Travel Light Kit?
I'm looking for some advice on a travel light kit. It will really be my primary lighting kit, but I need it to be portable as well/plane friendly.
It will be used primarily for documentary style interviews, but perhaps some corporate style shoots (e.g. reception area of an office, clients entering, conference room type shots, etc.)
The camera used is a panasonic hmc150, though by end of year likely an AF100.
I'd like cooler lights (and battery powered would be great, but I'm guessing that's just LED right?).
So more important is lights with plenty of power and throw, good portability, durable and ability to control them easily.
The budget is around $2000 or less.
And I'd like a weekend with Heather Graham, a spray can of no-stick cooking oil, and an engine hoist, but the combination is about as attainable as your list, for that amount of money.:-)
You're asking for contradictory things: powerful instruments for lighting up a large space, also good for intimate interview work, but battery powered and light-weight, if possible, and easy to transport. You're asking for spots, floods, and a softlight in one thing. At least it's all apparently indoors.
LED is good for closeup work, cool-runing and thrifty on electricity, good with batteries, but lacks true punch to light up an entire room. Also still frequently has color temp issues on the cheaper instruments. The good ones are still pretty expensive for what I feel you get.
Daylight HMI can be gelled for indoor and still light up a large space well... but they are heavy, expensive, and eat gobs of electricity.
Tungsten Halogen I think is still a good balance between what LED or Flo's can do, and what HMI's can do, and relatively inexpensive, more so if you buy good used instruments.
Just how compactly "portable" do you need to be, anyway? And have you considered just renting a light kit locally in each city you travel to?
It certainly won't do all/anything/everything you need (as Mark said, nothing will fit all those criteria), but one of the Pepper kits from LTM will come closest to fitting the bill. We love them, built like tanks, too...
What I'm more concerned about though is Mark and the engine hoist. Sounds like someone's been shopping the Harbor Freight catalog and thinking a bit too much....
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks Todd. That's kind of what I'm looking for.
I also found some Arri kits that were around 2000 which had three to four lights (and came with a softbox). Are Arri light kits a good bet as well?
Mark, my request list was probably more to check if anyone has seen a combo kit that has a good LED and Tungsten package combined. Mostly it's just interview lighting I need. Then if the lights can double for some simple shots of interior spaces, that's what I'm hoping for. Renting is too costly over and over as we've been doing that. A good kit in a relatively compact case (with wheels!) will save us some time and money.
As far as your wish list...can't help you, but I wish you luck. But I'm not sure Heather will be into the oil and engine hoist combination and whatever you have in mind there ;-)
[Mike Imken] "Arri light kits a good bet as well?"
Sure, Arri has been around forever and make good products.
Like back in your father's day when there were "Ford men" and "Chevy men" who would buy nothing else, lighting instruments today also have similar fans. I personally prefer LTM Pepper heads to Arri heads, but that's just me.
They do the same job, just built a little differently. Pepper heads are made out of cast metal, whereas Arris are made of sheet metal. That makes the Peppers a bit more rugged, but also a bit heavier. And while in ways it makes them sturdier, it also makes them more fragile. Knock a Pepper over onto a concrete floor and the head might break, since it is cast metal. The same Arri head would probably get a big dent in it, but wouldn't break. I also think the Arris are a little overpriced for what you get, compared to the Peppers. Both great instruments though.
One thing that is helpful for guys starting from the ground up (who might not really know exactly what they need right off the bat) is that the Pepper kits are very complete. They will typically include not only the instrument heads, but nice stands (usually Matthews stands), rolling case, barn doors, scrims, extra globes, leather gloves, even ungrounded plug adapters.
You're not, however, going to be able to add decent LED instruments to that kit for anywhere near the kind of budget you'd like to hit.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Mike Imken] "Are Arri light kits a good bet as well?
Chimera is great for travel. But this kit has three fresnels, no open face - isn't it kind of a waste to put a fresnel into a Chimera? (I'd be interested in others' opinions on that score, btw.) If you will often be using the Chimera you may want to find a kit that includes a simple (and inexpensive) open face. Also, that Chimera is kind of small, imho.
Travel kits should be rugged, compact, lightweight, come in good cases, and be as inexpensive as possible so it is less tragic when they get lost/stolen/damaged.
[Bob Cole] "isn't it kind of a waste to put a fresnel into a Chimera? (I'd be interested in others' opinions on that score, btw.)"
Well Yeah, usually. We always put open-faced instruments in our softboxes. The upside to that is, not only do they work better, but the open-faces are a lot less expensive than fresnels.
You can in a pinch of course use a fresnel in a Chimera or any other softbox. But it is kinda a waste of the instrument... and a waste of firepower too... since when usually using a softbox you benefit from the light bouncing around the silver surface of the interior as well as being softened by the front silk. If you were going to use a fresnel head, you'd be just as well blasting it through just a silk only, in a Hollywood frame, or whatever. But yes, you can do it of course... if that's the gear you have on hand.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Bob Cole] "But this kit has three fresnels, no open face - isn't it kind of a waste to put a fresnel into a Chimera? (I'd be interested in others' opinions on that score, btw.) If you will often be using the Chimera you may want to find a kit that includes a simple (and inexpensive) open face. Also, that Chimera is kind of small, imho."
A to the fresnel in a soft box deal, it''s certainly not ideal., but it can work. Specifically, Photoflex soft boxes designed for hot lights were traditionally designed deeper for this very reason. They work OK with Fresnels since being deeper than, say, Chimeras, they allow the beam of a fresnel to spread out to more of the soft box panel. (not perfect, they still vignette a bit - and they are "nose heavy" so you need good grip gear - but it's a very usable light if you want to do soft box interviews and want to do nothing more than toss the box and rods into a Fresnel kit.
But, don't forget that lighting is a bit like cooking. You can get nice results with a good piece of protein, spices that match that well, and a couple of more things to round out the plate. But nobody wants to face every meal with just one arrangement on the menu. Dining is more interesting when you can change main courses - change how you spice them up, and change the side dishes.
That's lighting as well. Taking a light kit on the road is like packing a picnic. Nothing wrong with having a "go to" picnic lunch always based around, say, cold fried chicken. But the more you learn about lighting, the more you want to be able to vary the main course, vary the sides, and vary the spice profile so that you learn, practice, and expand your idea of what a "picnic" can be.
"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor
[Bill Davis] "Dining is more interesting when you can change main courses - change how you spice them up, and change the side dishes."
Damn you! I already brushed my teeth tonight, and you just made me hungry again.
Wow, I really appreciate all the input!
So if I'm following the open face light idea, I should go for that Arri kit or something similar but do the Chimera with a light like this:
Soft Key: Lowell Rifa - fast and helpful when you light alone.
Soft Key: Photoflex Starlight, 500 watt or 1000
Fill: Photoflex or ? Pop-up reflector set - diffusion layer covered with removable layers of different kinds of bounce fabric.
Backlight: 150watt Arriflex fresnel. Use on an arm atop a stand.
Background: 300watt Arriflex Fresnel
(Fill or modeling light as needed: 150watt Arri. For modeling, maybe add another diffusion and stand. [Modeling light is sourced behind subject, on fill side, to add contour to face])
Need scrim kits for each light. a dimmer may not be a bad idea. Yes it may shift the color a bit but no one really sees that. And a warm backlight or fill can be... well... nice.
Use all of above. If needed, you can remove the diffusion on the softbox to provide mucho light.
Maybe add a 650 watt or another 300watt if needed for larger areas.
Stands: Go light. Photoflex are light and have been fine for me, for 6 years plus. **Make clamps of different sorts with light studs attached. Go to Harbor Freight (yes, it's a cult) for various kinds of clamps. These will often allow you to place lights where stands can't go and even taek the place of taking an extra stand.
Bring gels and diffusion and clips clamps tape and gum.
Consider having one bag for stands, etc. and one for light heads, etc. Makes for two bags but both are each much lighter. I'm 59 yrs old.
So there. That's my minimum kit and it's worked for me in town and on the road.
There are so maany ways to skin this particular cat. How you shop (yes to craigslist and ebay and patience), who you run into, your won strengths and ingenuity, etc.
Have at it,
When it comes to documentary interviews I've always found I had success with the Lowel DV Creator 55 Kit. Definitely worth checking out. The kit has everything you need to light a typical sit down interview and its fairly cheap. An additional flag kit is always nice too.
Here's a good perspective on buying a kit