I work for a fortune 500 company in the Media Services Department. Every year we send several hundred thousand dollars of work to two production companies. These companies do a nice job, one more so than the other, but the cost is ridiculous. Much of the work we've been sending out of house are testimonial interviews, which we can easily produce in house. I've been commissioned by my upper authority to research and recommend equipment we need to shoot these interviews.
I've worked with a lot of Tungsten lighting set ups, but I would like to move toward Daylight balanced lighting. Our budget is probably a lot higher than most, but of course we need to consider costs. I've looked into a few options - Dedo Light HMIs, LitePanels LEDs, and KinoFlo Fluorescents.
Our goal is to be able to set up three different scenes, and basically leave the lighting in place so we can always achieve the same look. I don't believe this is realistic, considering the cost of these lights. It would require spending three times more money than we need to.
Finally, my big question is what are the benefits and drawbacks of each of these lighting options, and how many lights should we have in our kit? These lights will stay in a studio 90% of the time. Also, can I mix and match lighting types to give me the best flexibility, or is that a hemorrhoid waiting to happen?
I love this community and appreciate your help.
The type and number of lights used for a particular scene is determined by its content; what is the background, size of the footprint, are there daylight windows or other strong sources to contend with, etc.
The concept of "pre-lighting" for dead-hang three unique looks/sets is not a bad idea, and will save a lot of repetitive setup and tear down, and if your company is willing to capitalize such a purchase I would not advise against it.
In general, from what you've described, the best choice would be Kino Flos, because, as I'm sure you already know, they are very efficient (use little power), make very little heat, can be easily configured for daylight or tungsten and create a nice, large soft source which is especially appropriate for portraiture. Furthermore they are much cheaper to buy and lamp than HMI's which should be reserved for when larger quantity and strength of light is needed to contend with windows and such.
Furthermore for sake of redundancy and stocking spare globes and other parts, I'd recommend that you use the same units for all three setups if practical, and your selection of 200 & 400 Divas would be a very good choice.
Another thing to consider would be to hire the DP (or another skilled Lighting Director or company) from your favored outside production company to consult on the design, selection and installation of the lighting for the three sets. This would be the most professional approach.
Thanks so much for your response. I agree that we need to bring in a lighting professional to help us make this decision. Eventually I hope to learn enough about lighting that I would feel confident in this arena, but I think I've got some time to go (years) before I get there. If you have any recommendations, I would appreciate it. We are based in Eastern Idaho, if that helps at all.
While I have shot in Idaho, I don't remember hiring lighting crew there, so I can not make a personal recommendation, but I could recommend that you search the Mandy.com sight for Lighting Gaffers and/or DP's in your area and query them over the phone about their expertise as a means of deciding. If I were to do the job, I'd essentially charge you a scout and prep day and then another day later on when you get your gear for the installation, at about $600 per day.
Just my own opinion, and mostly generalities.
HMI's are great if you shot outdoors, or need to match daylight in a huge room with huge windows and the windows are always in the shot. HMI's pull more power and run very hot, and they are pricey: I was looking at getting a Joker Bug HMI and just a spare replacement bulb was over three hundred bucks.
Kinoflos and Videssence flos (what we use) are very cool-runing, thrifty on power, run a long time. Cost a bit up front, but you make it back on lower HVAC and power bills and the tubes last seemingly forever. Flos are soft broad lights so if you like the look of fresnel spots, this will be a change of flavor for you. On the plus side, soft sources are very good for flattering looks in interview setups and closeup work. For field interviews, we use Lowel Rifas which you can get in a tungsten or fluorescent version, in fact, they make a 2-way head for the Rifas now, so you can pick either kind of light at will. In our studio it is mostly Videsssence flos that have been set once to a look that pleases us, and pretty much left in place as a standing set. To direct the flos the same way you would with fresnels requires special grids (these can be pricey) and/or the use of flags and cutters to help control where the light falls. In a permanent standing set like a talk show or training lecture set, these are not a huge deal; in the field, run-and-gun, they can add more complication.
LED's are the coming thing, but they are still relatively expensive, color matching is a bit more hit and miss and usually is tied to the more costly units. The ones that look great tend to have a shorter throw than other types of instruments, and I think they generally are used close-up for interviews, limiting their utility. They are super-thrifty on power and can be used well with batteries for close-up ENG style shoots in the field of long duration. While they can be colored to match tungsten, the ones I'm familiar with are happier imitating daylight. I think these make less sense on an ROI basis right now if used on a recurring indoor set, but this is a still-evolving technology that will only improve with time.
My suggestion is to go with mostly flo-based lighting, compare Videssence and kino and see which fits your needs best. As to getting the HMI, well, it is probably a good idea to own at least one HMI, something like the Joker would be versatile, but you may really only need it a few times a year, and with just a little planning, you can rent that light just the few times you need it for a shot that has big windows, and still save money, or spend money towards other more pressing needs. This advice is less on the money if it turns out you're shooting against big windows every week, of course.
In that case, my initial question would be to see if I could easily get that window gelled, as gelling the window is cheaper than lighting daylight.
Thanks so much for the advice! It sounds like HMI lighting would be overkill in my situation, and fluorescent would be a better choice. There will be no real windows (maybe a fake one) in our studio setup, and almost every shoot will be one or two person interviews on a couch or chair in a fancy "home-like" setting. I can't see us shooting wide for these interviews.
A few more concerns are:
Green Spike? Will I need to gel all of my lights? It's not that big of a deal if the answer is yes, I just want to know what I'm getting into.
Background Lighting? Can I use a cucalorus and expect good results, or will it be too soft? Along with this, do fluorescent work well as hair lights or rim lights? If not, should I get a joker bug to do some of this work along side the flos, or will a blue gelled tungsten spot be adequate?
Why would I want a bank of lights, like a Kinoflo offers, verses a soft box like Lowell offers?
Unfortunately, here in Idaho there are not a lot of opportunities to use these lighting options. I just want to get as much input as I can before I rent something to try it out.
The Kino Flo tubes are specially manufactured for photographic use and do not require any gel nor correction, just white balance and go.
They are not appropriate for background lighting (unless of course it's a chroma screen) and cook would have no shaddowmaking effect. You should consider some Source Four Lekos with gobo patterns for this. When used with dimmers you can adjust to complement the foreground intensities. They can also be lamped with either 575 or 750w globes; pick the right one for your situation and select a wider lens like 50 degrees to cover the backround at close quarters.
The Kinos make excellent backlights as well, as they can be placed close in a cramped set and not overwhelm with intensity, and the effect of wrapping around the head and shoulders is great for a natural looking separation.
The size of the Kino can be comparable to a softbox, yet you're using less wattage and making less heat for exactly the same effect. Consider the 4' Fourbanks because they are an even larger source than the 2' Divas. I don't recommend mixing the Divas and conventional Kino Flos, so if you do favor the 4'Fourbanks, complete the kit with conventional 2'Fourbanks and 2'Twobanks. This way the color of all the tubes matches more consistently, especially as the units heat up. The only difference is that the Diva's put out more light, buit that should not be an issue with the use you've described, in fact you'll want to mold the light level down with any of these instruments to force your iris wide open for short depth of field to fuzz-up the background.
John you are awesome! Thanks for your insight. I don't know why this information has been so hard for me to dig up elsewhere, but the Cow forums always seem to provide the best information. Thanks for taking the time to spread some wisdom to the ignorant :)
I'd be careful about characterizing lack of experience as ignorance, especially as it concerns motion picture lighting; for to be successful in this field means you are always open to learning new tools and techniques and all that is really required is an inquisitive mind, which you certainly have!