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John Clawson
budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:07:46 pm

I'm a videographer on a budget. Does anyone have a recommendation on a 3 point lighting kit in the $300 - $500 range? I'd prefer to have at least one softbox. I'll be using these for interviews, local commercials, and some short films.


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Mark Suszko
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 4:58:41 pm

The sun, and three large reflectors.

Seriously, dude, that is a pitiful amount to make a kit capable of all three tasks you're laying out. I suggest instead that if possible, you apply that money to renting a light kit: a couple hundred should get you a nice setup for a day's shooting, for which you pass on the bill to the client, plus a markup for your trouble and to put towards saving up for your own "grownup" stuff.

If you have no rentals around, then with that money you're stuck with what you can find on ebay and Craig's. Try to hold out for pro name brand used gear: ti will pay for itself many times over, over the long haul, and holds resale value well. Home Depot kitbash stuff will do in a pinch, but is not going to make a great client impression, and it is also usually quite limiting creatively and operationally.

Also, re-think the need for 3-point, at least for interviews. You can often get away with one softbox or hard light with diffusion and a passive reflector of white foamboard on a stand on the fill side, two for the price of one.
That's another way to economize.


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Dave Johnson
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 6:45:48 pm

Yes, by the time you factor in a speed ring or two to fit it onto different size lights, you can easily spend $300 on just one soft box, never mind lights to put it on. Seems like buying used gear or renting as needed will be your only choices ... beyond shooting everything outdoors on a sunny day or trying to fix lighting issues in post, which can get much more expensive in the long run.


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Todd Terry
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 7:48:43 pm

Just confirming what these other guys have said...

Yes, unfortunately you need to add another zero to your budget in order to look at real pro gear.

However, it can be done on the cheap... for perhaps your budget or a little more. You can't do it the "right" way and go with "real" high-end pro instruments though. However, hit eBay and you'll be able to find some of those no-brand or knockoff Chinese instruments that might prove serviceable until you can get the real toys you want and need. You can also find softboxes (sans instruments) dirt cheap on eBay (I mean, literally like 20 bucks)... but just make sure you get ones that are rated for "continuous" or "hot" instruments (i.e., make sure you don't get ones designed just for strobes, as they won't stand up to the heat). There's also the low-end suppliers like ImageWest that have really low-end instruments. I wouldn't build a career on them, for sure... but if you need something just to get by for a little while you might find something there.

As Mark said, you don't always necessarily need to do "classic" three-point lighting. I shoot people all the time, and I probably haven't done true three-point lighting in years. That gives you nice, even, perfectly lit portraiture. It also gives you flat, dull, boring, uninteresting and unnatural portraiture. Just my personal taste as a cinematographer, I generally gravitate toward very natural looking lighting (although, admittedly it does seem a bit screwy to take a half dozen instruments and a truck full of grip equipment to achieve a natual unlit look... but sometimes it does). You can easily light very nice talking heads with two instruments... a backlight, and a large surface (such as a softbox) key light at about a 45°. For the fill side, a 4x4 whiteboard or shinyboard (just white foamcore) will more than do the trick. When I do daylight lighting, I can often "cheat" and get really pretty but really natural lighting using only a single instrument. I put one 1200w HMI fresnel high and to the rear of the talent and blast it into a white 4x4 in front of the talent (which becomes the key), and "steal" a little stray light directly from the instrument to give me a splash of back/side lighting. I know that's not what you are trying to do... just using that as an example that sometimes you don't really need all the instruments or firepower that you might think you do. Light smarter, not harder :)

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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John Clawson
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 8:02:09 pm

Thanks, those are good suggestions. I've been burned by cheap equipment before and I should probably hold out for the quality gear. Maybe I'll go with one light to start with and build around that. I could be creative with one light as you said. Are LED's worth a look?


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Todd Terry
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 8:28:33 pm

[John Clawson] "Are LED's worth a look?"

Sure...it's the wave of the future.

But you're back to your money issue. Even a single instrument is going to blow your budget, even if you buy one of the bargain-basement LED instruments (like those from CoolLights, etc.). A higher-end one such as a real LitePanel will be a couple of grand for a single 1x1.

You might consider some of the flo instruments from places like CoolLights or FloLights.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: budget light kit
on Apr 25, 2011 at 9:10:46 pm

Google the article for Walter Graff's "Graff Lights". You can build a pair of those for fifty bucks. You can also make softboxes out of foam core boards in such a way that they don't catch fire. Again, none of these tools will give your clients much confidence. Rememer to build some profit margin for buying additional gear into every job you bill, and let the CLIENTS supply your gear, over time.


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Mike Cohen
Re: budget light kit
on Jun 20, 2011 at 4:43:47 am

If you are seriously on a budget, look at the Cowboy Studio products. Yes the name makes it sound like cheap junk. I got for personal use (photographing my wife's hand made jewelry) a softbox that uses compact fluorescent bulbs and puts out the equivalent of 1000 incadescent watts, for $140. It is clunky in construction and assembly, but you get what you pay for. On a recent shoot that was not a shoot at all but a quick interview during the lunch break of a meeting, I took this softbox, a 150W arri fresnel for a backlight and a reflector, and got a decently lit interview. The arri 105 is of course part of our arri fresnel kit that was big bucks - but who's counting. It is daylight balanced so I got a sheet of CTO.

Don't discount the usefulness of a reflector with a silver and a gold surface. I have one that unzips to reveal a white and black surface on the other side plus a scrim in the middle. Very handy especially in tight spaces.

I would avoid Home Depot lights only because they get very hot and are not very directional and are in my opinion a fire hazard in non-construction zones.

In my local market I can rent an Arri softbank kit for $75/day or a Kino Flo 3-light kit for $150. We rent both of these kits on a regular basis to supplement our own lights. If you are doing freelance gigs, build the cost of a good kit rental into your price. Companies like VER or MP&E will ship things to you.

Mike Cohen


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