Which lights should I purchase?
I've been saving up to buy some good lights. I'm looking for quality over budget friendly, but I am on a budget. I mostly do interviews and wedding videography, but I need something that can also work for narrative filmmaking. I'm looking at a budget of around $15K. But with that much money I am very wary of spending it on just any piece of gear.
Here is what I have been eyeing so far:
1). 200w vari mole led par kit (contains 2 lights) + (2x 400w vari studio junior lights) or (1x 400w vari studio junior + 1x 900w daylight led)
Those are the two options I am looking at. But if I can get some suggestions that would be great. Or maybe some combination of the two. Main thing is that all the lights need to be able to be run off a regular 15a outlet or batteries. I have always used mole Richardson lights but dedolight are also sounding like very nice.
I own and LOVE those Dedos, but they're not NEARLY powerful enough to be a do-all workhorse fixture. To me they are mostly supplemental background, accent, or edge/backlight fixtures, and they absolutely excel at that. I've keyed with them on rare occasions where I just needed a kiss of light on a face in an otherwise dark scene, but really any small instrument can do that. Putting them through a soft box like on the BH page or through any reasonably thick diffusion just isn't going to be bright enough for anything but the most controlled, low-light scenes. They just don't put out the lumens to be very useful as main lights on talent in a variety of circumstances.
You can do a lot of damage with a 15K budget for lighting though, not including any modifiers or grip stuff. I would (and did) get a mixture of hard and softish lights, in varying strengths, in mostly daylight configurations. One or two big lights isn't going to be particularly versatile, nor is a bunch of small ones, that's why I suggest a mixture throughout the range of what can be plugged into a single 15 amp circuit. You could do something along the lines of:
3x Litepanel Astra Bi-Color (2K tungsten softlight equivalent) - $4000.00
2x Hive Wasp Plasma Par kits (575w HMI equivalent) - $6560.00 OR 1 Hive 1000 Wasp (>1800w HMI equivalent)
2x Visionsmith 1K LED Relamp, <1K Tungsten fresnel equivalent ($1300) for 2x Mole Baby Tungsten fixtures (used - app $2-300) - $1900.00
2x Dedolight DLED4.1 lights with ballast and barn doors (125w HMI equivalent) - $2200.00
Total - $14,660
That's a super versatile, portable kit with plenty of punch, it is (approximately) the lumens equivalent to over 13-15.5K of tungsten light that could ALL be plugged into a single 20 amp circuit, or all into a 15 amp circuit minutes the Hive 1000. Or you could add a couple more soft units and drop a hard one or two, drop a light and get stands for all of them, totally up to you. The exact fixture combination can vary wildly and is not the main point. The main idea is to think about the combinations of light quality and intensity and what is going to be the most use to you in the most situations.
Erik, thanks for the info. I didn't know about the visionsmiths. I have a 4 light mole kit (mickey, betweenie, and 2x tweenies) that can use some converting. May save me a bit of cash there. The hives sound really awesome, but i'm thinking if i convert my old mole lights, I may not need those. I've always been hesitant about bi-color light panels though. I was thinking maybe just buying a couple good softboxes for my existing moles for the soft light. Though light panels are very portable and take up very little space.
Unfortunately, Visionsmith doesn't currently make any Relamp bulbs for the Mole lights you have. I spoke with one of their reps once about a Tweenie relamp and he said the challenge with that instrument is there is much less usable space inside a Tweenie than there is an Arri 650 (which they DO make them for). Ergo, it would be very difficult to put an LED Relamp module inside that would be powerful enough to approximate the output from the tungsten bulb.
The Hives are indeed awesome, but you might well get a similar output if you got a couple old Mole 2Ks and got the 2K Relamps for those as well and it would indeed be cheaper. However, the Hives do have a couple advantages over that solution, namely the ability to put a number of different modifiers in various configurations on them like custom soft boxes, beauty dishes, and my favorite, a Source 4 barrel on them to create a Jo-Leko type instrument. Being essentially an open-face instrument, the source light pumped into it is stronger and more efficient than putting a fresnel in a soft box. They are also most likely still a bit brighter. I haven't metered one of the 2K Relamps but I do own one of the 1K ones and the Hive still beats it out in FCs by over a stop at similar beam angles.
But if those factors aren't super important, Relamp might be the way to go. Just watch out for the dimming, they claim you can dim no problem but I have seen flicker issues past a certain point with certain dimmers.
I was in the same boat as you, I was never happy with LED panels until Cineo and Area 48 units came along, and the Astra litepanels are similarly excellent. Very bright, very portable, good color, MUCH more efficient than a Mole in a soft box. I also believe having SOME bi-color solution is important, it saves a great deal of time in places where you might not be able to have total control over the lighting conditions. They are also much lighter, hence easier to travel with and to fly in the air and rig at different angles, which for me matters a lot.
I spoke to visionsmith today. Apparently they are working on a Delano for the 300w and 650w moles. Said they are looking at a September release if all goes well. I looked into the astra. Couldn't find a cri rating, but they do seem nice from the reviews I saw. Really wish we had some sort of rental house in my area where I could see it first hand. But I do see the convenience in having battery powered lights that are extremely portable. I saw a duo kit on adorable that has a soft bi color and regular bi color in a hard case. And a trio that had two soft and one regular astra. But I think I am sold on the hive. Just to be able to throw light a good distance sold me on it as none of the lights I have can do that. Also looked into the small lykos bi color on camera lite panels for wedding receptions and such where it would be impractical to have an actual light setup.
Again thanks for the help. I've always been a fan of mole lights, but these other options seem I can get more bang for my buck without losing quality.
I'll jump in for just a quick good word about the LitePanels...
We started using the Astras last year... I LOVE them, and now they are among our favorite instruments. Lightweight, great true color (bi color), very long lasting on battery, rugged. They are a little on the harsh side bare, and the diffusion panel they sell doesn't do much... but I rigged up an quick/fast/easy diffusion panel that works great (I should do a DIY post about it), and D-Fuse makes a 1x1 softbox that although is not specifically made for the Astra it fits it perfectly and works like a charm (and it's only about 30 bucks or so).
I think the only downside to them is the way the yokes are made which hold the power supply, it makes the overall instrument a little bigger than other 1x1 LED heads, a little harder to pack for traveling, etc., but it's not a big deal.
We always use them by battery power (goldmounts)... in fact we've gone to almost all battery powered LED lighting now, especially on location (sometimes still use AC instruments on stage). One of the best things about them is never having to look for power. We still have to plug in the occasional HMI, but other than those we're never having to look for juice, or lug heavy stingers.
I can't say enough good things about the Astras. They are among the higher-priced 1x1 LEDs (they might even be the highest, I'm not sure), but they are worth every penny.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
You're welcome, glad to be of help. The biggest thing to realize about the Hive is that it is, as they themselves refer to it, an "HMI 2.0" instrument. It isn't dimmable, you have to use scrims or nets, and it has a ballast, unlike the Visionsmiths that just plug and play. They CAN be battery-powered, but only with a specific ballast and a BUNCH of bricks. For me, these were non-issues as I'd been used to the workflow of HMIs. Apologies if this was already clear to you from your research, but a surprising amount of people I've encountered haven't realized it so I thought it important to mention.
As with any big purchase, I'd look into trying to get a fixture sent to you for a demo before purchasing it. Talk to Hive, they may be willing to send you one to demo or just rent one and have it shipped to you. Wouldn't be super cheap I know, but better to have had hands-on experience with something before dropping that kind of cash and be disappointed.
Todd is right on the money with his words about the Astras. They can be awkward to case with their odd size but once you solve that issue there's a lot to like about them. I myself don't actually own any, I invested in BBS Area 48 LEDs before these came along, but if I had to do it all over again I'd probably go with Astras, mostly for cost reasons.