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On-camera lighting

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Reg from ABOn-camera lighting
by on Dec 4, 2006 at 2:07:08 am

I'm looking at on-camera lighting (for weddings and similar situations mostly, but it may get used for on-the-spot/informal interviews).
From what I've read so far, things to look for are low weight, high output, dimmable, and preferably with barndoors and dichroic filters - oh and if you can mount a soft-box, then that's a bonus.
The other problem I can see is power supply - battery belts, or maybe a car battery duct-taped to my back. :-)
I was wondering what experiences (or opinions) people have had with on-camera LED lights. They use less power, emit no heat to speak of, and there isn't the same issue of fragile filaments that there is with most other lamps.
But are there any disadvantages?
Thanks in advance (and longing for the day when I have enough experience to help other people!)

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Mark SuszkoRe: On-camera lighting
by on Dec 4, 2006 at 3:39:52 am

The disadvantage of the LED is that they are WICKED expensive, and not large or very "punchy", I'd consider them useful only for really close-up ENG type work. Also I'm not sure they are quite perfected in terms of color.

A halogen with a quality dimmer is to my mind a more flexible tool in the near term in that you can crank it up to hit something more distant or dial it down to just the amount of fill you need. My typical choices would be an Anton Baur or a Frezzi. Until those Litepanels come down in cost, I'm sticking with what I know works. The Antons combined with their newest battery system get remarkable duration, since modern camcorders are so thifty on power. You cna help that along with good power management practices and of course, keeping spares around to switch over. With practice, you can do that swap in seven seconds or so.

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George SockaRe: On-camera lighting
by on Dec 4, 2006 at 9:56:33 pm

A Frezzi HMI Microfill not cheap either, but runs forever ( or so) on an NP1. Th elight is a bit too blue without a filter tho

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Doug GrahamRe: On-camera lighting
by on Dec 5, 2006 at 4:43:09 pm

The LEDs are cool, long lived, and stingy on power draw. On the other hand, you pay big time to get these advantages.

For weddings, I like an on-camera light with a dimmer, and no more than a 50 watt lamp. A diffusion grid, plus a sheet or two of Rosco TufSpun diffusion paper will soften the light nicely, or you can use an on-cam soft box. Barn doors are a plus, but not an absolute necessity. If you are using a camera that's good in low light, such as a Sony VX-2100, you can get away with a much smaller instrument, like the little 10/20 watt lights that will run piggyback off the camera battery.

You don't need a dichroic filter unless you are using the light outdoors in daylight, as a fill light for harsh shadows cast by the sun. The dichroic filter gives the light a bluer cast, to match the sunlight.

For interviews, or any situation where the cam and your subject are stationary and you have time to "set the stage", an on-camera light is not your best choice. Better to have a lighting kit to set up two or three point lighting, which is much more flattering to your subject. The "DV kits" sold by Lowel are a good choice; they include three lights, with a Rifa-light softbox as the key instrument.

You have two basic choices in battery belts: heavy and cheap lead-acid types, such as Bescor's, or lighter and more expensive ni-cad belts, such as NRG's. Ni-cads weigh about half what lead-acid batteries do, for the same watt-hour capacity. The NRG battery "vests" are the best for distributing the weight, but are also the most expensive route.

Elite Video,, sells a great instructional DVD set that covers a number of low-cost lighting techniques for the budget videographer.

Doug Graham

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Frank NolanRe: On-camera lighting
by on Dec 5, 2006 at 6:34:53 pm

Another cheaper LED that does a fine job is the VIDLED. They come in different color temps and with a small rechargeable battery that mounts on the light so there is no cables and belt packs to be wired to. I have the 8000k CoolLED-40 model and when I first charged the battery I left it turned on to see how long it would last. 3 1/4 hours later it finally died. Check out their site and scroll down for the battery configuration.

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Reg from ABRe: On-camera lighting
by on Dec 5, 2006 at 7:03:12 pm

Thanks all for sharing your wisdom and opinons. I'll digest, see how fat the piggybank is, then make my choice. (aaagh! decisions decisions!)

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