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Matthew Lipscomb
Questions about kits
on Jan 8, 2011 at 7:09:38 pm

I've been doing video for a while and I love it, but up until now my lighting has been amature--reflectors, flashlights, or whatever gets me by. But I want to up my game now, and I've been looking into a few kits.

I mostly do music videos. Here's a video, not mine, that I want to light like. Bear in mind that I realize I might not be able to achieve all of this with just one light kit, but this is the direction I'm going in the long run.







I'll be doing uxclusively this kind of shooting.

I have no idea what to buy to be honest, but from the research I've done so far I suspect one of these kits would probably cover me, or give me a good starting point, and I'd be adding to it over time--I have the budget to cover any one of these kits.

http://www.lowel.com/kits/elemental.html

http://www.lowel.com/kits/toGo95.html

I've also found this for sale in my area:

http://montreal.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-cameras-camcorders-Multiple-Altman...

I need something that can light a room, and a person, or a few people.

Any toughts on these kits? Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks!


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john sharaf
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 8, 2011 at 7:47:22 pm

Mathew,

There has been a lot of discussion lately (and in fact over the years here) about lighting "kits". What's the best kit? Can I light something like this with a kit? Etc.

Lighting "kits" were originally designed, invented and marketed for news crews and other traveling cinematographers. At best they are a compromise in terms of size, output and weight. For purposes that mimic what a news crew does, namely an interview and a stand-up, they are barely adequate and for every other purpose, especially production lighting as in the music video you cite, are in my opinion worthless, except perhaps as "worklights".

The video you refer to was shot on a stage, were most of the time you are forbidden to even bring on your own lights, you must use the lights that the stage rents or sub-rents on your behalf. Unless you are a feature film type gaffer you wouldn't even want to own the 20k and 10k Fresnels, 5k's Skypans, and multiple PARS, Lecos and Moving Lights, etc. that most certainly were used to light that and other music videos, not to mention the cable and dimmers that would go with them.

If in fact you are shooting that type of video you should cultivate a relationship with the rental stages in your area and big lighting rental companies, for the same benefit or owning lights, namely to make money off them, can be realized by earning commissions from these companies when you bring them the big jobs.

I'm not saying not to buy an Arri kit or two for when you do a talking head on location, but to think you're going to light a big time music video with lights that come in a travel box is delusional.

JMHO

JS



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Matthew Lipscomb
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 8, 2011 at 7:53:17 pm

Hummmm....delusional...I've been told that before. Great. Thanks for the tips. So then, is there a compromise? Is there a starting point? I do this as a hobby, and I'm not at the point of making money off it yet. So your suggestions of making friends with lighting rental companies isn't going to happen for the moment. But, nevertheless, I want to get my feet wet.
So I guess then, what I'm really asking, is what's the starting point? Bare minimum? Is there a starting point? Or is the whole thing just pointless as I need 20k lights?

I want to do these kinds of videos, and shoot bands more. Up until now I've just used natural light, 1000w flood light meant for construction. But honestly, the lighting is terrible, and I feel like I'm not going to be able to make much headway until the lighting in my video improves.


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john sharaf
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 8, 2011 at 8:07:54 pm

Mathew,

Thanks for taking my remarks so well.

You're right that being delusional is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, the video you show to which you aspire was particularly a "high key" style. This was accomplished with very extravagant sets and large source lights. For example the shots of the three dancers required a light large enough (like a 20k fresnel) to backlight the width of their action, perhaps 20-25' wide. Needless to say this can not be done with a 1K.

All I can suggest, knowing your "hobby" status is to keep it up and have fun. Perhaps one day you'll get a budget and can apply your ideas with the proper "kit" (as they say in the UK).

Best regards,

JS



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Michael Cowan
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 8, 2011 at 9:12:54 pm

Matthew,

While what John says is true about big sets needing big lights (frequently small sets need big lights, too), there's nothing wrong with buying some lighting gear to experiment and learn. And, if you can't afford an Arri kit, only some Lowell lights, well that's not a bad place to start.

Regardless of whether you buy gear or not, get out there and learn. As John said, find the local stages and rental houses and get to know the people who make their living, lighting. Better yet, get some experience as a grip electric working for the local houses. You may have to start out as a PA or an intern, but be persistent. Yes, you can learn by buying some of your own gear, but why not learn on someone else's budget? Also, buy a copy of Harry Box's "Set Lighting Technician's Handbook." For $30 US you'll have a much greater appreciation for lighting equipment, capabilities and application.

And, lights are just the beginning; there's grip equipment, power distribution, trucks to transport everything, and skilled personnel to make it work well.

Best!

m.

Michael Cowan
Heartbeest Productions, Inc.

- Everything Matters


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Bill Davis
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 9, 2011 at 12:54:31 am

I'd like to note just one more thing in this discussion.

The primary purpose of a light kit is NOT to bundle together the finest solution to any particular lighting situation. That's may be the SECONDARY purpose of the best of the kits, but the PRIMARY purpose of any kit is to encourage INCREASED SALES within a particular companies product line. This is just basic business 101. The company provides you with a modest discount as you buy and spend MORE money on their products. This helps the company survive and prosper.

Again, nothing wrong with this. It's a fundamental business premis across virtually all industries.

The best companies DO work hard to make the kits useful and to meet the needs of their customers - but they also understand that if they were to offer kits to truly match the needs of all their customers, they'd have 1000 different kit variations. And that's totally impractical.

Kits are great. But they're NOT solutions in a box. At best they're an excellent way to save a small percentage of cost, or get a few modest cost accessories and a nice box bundled into the retail price of a set of instruments - often chosen to make sure the "price point" of the kit - fits in with what their customers historically wish to spend.

Not a bad way to start. But again, a START - NOT really a solution in a box.

For what it's worth.



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Matthew Lipscomb
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 9, 2011 at 3:53:16 am

I hear what you guys are saying, and I understand now that no kit per se is going to offer a full spectrum solution; however, that being said, I find it hard to believe that good lighting can only be achieved with 50k lights.

If you look at the original video I sent, could you achieve something similar, but no identical, on a much lower budget? Say the hall way scene. Could it have a bright, big window at the end providing good back light, and then only one bright like on the model? Is this delusional again? (I'm asking, I'm really not sure)

How about the scene where she making our with herself on the kitchen talbe. I can see the ambient light from the kitchen, that means that the lights on her can't be all that powerful...right?

Or am I missing something?


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Bill Davis
Re: Questions about kits
on Jan 9, 2011 at 6:59:04 am

Matthew,

The surest way to break down the lighting in a scene is to examine the cast shadows.

You'll notice in the hallway scene that not only are there almost NO shadows - there isn't even a realistic line between the walls and the floor. This is because this is a PURPOSE BUILT SET. It's crafted, painted and finished to give a particular effect. Look at the highlights on the walls. It shows matching LARGE light sources bringing up the areas in front of the talent in a way that allows those same walls to basically light the talent. Also, note at :17 in the MCU of the talent leaning against the wall that theres a pronounced REFLECTION in the wall surface. Clearly this is custom painted as either semi-gloss or gloss - something you wouldn't run across very often in a real-world setting.

now look at the "girl rolling on the bed" shots. Notice how the highlight is perfectly centered behind the pilows. No accident. Based on the falloff of the beam, it looks like a relatively large Fresnel JUST to get that highlight. Then the bed is illuminated with just a slightly softened source that projects the striped pattern. Notice even how the striped pattern is CAREFULLY positioned so that the tips of the pillow on BOTH sides are in shadow rather than highlight helping them stand out against the lit back wall.

The ONLY way to get this kind of control is to start out with a PERFECTLY unlit set and add JUST the lighting you want. If there's a window, or a doorway, or anything else allowing light to spill into the scene, the effect gets washed out and ruined.

None of this is by accident. This is thoughtfully planned lighting.

And it takes TIME, EQUIPMENT and KNOWLEDGE to pull off lighting like this.



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