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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old October 12th, 2006, 07:24 AM   #1
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Portable Lighting for Receptions

I documented a reception two weeks ago in a ballroom which had very low lighting. I setup a Lowell tota light with an unbrella to reflect a softer light off the ceiling, but there was too much spillage so the manager turned off the light. Guest were even complaining about the light stand legs being extended. Does anybody have any suggestions on what I can use? I was thinking of maybe one or two Pro Lights with dimmers. Someting that can be setup in a confined area.

Thanks,

Jerome
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Old October 12th, 2006, 07:45 AM   #2
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Before you spend money on a light, try using what you have on a dimmer or with a less powerful bulb. Also, talk to banquet managers before the reception starts and try to get them not to dim excessively. Tell them you don't want to use too much added light and they will probably rather have a brighter room than one with a camera moving around with a huge light on top. You can always check with the couple first to see what they want. As a last resort, use an on-cam light since no banquet manager probably has the stones to touch your camera.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 09:07 AM   #3
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" setup a Lowell tota light with an unbrella to reflect a softer light off the ceiling, "

Holy crap dude.. Lowel totas usually run between 500 and 800w.. no wonder everyone got pissed..

id only recomend THAT light if ur shooting in a basketball sized hall with next to zero lighting. it CAN help.. but it IS excessive.. nice light.. awesoim in fact. .i dont leave home without it in fact. its ALWAYS in my boot.. but thers a time and place for it..

as u have the stand (obviously) id recomend a screw in mount to some shoe mounts. then use ur on cam light with a75w globe and diffusor.. no diffusor, buy some disffusion paper.. i use 1/2 stop filter paper on my mobile lights 2, sheets on each and it works a treat.
Now mount ur cam light to the stand and voila, instance dancefloor sized spotlight.. Id prefer honeycomb slots, but we can have everything i guess.. lol
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Old October 12th, 2006, 10:00 AM   #4
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I was at a reception and the bride and groom table was in the darkest place in the ballroom. So I grabbed the manager dude and asked him to put some lighting beside the B&G, that's when he said, "Do you want me to turn up the lights?" Sigh, umm, YEAH, they're in the dark!. Ok, so I was more polite than that.

I second what people say about an onboard light, maybe that will work for you. I use a pagelight 6 with a 20watt bulb.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 10:51 AM   #5
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this has been discussed about a hundred times at least.

If you start bringing in the big lights you are doing a number of things. 1) as you have found out the B&G get mad 2) so does the hall management for a lot reasons and the ambience of the room has nothing to do with it. 3) you are opening both yourself and the hall up to liability if someone trips on the cord OR the light falls (I've seen both) AND you are killing the ambience of the reception. I've shot about 1000 weddings over the last 23 years and I have never used anything more than an on camera light generally with a softbox to soften it up a bit. I'm not trying to light the whole room just the subjects I'm shooting. In my area usually the room lighting is at a reasonable level for speeches and cake cutting and while they may lower it for the intro of the B&G I have found a great combination with a 35W bulb and a softbox. Makes the effective light about 25watts and it works very well within about 10 to 12 feet. Anything past that and the subjects are too small anyway so why bother. During the dancing when the room goes really dark the on camera light works just great-it lights the subject matter and that's all I care about. 99% of the time most people get used to it and forget it's there but a 600W TOTA, well that's another story.
I'm a big proponent of light BUT as Peter said there's a time and place for everything. I've had a few setting where the on cam light wasn't enough so I used a 100W battery operated light with a softbox on a stand set back about 10 to 15 feet from the subjects and that with the on camera light as a fill works fine, but only when 100% needed. I've never found a need for anything more.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 10:57 AM   #6
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Hey Don, what light/softbox combo do you use on your camera?
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Old October 12th, 2006, 11:59 AM   #7
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Steven,
On my DSR250 I use the Anton Bauer Ultralight and went to Home Depot and got a couple of 35W bulbs. I use the AB softbox. It's a great combination. Runs right off the AB mounting plating so no wires hanging off me.
For my 150s I use a Bescor and change the bulbs as needed. Generally I use a 35 watt bulb in that as well and now use the AB softbox on that as well although depending on the situation I can use a piece of TOUGH SPUN diffuser material. I can also change the bulbs to go from 20 to 100 watts. Of course the higher the wattage the less battery time but with a 50w bulb the belt I use (a Bescor) will run about 2 to 2 1/2 hours and I have a jucie box for it as well-that runs about 75 minutes with a 50w bulb so I have plenty of power for it. If I use a 100w bulb it really sucks the battery down but again that's not something I use often.

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Old October 12th, 2006, 12:40 PM   #8
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Thanks Don.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 03:22 PM   #9
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As Peter mentioned, Lowell Totas are very bright. They were designed for interview situations and need to be controlled with diffusion like softboxes to be effective. I used to have a couple of Lowell Pro lights and found them to be extremely flexible. Used them in all kinds of situations. Combined with dimmers I used them on a couple weddings in very dark environments. I'm planning on purchasing another pair some time next year. My dimming system, by the way is a Radio Shack "Plug-n-Power" wireless control. I have several dimmer modules, a receiver which is plugged into a wall, and a wireless transmitter I carry in my pocket that can control and dim up to eight fixtures. Probably cost a little over $100 US for the whole system. The dimmer modules are rated for a max of 300 watts, but I regularly use over twice that at full power.

I currently use a home made flood light system (with diffusion) on stands when I know I am going to be in a low light situation. I always use dimmers and always make sure the wedding party is OK with the idea extra lighting. Guest safety is a major concern with light stands. I make sure my stands are secure and out of the way of any area I think will be subject to foot traffic.

I generally use these lights for traditional dances, then turn them off or dim them quite low. I also have a 10 watt on camera light with a flip up/down diffuser which is very useful.
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Old October 13th, 2006, 08:54 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the great info and advice folks. I feel kinda dumb now because I did not thing about all the issues that were pointed out to me. I'm going to get my on camera lighting together. That seems to be the best bet for my situation. I didn't realize how bright that tota light was going to be. Now I need to come up with a solution for the grainy video due to my camera's gain being turned up. Any suggestions?

Thanks again,

Jerome
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Old October 13th, 2006, 11:50 PM   #11
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What camera are you using? I could use my VX2000 in a dim ballroom at 12db gain with no on-camera light and retain good image quality. Yes, there is a bit of grain, but not more than someone would expect. I always preferred going without a light as I hate the live-news effect. A small light with a softbox should be all you need for most modern cameras. I did a wedding recently with an FX1 and it needed light, but not much.
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Old October 14th, 2006, 01:06 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Terry
Thanks for all the great info and advice folks. I feel kinda dumb now because I did not thing about all the issues that were pointed out to me. I'm going to get my on camera lighting together. That seems to be the best bet for my situation. I didn't realize how bright that tota light was going to be. Now I need to come up with a solution for the grainy video due to my camera's gain being turned up. Any suggestions?

Thanks again,

Jerome
More light is always better for video, particularly if you have control over that light. That is rarely the case in event video, so you must analyze your camera's capabilities and then define acceptable tolerances.

First thing you have to do is find out how much gain you can use before grain becomes objectionable. For many cameras that seems to be 12db. My Canon XL1s is best at 12db, OK at 18db, and flat out disgusting at 30db.

Next, see how low a shutter speed you can tolerate. For some reception situations I can get smooth motion at 1/30 (which allows a drop in gain sometimes).

This is all without additional light. The addition of an on camera light will definitely improve the quality of your images, but may not change your exposure.

One very bothersome aspect of on camra lighting, whether it be for video or still cameras, is the position of the light source in relation to the lens. The closer the light is to you lens the more objectionable the light will be to your subjects and the less flattering the images. I've modified my on camera lights to be about 10 inches above the lens. This makes the light more flattering from my perspective and I get few complaints from subjects.

The most difficult challenge you will face is to make your additional lighting look natural.
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Old October 20th, 2006, 08:21 AM   #13
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Hi again,

I'm using Canon Xl-1s and GL-2. Thanks for the info on your camera settings and advice!!!!

Jerome
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Old October 27th, 2006, 06:14 AM   #14
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be aware that not only does gain introduce noise, but it also softens your image

IMO 35w on cam light is perfectly acceptable
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