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Lighting kit ... comments?

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Neil Myers
Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 6:58:00 pm

Some quick background before I list the lights we're considering buying. We are a marketing company and do about 20 case study videos per year for our clients. In every case we do a talking head interview where the subject is seated. It is not a complex shot, but lighting can make all the difference.

One year ago we made the decision to bring the videography in-house. We purchased a Panasonic HPX170 and related gear (tripod, etc.). We then used the very best videographer we have used over the years to train one of our people over the course of 6 months. That worked well and we now have in-house capabilities.

We had put off buying lights during this period, opting instead to use the lights our trainer owned. He is a pro and has a LOT of gear. The idea was we wanted to get a feel for what we felt was necessary and what was fluff for our kind of interviews.

Okay, so now the question. Here is what we've decided to purchase. I have so much respect for the folks here at CC that I wanted to post this and see if anyone had comments or suggestions.

Key light: Kino Flo Diva-Lite 401 kit
Fill: Reflector
Hair light: Lowel I-Light Complete Focusing Flood Light Set
Background: Dedolight with set of gobos

We had considered not going with the Dedolight, but we almost always use it. We are often shooting in rather drab locations (an old conference room, for example) and it does such a nice job of making the shoot look interesting. The clients really like it.

One more note: We often travel using my own aircraft (a 4-seater Cirrus), which makes it easier to carry all this stuff. But, we do also travel on occasion commercially. So travel-ability is an issue.

So, comments? Would you add/change/delete anything from this list?

Budget is always an issue, but we have enough business that we don't mind making the investment.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 7:21:27 pm

Neil, every single filmmaker/videographer will have a different approach and battery of gear. You have wisely worked with your former vendor who has generously trained your inhouse guys and given you many of the keys to the kingdom. I see no use in second or third guessing what the man on the ground has done for you. In fact, I am surprised by your request. Have you suddenly decided that you don't like the results you are getting? If that is the case, what you may be experiencing is that although anyone can pick up a camcorder and get images, it takes years of practice to get consistently good images. Your inhouse guys are new to this game and have a huge amount to learn.

Bottom line, you have a workable base lighting package. I see no grip gear to shape lights and form shadows.



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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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 8:25:13 pm

We are not second guessing him. It is just that he has a ton of lighting equipment and while he gave us his best advice, it was not very specific.

It isn't that he wasn't willing to give us advice, it is just that what he does is much more general purpose than what we do and he had a hard time coming up with a list of equipment that wouldn't require a moving van to transport.

So, I took pieces of what he recommended and combined it with pieces of threads I have read here at CC. I rolled my own list. I then posted it in the hopes that those with more experience than I would be willing to offer a reality check. This will cost use a fair amount and it seems prudent to check.

I am somewhat new to this forum, so help me understand if I am making a forum faux pas with this approach.


Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 8:38:04 pm

Hi Neil,

No faux pas per se, but this trend that you enunciate, namely replacing freelance camera technician vendors with in house employees and prosumer equipment is seen by many here (namely other freelance camera technicians) as a direct threat to their existence. The reason your freelancer was able to do such a good job in the past is that he has a complete kit from which to draw the proper gear for the particular shot that you're doing at that moment. Every setup might require a different tool set for the best result; that's why there are hundreds of different types of lighting units manufactured.

If in fact you are always recreating the same lighting effect in the same environment, of course it is possible to own a small kit that will serve your purpose. If however you are in different conditions, such as rooms with windows, exteriors, large warehouses, fluorescent workspaces, etc. the small kit you describe will be a compromise and the quality of the work you're able to produce will suffer.

Bottom line, none of us here want to see our peers put out of work by the scenario you describe, it is affecting all of us who do this job across the country (and I suspect around the world too) so we are reluctant to assist you on that basis. Don't take it personally, we're trying not to as well!

Regards,

JS





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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:02:12 pm

John, really well put.

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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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:46:29 pm

Add a few skinny light stands, some black-wrap cinefoil, bulldog clips and wooden clothespins, an assorted package of gels, perhaps, for the dedolight. Black posterboard, you can buy while driving near the shoot location at a Walgreens or art store, rather than carry all over in the Cirrus. Use the foil and the black cards on stands to help keep spill from that soft keylight from going where you don't want it to, and to add "negative fill" or help with eyeglass reflections in certain setups. Buying the tools as you have found, is the easy part; building the skills to use them takes longer.


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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:56:34 am

Mark:

Thank you for your response ... I really appreciate your advice.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:47:56 pm

What John said.


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Jim Mulleder
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 12:23:52 am

So wise...just so wise and respectful.

Nicely put Mr. Sharaf.

Jim Mulleder
Level Horizon Productions
Cameraman/Editor
778.888.4336


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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:53:06 am

John:

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I understand. If you don't mind I would like to expand on this, because I think it is an important issue and bears a little more introspection. This will be long ... sorry for that ... but I want to be clear.

First, I own a marketing firm. It used to be a PR firm. In fact, we still do a lot of PR, but we had to expand in order to survive. Why? Because traditional PR depends on the existence of traditional media, and the Internet is pretty much killing traditional media. Look at this forum, for example. 10 years ago one would read a magazine for this kind of information. Now we cut out the middleman and get it for free.

So, I too have experienced the discomfort of having your base market change on you.

Second, the kind of videos we are doing today are videos that nobody did 10 or even 5 years ago. Our clients want 5 minute video customer case studies to put up on YouTube. In the old days a video case study was a low volume, high ticket business. The YouTube business is a high volume, low ticket business. The budget for these videos are 7 or 8 times less than what we used to do.

What to do? We could just say "No way ... we don't do YouTube". But that makes no sense. YouTube and the Internet in general is the main medium for our clients. If we are going to be relevant, we have to figure out how to do this. Which means we need to change our cost model to one that works for our clients.

Most companies adapted by just putting crap up. A cheap camera, no lighting, audio from the camera-mounted microphone, and bad editing. That's stupid. We stubbornly wanted to find a way to produce a quality product at the new, lower price point.

The first thing we tried was cheaper videographers. I knew they would not be as good as our pro -- who we loved and used for 20 years. But WOW! I was amazed at just how bad they cheaper guys were. Some examples:

- One guy was busy so he sent his wife. She had never shot video. She didn't have a microphone, lights or a tripod.

- One guy had no idea how to give us media that would work on a PC. It took two weeks after the shoot to get the media worked out.

- One guy didn't have a field monitor (too expensive), instead just using the eyepiece for framing. When we got the raw footage we found that we could see his reflection in a window behind the subject. Clear as day! For 45 minutes straight.

Ultimately we decided that the only solution would be to buy the equipment and do it ourselves. There will be times where our old pro would have been able to do better than we will. But that is a moot point because these kind of videos just don't have the budget to use a pro with his experience and talent. I wish they did, but they don't.

By the way, the pro to which I refer is a friend. I have known him for 20 years. I paid him well for his help in training our guy. I also spent time over dinner brainstorming ideas on how he could morph his business model to gain more business.

We still do get higher end jobs and when we do I use him. We had a shoot for a major client a few months ago in New York. Locations all around the City -- both interiors and exteriors. Sure, we have our own gear and a guy who can shoot talking heads. But the pro was clearly the better option and we had no trouble pulling the trigger in that.

It isn't just videography, by the way. The cost-crunch applies to all aspects of video production. Voice-overs used to cost $2,000 or more with talent and studio and now cost $500 or less. Obviously stock footage and music is a fraction of what it once was.

Anyway, sorry this is a sore point. I understand your comments. I am not trying to cause trouble.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 6:13:41 am

Neil,

Believe me, I understand.

I thought long and hard before I replied to your query, as I knew a possible s**t storm was brewing, but I could not stop myself!

I would never suggest that you don't do what is necessary for your own survival, but you must be aware of the road kill that is created, and then act responsibly, which it seem from your last entry that you are doing.

From the beginning we've all tried to do the best we can for our clients; often going beyond the call and agreeing to cut-throat deals, including extras at no charge, waiving overtime and meals, etc. The problem comes when the clients then expect all these things every time, and that is exactly what is happening now. The water's been poisoned for everyone, and there's no going back.

In the last year, I've seen my best and biggest network clients actually vaporize (poof). I've had others close their doors and disappear. Some just refuse to pay the bills. Others systematically book and cancel, and the ones that are left want to pay half or less of what they've paid before, and none of it has to do with me (or you) not doing a good job.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not just camera people or lighting technicians; it's auto workers, telephone repair workers, longshoremen, factory workers of all kinds, people who work in warehouses, essentially anybody who has worked in an industry long enough to have advanced to a higher pay scale that now finds their livelihood threatened.

Obviously the technology has had an effect too, as you suggest. Why would anyone pay the legacy costs of production for a video that's 2x3 inches in size on a stuttery internet presentation?

The true scope of unemployment is a well kept secret and the reality of under-employment even less known. I can tell by the number of calls and emails I get from others looking for work that times are bad and don't seem to be improving.

When I see my peers at trade shows like the recent NAB and guys in regional markets tell me that they'll be happy to work forty days this year, I have visions of the dust bowl in the 1930's. I used to have some months in which I'd work forty days (by double dipping).

I can only hope that we're in the bad side of a pendulum swing, and that eventually it'll all come back, but my suspicion is that the cost cutting that's been going on, in order to raise corporate profits, will not allow the type of spending that benefited film workers in the past.

When an entire section of the country is being wiped out by an uncontrolled oil spill that's been going on for forty days, I am forced to wonder about everybody's future. And who do they turn to to fix the spill? James Cameron. Please, give me a break. If our life is a movie, it's turned into a disaster film!

See what I mean? I should have left well enough alone. Buy the Diva and aim it at your subject, it'll be beautiful, and hope for the best!

I'm sorry,

JS






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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 7:31:19 am

John, I've known you and your work for what seems like a million years, and you have always been a true gentleman (over and above being a brilliant artist .....painting with light). You have nothing to apologize for.

Your thoughtful response, as always, was both eloquent and insightful. I admire you for that. I wisely chose to stay out of it! (Can you imagine MY response?)

As a sidenote, I did check out Mr Myers' company's website. They posted a recent project for GOOD MORNING AMERICA. You used to do work for them didn't you?

Be well, and keep your chin up old friend.
DS




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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:47:16 pm

Just so that there are no misunderstandings, we did not produce the GMA segment ... that was done by GMA in-house. We pitched the story on behalf of our client and got them to do the story. GMA then produced the segment.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:30:22 pm

Dennis,

Thanks for your encouragement. Yes my chin is up and my arms are swinging wildly!

I suppose the situation at ABC is at the root of my sensitivity on this subject. The fact is that hundreds if not thousands of lives have been adversely affected as a result of bean counters in control of profits at the expense of a proud organization made up of real people (i.e. journalists) being penalized for essentially trying to do a good job.

One can not help but be embittered by these developments and the "joke" that is left is only am embarrassing imitation of the news.

This same scenario plays itself out everyday now in industries across the spectrum of American life, as I mentioned in the previous post, but I think every once in a while we must shine a strong light on these things, as I hope I have done in this case.

I too saw Neil's website and was frankly confused by the GMA video there. I'm glad he has since clarified his involvement, but again I think we'll see more and more of the blurring of line which it represents; namely the new Digital Journalists enlisting the aid of there friends and families to crew their productions for free and everyone (and their uncles) publishing links to ABC News stories and the like, claiming (or at least inferring) authorship. This is absolutely fine on one's blog, but I was taught higher standards regarding the truth when I started at network news many years ago, which obviously have fallen by the wayside to the benefit of business decisions.

These feelings come in waves, and while I might sound crazy, I assure you I am not, and I know that because they are echoed by lots of other folks in the same position as I. I'm grateful for this forum as an outlet, and I believe that though oblique, discussions like this do have a place in lighting and for complete lighting directors, as without our skills and abilities to shine that bright light on the subject it will forever remain in the dark. I have always cherished the opportunity to make an appealing picture to enhance a subject or point of view and I guarantee I will continue to do that going on.

Cheers,

JS





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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:50:04 pm

John there's not much more I can say. You've summed up a dire situation very well, and in baring your feelings have rendered me "teary-eyed".
I too have many talented, hard working friends and colleagues on the East Coast who sweat blood and put everything in their lives aside to help build and maintain the once powerful "House that Roone Built". Most of them have been laid off and told to hit the road without so much as a thank you. It's shameful really.
Perhaps they can find work -- or at least keep busy -- in the world of mediocre storytelling and videography (God I hate that word) in the burgeoning world of YouTUBE ..... where quality is irrelevent; and eveyone has a chance at their 15 seconds of fame.
There also seems to be plenty of work in the world of Marketing and PR.

DS



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Alan Lloyd
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:23:08 pm

One of the things that is often not understood in the race to the bottom that our society (not just economy - we live in a society, and the economy is only a part of that) is seeing is the loss of the knowledge of how to tell a story well, and not only in the technical sense. I would also add that we're seeing a similar erosion of the knowledge of why it's important to tell a story well. And I couple that with the loss of interest in well-told stories I see at large.

We're also witnessing an over-enthusiastic response to "shiny things" in general.

Part of a generalized hollowing out of the world we inhabit, I suspect.

As Yogi once said, "The future ain't what it used to be!"


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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:13:08 pm

Funny you should say that, because "story-telling" is our core competency. That has not changed since we started our business 21 years ago. What has changed is the medium.

Taken in a much broader context I believe that is still true. In the 1800's pitchmen and traveling salesmen created intricate stories. Their medium was a group of people gathered on a street corner, so they then implemented that story as a pitch.

The industrial revolution, combined with railroads lead to national distribution. National magazines sprung up and advertising (and PR by the way) was born. Advertisers crafted intricate stories, but now implemented those stories through printed advertisements.

Radio, and then TV changed the medium once again. Now people who couldn't (or wouldn't) read a magazine were including in the fray.

And now, the Internet is changing everything once again. People such as myself are still doing what people have been doing for the past 150 years -- crafting stories. But our medium has changed, so the way we implement the story has as well.

The interesting part? The medium has come full circle. We're now back to marketing to "communities".

I am not as experienced or as talented as you guys when it comes to lighting, videography, sound, etc. That's why I am here, trying to improve my craft. But I do feel pretty competent as a story-teller. That's what I have done my whole career. Ultimately, that's what my clients hire me to do.

If you are interested, here is an example of what we do:







The budget for this video was $6,000. That included:

1. Script
2. Videography
3. Stock footage
4. 3D animation (we used a free-lancer for that)
5. 2D AE work (we did that)
6. Voice-over
7. Music
8. Editing and mastering

That budget is at the high-end of what clients in our industry pay for YouTube videos. But it is by no means a "large" budget. We had to be very efficient to get all of that done and still make a profit.

Feel free to critique the video ... I am sure there are many things we could have done better. I am also happy to learn.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 6:04:39 pm

Neil,

Your $6,000 budget -- do those listed costs cover everything including in-house expenses like salaried employees' time on the project, overhead such as sales, heat, electricity, building rental, etc. etc. I suspect $6,000 is only part of the true costs. If that figure represents actual total costs, everything included, then you have one lean, mean videomaking machine.

As for comments about the craft of telling a story, the posts on that refer to the video craft of telling a story -- using camera and lights and shadows and colors to enhance the story. To my eyes your sample video is good journeyman corporate video. One of the weaknesses is the rather dead "read" of your interviewee; one is tempted to go to sleep while watching him. It doesn't help that he is videotaped in a dead environment. No eye candy anywhere there. Fortunately he is not on screen very long. The narrator is professional and the whole package generally neat and complete.

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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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 6:15:43 pm

The $6,000 is what we were paid. So our costs had to be less than that. We operate on about a 11% profit margin at the moment. That is too low ... I would prefer 15% to 20%, but I cannot complain because many of my competitors are losing money at the moment.

We are pretty lean. We have no choice to be otherwise in this environment!

Thank you for your comments. I'll take the criticism regarding the deadness of the interview to heart and work on that in future videos.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:07:40 pm

And telling a story is exactly what you did there. Set up a problem, explain it succinctly, and illustrate the solution.

Nothing too out of the ordinary, and you did it well.

As Rick mentioned, a bit of "eye candy" may have sweetened things (see what I did there?) but overall, nicely done.

And interviewees can be far, far worse than that, I assure you.

I shot one long ago, back in my very early independent days, where a mega-corp was visiting "retail partners" and the poor guy the retailer sent out was obviously petrified. He responded to the client's every question by glancing down at and shuffling his stack of 3x5" cards for something approaching an answer, that he then delivered in a muted, frightened-schoolboy tone. No affect, no expression, nothing.

On the way down in the elevator after the interview, the producer told us he didn't think he would be able to use anything, because the short-straw-drawing victim du jour was so flat. Thanked us for a good job of lighting and recording, shaking his head ruefully at the sacrificial lamb we'd just been handed. Called us again, even.

Your guy was nowhere near that, I promise.


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Neil Myers
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:50:26 pm

Thanks for your kind comments. This was an interesting job in a couple of ways. First, the premises were straight from the 1960s. Extremely drab. Worse, they constrained us to shooting in a HUGE section of the building that was abandoned. Nothing but old carpet, walls and blinds.


Second, the spokesperson my client wanted me to interview was, in fact, very energetic and knowledgeable. We set him up first and used an adjacent conference room as a backdrop. It looked good to my eye. When then shot a second guy (the one you see in the video) as "protection". Good thing, because the first fellow's accent was ultimately too much for us to use.

What I should have done was keep the first framing with the second interview -- it was much better. But I wasn't sure if we would be using both shots or just one and I wanted to mix it up just in case. Mistake.

Here is the first guy's framing and lighting.





Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS


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Craig Alan
Re: Lighting kit ... comments?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:35:39 am

Unless you shoot under the same conditions over and over, you will not get the same results as having a lighting pro with a truck load of equipment and experience. However, one piece of gear that is a must, particularly without a pro on board, is a good broadcast monitor. That way, what you see is what you get. Add some scrims and flags to your kit. If you want the pros here to help, then show them an image from a shoot that is not up to par, explain the conditions, sources of light, etc, and I'm sure you'll get some very good feedback. Taking all this stuff on a commercial flight might not be worth it. Under those circumstances, why not hire a local lighting pro? or rent the gear you need locally?

The Pro-light is a tungsten-halogen source, with a color
temperature in the 3000–3200°K range, depending on lamp
choice. To use Pro in locations where its output will mix with
daylight (5600–6500°K ), its color temperature can be converted
by attaching a Dichroic Filter accessory, or adding day blue
gels to the Pro & i gel-frame. Both will give more realistic daylight
white-balancing in video or film.

If some locations have sunlight in the mix you might want to add these accessories and put daylight bulbs in your kino.



OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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