The Intelligent Lighting Kit

When you
reach the point where you run out of room to store your jumble
of lighting instruments, tripods, cables and foam core, then, like
me, you’re probably “overgaffed.” I just invented
that term, but it refers to a common problem with purchasing your
lighting gear piecemeal, on a shoot-by-shoot basis. This process
gets the job done, but you may end up with too much highly specialized
gear. As a result, every setup requires a different combination
of instruments, dimmers, gels and stands. Result: Precious hours
wasted when you could be shooting. To make matters worse, many
items end up being used only once. Why not get your lighting kit
right from the get-go? One way to accomplish this is to purchase
flexible equipment that can “cross over” and be used
in several shooting situations. And while you’re at it, why
not choose the lightest, most durable fixtures and the sturdiest
stands, clamps and accessories? You want to think about parts and
accessories—especially lamps. A more expensive instrument
that uses $10 lamps may quickly pay for itself in money saved on
replacement lamps.

I asked Kerry Lombard, owner of BarnDoor
Lighting Outfitters (www.filmand videolighting.com) in Monroe,
Connecticut, to help me select a good combination of lighting tools
to handle four common shooting situations: a small studio set/
bluescreen, a restaurant interior, a city park at night and the
inside an automobile (also at night). Here’s
our list of 10 flexible, state-of-the-craft tools that can save
you time and give you the professional look you want.

Scenario 1: Studio Setting

Here’s a challenge: Light a 20
x 20 foot bluescreen studio from scratch, including key lighting
and fill light for the talent. This assignment will assemble most
of your core gear, which you then borrow from to meet your other
needs.

Kino Flo Two-Foot, Two-Lamp Fixture
Approx. Retail Price: $650.00 (fixture);
$130.00 (6 lamps) www.kinoflo.com
Flattering Glow: If you’ve had bad experiences with fluorescent
light fixtures (green skin, flickering lamps), don’t let
the past taint your view of these multipurpose instruments. Kino
Flo units throw a soft, even light and have flicker-free ballasts.

They’re perfect for lighting a bluescreen or providing a soft,
ambient light in an indoor scene, especially where you want to create
a filmic quality with digital video. Most importantly, Kino Flo fixtures
use special color corrected lamps, available in either 3,200K or
5,500K versions, which means no more Vulcan skin highlights. Another
big plus is their weight—this two-foot unit weighs only four
pounds. You can also purchase fixtures with four-foot lamps.

DLH4 Dedolight Universal Light Head
Approx. Retail Price: $363.00
Super Spot: The beauty of the Dedolight is flexibility. It can
be used as a floodlight, focused down to a spotlight or slung around
like a practical light. That’s because the fixture only weighs
1.2 pounds and has built-in focus and barn door-type controls.
Is it magic? Sort of.

The dual lens system magnifies the inexpensive,
100-watt bulbs to blast the equivalent of 1,000-watt flood lamps.
Sure, you could buy about a half dozen stage Fresnels for the cost
of one Dedolight, but you’d still need to get barn doors
for them (to control light spill), and those lamps cost $20 or
more to replace.

There is one hidden cost with the Dedolight: You need a power transformer,
because it runs on a 12-volt or 24-volt supply. On the upside, it
can also run on battery power (with the right adapter).

Leprecon
Dimmer Pak & Lighting Console

Approx. Retail Price: $584.00 (dimmer pak), $879.00 (console)
Control Freak: If you’re not already using dimmers in your
lighting set-ups, either you’re extremely clever with your
Kino Flo fixtures, or you’re missing a whole range of cinematic
subtlety. The four-channel dimmer pack may be all you need for
your small shoots. When hooked up to a Leprecon lighting console,
each dimmer can handle up to 2,400 watts. That would allow you,
for example, to run enough Kino Flo fixtures, Dedolights and Chinese
lanterns to create a convincing, artificially-lit indoor setting.
The console also allows you to preset an entire array of lights
and smoothly transition to another, as is common in stage productions.
Imagine the possibilities for time transitions and dream sequences.

Magic Gadgets 2000k Dimmer
Approx. Retail Price: $295.00
Service for One: Looking for a quick, inexpensive dimmer that looks
like a prop from Star Trek? This is the kind of “toy” that
budget-minded moviemakers find hard to resist. The dude who makes
these inline 2,400-watt dimmers builds them with his family by
hand in Aurora, Oregon. With this gadget, you simply plug in your
lights and dim them on the spot. The unit makes very little noise,
measures only about four inches tall and requires no minimum load
to work effectively. It also comes in a three-channel version.
Matthews 20 C Stand and

Advantage Shot Bags
Approx. Retail Price: $119.00 (stand) www.msegrip.com; $49.00 (bag)
Straight Up: A light stand is a light stand, right? Wrong. First,
we all know about actors. They don’t see light stands. They
walk right into them, trip on them and hang their coats on them.
Sure, you can buy a $20 tin tripod, baby it along and fiddle with
it all through the shoot, or you can invest in a solid, steel-framed
C stand like this one, weight it down with some 15-pound shot bags
and forget about it.

Scenario 2: Restaurant Interior

You have from midnight to 5 a.m. to
knock off 20 restaurant set-ups. You’ll need enough ambient light so you don’t
have to reset constantly, but you also want to add spot color for
visual interest.

Chinese Lantern and Socket Assembly
Approx. Retail Price: $7.00 (lantern); $5.00 (socket)
Instant Ambience: On interior shoots, it’s rarely possible
to create a mood using only the incandescent or fluorescent fixtures
built into the location. If you can’t get enough height, stand-mounted
lights may create the wrong hot spots and shadows. A common, low-cost
solution is to string a few lanterns together and hang them just
out of frame. Another thematic option is to actually include the
lanterns in your shots. They don’t cause lens flare the way
a bare bulb does and you can buy them in different shapes and colors.

Lee Lighting Gel Filter Pak
Approx. Retail Price: $38.00
Rainbow Power: One of the great advantages to shooting digitally
is that you can risk using accessories such as gels and gobos (patterns)
to create a mood, then check your results against the field monitor.
That frees you up to light with flair, even if you have almost no
lighting design experience. This basic kit includes 24 12 x 12-inch
gel sheets. Along with the range of colors are some useful light-controlling
filters, such as black foil, white diffusion and neutral density
gels.

Scenario 3: City Park, Night

This time, you need a quick-and-dirty
guerilla shoot in a local park. You don’t have a permit,
so you want to come and go quietly, not with a noisy generator
or a large crew. The two tools below offer optimal stealth.

Anton Bauer UltraLight 2
Approx. Retail Price: $154.00 (light only)
Camera Beam: You might think that using an on-camera light fixture
is only for documentary types, but this featherweight 10-ounce
light has plenty of mood-setting possibilities, thanks to an optional
gel mount and other accessories. This new model plugs directly
into most Sony “gold mount” camera power sources. Studio shooters
often use it to remove shadows on faces in situations where the talent
is lit by top light. But it can be used the same way under a park
streetlight or a full moon. It comes with a 25-watt standard bulb,
but can handle 150 watts. (If you go for that much power, however,
you’ll want to buy a separate battery pack.)

FlexFill Silver/White Reflector
Approx. Retail Price: $72.00 (38-inch circle with zippered case)
Bouncing Away Shadows: Light reflectors are indispensable on almost
any type of shoot. This high-tech FlexFill disc can solve a lot
of problems. On bright, sunny days, they can erase the shadows
beneath a baseball hat. On location, they can bounce a camera-mounted
light and remove its glare. Sure, you can do the same thing with
a piece of white foamcore or beadboard for about $10, but in my
experience, that foamcore quickly gets crushed and beadboard is
so heavy that it’s hard to hang without special clamps and
stands. FlexFill screens weigh almost nothing, fold up small and
transport easily.

Scenario 4: Automobile Interior, Night

You’ve rented a camera mount for the car, a wireless monitor,
lavalier mics and a van. Once you get the tools, you need to illuminate
this tricky (but common) situation—and complete your lighting
arsenal.

Kino Flo Mini-Flo Kit #139
Approx. Retail Price: $743.00
Visor Magic: Achieving the right look inside a car depends on your
ability to light the talent’s faces without giving away the
light source. This kit includes everything you need. The nine-inch
fixtures can be attached to a visor or set on a dashboard. Most
importantly, the units include a 12-volt dimmable ballast, so you
can reduce light to natural levels. The kit comes with a car plug
adapter, two fixtures, two mounts and a nifty travel case. MM

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