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John1

Lighting equipments for less than $400.... Your advice

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I am about to start shooting lots of short films to learn more about the craft of cinematography. I'v spent too much time reading books upon books, watching instructional videos upon instructional videos but then I realised unless I start shooting I might just end up as someone with just head knowledge and no practical knowledge. So I want to invest in light, but then, I am on a very tight budget. I am still a student who has little or no money. Been able to save up and budget $400. But then, all the professional lighting kits I see online run to thousands of dollars. Apart from their cost been very scary, I am also scared of buying too powerful lights that might blow up a socket as well as too hectic to set up. Been told I could actually light my scene very well even with little light. Any advice on what to get. I don;t have more than $400 and I dont want to buy too big and space consuming lightinging equipments.

Edited by John1

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Start small. CHina balls with 100/200/300W light bulbs. Clamp Lights, some dimmers, and some diffusion/stands. Also some white and black foam core. Most of this could be gotten at a home depot, and some of it (the china balls for example) will stick with you as you move up. The clamp lights too may well stick 'round-- depending even if you're working with 6Ks and 12Ks you never know when you might need to sneak something "custom" into your lighting setups.

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As far as power, I've been shooting in my house with two 650s and a 1K all at once and nothing has blown yet. As long as you have everything on a different circuit and no major appliances are also on, you shouldn't have a problem. I would test the circuits to see what's on what before you start lighting things up.

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One small bright light is useful either for bouncing or going through a diffusion frame or as a hard strong slash or backlight from the sun. I learned from owning one 650w lamp like that, the rest of my lighting came from paper lanterns and reflector dishes.

 

Just learn the basics of electricity and take the time to figure which outlets share the same circuit at the breaker box and how many amps the circuit is rated for. It's important because you need to figure out if a major appliance like the fridge or air conditioner is running on the circuit you plug into. A very crude guide is that often outlets along the same wall share the circuit whereas on opposite walls or other rooms are less likely but you never know until you check, some old houses have very few circuits and some are only 15A or 10A.

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Thanks for the response on the "blowing up a scoket" aspect. I will get to learn more on it aswell. So any suggestions on suffecient lightinh equipments I can get for less than $400 atleast for now that will get my scene lit well without the big $2000 arri lights

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My first 650w light (and my only light still actually other than onboard LED's) was bought in a garage sale for $5. Later I found out that the globe itself cost $25 to replace once it finally burned out... It was just an open-faced plastic light made for the Super-8 market in the 1960's and couldn't use barn doors, but otherwise was very useful. I used a coat hanger as thick wire to attach the light to the wooden handle taken from a toilet plunger so I had a base that I could clamp to things or hold handheld (the original lamp was meant to be screwed on to the top of a Super-8 camera.)

 

So with your budget restriction, I'd be looking for something used. I can't vouch for something like this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Video-Continuous-Focusable-Halogen-Light-650W-With-Barndoors-Steve-Kaeser-/200786996176?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ebfd66bd0

 

Or vouch for the Chinese knock-offs of ARRI lights I see on Ebay as well, but that's the general idea if you can find a reputable seller.

 

At least try renting a small lighting kit, could be Lowell or ARRI, for a day from some video equipment house, and play with them and see if they would work before buying anything.

 

At some point, everyone has to get beyond fears of using "big" lights and thus figure out what they are good for and what they aren't good for.

 

If you get one strong focusable light, you can augment that with a bunch of homemade stuff that use light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, etc.

 

Keep in mind that quickly you figure out that it's more than lights, having at least one c-stand, a sandbag, a diffusion frame, some bounce cards, some black flags, etc. all are a standard part of lighting.

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Thanks David... I have known you for a long time as a man generous with his knowledge. Nice to have an ASC member share his knowledge

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One more thing please.... Which would be better, yellow light or white fluoresecent light. I av once worked with fluorescent light but even after setting my camera's white balance, there is this somwhat gree hue that comes up. But when I use yellow light, the color balance is always nice. Evrything looks very good

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I'm not quite sure what you mean by yellow light. You can get fluorescent tubes such as the Philips TL-D "Graphica" series which come in 950 (similar to daylight) and 930 (similar to tungsten) varieties. These have a high enough colour rendering index (CRI) that you should not face too many serious problems with colour balance. They aren't too expensive if you look around.

 

Many common fluorescent tubes that are used in homes and shops do have colour problems and you may wish to avoid using them.

 

P

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Don't blow 400$ in one go. Go on ebay and get one used tungsten light (don't buy fake chinese ones). A lot of people atleast in UK sell 2K openface for around 300$ and 800w or 650w or even 300w fresnels go for cheaper. This way you will have a pro light which is easy/comfortable to use and control. Start learning about diffusion,bouncing,flagging etc. Once you play around with it,you will realise what you need. Get china balls,make some wagon lights,get dimmers,get practical lights. Get black material for negative fill,blacking out windows,making skirts for your china balls. Get some diffusion gels,reflector,foam board w.e. They all are cheap,but go step by step learn one at a time,don't get a 400$ worth of stuff which you don't know how to use.

Edited by Mike Bao

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What's great about fluorescents and LED's is that you can get both daylight and tungsten balanced tubes / bulbs, you don't have to choose, you can carry both and switch them depending on your color needs. As far as the amount of green in the fluorescent tube, you have to find tubes with a high CRI.

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you might die from electrical shock, but if nice lighting is your only concern you can get a very nice looking $99 Arri clone on eBay brand new in any flavor...300, 650, 1K. I did it. So far I didn't die. We'll see if I eventually do though. In that case, I would NOT recommend them. So keep track of whether or not I die.

 

I would definitely ask the seller if they know their source well enough to ensure the safety of the lights they get (tell them you've heard bad things about them being hit or miss - they are).

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For cheap daylight options I built a few Kino like units out of some lightweight pelican style cases from The Container Store. I screwed a few sockets in to them wired em up to a power strip and put a switch on it. So they fold out nicely like a Kino Diva unit. The bulbs are Ecosmart. CRI is in the 90's on that model with the rainbow on the front. The normal daylights aren't as clean. By no means a substitute for Kino's and I'd never bring em onto a real set but for my own small shoots and for interviews and things, they're perfect. Match overheads really well and with only 1/8th -green they match HMI's pretty well. I put 6 into each case so the output is pretty strong. Total cost in parts was about $200. Well under the price of a Kino Diva 400.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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Where are you John1?

The USA has a 110V system that normally reduces what you can do with household power. There are threads with good content about that.

 

Do used redheads (Italian made , Ianebeam, Ianaro, Desisti, 800W open face with a flood/spot rack) come up on ebay near you. These are quite rugged, a staple here for decades, though the wiring extending inside the housing bakes over time (easy to fix, but best done by the skilled or qualified).

 

Along with the redheads, find some well used C-Stands, make up some diffusion frames and flags.

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John,

 

I know I'm going to come across as the lame voice of semi-reason here, but you may want to think about setting aside some of your $400 budget and rent or borrow whatever is cheap in your locality. (Don't shoot me) It's not necessarily about the gear, as much as knowing how to shape it. Get experience with the cheap of the cheap lights you can get your hands on to determine if you can get by for now. Owning fancy looking gear is cool, but wasting money on things you "think" you might need isn't.

 

There are some things I would recommend to buy, simply because they'll move with you as you progress and you can use them with whatever lights you have.

1. c-stands or simple photography stands. Get 3-4 of these. You can never have enough.

2. bleached muslin, unbleached muslin, white silk, thick black cloth from the fabric store (probably about $10-$12ea in the US)

3. translucent shower curtain from bath store (i.e. Bed, Bath, and Beyond in the US)

4. Black wrap

5. Gaffer tape or even painters tape to be low cost

6. wooden clothes pins (aka C-47's)

7. power extension cords

8. A plastic container to carry this grip stuff

9. A few gels such as various CTO and CTB, maybe plus green to match office fluorescents ($5-7ea)

10. A fold out circular reflector

11. Work gloves that can handle high temperatures.

 

After that, either rent/borrow film lights if you need them or buy some cheap clamp lights. After a production or two you'll figure out what you really need to buy and you won't have blown your bank.

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5. Gaffer tape or even painters tape to be low cost

 

Is 'painters' tape as non-stick, yet secure enough when stuck... sort of a conflicting requirement... as 'gaffer's tape'?

 

And if so, which brand/type would work...

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You need both types. Painters tape is paper-based with minimal stickiness, so if you stick something like a white card to a wall or piece of furniture, nothing should get damaged when you peel the tape off later. Gaffer tape is cloth-based (I think) and much stronger / stickier, though not quite as strong and gummy as duct tape, so don't stick it to any furniture or walls where something could get peeled off.

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FYI, I picked up the little 650 open face David mentioned earlier on,

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Video-Continuous-Focusable-Halogen-Light-650W-With-Barndoors-Steve-Kaeser-/200786996176?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ebfd66bd0

 

Doesn't seem to bad as of yet (though the face it has a fuse in it is a little-- odd.. automotive fuse, but they provided spares.)

 

I'm out on a shoot this week and I'm going to play with it. You do get he full package for the price, minus stands and I was marginally impressed with finish etc on it.

 

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A lot of the time I just need to tape something and it doesn't need additional durability. An inexperienced grip that was brought into a project I worked on put gaffer tape on a wood door to hold some diffusion and the wood stain peeled up with the tape as we struck the set. So when possible I try to use painter's tape to be on the safe side - I don't like damaging other people's property, especially when we're using it for free. I wouldn't want someone to do that to my house.

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I'm never quite sure what the benefit of a 650W open-faced light over this.

 

702857-ab0-00co_full.jpg

 

The only downsides I can think of is that they do produce a slightly polarised shadow, if you see what I mean, due to the linear filament, and they're probably even more indiscriminate than a Redhead or something of that sort. You'll need flags to control either. You can replace the nuts and bolts with off-the-shelf threaded knobs to make clamping easier, and add something that'll fit on a stand if you're feeling really flash.

 

Oh, and you'll want some gloves for adjusting those when they're hot. But you can buy a few of these, several stands, a set of flags, and a lot of pairs of really good gloves for the price of a brand-name light of any type.

 

P

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A lot of the time I just need to tape something and it doesn't need additional durability. An inexperienced grip that was brought into a project I worked on put gaffer tape on a wood door to hold some diffusion and the wood stain peeled up with the tape as we struck the set. So when possible I try to use painter's tape to be on the safe side - I don't like damaging other people's property, especially when we're using it for free. I wouldn't want someone to do that to my house.

 

Yeah, probably I should buy gaffer's tape, paint tape, and then test on surfaces to see what the holding 'power' is and the resulting potential for damage... of both.

Edited by John E Clark

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