems to be something 'lacking' from them.
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Old March 26th, 2007, 11:59 AM   #6
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big bulb

Richard, do those mogul based flourescent bulbs require a ballast or is the ballast part of the bulb?

Never mind. Self-ballasted, CRI 84.

Last edited by Larry Vaughn; March 26th, 2007 at 12:29 PM. Reason: add info
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Old March 27th, 2007, 01:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
I recently read that the fluorescent energy saving bulbs miss out parts of the lighting spectrum...I have a few in my house and there definitely seems to be something 'lacking' from them.
Many people say the same thing. There are many things which could contribute to this. Soft vs. hard light, CRI, weird color temperatures.

I think what they are describing is the soft shadows and general soft lighting coming from fluorescents after years of living with hard light from incandescents. Its something you have to get used to. Also, you should pick your color temperature well. I use all 5500Ks now quite a bit around me and its a very pleasing color temperature. After a while it's kind of like your not even aware of any man made lighting.

4100K is a common color temperature in less expensive bulbs. Personally I avoid that. While your dv camera or digital still camera can white balance to it and the results will look fine (given an adequate CRI) it is not a flattering color to the eye and you should pick things that add to your inspiration not subtract from it.

Another common problem would be that many cheaper bulbs could have a CRI ranging anywhere from 65 to 79. That's just not good enough for most of our type work. Those bulbs always leave your eyes to work a bit more too in my opinion so, hence another reason people may have developed a bad opinion of fluorescent light.

All that is changing today though. It's getting harder and harder to find the lower CRI bulbs and there is not so much price difference anymore. At some point we may only have 80 and above and 90 may be more common place than it is today.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 01:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Vaughn View Post
Richard, do those mogul based flourescent bulbs require a ballast or is the ballast part of the bulb?

Never mind. Self-ballasted, CRI 84.
Yes you got it. I went through a big DIY phase 2 years ago which I documented in a video on building your own fluorescent video lighting. I'm enclosing a picture of my first prototype softbox fixture. I really couldn't believe it when I found the 200w unit. So much easier to use and includes the ballast. 84 CRI and 5000K are not what you really want but i'd rather have 5000K than 4200K any day of the week.

I've found that bulb to be super reliable too, compared with many of the other 200w self-ballasted chinese counterparts I've evaluated for selling on my site (I have a whole closet full of rejects). The Maxlite is still manufactured in China but the difference was that that manufacturer obviously has strict quality control standards and some weight to throw around too to get what they want.

The only negative about a bulb like the Maxlite is you can't use a dimmer with it. So you're left to using silk and other diffusion techniques to dim it down.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 09:06 AM   #9
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My understanding from some of the other posts I've read on the site is that fluorescents spike in some colors and are lacking in others... otherwise building a softbox out of them would definitely be the way to go. I went to the local hardware store and bought a 500w halogen work light to play with. I turned it on and let it heat up and then I placed some foam core right beside it. Fifteen minutes later and the foamcore was still just fine. I then tried another fifteen minutes w/ the foamcore pressing on rim of the housing. The foam core seemed to have gotten a little mishapen, but other than that, nothing..... I'm kind of thinking a foamcore softbox on one of these would be okay, provided we were careful not to leave it running... not ideal, but I haven't really seen any other affordable options, or any other materials to make my own that would work better.
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Old March 27th, 2007, 08:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke Hill View Post
My understanding from some of the other posts I've read on the site is that fluorescents spike in some colors and are lacking in others... otherwise building a softbox out of them would definitely be the way to go.
A growing number of people, myself included, are using fluorescent for video lighting everyday and have no problems with it. Technically, everyone should use the term "Correllated Color Temperature" to describe all discharge lighting like fluorescent but people misuse it and just call it color temperature everyday. Too much momentum built up there to stop it I'm afraid.

In any case, fluorescent lights with a true CRI of 80 or above (and the higher you can get up close to 90 and 95 would be the safest for most uses including critical ones) are okay to use with digital mediums. The green spike you're talking about is mostly a sensitivity problem with film. Digital mediums are pretty forgiving thanks to white balance. Here's some more information on all this in my blog:

Color temp/CRI -> http://www.coollights.biz/wordpress/archives/13

Green Spike -> http://www.coollights.biz/wordpress/archives/14


Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke Hill View Post
I went to the local hardware store and bought a 500w halogen work light to play with. I turned it on and let it heat up and then I placed some foam core right beside it. Fifteen minutes later and the foamcore was still just fine. I then tried another fifteen minutes w/ the foamcore pressing on rim of the housing. The foam core seemed to have gotten a little mishapen, but other than that, nothing..... I'm kind of thinking a foamcore softbox on one of these would be okay, provided we were careful not to leave it running... not ideal, but I haven't really seen any other affordable options, or any other materials to make my own that would work better.
That may be but no one who is prudent is going to recommend using foam core right next to hot lights on a public forum ;-)

People successfully use shower curtains to diffuse those lights all the time too but no one who wants to stay out of trouble will advise you to put it up right next to it even though some may do it everyday.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 08:51 AM   #11
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Hi Richard,

Thanks for the very informative post! After further consideration, I'm thinking I'm going to scrap the DIY softbox idea and perhaps just go w/ a premade kit w/ softboxes. I've got a few jobs coming up and it seems like it's just not worth spending the time to build my own.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 08:52 AM   #12
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follow up...

After reading your articles, I'm curious - are the fluorescents a good choice only for video production, commercial/news work or would they work as well as halogens for someone making a film?
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Old March 28th, 2007, 09:41 AM   #13
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Many people use fluorescent for just those uses everyday. When you say "film" lets be sure we know what you're talking about. I think what you mean is your going to shoot a feature in DV right? Not actually shooting with film I would guess. If DV, no problem as long as you use good quality fluorescent lighting of decent CRI and consistent color temperature with all other lighting involved. When shooting with actual film there can be other considerations in using fluorescent. Many times people use a minus green gel to guarantee filtering out any potential green coloration or they use special tubes with extra magenta phoshor in them. But for DV and digital still cameras this is not normally necessary with tubes (and ballasts too) of good quality.
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