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Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?

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Evan Robertson
Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 21, 2012 at 8:14:09 pm

I am looking at several lighting kits, including a 3 way umbrella light kit and a kit with 2 softbox lights.
Overall, which would be best for a casual shooter (really casual)? The 3 way kit has two umbrella lights and one light without an umbrella (and stands). The softbox light kit has just that, 2 soft box lights (with stands).
Also, if I did go with the 3 way kits, there are some with two light bulbs per light and some with one bulb per light, is it advisable to get the type of light that uses 2 bulbs or 1?

Thanks!


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Craig Seeman
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 12:08:03 am

Lowell Tota 3 Umbrella.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/285813-REG/Lowel_T1_923LBZ_Tota_light...

Lowell 44 Rifa soft boxes - get 2 - they are on the smallish size.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/285872-REG/Lowel_LC_94LBZ_Rifa_eX_44_...



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Bill Davis
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 1:18:36 am

[Evan Robertson] "I am looking at several lighting kits, including a 3 way umbrella light kit and a kit with 2 softbox lights.
Overall, which would be best for a casual shooter (really casual)? The 3 way kit has two umbrella lights and one light without an umbrella (and stands). The softbox light kit has just that, 2 soft box lights (with stands).
Also, if I did go with the 3 way kits, there are some with two light bulbs per light and some with one bulb per light, is it advisable to get the type of light that uses 2 bulbs or 1? "


Uh,

In my entire career, I've never come across a single video professional that uses "umbrellas" for lighting.

In video we typically turn to "soft boxes" with control grids - rather than bouncing light off umbrellas.

This is partially because it's technologically trivial to generate a HUGE "flash" of light - enough to bounce around a whole room for a fraction of a second - but generating the same brightness values in continuous light takes lots of power - generates lots of heat - and requires time and effort to shlep the required gear.

If someone shows up with umbrellas on my set, I think I'm dealing with a photographer who hasn't yet gone too far in their cross-training for video.

FWIW.

"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


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Evan Robertson
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 1:28:05 am

Thanks for your input. Based on your rudeness and lack of "people skills" I am not surprised that you work in video production or broadcasting. Unfortunately, I work in marketing and do this once in a rare while, I am not employed at a media production company, nor do I care to be. Why are there so many people in your industry who make such a big deal out of everything? We've hired a shooter before and he was unbearable and pompous, just like yourself. Next time, why don't you just politely let me know that I was a bit off base in my search for a light (which is just a light and will not necessarily increase revenue, drive sales or do anything which actually matters)

Thanks!


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Craig Seeman
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 2:21:41 am

Did you ever watch one of those ScFi (SyFy?) movies where as soon as the space ship gets close to the Earth and hovers, the military comes out and starts throwing nukes at the ships?

That's just us production people arriving for the shoot. Seems everyone thinks we're hostile invaders so we grumble a bit after being shot at by marking people say they can do their videos with Flip cameras and such.

We're aliens. We don't speak Earthlingish all that well (that is what you speak, no?) but we bring shinny magical things that can increase revenue and drive sales.

I've used Totas with Umbrellas. They're my least favorite light. It's kinda like wearing patches on your pants (our space suits). It's ugly as all heck. Cheaper than buying another expensive pair of pants (and certainly a space suit) but it sure is better than having a big ugly hole in your pants (our space suits).

I've used Totas with Umbrellas to generally raise levels, splatter softish light controlling it with either white or silver 'brellas and lighting through them or bouncing them off walls, light green screen, soft light something when I don't have another soft box and I don't mind the lack of control.

Umbrellas are a last resort choice because of the lack of control but they're better than nothing.
One analogy might be the difference between painting a representation portrait a sponge and or a set of fine brushes. The latter is going to give you much more control.

Lighting can drive sales . . . depending on your target just as some people gravitate towards nice pretty things vs plain looking things. Many people can't even articulate why something looks more attractive so they won't note the lighting but lighting gives incredible control over the viewer's emotions.

Since you have soft boxes on your list so you surely appreciate what they can do. Perhaps consider what you're using umbrellas for and explore those options ranging from china balls for a broadly spread soft source or controllable lights with focusable beams and diffusion and ND gels or, if lighting a green screen fluorescents or LED panels . . . or Tota with Umbrella if you don't mind the limited control. I've used umbrellas but as my lighting skills advance, I'm finding them a tool of last resort.



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Todd Terry
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 2:05:08 am

[Bill Davis] "
In my entire career, I've never come across a single video professional that uses "umbrellas" for lighting....If someone shows up with umbrellas on my set, I think I'm dealing with a photographer who hasn't yet gone too far in their cross-training for video."



Well Bill... I guess you can strike me up as one of those guys you've never seen before, because I use umbrellas all the time. In fact, I was using them today.

I use them for video, 16mm, and 35mm.

I don't, however, use reflective umbrellas. Rather, I use the ones made of white slightly translucent silk, and I shoot the lighting instrument through them, rather than using them as a reflector. I use them whenever a softbox might be appropriate, but when I have no need for "spill" control... such as when using them as a key light close to a subject in a very large space, or when using them in a black limbo studio. In those instances, I get exactly the same effect as a softbox. Why use the umbrellas, then? They're simply easier to set up. True, it doesn't take but a couple of minutes to set up a soft box from scratch... but I can pop open an umbrella in literally two seconds. It takes longer to unzip the grip bag where the speedrings live than to pop up an umbrella. Plus, almost all of the open-faced instruments that we usually use in our softboxes already have umbrella mounts already made into their yokes... so it really couldn't be easier. I just don't use them when I need to control spill, etc., but in instances when I don't, they work like a charm... and are easier, faster, and lighter than softboxes.

I've seen plenty of other DPs use them too.

And, for what it's worth, I do relatively know what I'm doing, so I don't use them out of newbi ignorance. I don't quite have the "ASC" behind my name (yet), but I've been a professional cinematographer for a couple of decades now... and not that I count them (because I sincerely don't give a hoot about lucite trophies), I do have a closet full of awards for DP work.

Umbrellas do have their place.

T2

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



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Bill Davis
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 10:03:44 pm

[Todd Terry] "And, for what it's worth, I do relatively know what I'm doing, so I don't use them out of newbi ignorance. I don't quite have the "ASC" behind my name (yet), but I've been a professional cinematographer for a couple of decades now... and not that I count them (because I sincerely don't give a hoot about lucite trophies), I do have a closet full of awards for DP work.

Umbrellas do have their place."


OK,
I'll stand corrected.

And clearly my "tone" - that ephemeral thing that in text I sometimes don't take enough account of - must have come across as bristly. I apologize for that. My bad.

What I wrote, however was true. I've never encountered an umbrella on a video set in my career - but maybe that's just about my market and my associations, not about the general practice of video as it's practiced world wide by everyone. Fair enough.

Lets just acknowledge that there are a zillion ways to bounce light. We've been bouncing light off white drop office ceilings for as long as they've been in existence. I travel with Scrim Jim frames and Pop ups in both reflect and diffuse fabrics when I need to bounce or diffuse. Those cover all the "broad wash" requirements I've ever needed.

My photographer friends (and I have a lot of them since a good half dozen of the best in town have been coming to me for the past year in order to learn to shoot video on their DSLRS - are the only place I regularly run into umbrellas.

I've never seen an Arri, a Mole, or Inario light with one of those little "holes" that accommodate the straight chrome stick that photogs use to mount umbrellas. (Yeah, they show up on the Lowell stuff Totas and Omni's - the "industrial" gear that I've never really used - but that's about it, AFAIK.)

So I'll accept that they are used in continuous lighting, particularly when guys like you, Terry, say so.

But I've been on quite a few video sets in my time. And somehow I've managed to avoid running across a single photo umbrella in play. Go figure.

"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


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john sharaf
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 10:36:22 pm

I'll admit that when I was starting out many years ago, I used photo umbrellas (both white and silver) with punchy lights like PARS and FAYS. It was usually a matter of jiggling the unit into different parts of the umbrella to get the correct bounce angle into the scene and controlling the spill was somewhat problematical.

There were times I aimed the light directly through the white umbrellas, essentially using it as a diffuser too.

But this was all in the pre-Chimera era, and once that product arrived it clearly was superior in terms of aiming the soft source and controlling the spill, especially with the solid and later fabric louvers.

I now think that light boxes like the Chimeras should probably form the basis of a modern lighting kit and the actual instruments take on a supporting role. For portraiture you probably want the biggest box you can afford and transport, perhaps a Medium (which is 3x4'), next best is Small (2x3") and then the biggest unit you can conveniently power. First choice is a Joker 800w, then maybe a 2K Blond. You've got to remember that the box sucks up a lot of the output and you often have to contend with high ambient light in practical locations. The beauty of these combinations is that you'll have both a soft light in combination and a hard light when used without the Chimera.

Now if you can't afford the Joker or are scarred by the prospect of blowing fuses with the 2K, the next best choice IMO is a 4'Fourbank KF. This has an output equal to a 1200w HMI bounced into a white card. I often use this light through a roll of Lee 216 hanging from a c-stand and this creates a light source equal in size to the medium Chimera mentioned above. These is now the issue of controlling the spill again, but if you're willing (and able) to transport a coup[le of 4x8' B&W Foamcores and a few stands you can manage. The advantage of the KF is it's low profile and small footprint, which makes it ideal for small office and hotel room interviews where the larger Chimeras would in practical terms be to long.

When buying a kit, or even just deciding what few lights you can pack in a car or travel with on an airplane, my strategy is to always take one bog lire (like the 800 Joker) and a spare if possible and then a few smaller lights like 150W Dedos or am Arri Locaster Kit for back, fill, eyelight of accent light behind the subject. It's not critically important to buy them all at once, but it is important to have a strategic plan for what the kit you're building (over time) will contain. The fact is that if you are serious about owning a proper lighting kit it is an evolutionary process over your entire career. you'll find that you'll get bored with a certain look and will want to try different approaches, especially as new technology (like LED) keep evolving.

The question of what lighting kit one should buy is a fair one, but there is no one answer other than to intelligently build a strategy based on your objectives, finances, technology and skills.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Feb 22, 2012 at 11:03:43 pm

[john sharaf] "...is an evolutionary process over your entire career. you'll find that you'll get bored with a certain look and will want to try different approaches..."

Truer words never spoken. I look at my own lighting styles through the years and find they were very evolutionary. Not revolutionary, just evolutionary. Not necessarily better... just different... and I think that's just as John says, I got bored with doing things such-and-such a way and tried something else and stuck with it for a while.

I used to be big into softboxes, and would wag a bunch around me wherever I went. Sometimes I would just take umbrellas, if I knew they would be fine in a situation and I didn't have to worry about spill or much control. Lately (last couple of years), I've been on my daylight kick, and have tended to use HMIs and bounce cards a lot more, often times in places that don't require daylight balanced light and where in the past I would have used tungsten just fine. And different people have different tastes. For example, with HMIs I'm the only person I know who greatly prefers fresnels over PARs. Everyone else is in love with their PARs but I hate using them. Give me the frez any day.

What's next for me? I dunno... but it might be LEDs. I haven't used any much, and think they would be interesting to try. Whatever it is, it probably won't be like the last thing I did. Or the thing after that.

One thing that doesn't change much is all the grip equipment... C-stands, flags, grip heads, Quaker clamps, junior stands... all that jazz. Seems the only thing that really changes are the instrument heads themselves. So I tell people just starting out to be sure to invest in good grip stuff as well, because those pieces are fairly timeless and useful no matter what your lighting style.

T2

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



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Ron Piedrahita
Re: Buying a lighting kit - your thoughts?
on Mar 2, 2012 at 1:29:27 pm

Having started with Omni and Tota-lights, I see a place for them, as well as Dedo, HMIs,fresnels, LEDs and the whole slew of options out there. For me, it becomes the right tool for the right job, but I keep my basic kit to something I'm comfortable working with day-in and day-out.

I recently got a chance to meet Shane Hurlbut and enjoyed this from his blog:

http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2011/12/16/lighting-with-home-depot-ligh...


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