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Should cinematographers bother to aspire to own lighting gear?


Edith blazek
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So I was thinking back to something @David Mullen ASC said on one of my posts awhile ago, about the "the desire to spend a lot of money to own a lot of lighting equipment" and looking back, it brings up something i haven't considered and kinda accepted as a yes uncritically, and thats whether cinematographers should even aspire to own lighting gear. I took it as a yes owing to online spaces beating the drum that cameras aren't important but that lenses and lights are, "Invest in glass and lights" they say, which isn't completely wrong, but just kinda misleading as people say this, but then when pressed on what they mean on lighting, they always mean lighting gear (either in the individual fixtures themselves or in how many fixtures) that is really only good for interviews or really small spaces and not in any filmmaking scenario that takes in larger spaces (as it would defeat the idea of the Ultra portable lighting kit you can have with your personal little camera bag and take with you around the world like all of those travel vloggers), as from the past year I've been seeing lighting setups and the conclusion I've come to is that the amount of light needed is heavily underestimated by alot of amateurs, including myself. I can only see someone hitting ceiling after ceiling with lighting gear and going for more and more in response, which then I ask, why bother? Why not avoid the hassle and just stick to renting what you exactly need? I always answered this to myself by saying that maybe the rental outlet may not have what you exactly need or in locations you may not know what availability you will have access to, hearing about Roger Deakins expansive use of maxi brutes or Sean Bobbit's of six 18ks for a gymnasium really sobered me on this, making me take a step back on whether to really go for an extensive lighting kit to own, even if i was going to rebt it out, let me know your thoughts.

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Lights are big and heavy. I feel like it's simply much more convenient to pick them up from a rental house along with everything else than to have them moved to set from a separate location (presumably your home). 

But yes, buy glass! 

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2 minutes ago, Raymond Zrike said:

Lights are big and heavy. I feel like it's simply much more convenient to pick them up from a rental house along with everything else than to have them moved to set from a separate location (presumably your home). 

But yes, buy glass! 

Oh I agree on the glass, don't get me wrong, it's probably one of the better filmmaking investments out there, and I agree on the lights, which is why im pondering this.

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I will say it is slightly more sustainable now to own random pieces of equipment than it has been in previous years since you can rent them out on Sharegrid (or a similar site). A digital camera, for instance, traditionally would depreciate quite rapidly which still tends to be the case, but you can make up for that loss by renting it out consistently. The same can be said for lights, though I'm sure they're not rented out as often from individuals as they are from rental houses.

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1 hour ago, Edith blazek said:

So I was thinking back to something @David Mullen ASC said on one of my posts awhile ago, about the "the desire to spend a lot of money to own a lot of lighting equipment" and looking back, it brings up something i haven't considered and kinda accepted as a yes uncritically, and thats whether cinematographers should even aspire to own lighting gear. I took it as a yes owing to online spaces beating the drum that cameras aren't important but that lenses and lights are, "Invest in glass and lights" they say, which isn't completely wrong, but just kinda misleading as people say this, but then when pressed on what they mean on lighting, they always mean lighting gear (either in the individual fixtures themselves or in how many fixtures) that is really only good for interviews or really small spaces and not in any filmmaking scenario that takes in larger spaces (as it would defeat the idea of the Ultra portable lighting kit you can have with your personal little camera bag and take with you around the world like all of those travel vloggers), as from the past year I've been seeing lighting setups and the conclusion I've come to is that the amount of light needed is heavily underestimated by alot of amateurs, including myself. I can only see someone hitting ceiling after ceiling with lighting gear and going for more and more in response, which then I ask, why bother? Why not avoid the hassle and just stick to renting what you exactly need? I always answered this to myself by saying that maybe the rental outlet may not have what you exactly need or in locations you may not know what availability you will have access to, hearing about Roger Deakins expansive use of maxi brutes or Sean Bobbit's of six 18ks for a gymnasium really sobered me on this, making me take a step back on whether to really go for an extensive lighting kit to own, even if i was going to rebt it out, let me know your thoughts.

You’ve basically answered your own question but the fact that you need basically a truck to house enough lights necessary for a versatile enough shooting setup means that it’s a far more likely and practical investment for a gaffer rather than a dp and most larger name and commercial DPs I work with own a ton of glass and bring basically no lights or if they do own lights they’re co-owned with a gaffer they often work with and are thusly going out on more jobs than just that particular DPs. Not practical advice for everyone but I really feel you should just rent them, lighting is so important you really don’t want to be constrained to just what you’ve got in the garage. 

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The only type of light I could think of owning would be a light you use on every single set. Something specialized to you-- like a ring light, or obie type system. Maybe a set of titan tubes or Helios? or the odd Litemat. Many folks I know keep those smalls that can fit in a closer handy. In times past, something like a Kino Flo Car kit, (or currently the mini Litegear light sticks) were often owned by a Dp or a gaffer and then rented for a kit fee.

Another very useful thing to have is an assortment of practical globes-- I really love these 11W 130V sign bulbs that render wonderfully in lamps.

But big units-- no; no thank you.

Personally the only light I have is a a single helios tube, which is generally use to test out my wireless DMX/FXs and stuff on a small scale, or for a work light. I might get something like a MC light pro kit (that has CRMX) or maybe some astera bulbs-- but again, nothing that couldn't fit in a Fiat 500....

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