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Dan Shaw
Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 20, 2013 at 8:28:28 pm

Hi Guys - I was hoping to grab some much needed expertise regarding a lighting setup that I am trying to create. My goal is to create video's with me shot portrait style in front of a seamless white background. I have searched and read all about my options for doing this and my head is spinning a bit thinking of flourescent vs halogen, softbox vs umbrella, and everything in between.

Here is an example of what I am going for:



.

I'm on a budget here. Shooting this in my living room to start so I do not have tons of room (I know this is not ideal). I would rather not have to settle on mediocre equipment.

For my background I am thinking of going with the Savage Background Kit.

For my camera I have a 5D Mark 2 and plenty of lenses.

I have seen many video's including the one below that talks about getting 6 flourescent softbox's to light up the background and myself. I don't see a problem with this, but those lights are cheap and I would like to get something that can last.







Others have used the Lowel Tota Light to light the background also.

Budget: I'd say i'd like to spend around $1,000-$1,500 for the setup. If that is way too low then I be curious to see what that would be.

I really appreciate any advice that anyone could give.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 20, 2013 at 8:52:49 pm

Well, firstly I think my goal would be to do something that looks a lot better than the sample video... I thought the lighting in that was pretty bad. It is very flat and uninteresting, and the key lights are too low giving everytone that sort of unnatural Boris Karlof look. They also didn't appear to have any backlighting at all, which I personally think is sorely needed even with a white limbo background. I can't be completely positive, but I'm pretty sure that was not a practical white backgroung... I'm pretty sure it was greenscreened. It's just so white and perfect and a little bit around a couple of the talents' hair it looked a bit keyed.

You have a little bit of a dilemma in that you don't want something "cheap" yet you have a budget on the low end of $1000. You'll need several instruments for this, and if you wanted to go higher-end you could easily spend a lot more than that on a single instrument.

I'd really suggest going a bit of the cheap and DIY route, if that's your budget. Instruments like that can still be durable, if you do things right and take care of them.

For wallwashing I'd suggest hitting Home Depot and picking up some shop lights for about $15 each. At my place we've got plenty of toys including some pretty darn expensive lighting instruments, but I still use cheap shop lights for wallwashing and greenscreening. Why?... because even though they are cheap they still work fine and are a tiny fraction of the price of "real" instruments. I save the Kinos for applications where they are really needed.

I did modify the shop lights a bit to make them more usable... in fact I recently wrote about that in a post here...

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/47/860132


For talent, I'd light with a medium size softbox (somewhere in the 650-1000w range), and for fill I would use a white 4x4 (foamcore) in a Quacker (duckbill) clamp.

I'd backlight with a small fresnel, maybe a 100-300w Pepper fresnel, or an equivalent from Arri.

That backdrop stand is ok, and relatively cheap. I don't know if you have any equipment already or are starting from scratch, but if you already have a couple of C-stands or other tall light stands you can buy a piece of 1/2" electrical conduit from the hardware store for about $4 and use that as the crosspiece with your stands (held by a couple of grip heads) to rig a support for your seamless paper roll.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 20, 2013 at 8:59:55 pm

Todd - Thank you! That was some great information. I agree that the video I gave an example of is not that great, I was more talking about the fact that it was white and also the cropping they were using. But yes, I hope mine will be better then that.

Also do you have any thoughts on muslin vs seamless paper?

Thanks Todd!


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 2:43:28 am

[Dan Shaw] "...any thoughts on muslin vs seamless paper?"

Depends on the look you are going for... assuming you're wanting that totally-flawless-solid-white limbo background, then that's a job for a roll of white seamless paper.

Muslin will have a texture to it, would have to be stretched (both side to side and top to bottom) in a big Hollywood frame in order to get it perfectly flat, and you rarely see it in pure white.

T2

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



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john sharaf
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 5:11:21 am

Dan,

Two things; if this is just a one-off shoot, there's no need to buy the gear, just rent it. Second, if this is a continuing project buy the proper gear and amortize it over time. Furthermore, if the project has a life of 6 months or a year, use it and then sell it, this is the cheapest scenario of all.

Paper vs. Muslin. Muslin is available in sizes larger than a seamless paper, which is really intended for head shots or full body shot of one person at most. It is reusable but sometimes you'll need a steamer to eradicate wrinkles. Seamless is cheap and easy to rig.

Lighting kit is twofold; even lighting (left and right) for white backing. Not too much is necessary, but it must be a straight line across the waveform monitor at preferably 80 ire. I'd suggest 4'TwoBank Kino Flos

Second is your favorite portraiture lighting for the foreground, without polluting the white background. I'd recommend 2'FourBank KF for key and 2'TwoBank KF's for fill and backlight.

These five lights plus stands and sand bags might cost $4000 or rent for $300-400/ day. Pick your poison!

Cheers,

JS



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 4:35:05 pm

Thanks for the feedback John. This project of mine is going to be ongoing and a consistant part of my business so renting is out of the question. I don't have the cashflow to put down thousands of dollars right now so I am going to take a tip from Todd and try to make a DIY system work. Once I am on my feet and have some "swagger" then I can upgrade to the big boys. :) But thank you for laying out the lights that would be needed. This will help a lot.

I also have a very basic question that I am embarrassed to ask. Is there a good way to calculate the overall wattage that is output by multiple fluorescent lights? The reason I ask is that the math is just not adding up for me. For example on the web I see this:

"2000 Watt Photography and Digital Video Continuous Lighting Kit"

-Includes Ten (10) 45 Watt 5000k Compact Fluorescent Daylight Balanced Photo Bulbs

But then I do the math and I don't understand how they got 2000 Watt's? 45 x 10 = 450.

Is there a conversion process I am missing?


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 5:04:16 pm

The challenge comes from comparing apples and oranges...

Different types of instruments vary greatly in the amount of light they output per wattage.

A 1000w tungsten bulb puts out a certain amount of light. If you use an LED instrument that puts out the same amount of light (measured in lumens or footcandles), the wattage of that instrument is going to be a tiny fraction of that.

Another case is HMIs. I use a lot of 1200w HMIs, they are sort of my "go to" daylight instrument. But a 1200w HMI puts out about five times the amount of light as a 1200w tungsten instrument.

So what those manufacturers often do, is put a rough equivalent of output, expressed as if it were tungsten. That 2000w flo kit is not 2000 actual watts... you're right, it's 450 watts. But the seller is saying it's equivalent in light output to 2000 tungsten watts. Yes, it can be confusing.

Sellers also fudge those numbers a lot. Someone claiming to have a 2000 or 3000 or whatever flo or LED kit or instrument might actually have a real output that is quite a bit less than that.

As I said, they are comparing apples to oranges.

T2

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



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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 8:43:09 pm

Let me just pop in and note that while the lighting gear is certainly a factor, if you really want to push for quality - the location issue is probably as important as the gear.

In order to pull a very clean key - you need to light in zones. The background key material is one zone.

The talent is another zone.

You can also think of the camera itself as a third zone since the distance availble from camera to talent - talent to background are ALL relevant when it comes to keying.

If you don't have enough space - particularly depth - keying is harder to do well.

A camera to background depth of 15 feet or more will help you. Less than 10 feet will make things MUCH harder. If you can get 20 feet plus, then you're really cooking.

Just FYI

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 9:12:02 pm

Very true, Bill... although I think Dan is wanting to do it practically, with a real white seamless BG.

It was only me that brought up greenscreening, as I think that's what was done in his sample.

Still, plenty of room is always a good thing. If I recall without watching it again, I belive the sample shots were all head-n-shoulders, nothing too wide. While a living room setting isn't ideal by a long shot, it's certainly doable there.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 9:34:47 pm

Bill, Todd - You are right. My situation is a little tight as I am doing it in a spare room. But with my need to only light the upp half of me I should be ok. Thanks for all the great feedback and ill hopefully post an update with positive results! :)


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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 1, 2013 at 4:38:14 am

Hi Todd - Regarding the shop lights, how high do you normally place them? Reason I ask is that I need to look into a couple light stands and I see some that are called "background" light stands that reach 3' and then others that get much higher. Could a small background light stand do the job? As always, thanks for your help!

-Dan


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:06:37 am

[Dan Shaw] "Hi Todd - Regarding the shop lights, how high do you normally place them? "

Well Dan, I hate to give a smartass response, but the honest answer is "However high they need to be."

Usually in my case I put them on C-stands with shorty risers...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/33054-REG/Matthews_339574_Century_C_S...

With a standard turtle base that riser goes up to just shy of three feet. So then you put a four-foot light on it, the max height of the top of the vertical light is about five feet off the stage floor.

Or... sometimes I put them on taller stands.

It just depends on what I need to light.

When I use them though to light green or white limbo backgrounds I find that the short C-stands are just about right for the way I usually block and frame talent. They usually work well for either sitting or standing talent.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:13:08 am

Ha! :) The only reason I am shying away from a 3' stand is that I am a 6'3" guy and I want to light the white seamless for the top half of my body. So the lights need to get up there and light the top half of the background. What I need is a stand that goes from 3'-6'. :)

Thanks Todd!


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:19:10 am

[Dan Shaw] "What I need is a stand that goes from 3'-6'. "

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/33053-REG/Matthews_339573_Century_C_S...

T2

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



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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 1, 2013 at 7:51:00 am

Can't you just use a Gobo Arm?

If I need to position a fixture either down close the the floor - or up 3 feet or so above the top of a C-stand's max height that's what I do.

FWIW.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 21, 2013 at 10:39:19 pm

Dan, I recently did a shoot and achieved the 'white limbo' or 'white infinity' look with a white muslin background. I did stretch the cloth but there were still lots of wrinkles and it was not perfectly lit. All I did was overexpose the background a bit and all those flaws disappeared. I had to dim the keylight way down to avoid overexposing the doctor. I used four lights in total. The background was lit with a CDM Fresnel and a Kino Diva. The keylight was a Kino Diva running on 2 banks, dimmed down. The backlight was a little Switronix TorchLED.



Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:47:16 pm

Thanks for the example Jason. Nice work. That is about the same crop that I would like to use. A little off topic, but can I ask what type of microphone you used for the doctor?

Thanks,

Dan


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:02:06 pm

I like to boom a mic in over the top. It requires a dedicated stand, sandbag, boom pole, etc., but I prefer not seeing a lav in the picture. I usually use my Sony shotgun mic. It was in the $500 range 15 years ago when it was new. I have used less expensive cardioid mics with success, as well.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:12:35 pm

[Jason Jenkins] "I like to boom a mic in over the top. "


I'm with Jason... I almost always boom.

If we have to we'll go with Sony hardwired lavaliers or Lectrosonic radio mics... but nothing sounds as good as booming, most of the time.

Even a really good lav has such a cold sterile sound, whereas a good boom mic will have a very natural sound.

We live and die by the Sennheiser MKH416 shotguns for all our booming. They are not cheap, but are great mics, I couldn't live without 'em. Not that this was our first thought, but I later found out that a lot of top narrators use it in the booth as their voiceover mic as well... and a few times we've pulled the AT mic we usually use in our VO booth and tried the Sennheiser, and yep it works great... so they can pull double duty. It has a very warm and open sound, very natural.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:23:05 pm

Good recommendations guys. I also had my eye on the Audio Technica 4053b so I think it all comes down to how much I want to spend. Any of these mics would be just great for my application. Oh yeah, then I also have to add another overhead stand also. $$$ :)


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Brent Dunn
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 4:06:21 pm

You can get away with two floods on the background from each side. As long as you have a continuous background like you shared, you'll be fine.

Use softboxes for your talent. The more distance between the talent and background the better. With DSLR, you can use the depth of field to help with hiding the background.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
DunnRight Video.com
Video Marketing Toolbox.net

Sony EX-1,
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro
with Final Cut Studio Adobe CS6 Production






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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 4:55:36 pm

Thanks Brent for the input. Todd had also mentioned using some shop lights to light up the background. And since I am the talent and don't have to worry much for how "professional" my equipment looks I am thinking that a cheap way to light the background is the way to go.

Would a couple work lights like these do the trick?

Or would a couple shop lights attached to a light stand be better?

The downside that I see to these Halogen lights is that they get much hotter then fluorescent shop lights, but they do output a more light.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 5:34:38 pm

Dan, those halogens are gonna be REAL hot, not only thermally (you can cook an egg on them, and they'll heat up a room in your house in no time flat), but optically as well. Unless you can place them VERY far back you'll get a real concentrated "hot spot" bright area in the very center that falls off fast.

Those are really only useful for flooding big areas where you can put the instruments far enough away... and you have to take the cages off the front (they cast shadows) which makes them even harder to deal with.

Go with the flo shop lights. They're cooler and much softer, which is what you're after. Yes, the halogens are brighter, but brighter isn't the goal. The right kind of light is the goal. Shop lights are more than bright enough. In fact when I use them here, occasionally I take one tube out of them because sometimes full-tubes are just too much. For your application those four-tube shop flos are probably overkill... the kind that take two 4' tubes will be more than enough in your setup, I guarantee it (and they're only about $15).



T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 6:28:58 pm

Todd - I agree. I used a few smaller halogen lights for some stock photography work and they are really hot. I think down the line the Kino Flow's would be a great choice to light me, but with those price tags I need to build up some capital first. Plus, I am the "talent" so I don't have to worry about impressing clients with my gear. :)

So if I were to use the 2 x 4' shop lights for the background what would you think about using some shop lights for my main light, key light, and fill light?

I could use a 4-light or 6-light for the main and then another placed a little further back for the fill. I could even then put a 2-light up on a boom pole with a c-stand for my hair light. I realize that this isn't the most professional, but I would love to give it a try and see if I can make this happen.

What do you think?



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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 6:48:23 pm

Well, you could use shop lights for your key and fill, I suppose... but I generally stick to the DIY stuff where it doesn't matter that much (like wallwashing), where those things will do what they need to do just fine.

Personally, I'd much rather use a softbox for the key light, and another small softbox or a 4x4 bouce for the fill. They could be either flos or tungsten. Softboxes aren't that expensive. And I'd use a small fresnel instrument as a back/hair light.

But that's just me, since you asked.

Can you use shop lights for the key, fill, and hair? Yeah, you can but they are not going to be anywhere near as controllable as "real" lights.

Spend a few bucks on rigging shop lights for your background, and you'll have plenty left over in your budget to get the couple of instruments you need to do it right... or at least semi-right. You still wouldn't be able to purchase top-shelf instruments, but that's more than enough to get by on without it being junk either.

T2

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



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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 6:54:09 pm

Just a PS... I just looked a bit at the video embedded in your above post about the flos, I hadnt seen it before I posted.

Obviously this guy used his flo lighting setup for his demo video. The first thing that jumped out at me were the long perfectly vertical reflections in his eyeballs, from the 4' flo tubes. A little offputting, to me. Most people wouldn't notice it, but it just gives him the "something's not quite right" look... rather having a nice singlular small square or circular reflection. Just another reason in my book not to use those kinds of instruments as keys or fills.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 7:10:54 pm

Funny you mention the vertical reflections in his eyes. :) I noticed the same thing and wondered if that would show for me since I am doing video and not wearing glasses. But I appreciate your feedback and trust your judgement. I'll go with the shop lights for the background and then what do you think of these choices for the main light and the backlight?

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/32212-REG/Lowel_LC_88EX_LC88EX_Rifa_L...

-or-

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/354761-REG/Chimera_8005_Video_Pro_Plu...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/157757-REG/Arri_530100_150_Watt_Tungs...

Thanks Todd!


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 22, 2013 at 7:22:55 pm

Those instruments are fine... you certainly can't go wrong with Chimeras, which are more or less the industry standards for softboxes.

BUT... if you want to save some nickles look for Photoflex softboxes. About the same as Chimeras, maybe not made QUITE as well but very close, but are MUCH less expensive.

There's always scads of cheap (and I mean CHEAP) softboxes on eBay as well. I can't attest to the quality of any of them, but they are very inexpensive.

As for the Arri fresnel, that's fine, it's a good instrument. I personally prefer LTM Peppers over Arris... but you'll find plenty of people in both camps.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/125371-REG/LTM_PH_154B_Pepper_100W_Fr...

That instrument has the advantage of taking either a 100w or a 200w globe. I have several of those. They are a bit less expensive than the Arris, too, although I notice they are on backorder from B&H. Probably available somewhere else though, if one didn't want to wait a week or two until B&H has them again. The Arris and the LTM Peppers are similar, biggest different is that the Peppers have a cast metal housing whereas the Arris have a sheetmetal housing. There are different advantages and disadvantages to each of them, but both are excellent instruments.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:17:12 pm

Thanks Todd! I'm getting real close here. There are so many parts to think of! Regarding the LTM Pepper light, would a basic overhead light stand be the key to getting this in position behind me?

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/154639-REG/K_M_21411_500_55_Tripod_Mi...


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:23:26 pm

You can either use a very tall stand, if your backdrop arrangement allows you to put the stand behind it, with the instrument sticking up over the top.

In that situation though I'd usually just use a C-stand with a grip arm on it....

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/227746-REG/Matthews_756040_Hollywood_...

...and of course a sandbag on the tall leg of the stand.


Often on locations we'll use a scissor clamp to hang a backlight, like any of these...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=scissor+clamp&N=0&InitialSearch=ye...

...but I believe you said you were doing this in your living room, so I'm doubting you have a tile drop ceiling in there.

A C-stand with a grip arm will be the most common solution.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 6, 2013 at 2:59:09 am

Hi Todd - Can you help me better understand how I can position the pepper fresnel as my hair light? I was thinking about a c-stand with extension arm, but then what 5/8" connector do you use to attached the light to the arm? I'm searching around, but not finding the right answer. Thank you!

-Dan


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 6, 2013 at 3:48:30 am

I'm guessing you don't have the Pepper yet or it would be pretty clear to you I think.

The top of a C-stand (or most any other light stand) has a male 5/8" stud... also known as "baby" size (i.e., a "baby pin"). The yoke of the Pepper (and most lights that size) have a 5/8" female receiver, for fitting onto the stand. I'm sure you know that part.

Same with a grip arm on your C-stand. The arm also has a 5/8" diameter, and the yoke on the instrument will fit right on it. In fact, in addition to the 5'8" hole on the bottom of the yoke, the Pepper also has additional holes on the side if you want to mount it in another position.

So, to answer your question...

[Dan Shaw] " what 5/8" connector do you use to attached the light to the arm?"

...the answer is "none." You do not need any additional piece of grip hardware. The light will attach directly to the arm, as-is.

If this is not clear, I will be doing this exact thing on a location shoot tomorrow and I will try to remember to snap a pic.

T2

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



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Dan Shaw
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 6, 2013 at 4:10:10 am

Well that deserves a big "Duh" :) Thanks Todd. That makes total sense!


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting for seamless white background
on Feb 6, 2013 at 4:59:26 am

[Dan Shaw] "Well that deserves a big "Duh""

Dan I was trying desperately hard not to say that.

(but thinking it quietly to myself)

T2

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



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