to rent: Lowel or Arri Light kit?
I'm renting out a crew for 3 days on location at a hospital. We will be shooting everything from operating room footage to brol to interviews.
The company I've hired has given me the choice between an Arri or a Lowel lighting kit. I understand that one is lightweight and easily transportable but not very good quality, and the other is very good quality but a pain to quickly transport.
My question is: Which one should I pick for this type of shoot? I will be shooting with an SDX900, so visual quality is very important. Will the better quality lighting be too bulky to carry around a hospital? Also, what should each kit include? Should I be requesting any extra lighting equipment seeing that a lot of the footage will be a combination of overhead fluorescents and daylight?
Feedback is appreciated!
LOWEL and ARRI make several kits. A definitive decision can't be made without knowing exactly what instrumentation these particular kits contain.
Frankly, I would probably use neither kit and rent what I needed specific to this project.
Based on your "sketchy" requirements and lack of a survey however, if I were told these were the only 2 kits left on the planet, I would take both -- and make them work. One kit will not be enough.
From your initial post, it sounds like you are the director and are hiring a crew with equipment. Is one of the crew a trained gaffer? If so, I'd start by talking to him/her.
The hospital probably has cool white fluorescents all over the place. That means these are roughly daylight-balanced on the red-blue axis. They also will have a green spike on the green-magenta axis. Neither of the kits you suggest has daylight units. That means you will need to add both some blue (probalby 1/2 CTB) and also some minus-green (probably 1/4) to each light.
A much easier way to go might be to rent 2-3 Kino Flos with daylight bulbs. However, you will still need some plus green to add to the Kino Flos so that they have the same green spike as the overheads. Then you while balance the camera to remove the green.
Somebody needs to find out what fluorescents the hospital uses. It is possible in some locations they use warm fluorescents, and in other cool. In that case, your kinos should include a set of tungsten-balanced bulbs as well.
As to the specific differences beetween the Arri kit and the Lowell, much depends, as Dennis points out, on which kit you get. In general, Arris are much, much heavier, and more sturdy. Lowel kits are great for owner-operators. They are light-weight and relatively easy to set up. They do not hold up so well in rentals where they are somewhat abused and so quickly broken.
director of photography
and custom lighting design
All I can say as a Lowel fanboy is that we have several kits that go out every day and the oldest one is 23 years old and stil going strong, albeit with new knobs on the stands:-) One of our guys bought a 3-light Arri kit but finds it too heavy to take anywhere so he only brings one light out to gigs. We mostly shoot news interview style. Our Lowel kits contain 3 to 4 instruments, mostly Omni's or Omni-pros, with some Tota lights for bouncing off walls or ceilings or bounce cards or umbrellas. We also use and love the Lowel Rifa line of quick-deploy softboxes. I like them better than Chimera, I find them faster to set up and take down and they are easy to travel with. We travel with a variety of bulbs in 1K and lower power levels so we can in a gross sense power down or power up the instrument to taste by plugging in the right bulb. We also use screens and scrims for more control and safety in case a bulb bursts.
Are the Arris Fresnel lights? I'm guessing "yes". These are heavy and their thick lenses can be broken if handled carelessly. But LD's love the look and control of Fresnels. They will throw a better circle of light farther than the open-faced light. For drama they are hard to beat.
The Lowel Omnis, which I'm guessing are the kit you've been offered, are open-faced lights. I work with these extensively and have never felt like I couldn't get what I needed using them, but our kits are complete with all the Lowel accessories like the gel holders and a variety of diffusion, umbrellas, bounce cards, clamps, etc. A Lowel kit is like James Bond's secret suitcase full of gadgets by the "Q" division:-) Among the fiddly bits that you may find useful in a hospital shoot would be "scissor clips" that can grip to the suspended celing grids and provide mounting spots for the lightweight Lowel Omni's, so you can light from up high without having stands in your way or in your shots.
How you choose to deal with the color balance issue may be the biggest driver for your decision. The 900 is a good camera and doesn't need a TON of light for a good image, we have one. Depending on the time and budget I would perhaps rent a Lowel caselight, which is a softbank of fluorescent tubes in a large suitcase that is also the actual instrument. Low power consumption, no heat, diffused light looks good close up as it wraps around people. Not great for dramatic shadow work, and the units are big and somewhat awkward.
I might be tempted to bring industrial fluoro fixtures and borrow spare tubes on-site from the janitor: then all my light is the same color temperature, and if the green spike is there, well, at least it is *consistent*. And that means relatively easily corrected for in post. But again, LED or Fluoro tubes really only give you close-up, shadowless soft light. Good for close-up interviews of people just standing still, 1-shots and tight 2-shots. The industrial fixtures are also going to need barn doors and mountings; you can make do with black foil and gaffer tape and clamps but you definitely give up some control and precision.
If you need drama, or to cover people in motion, you IMO likely need tungsten lights, either open-faced and/or fresnels. Then you turn off the overhead tubes and light everything with what you brought, or you gel the overheads. I mean, You CAN gel your own lights instead of the overheads, but color correction gels for them will dramatically cut their output, meaning you have to work close in again like you did with the tube lights. Everything is a trade-off.
If you had the budget you probably *should* get both available kits; use the Lowels to set the backgrounds and overall levels and the Arris for your talent's keylights. If I knew what your script looked like I would make better suggestions.
Another thing to consider when choosing between lowels and arris is safety. Lowel omnis and totas have bare bulbs with a safety screen. While exploding lamps are pretty rare, I would not choose one of these fixtures for an operating room. I once worked with a producer who did medical projects exclusively, and he claimed the lowel pro light, with its lamp safely behind glass, was the only lowel certified for operating rooms. An arri fresnel should also be safe.
Totas are supposed to have a separate quartz glass tube to contain the quartz element, as well as snap-on screens. They also would never be used close-in above an operating "field" in the first case. They are bounce lights or to shine thru silks. Omni's have snap-in screens as well as optional glass fronts but again, these would not be used right over a patient in any case either. None of our regular light kits would be allowed anywhere near a real operation if they are using oxygen or explosive anesthetic gasses anyhow. So I think this is not the deal-breaker you make it sound like, for the Lowel OR the Arri.
Screens not-with-standing, always have plenty of burn ointment around when using TOTAs and OMNI's. Someone will always get burned.
Oh, come now Dennis, no need to be alarmist... in point of fact I DO carry burn ointment and first-aid stuff in my go-bag on every shoot... but in 25 years of using Lowel Products I've never been burned by one, not even totas (though I will opine that their V-lights scare the beejeebers out of me). I've seen molten quartz fall from a Strand Century onto the carpet and melt a hole... but you can burn yourself any time you touch bare bulbs as well as hot barn doors on any instrument, fresnel or open-face. If you wear a proper glove while handling lights, as we all I'm sure do here, and never handle cold bulbs with bare fingers, there is little to fear. Arris are fine instruments. So are Lowels, and they all have a place.
As we all know, the definition of color temperature uses a black body reflector. In physics, a black body is an idealized object that absorbs all electromagnetic radiation that falls on it. No electromagnetic radiation passes through it and none is reflected. Because no light (visible electromagnetic radiation) is reflected or transmitted, the object appears black when it is cold. However, a black body emits a temperature-dependent spectrum of light. This thermal radiation from a black body is termed black-body radiation.
At room temperature, black bodies emit mostly infrared light, but as the temperature increases past a few hundred degrees Celsius, black bodies start to emit visible wavelengths, from red, through orange, yellow, and white before ending up at blue, beyond which the emission includes increasing amounts of ultraviolet.
I've often thought the TOTAL-Light is -- in reality -- a black body reflector, as it certainly becomes the hottest thing on earth when it is used. When not used to actually light someone on camera, it can certainly be used to cook hamburgers for hours ...long after it's turned off. The OMNI is second to the TOTA in dangerously retaining heat,
I've said it twenty million times, people shouldn't exaggerate:-) I use Lowel Omnis and sometimes Totas in daily ENG run-and-gun situations where there is little time to waste standing around, and while they do get hot while turned on, the thin metal of their structure IS an effective radiator and dissipates the heat away most effectively once turned off, such that I can handle the instruments and safely put them away in their case in ten to fifteen minutes. By the time I've rolled up my mic and power cords and taken my camera and sticks down, the lights are cool to the touch and ready to box up and go. Hardly time to poach an egg, much less cook meat.
Tell me a Fresnel has a better throw or better quality for shaping a beam, I will stipulate to that. But this claim about heat is kind of silly. They are tungsten sources, guess what, they all generate heat along with light. If anything the more massive glass and metal of the Mole-Richardson retains residual heat longer due to more thermal mass and less outside surface area to radiate it away with. None of it means a thing. You don't handle hot bulbs bare-handed at home, well, not usually more than once anyway. Wear a glove when adjusting or handling ANY hot luminaires, until they are no longer hot. That part is not rocket science. Its just normal practice.
Did Ross Lowel run over your dog when you were a boy or something, Dennis?:-) Thousands of folks have been using Lowel kits for over a quarter-century, me included. Are we all making some huge mistake?
Hamburgers always taste better cooked over Arris. :)
Seriously, I use totas all the time to light up a chimera bag, especially when travelling in "lightweight mode". But I use Arris or LTM's when I need a Fresnel. Both have their particular applications, as everyone has mentioned. But I agree with all who recommended some daylight balanced stuff, otherwise you'll probably be fighting the existing lighting. This is time consuming as well as frustrating. The kino Diva's are great for this, as are Litepanels 1x1's. Even homemade rigs using multiple CFL's can be an immense timesaver.
Thanks so much for the advice (yours and everyone elses) I certaintly have a lot to think about.
I just heard from the production crew we're using. Will this be sufficient?
This is what he said:
Our ARRI lighting kit consists of 3 fresnel instruments (1K, 650w Tweenie, 350W Inky), chimeras, Kino Diva (tungsten bulbs), we also own a litepanels LED on-camera sungun.
That's funny. I'd hardly call a camera mounted LED Lite-Panel a "Sun Gun". ARRI also does not make a 350w fresnel. Verify if you're getting a 300w or a 150w -- it'll make a difference.
The 3 lights in this kit will not be enough for all the areas you're shooting in -- especially since your best plan of attack is to "leap frog" locations (having one set up, while you're shooting in another). You should get 2 of these ARRI Kits with stands/hardware.
The DIVA will save you repeatedly! Get two if you can -- but have daylight balanced lamps also (plus CTB and CTO color correction).
Hopefully you'll have someone handling the lighting chores who knows how to use this gear ....otherwise you're wasting your rental money.
Thanks - I've sent an email asking about the wattage.
I'm not 100% confident about the company I've hired for crew. Can anyone recommend a company based in NYC?
I need a two-man crew for 3 days on location at a hospital (camera, lighting, sound). We will be shooting everything from operating room footage to brol to interviews. These will be full days. The crew will need their own transportation to the hospital in north Jersey.
I'd like to use a SDX900 - the visual quality is very important.
I'm primarily a video editor, but I do have some directing experience. Since I've never had to blindly hire out a crew before, I'd like some advice from someone who has had a good experience with a crew.
There are a million crews in NYC, some of the best and most experienced in the country (except of course for those in L.A. where I live).
Here's email address for a buddy of mine there named Rodney McMahon, who I used to work with a lot when he lived in L.A.
rodneycam at hotmail dot com
Tell him I referred you.
Well Caitlin ..... based on the latest post from Dan Brockett, it appears you'd be foolish not to give Walter Graff a call.
If walter is not available call:
Alliance Video and Post
Unfortunately I suspect your budget won't allow for quality lighting as provided by THE LIGHTING DESIGN GROUP (http://www.ldg.com), but when your productions grow feel free to call us.
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