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Really Really Cheap Lighting Kit

COW Forums : Lighting Design Pros

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Robert WeatherholtReally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:57:07 pm

Hi,

I'm currently looking for a cheap lighting kit. Like really cheap. (250-450$) I have no lighting kit at all right now, so i think anything would boost production value. I'm a college student, so you know how the story goes with money.

Basically, is a cheap set like this:
(http://cgi.ebay.com/480W-S-3-LIGHT-STUDIO-STROBE-LIGHTING-KIT_W0QQitemZ250550296327QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3a55f61f07)

even worth it, or should I just wait. I desperately need a lighting kit.

Future thanks,

Robert


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Rick WiseRe: Really Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:09:37 am

Robert, are you shooting stills? This is a strobe kit.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Robert WeatherholtRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:14:37 am

I'm shooting stills, but primarily video off a Sony hdr fx1.
Thanks again.


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john sharafRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:33:59 am

Robert,

Although motion picture lights can be used for still photography, strobe lights can not be used for motion picture lighting (except special strobes used for high speed "slow motion" work at high frame rates.

The concept of "really cheap" lighting is kind of an oxymoron, because lights that burn hot can be dangerous both for the operator and the subject. Unlike video cameras, which often become obsolete the minute their unpacked, motion picture lights can often last 20 years or more, so even the most expensive unit is cheap in the long run, being amortized over a long period of time, and furthermore often has a substantial resale even then.

I think the thing to consider with your budget is the starter light of a kit that you'll build over time, and I think you're totally correct to look at ebay as a good source for used lighting. I'd recommend a 1K (1000 watt) Mole or Arri open face light as such a starter. It can be used straight on with a little diffusion clipped on the doors (like Lee 216), bounced into a white card or with a Chimera light bank. Later when you';re ready to expand your kit, add a 650 watt fresnel and then a 300 fresnel. Over time, you might spend a $1000 buying these three used lights and accessories, but you'll have a safe, worthy kit that will last many years.

JS





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Robert WeatherholtRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 2:47:18 am

Thank you so much, but if I were to just buy one light at a time how would I be able to light using the 3-point technique. Would I just abandon the other two lights? or use some kind of cheap hardware lighting substitute?
Thanks again


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john sharafRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:56:31 am

Robert,

Now that you mention it, I'd suggest that you start lighting with the one light. Use windows or other sources of natural or existing artificial lights for backlight, set light and fill. There is nothing more "elegant" than single source lighting when done correctly. Just as I recommend that in still photography you start with just a normal lens and add wide and telephoto after you've mastered the normal, it is verty liberating to have one light and have to consider how best to use it for each setup. I definitely woulds not advise ant cheap hardware lighting.

JS



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Robert WeatherholtRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 6:09:42 pm

Thank you guys very very much.


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Alan LloydRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 5:57:29 am

Bounce cards are nice. Foamcore is cheap. Clips and clamps are affordable.


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Rick WiseRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 6:46:19 pm

What Alan is referring to is the way you can use one light as the key and a piece of foamcore as the fill, bouncing some of the spilled key light into the shadow side of the face. In fact, this is my preferred talking-head lighting method. I never use a fill light, just bounce the key. The third light in the 3-point lighting system is a back light. That can usually be very low wattage -- you want just enough to separate the speaker from the background. Back lights can be tricky. As with all lighting, you have to really look at how the light plays on this person. In the case of a back light, if the person is bald or balding, it's tough to not get a ugly sheen. See the posts on "Dulling Spray" below. You will want to look at: intensity on the head/hair, intensity on the shoulders, and color. People with some brown or red in their hair usually benefit from a bit of CTO (1/4 or maybe even 1/2) on the back light. Silver haired subjects often benefit from a little bit of blue on the back light. etc.

For now, I like a lot the suggestion you use just one light. At the most get a 4x4 piece of foamcore, a pony clamp, and a cheap light stand to hold the foamcore where you want. (A c-stand is a better gripping option, along with a platypus, but but those cost much more money.) Concentrate first on the look and the color of your key in relation to other lights in the room, whether windows, overheads, or practicals. Play with the 45º rule (place the key 45º from the direction of the speaker's gaze, away from the camera, and 45º above. Look carefully; with some people with deep-set eyes, 45º is too much; for others with relatively flat faces and eyes that are not deep-set, you need to go further than 45º.)

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Robert WeatherholtRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 6:50:35 pm

Okay thank you, so as a good starter, this product

http://www.buy.com/prod/arrilite-1000-tungsten-light/q/loc/111/211120198.ht...

would be a good idea? then later expand to a smaller 300w fresnel for backlight?


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john sharafRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 7:14:57 pm

Robert,

Yeah, that's a good start. Add a 650 and 300 Fresnel later and you'll have a very tidy, useful kit. Lighting "kit" is like stamp collecting, one piece at a time, only it's a lot more useful (and fun too). You don't want a bunch of crappy stuff, but rather a select quiver of quality tools that will last a long time.

Good luck,

JS






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Rick WiseRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 7:59:52 pm

John, fabulous "stamp-collecting" analogy! I'm going to steal that for my students! Thank you.

As for the 1K Arrilight itself: that's raw lighting, an open-faced unit. So long as you use relatively thick diffusion set off from the light at a good distance, or else bounce it into a piece of foam core, it will work as your key.

Be sure you get: the barn doors, a single and a double scrim, a stand, and 2 bulbs (one as spare), a couple of sheets of the following: 1/4 CTO, 1/2 CTO, 1/4 CTB, 1/2 CTB, 1/4 plus-green, 1/4 minus-green. I'd also get a couple of sheets of 1/2 grid cloth and also full opal. I'd buy the light and accessories from BHPhotovideo myself. (No need to get Arri stands, but don't get the cheapest ones either.)

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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john sharafRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 8:11:50 pm

For fast and dirty single source key with a light like the 1K Arri we're talking about, my favorite approach is to take a roll of heavy white diffusion (we used to use shower curtain or "Vinyl-lite" but Lee 129 or 216 is good too) and un-spool it from a roll while hanging on a c-stand arm in front of the open faced light.

This way you get to reuse the roll indefinatly (use a spring clamp to keep from totally unfurling) and create a large (4x4') source light. If you stage your shot far enough from the wall behind the subject you don't even have to worry about controlling the spill.

Another cheap and elegant application is to use a photo strobe umbrella (either white for softness or silver for strength) as a reflector. Hold it in a c-stand head to aim effectively.

JS





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Alan LloydRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 24, 2009 at 7:52:09 pm

I'd add some white silk as well. Nice to have the "directional" option for diffusion. (The beam spreads out on a right angle from the "texture" of the silk diffusion.)


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Bill DavisRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 9:47:47 pm

Rick,

In all my years, i've somehow never worked with someone who used the jargon "platypus" - is this a west coast term for a Cardillini clamp or similar?

Just curious.







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Rick WiseRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:24:51 pm

Also called a duckbill, also called a quacker or a Quaker. It's a vice-grip with two 6'x6' plates welded on to hold foamcore, beadboard, etc. Mathews makes them (probably some others do too.) http://fwd4.me/9Df. (The picture is a bit hard to read as the white surface of the top plate blends into the white background. tsk, tsk....

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Bill DavisRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:30:40 pm

Understood.

Seen them for years in the Markertek catalog - just never connected them to this particular bit of jargon.

Back probably 15 years ago, I hit a "clearance" sale with a lot of Bogan ususual grip gear. They had four of the FORK style foamcore holders and since I was flush at the time, I bought them all in a "one money" deal. It represents the best system (albiet foolishly expensive at list!) I've ever seen for holding foamcore sheets in place, so that's all I've used since.

See, no matter how long you've been in the industry - theres always something more to learn.

Happy holidays all!



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Todd TerryRe: ally Really Cheap Lighting Kit
by on Dec 23, 2009 at 12:29:35 am

I find duckbill/Quaker/platypus clamps invaluable, and use them every day (earlier today included).... but if I recall, the "real" duckbill clamps from Matthews are somewhere in the $75 neighborhood, maybe a tad more.

We make our own for less than $10. All you need is a pair of Vice Grips (even the cheap knock-off no-brands from Harbor Freight tools), a long 5/8" bolt (cut the threads off and weld it on), and a couple of small pieces of sheet metal (welded into the jaws).

Assembly is a no-brainer. The only tip I have is to take the spring in the Vice Grips out before you weld, and put it back later... the spring location is right adjacent to one of the welding spots, and the heat will fry it. In the first one we made we ruined the spring that way.

Pocket the saved $65, or spend it on something else you need. :)





T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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