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Old April 21st, 2007, 10:06 AM   #1
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Help this newbie improve his Smith-Victor setup

I have the three-light setup of these type Smith-Victor lights, bought when I was just starting out:

http://sites.circletreemedia.com/ida...or%20KT500.jpg

I can never get light from them like I'd like. What can I do to make them work better? Gels? Barn door attachments? Reflectors? Best configurations?

Can these work, or should I look at buying another setup? I'm mostly doing interviews right now, but hope to use them in maybe low/no-budget features.

Suggestions most appreciated.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 01:27 PM   #2
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What kind of light do you like?

Just wondering what kind of effect you are looking for?
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Old April 21st, 2007, 06:25 PM   #3
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All of those control items you mentioned like barn doors, gels, etc. will help but that can't change the fact that those are open face "flood" type instruments which definitely have their place. Another element of control they will never have though is a lens like that found on a spot, par or fresnel. Those instruments offer varying degrees of control of the beam of the light thanks to the way the reflector and bulb can be positioned relative to the lens. Those smith victor lights will never offer that.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 06:08 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Richard Andrewski View Post
All of those control items you mentioned like barn doors, gels, etc. will help but that can't change the fact that those are open face "flood" type instruments which definitely have their place. Another element of control they will never have though is a lens like that found on a spot, par or fresnel. Those instruments offer varying degrees of control of the beam of the light thanks to the way the reflector and bulb can be positioned relative to the lens. Those smith victor lights will never offer that.
Thanks, Richard. Very helpful. I'll start educating myself on the type of lights you mention.

Larry, I was just hoping not to have lousy lighting. I guess the effect I'm thinking of is just good interview lighting, where the contours of the face can be seen and where the subject stands out from the background, etc.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 07:19 AM   #5
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Nelson, look on ebay for a used fresnel, add that to your kit and start using it to see if it helps any with the "look" you want. You can pick them up pretty inexpensively sometimes.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 10:18 AM   #6
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control

Basic portrait lighting techniques can be emulated in many ways.

Learn what a key, fill, kicker and background lights do then figure out how to create that pattern. If your main and fill light dump too much light on the background, keep the background farther away and light it separately.

If you want to narrow the light beam using your current lights, you could find some metal honeycomb grid material to put over the face of the lights. I've been playing with the same and find it an easy way to narrow a very wide floodlight.

If you want to spend next to nothing, try some aluminum foil taped to the reflectors with metal tape, maybe the kind from auto parts stores to temporarily fix exhaust leaks. You could also save old food cans of different sizes. Opened at both ends, they make a lightweight usable snoot which will also narrow a light beam. You could use a separate stand and attach them with a spring clamp or simple L-bracket wth a 1/4-20 nut to a light stand. Some of mine have the 1/4-20 thread on the end of the stand. E-bay always has some used light grids available for various lights for reasonable prices, you just adapt what you can get cheap to make what you need.

Certainly Fresnel lights are more controllable and easier to use. The lesser known brands are also less expensive. Most don't really make good "soft light" unless there is some diffustion in front of the light, however.

In the movie business, simple frames with diffustion material stretched over them have worked for decades. Think garage sale metal picture frames mounted on a separate stand. I'd suggest getting some heatproof diffusion material, however.

If you don't want to experiment by hacking stuff together, Its hard to beat a decent light kit.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 08:39 PM   #7
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Larry and Richard, thanks very, very much. I'll be experimenting and checking out eBay with your suggestions in mind.

For more specific details on what I'm filming, I'm in a small room with a tall man, the subject, next to a woodstove. There are three windows, one small to the back and right of the subject, one behind the camera, and a third bigger window to the left of the woodstove and the subject. The building is small has tall trees on both sides where the small windows are, so much of the light comes from the bigger window near the woodstove. Oh, there's also light from the door window.

I can never get the light right on my subject. There are a couple incandescent lights, one next to the door and one to the right of my camera. I can them turn on and I've tried different configurations with my three-piece S-V setup but it's always too dark or too bright. I'd love the subject and the woodstove to stand out.

I was thinking of mounting a light on the ceiling above my subject. Would this help? What about a reflector? (I bought a round one and a reflector arm to hold it, but can't seem to figure out how to attach it to the one of the light stands.. I removed the lamp and lightbulb from the stand, but the arm doesn't attach to the top. I guess I need another adapter to get it attached to one of the stands??)

Or, instead of the light above the head, would a fresnel as mentioned before be the best way to go?

Should I shade the windows?

Lastly, what about this lighting kit at eBay? Would this be good for my needs, as well as something more educational than my 3-piece Smith-Victor setup:

http://cgi.ebay.com/3X120W-Complete-...QQcmdZViewItem
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 11:17 PM   #8
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I don't know about your setup. I would need to think about it a bit more. Just off the top of my head though--sounds like you need to turn off the incandescents for sure and look at adding flags and other things to keep the light from going where you don't want it. You might need more light in the background to specifically light certain parts of the background behind the guy. And yes, you may need to gel the windows perhaps. Also, learn about the iris and other settings on your camera. You'll definitely need it off of automatic operation to get more control.

On the kit you mentioned, please don't buy that. It's a flash kit for photographers and won't do you any good at all.
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 06:09 PM   #9
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flash

Agreed. And it's not very powerful either. Neither are the modeling lights.

Take each light source by itself and see what the light is doing. Add each light with this in mind, one at a time to get the effect you want.

You could post a link to a photo of your scene. A photo is worth.....

What about doing the exercises here with your own lights...http://www.smithvictor.com/reference...th+Light+Guide
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Old April 24th, 2007, 12:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Larry Vaughn View Post
Agreed. And it's not very powerful either. Neither are the modeling lights.

Take each light source by itself and see what the light is doing. Add each light with this in mind, one at a time to get the effect you want.

You could post a link to a photo of your scene. A photo is worth.....

What about doing the exercises here with your own lights...http://www.smithvictor.com/reference...th+Light+Guide
Thanks, again, Larry and Richard. I think I will see about getting a picture up.

Smith-Victor included a brochure with that exact same guide in the light set I bought. But I think they spread the light out too much in the small rooms I'm working in, as well as being too harsh. I think I'm going to work, as suggested, on focusing and diffusing the light, as well as block out some of the stray light coming into the space.

Last edited by Nelson Cole; April 24th, 2007 at 12:40 AM. Reason: notes on the link
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