Focus Floods, Fresnels & Dimmers
I'm looking at a few different light kits on B&H for around the $2500 range. Nothing in the forums address whether focus floods or fresnels are better. This would be for general video work, corporate, interviews, etc.
4x 1000W Focus Floods (kit) OR
2x 1000W Focus Floods and 2x 650W Fresnel (kit) OR
3x 1000W Fresnels (kit) and 2x 2000W Focus Floods (kit) <~~~ slightly more expensive
Also I was searching B&H and couldn't find dimmers to handle 1000W or 2000W lights. Found one at Film Tools but it had audio noise reviews. Are there some other brands that you could recommend?
I think in part ot is determined by how you put them to use most often, ( small close up interviews, long distance lectures, stage plays and dramatic, etc) and what your "style" is. I was brought up with 80's style 3-point lighting using open-faced instruments for everything, and hard rim lighting to try to make the shots feel more dimensional... fresnels and HMI's were a luxury we couldn't afford, generally. I shot hard news and small interviews mostly in the field, and stand-up lectures and talk shows inthe studio.
In the 90's we added softboxes and gradually my on-location standard approach to light an interview became a softbox plus one kicker and maybe a reflector board. Then I started dropping the kicker. On the budget and time scale we had, this worked well and gave good results.
But other people still like using fresnels and a lot of do-dads and outboard devices to shape the light. Not mocking those, I wish I had all the toys, but usually I don't so I evolved to best use what I did have on hand.
OTOH, if you're going to hang a softbox on it, a fresnel inside the softbox is more or less wasted, isn't it?
Exacty as Mark said... if you plan to use soft-light sources (such as softboxes or even umbrellas), the open-faced lights are probably sufficient and paying extra for the fresnel could be a waste of money (and extra weight).
However, if you prefer direct lighting, then the fresnels are a must.
Light most shops, we travel with a variety of instruments... both hard and soft. You'll probably want some combination of such to give you maximum flexibility.
And as for dimmers... as a general rule, don't. Dimmers or "squeeze boxes" are fine for, say, dimming a practical lighting fixture on location (say a lamp that is in the scene), but it's generally best if you don't put dimmers on your actual shooting instruments. Yes, they are noisy and some can cause audio problems. More importantly though, your lighting instruments have a fairly well-defined color temperature. Putting a dimmer on a tungsten bulb radically skews the color temp... the less and less juice you put on the lamp the lower (warmer) the color temp will become. If you need a less light, it's usually best to either start with a smaller instrument, move it back, flag it off, or put scims on your instruments. Scrims are those wire mess circular things that fit in the filter holder over the face of an instrument and are designed to do just that, cut the light output. Ideally each instrument should have at least a set of four available... a full, a half, a double full, and a half double.
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Thanks for the advice! I was really looking at getting dimmers to control the strength of the light but as suggested I'll go with the scrims and controlling it in other ways. Didn't like the noisy audio as audio is difficult enough.
Soft light is my preference, although now and again I do like the hard light. The Arri kit I'm looking at includes 3x 650w Fresnels and a 1K Focus Flood. I think this kit would give me a variety of decent light. Thanks for your help!!
Just as a warning, a photog I know, with a bad back, insisted on a 3-light Arri kit, but they are so heavy and the case so bulky, he never takes more than one of them on a job, so we wonder, what's the point. My 3-light Lowel kit (with stands!) or Rifa soft light each weigh less than the one Arri, and are easier to transport.
Good point. I'll do a little more research before i make the purchase. Thanks for the heads up!!
Mark brings up a good issue about the weight. Having used both kits, I thought the lowell kit seemed kind of flimsy while the arri kit was very rugged. The arri light stands were a lot more stable and the instruments and case more likely to survive a plane ride. I have also traveled with both and the arri always made it to my destination in one piece with no damage to the lights/lamps while the lowell case ended up with a light stand poking through the case, a damaged onmni and a couple broken lamps. Just some more food for thought. Good luck with your decision.
Not all dimmers are created equal. Well-shielded ones tend to induce far less noise than bad ones. Residential dimmers are often quite bad for this - mostly because they end up in plastic boxes inside walls. I've built my own, well-grounded and fully enclosed in metal cases, and had no trouble with induction noise.
Another good option is router speed controls. They're able to handle 1000W, are quite robust, and well-shielded. Not only does a client have some, a local rental and sales house sells them to the trade for dimming purposes, and they have heard no complaints from their production pro customer base.
At the risk of provoking the wrath of Dennis Size, I just want to respond to the comment that Lowel lights supposedly are "less rugged" than Arris. Arris are built like tanks. And weigh like them. Therefore, you carry them in very sturdy cases, also like tanks. All very safe, but very heavy and awkward. And all to protect the glass.
I have been using the same Lowel kit for over twenty years and apart from a few screws and nuts replaced over the years, mostly in the stands, it is still going stong in nearly daily use.
Yes, I will stipulate that Lowel stands are reputedly not the best, however, they have beefed up in recent years, and are now a lot better.
Omnis and totas are hard to kill: being lightweight, they have less mass and thus don't make or take as much damage in an impact during transit. The only glass typically in one is the bulb, and you can pack those separately in a little foam cradle Lowel provides. The wiring is modular and thus easily replaced or repaired if damaged or lost. The light aluminum and steel construction cools fast once turned off. The suitcase with all the accessory doo-dads is like something from a 007 movie; you can handle just about anything you can think of with one of these kits, which you assemble a la carte to your specifc needs. And the plastic suitcases are pretty strong; I've never had an incident like the one mentioned. If you tumbled an Arri in it's ATA case and a Lowel kit down the same flight of stairs, my money would be on the Lowels to survive better.
When I'm needing to travel really light, I take a Rifa in a large, triangular-sectioned cordura bag Lowel used to sell, kind of like a snowboard or ski bag; that bag is large enough to also carry two more stands, an Omni and a Tota, and the cords. Set up like that, it is still incredibly light and easy to hand-carry or shoulder-carry. I don't think you can say the same for the Arris.
If you absolutely need to have a fresnel, well, you are going to have a heavier and more delicate unit, no matter what brand. But I don't think there is anything more durable or utilitarian than what I use.
-unrepentant Lowel fanboy
Mark has always been the president of the Lowel Fan Club.
He's always elected... because he's the only member.
Just kidding, Mark. Not a fan, here, but somebody must like them, because they keep makin' em.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Lowel has some interesting products. They've taken some standard production tools and made their own versions integrated into a modular system (tota clamp = c clamp, tota-flag = flag, lobo = grip head, etc.). Lowel equipment tends to be lighter weight and has a place in a lighting kit.
When I travel I use Lowel equipment because it's lighter, is compact, and 220v lamps are readily available for Omnis and Totas.
But I wouldn't call the Lowel stuff robust. I've used many a Lowel kit that's just falling apart. Every time I use my Omni I have to beat the barn doors back into shape. I've replaced the contacts on many a Tota. And don't get me started on the stands (although some new ones are much better). And, to my way of thinking, open face lights are just less useable than a fresnel.
That's not to say that Arris are indestructable. But, treated with care, they'll last a long time.
We live with our ARRI 300/650 kit. Before the great cameras of today, you had to have 1K lights but I never use them any more. If I do, I use a Lowel Tota. The 300/650 kit runs around $2500.
You can make dimmers using Lutron dimmers and Home Depot pieces.
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I'm buying a Panasonic AG-HMC150 video camera to shoot small documentaries, promotional and web videos, including the use of some green screen shooting. I have about $1500-$2000 to spend on a light kit and have been looking at Arri 3- and 4-light kits. The 4-light 300/650 fresnel is a bit out of my range, but the 300 fresnel / 600 Arrlite focus flood is within reach. Could I get some advise on the following?
1. I will use a softbox for my key lighting, will the fresnels be a waste of money, or will I see improved even-lighting as compared to the Arri 600 focus flood?
2. I wasn't considering a Lowell kit before I read this string. Can you recommend a Lowell kit that would be comparable to Arri 300/650?
3. Will I be better off with fresnels in lighting the green-screen?
4. Any advise is choosing between the 3-light fresnel 650/300 or the 4-light 600 focus flood /300 fresnel?
Baton Rouge, LA
Well, this is just really quick and dirty, but there's this kit:
And add a Lowel DP light for another $325, you have four pretty versatile lights and a bunch of accessories.
Though I would rather take more time and build a kit from scratch, and I would go with the biggest Rifa I can afford, preferably the one with the Exchange system, but the standard halogen-powered one is still fine with me.I would maybe start with a Rifa 66, add two Omni/Pro lights, and a tossup between a tota and another Omni or a Lowel DP. I think the Lowel site still has a configurator for assembling a custom kit, look there. Lowel actually sells a fresnel too, but all my experience is with their open-faced lights. The only thing I don't fancy about rifas is the egg crate diffusers are ridiculously expensive. And I wouldn't buy a V-light even with someone else's money. The rest of the line I quite like.
I don't think the fresnels will work as well on a green screen as a couple of soft lights, you'd still tend to get hot spots, where the softlight starts with alarger light source right from the beginning, but that's just my own opinion. The typical green I light is about 20 by 20 with two Rifa 66's, and separate light for the actual subject.
Thank you for the information, links, and quick response. I'll check it out.
Baton Rouge, LA