Which hmi light?
I'm going to buy at least one hmi, probably a par, to use on future feature film projects. I've not worked with them before and have it narrowed down to a 575 or 1200. I realize this is a general question but if you only can have one hmi which would be more useful the larger light or the more manageable 575? I foresee using this light in various situations: interiors, rays through windows, exterior, ect.
Well it all depends on what you're doing, what you're shooting, what the conditions are, all that jazz... as you know.
But as a general rule, I'd say that personally I find a 1200 to be the most useful HMI wattage. It's big enough to be of good use in many situations where you need a lot of light, but still small enough that it can be powered with most home/business AC sources (and is the largest that you can do that with). I've used 575's many times, but the only ones we bother to own are 1200w.
Also... you say you're looking at a PAR. Fair enough, but personally I greatly prefer HMI fresnels to PARs. I seem to be in the minority there I know, as so many people love them, but I hate PAR HMIs. To me it is just a thousand times easier/faster and more convenient to adjust output and focus by twisting a knob, rather than wresting with changing lenses on an often hot PAR instrument. There are PARs that are somewhat focusable to a small degree, but most often you'll be changing lenses.
Another option might be the 800w Joker-Bug. Jokers are awesome instruments, probably the most flexible HMIs out there... and their 800 is almost as bright as other 1200w heads. Much smaller and lighter in weight than a 1200w PAR head, easy to use, all kinds of cool accessories and configurations. On the downside (and it's a big downside), they are wildly expensive.
Also, buying might not be your best bet. We own some HMIs, but the vast majority of people I know who use them find it much more cost effective to rent them.
I will say though that while I used to be a huge fan (and user) of HMIs, I hardly ever light with them anymore. I honestly can't remember the last time I sparked any of ours. The latest generations of cameras are so light sensitive that they're rarely needed for that, and latitudes are so much greater now that HMI firepower is not needed quite as much for things like combating windows as they were before. If I were starting from scratch, I'd probably buy some big badass LED instruments... and there are a couple out there that can rival the power of 1200w HMI instruments... and certainly exceed 575w heads.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
If I were in the market to buy LEDs today, I would be sorely tempted by the daylight Mole Fresnel LEDs in various wattages. Their tungsten line has been such a terrific source for cinematographers for a long time that I have some confidence their LEDs perform as advertised. There are lots of Chinese knock-offs, none of which inspire confidence. However, if you need LEDs that can adjust color temperature and even dial in/out magenta/green, there are probably better other options. Not having to carry and clip on gels can be a plus.
Todd's comments about today's shooting conditions with the new, highly sensitive cameras speaks to my heart. I've been trying, so far with no success, to get management at the Academy where I teach lighting to grads and undergrads that we need to start teaching students how to see in low levels of light. Shadow, color, and intensity look very different at 1 foot-candle from how they look at 40+.
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
Hi Rick, Terry and Mike,
As an early adopter of Panasonic V35 (and now LT) Cameras, I've now had more than two years experience with using Native 5000 ISO. I often dial it down to make it even more quiet (although noise level at 800 AND 5000 is practically the same - 1 dB different!) and/or to move the middle gray to manipulate the exposure.
Because there is often no need for "headroom" in dark scenes, you can lower the ISO and extend the exposure into the shadow; so instead of 7 stops above and 7 below you might have 6 above and 8 below! There are many times this is useful. It's counter-intuitive, because when people lower the ISO outside, say from 800 to 160, you're losing 2+ stops of highlights (much better to use ND's).
As a result I have changed the way I light. I'll expose for the ambient background and control the foreground lighting often by reducing or blocking it. Dimmable and color accurate LED's are the first choice; I prefer the CINEO line of softlights, these come in single 1x1 type, 2x1 and 2x2, so there essentially a baby, junior and senior size (and volume).
Just recently I have received the first of my VisionSmith LED Replacements. These are ingenious and I predict will overrun the business.
I have mine (you choose either daylight or tungsten) inside my MR Baby Junior heads and not only are they brighter than a tungsten 2K, can be daylight, have great color reproduction and skin tone, are dimmable, but only use less than two amps (250W). You can now run 10 "juniors" off of one household 20A circuit!
Also you can buy these "old school" heads cheep. I'll bet both Todd and Rick have some lying around. The VisionSmiths are also available now for full sized 1K, 650's and 300's @ 150w, 75w and 50 watt, and they're coming with a 75w small enough to fit in the MR Baby Baby soon.
As a result, I've sold four of my eight Joker 800's and are selling the rest of them now!
As far as a big light, I'm replacing my ARRI M18's, which are probably the best light of the last 5 years, with HIVE Plasma Technology. They have a 1000w WASP Light that's brighter than a 10K and under $10K complete. It's great as a high backlight over an action area or up-close in a Medium Chimera or into a thick 4',6' or 8' panel like Muslin.
Chew on that!
Thank you, John, for all that fascinating information! I've been after the Academy to switch to LEDs for some time. You give me new ammunition.
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
I greatly appreciate the replies and am researching the lights mentioned! I'd love to comment with more questions/thoughts when I get a minute, hopefully tomorrow. It's great that there are forums like this where a guy can pick the brains of others.
I have been abandoning HMI's -- except for when I need a lot of intensity -- and will then use an HMI in the 6kw, 12kw, or 18kw range.
Normally -- as of late -- I'll use Cineo Trucolor LED fixtures or one of the Aadyntech LED units. The Punch Plus was my 'weapon of choice' for all the broadcast coverage I lit of the recent Presidential Debates..
I post a question about hmi's and all anyone wants to talk about is LED's. lol. That's revealing though and has me looking more into LED's. I actually bought several Dracast 1x1 panels a few weeks ago and like them a lot.
I come from a still photography background where lighting is much less...complicated. I'm really diving into video and want to build up a small lighting kit which is why I was asking about the HMI's. So since we're talking...my much bigger question really is what do you guys recommend for a basic lighting kit for shooting small feature films? I realize every situation is different but can you suggest any certain "must haves"? I've already picked up the forementioned LED's. I plan to get a collection of flags, nets, scrims, silks, reflectors, ect... I "was" looking at the cheap Chinese HMI's before you all dissuaded me. I'm also looking at building a collection of Mole Richardson fresnels. My budget for this gear is about 5-6K so that rules out buying too many more LED's lights or high end lights like the Jokers.
Renting is not a good option for me for numerous reasons but mainly because I want to own the lights so that I can play around with them all the time. That's the only way I'll really learn the tools. What else should I be looking into?
[Mike Thomas] "I come from a still photography background where lighting is much less...complicated. I'm really diving into video and want to build up a small lighting kit which is why I was asking about the HMI's."
Take this for what its worth. But if I were you, I'd slow WAY down.
At this point, you're accustomed to lighting a 2d plane. (a still image)
Now you have to start thinking in 3 dimensions - adding depth as well. Basically because cameras are rapidly becoming "untethered" in space. The tripod is still around, but now you've got inexpensive jibs, sliders, steadi-cam-ish rigs, drones and who the heck knows what to deal with.
In addition, cameras are getting hugely more sensitive. This is what some of the DP guys are talking about. Needing less punch - but still needing to highlight and separate and direct the audience's attention to where it needs to be - for what you're shooting. It's one reason the "big gun" HMI's are getting less popular.
These trends are somewhat going to continue to change how people approach lighting in the coming few years.
My advice, for a while, is to go easy on spending for gear. Don't stop, but more concentrate on how you're going to actually shoot things. If you're going to set up a tripod and shoot from that - then by all means use the techniques that are well understood for lighting in that basic 2d plane. But if you end up shooting mostly with an iPhone on a gimbal rig - the lights will need to be VERY different - because you aren't going to always be able to put a instrument on a stand where you might like.
Basically, I'm saying get out and shoot a WHOLE lot and solve your problems as you encounter them in YOUR style. Don't just solve them the way the rest of us solved them in a different era.
My 2 cents. YMMV.
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