Chimera or Rifa
I am looking to purchase a small softlight mainly for tiny crew quick setup location interviews. I've used and love the look of the Chimera. I was curious to hear opinions comparing the look of the Lowell Rifa light to the Chimera small video pro. I'm looking for a nice soft wrap. I'm not interested in larger fixtures for this particular need.
Secondly, I've used a lowell "d-lignt" in the small Chimera but heard I'd be better off with a tota. I'd love to hear opinions.
Thanks so much!
We use three sizes of Rifa and we love them. I was at an event talking to another shooter, he had a Chimera on speed ring setup. We had a friendly race to see who could deploy first, the Rifa won by a mile. The larger, the better for these, IMO
The other thing I like about Rifas is, the new models can change the bulb from halogen to fluorescent in a few seconds.
The one thing I DON'T like is, the eggcrate attachments are ridiculously expensive, so much so that we never bought them. Instead I just flag the light with extra stands and foam core cutters. The eggcrates make the softlight directional, which is kind of a contradiction in terms, I know.
A good alternative to the Rifa from Lowel, though slower and bulkier, is their caselight fluoro bank.
But when I need to travel light yet have enough for a good interview setup, I use the Rifa in the triangular soft bag, which will hold 2 more stands, an Omni and a Tota, plus some rolled up gels and collapsed gel frames. Easy to carry around, very flexible setup.
With softlights like the Rifa or Chimera, the rule of thumb, as I understand it, is a working distance about 2 times whatever the diagonal measurement of the deployed light is. So a bigger softlight can be used further back, to illuminate a larger target, or pair of subjects. A smaller light has to work closer-in. Don't forget you can modulate a little by choice of bulb, too.
That's an interesting rule of thumb, one I've never heard before. I presume you are referring to getting enough light for a decent exposure. The other factor to consider is, soft vs. hard light: That's strongly effected by the size of lighting surface in relation to size of subject you are lighting. If you take a 3' x 3' lighting surface (no matter what kind of diffusion) and move it two feet from the subject, the light will wrap around far more than if you move that surface six feet from the subject. In other words, when the lighting surface is close to the subject, it becomes big in relation to the subject, and is much softer than when it is moved further back, and becomes small in relation to the subject. The geometry is obvious once you think about it. As a corollary, you can take a really soft light and move it, say, 12 feet from the subject, and it becomes much harder; the light no longer wraps, and so casts sharper shadows.
The bottom line is: for a really soft key, have a large lighting surface and set it close to the subject. Suppose you can afford only a small surface, such as one of the small Rifas. You can transform the front lighting surface into a larger one by hanging a larger piece of light diffusion out in front of the Rifa. That piece of diffusion now becomes the lighting surface. Shower curtain cuts the light only a bit, and will soften the light considerably when used this way.
There is another consideration: if you place the key close to the subject, but you have two people sitting side by side, the one further away from the key will receive a lot less light than the guy sitting close to the key. Light drops of at the inverse square of the distance. That means, if the second person is twice the distance from the key as the first, that person is receiving one quarter (two stops) less light. In such a situation, you have no choice but to either move the key way back so that the exposure difference is minimal (and place the more fair subject the furthest from the key), or else add a supplemental light reaching just subject #2. The ideal way to key softly is to have lots of space, use at least a 5K, preferably a 10K as the key, diffuse it first through an 8 x 8 and then a second layer on a 12 x 12, which is at least 12-15 feet from the two subjects. It's rare one gets to do that for a variety of cost reasons.
director of photography
Mark and Rick,
Thanks a bunch for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. I do agree the best "wrap" comes from getting the light as practically close to the subject as possible. My choice would be a large source through some level of diffusion on large frames, or bouncing light back through a light diffusion. However, this specific use is for those situations when I'm in a 10x10 office/closet. I'll stick with the Chimera because upon some research, without additional stands and accessories, it's look is somewhat softer than the Rifa. I was using a D-light but am switching to a tota. The other case against the Rifa is the absurd cost of the egg crate. I use that all the time on the Chimera and setting up stands to flag is not practical for this. By the way Mark, did you check out http://www.lighttools.com/subgrouping.htm?cat=20880 to see if you can get their egg crate cheaper for the Rifa?
Thanks again. You guys really helped me work this out.