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Eric Gesualdo

Perks to sticking with tungsten when shooting digital?

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I'm in the process of putting together a lighting style for an upcoming horror feature that I am shooting. Will we be on the Alexa Classic.

Question: When shooting interiors,  are there perks to using a blue-gelled Maxi Brute rather than an HMI when it comes to simulating daylight? There will be tungsten practicals in the shot as well.

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As one gaffer said to me, tungsten always turns on. Particularly important if it is rigged to a condor, nothing more of a time suck than tracing why an HMI won't strike on a condor and find you have to replace the head feeder cable...

But if you don't need to output of a MaxiBrute or big HMI, then I'd go with LED for blue lighting effects.

If you're talking about simulated hard sunlight, then sometimes I'd rather use a MaxiBrute or T12 tungsten with some light blue (or no gel) for a warm effect rather than add warming gel to an HMI, I think it's a prettier color.

Here's a shot where I used uncorrected MaxiBrutes coming through the window for warm sunlight:

 

MRSM_300_C_404_28_5_7.jpg

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Tungsten-halogen light is wonderful. It has excellent colour quality, excellent matching between units even between manufacturers and even between units which have had wildly different amounts of use. It hot-restrikes and is available in a vast range of power levels from flashlight to Wendy light. It is fairly lightweight and usually completely silent in operation. It is extremely inexpensive and naturally creates reasonably small, point sources that can be used to create light of almost any character via inexpensive modifiers. It fades smoothly all the way to black (and that gives you some colour control too!)

It's just horrifically inefficient. In every other way it's wonderful.

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1 hour ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Tungsten-halogen light is wonderful. It has excellent colour quality, excellent matching between units even between manufacturers and even between units which have had wildly different amounts of use. It hot-restrikes and is available in a vast range of power levels from flashlight to Wendy light. It is fairly lightweight and usually completely silent in operation. It is extremely inexpensive and naturally creates reasonably small, point sources that can be used to create light of almost any character via inexpensive modifiers. It fades smoothly all the way to black (and that gives you some colour control too!)

It's just horrifically inefficient. In every other way it's wonderful.

In what way is it "horrifically inefficient"?  You've rattled off some really good points but I'm missing the bad one(s).  Noob just trying to understand 🙂

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Comparatively little light for a lot of power. HMI, fluorescent and LED are all at least four times better.

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5 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Comparatively little light for a lot of power. HMI, fluorescent and LED are all at least four times better.

That does sound like a deal breaker.  Does still sound worth considering for special uses though.  Thanks.

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2 minutes ago, tom lombard said:

That does sound like a deal breaker.  Does still sound worth considering for special uses though.  Thanks.

Well, if power's cheap, which frankly it often is, tungsten works great for more or less everything.

There are two situations where LEDs win. First is when you're running around on battery power (though HMIs can also be battery powered, up to a certain sane size limitation; the thing with LEDs is that they're ofte small lights.) Second is if you're lighting a huge studio interior with space lights or something like that. In that situation, studio power is often extremely expensive, and you can end up using vast amounts of it. Even worse, all that inefficient lighting creates massive amounts of heat, which can require massive amounts of air conditioning, which requires massive amounts more power. The place LEDs and the like really score is in news studios where the lighting runs all day and all night, and it has to be air conditioned to keep everyone looking pretty.

If you're shooting a small project in someone's house, unless for some reason you need massive amounts of light, tungsten is fine. 

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If you were considering a big HMI, you'd need a generator anyway, so does it make a big power difference to use a 12K MaxiBrute versus a 9K HMI, let's say?

With tungsten, the units are cheap but the power is expensive, with most other lights, it's the opposite, which is why a lot of soundstages still use a lot of tungsten if they are going to be rigging 300 lights, let's say, and hold on to them for several months.

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Here are some day interiors where I used tungsten for the sunlight, I think the first was a tungsten Source-4 Leko to get the slash of light, the second was a T12.

90M_229.jpg

90M_233.jpg

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I notice that in some of those, particularly the three guys with the big window behind them, allow the daylight to look slightly blue while the tungsten looks slightly warm. Whether it's a grading decision or a colour balance decision, I notice that happening a lot - I see a lot of monitors with Alexas set to 4200K, so people can easily go pleasantly warm or pleasantly cool without it being over the top.

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Thanks for all the wonderful feedback everyone, all incredibly helpful and will weigh my options. David, the second series of samples you provided are very much in line with the look I am trying to achieve. Do you remember if those had any filtration? Looks like some pro-mist happening there. 

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You’ve had a lot of great answers. Personally I love tungsten for the light quality.  LED is great and I own LED lights and not tungsten but that’s because you can’t be sure of power on small indie shoots so the LEDs efficiency and small form is great.  
that be being said if I have a stage or a budget for grip tricks and generators I’ll take tungsten any day.   Just look at the spectrum from a tungsten or even HMI light compared to LED and you can see the huge gaps and sharp falloffs.  

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9 hours ago, Eric Gesualdo said:

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback everyone, all incredibly helpful and will weigh my options. David, the second series of samples you provided are very much in line with the look I am trying to achieve. Do you remember if those had any filtration? Looks like some pro-mist happening there. 

1/8 Tiffen Pearlescent

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As others have said heat can potentially be an issue, not always I shot in a East London warehouse in January and everyone on the crew would hover around the bigger tungsten sources to gain some heat.

On my grad film as a student my DOP went all in on a Tungsten set up in an office studio set. Lots of Tungsten soft sources and 5k's punching in through the windows. This was a bit before LED was a thing and we didn't have enough HMI's to cover the space. The result looked great but we had maybe 80k of tungsten lighting in a small-ish stage and it was more heat than the "air con" could move

It felt like you were in a blast furnace, we dimmed the lights down to 20% between takes to take the edge off it... But it did slow us down. Actors/crew needed more breaks/water, makeup needed more touch ups and actors costumes got ruined buy the makeup/grime etc... Heat can absolutely be an issue if you can't manage. Same on location in the summer, adding big tungsten sources to an already hot room, its uncomfortable... then everyone can get snippy, production gets rushed just in an effort to escape the sweat box etc...Cooler sources can make shooting more manageable. In the winter the opposite is true, tungsten lights can help you out an make some locations more bearable temperature wise. 

Most shoots I've done recently have been with a mixed selection of lighting LED, HMI and Tungsten. When you combine the efficiency of LED and HMI sources with the sensitivity of modern digital cameras its possible to most things you need to do lighting wise without needing anything more then domestic power. Esp if you have 240v mains and a camera that's good at 1600-2000 ISO, a 2.5kw HMI is often big enough as your main source and the remainder can be battery based LED's.  Avoiding the need for generators and tie ins, which on low budget indie production is generally a good thing. One way of coping with squeezed budget is to use smaller/lighter equipment that needs less crew to move around. 

 

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CML just did a test. Tungsten vs various LED. Very interesting results...

https://cinematography.net/LED-Camera/LED-Camera-Index.html

 

I love the look of tungsten. It's very lush. But heat and power draw are big issues. You can't run anything bigger than a 2k on house power. 

Tungsten has gotten something of a new lease on life with digital camera being able to shoot at higher asa settings that film and still deliver great IQ. You can do a lot with a few of 300w/600w/1000w lights and a sensitive camera.

But sooner or later you're going to run into the problem of not being able to run anything bigger than a 2k on house power or maxing out the amps available in your shooting location. Or the heat overwhelming the A/C.

If I had the money I would shoot tungsten/HMI etc, simply because I like the way it looks. But if you are on a tight budget LED lighting is the miracle we all dreamed about for years. The reduced power draw of LED can make a production possible, that previously would have never happened due to the need for generators, A/C, permits etc.

 

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1 minute ago, Feli di Giorgio said:

CML just did a test. Tungsten vs various LED. Very interesting results...

https://cinematography.net/LED-Camera/LED-Camera-Index.html

 

I love the look of tungsten. It's very lush. But heat and power draw are big issues. You can't run anything bigger than a 2k on house power. 

Tungsten has gotten something of a new lease on life with digital camera being able to shoot at higher asa settings that film and still deliver great IQ. You can do a lot with a few of 300w/600w/1000w lights and a sensitive camera.

But sooner or later you're going to run into the problem of not being able to run anything bigger than a 2k on house power or maxing out the amps available in your shooting location. Or the heat overwhelming the A/C.

If I had the money I would shoot tungsten/HMI etc, simply because I like the way it looks. But if you are on a tight budget LED lighting is the miracle we all dreamed about for years. The reduced power draw of LED can make a production possible, that previously would have never happened due to the need for generators, A/C, permits etc.

 

Thanks for passing those tests along! Incredibly helpful. 

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5 hours ago, Feli di Giorgio said:

CML just did a test. Tungsten vs various LED. Very interesting results...

https://cinematography.net/LED-Camera/LED-Camera-Index.html

 

I love the look of tungsten. It's very lush. But heat and power draw are big issues. You can't run anything bigger than a 2k on house power. 

Tungsten has gotten something of a new lease on life with digital camera being able to shoot at higher asa settings that film and still deliver great IQ. You can do a lot with a few of 300w/600w/1000w lights and a sensitive camera.

But sooner or later you're going to run into the problem of not being able to run anything bigger than a 2k on house power or maxing out the amps available in your shooting location. Or the heat overwhelming the A/C.

If I had the money I would shoot tungsten/HMI etc, simply because I like the way it looks. But if you are on a tight budget LED lighting is the miracle we all dreamed about for years. The reduced power draw of LED can make a production possible, that previously would have never happened due to the need for generators, A/C, permits etc.

 

Those tests are great. Nice to see the work done so thoroughly.  A quick browse through the LED units and you can see the crazy dips and gaps in the spectrum vs the relatively smooth falloff of tungsten. Some of them are getting much better though.  I remember some tests from a few years back and there were literal holes in the spectrum.  

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It is the best comparison to natural light(sun and firelight) with red bias. Have a look at the movie BACKDRAFT(1991), it was shot on daylight balanced filmstock using mostly tungsten sources for the fire scenes. The depth of color is gorgeous. Tungsten bulbs and Chinese lanterns are a match made in heaven.

sekonic_c700_c700r_color_spectrum.jpg

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In the office where I work we've set up a largish room as a TV studio/filming studio. The graphics guy and myself who've been given the task of setting up the camera and lighting used tungsten lights recently and blew the power in the room -- luckily not the power to the whole office which would not have gone down well. Admittedly, the three lights we had on were all coming from the one set of power sockets on the wall. Anyway, it was a new experience for me. So, yes, tungsten lights draw a lot of power. But nice looking, warm light. Learning all the time ...

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A good rule of thumb is to calculate 1 amp for every 100w. I know that's not 100% technically accurate, but still a good starting point. 

20 amps for a standard household outlet. Leave a little headroom, so let's say 1800w max.

Beware that separate outlets in a room may be running off the same 20 amp line.

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Maybe not a studio concern.. yet.. but I remember shooting in LA a few years back on actual locations.. and many large buildings had some sort of green energy rule, state law ?.. actually banning the use tungsten lights .. had to fluorescent or LED.. .. so if your a doc ,corp camera person in the US something to think about .. 

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58 minutes ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Maybe not a studio concern.. yet.. but I remember shooting in LA a few years back on actual locations.. and many large buildings had some sort of green energy rule, state law ?.. actually banning the use tungsten lights .. had to fluorescent or LED.. .. so if your a doc ,corp camera person in the US something to think about .. 

I would think that only legally applies to permanent fixtures. But I’ve had clients give me some weird ass rules before. 

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Colour. 

Colour.

Colour.

If you need specific costume or makeup elements to look the way they are. Tungsten can save you so much grief. Unless there's a specific reason NOT to use it. Power/heat/fast pack-down etc. I see no reason to avoid it.

 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Shawn Sagady said:

I would think that only legally applies to permanent fixtures. But I’ve had clients give me some weird ass rules before. 

No sir ..this was explicitly about bringing lights into the building for filming..   Im sure I'm not imagining this .. it might not have been an actual law .. or a stipulation of giving a permission to shoot ..  could have just been the locations but Im sure they wouldn't allow tungsten lights .. its wasn't to do with art work or historical buildings it was definitely to do with "green energy " measures .. or something like that .. I am old and decrepit but I can't believe I have just conjured this up from my imagination:) 

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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A few years ago,  I worked at an electrical supply house in Atlanta. I sold bulbs and industrial fixtures to big budget studio productions. I had conversations with DP's, gaffers, key grips, set dec and makeup on a daily basis. They all said the same thing: we want tungsten bulbs. The best boy on many Roger Deakins projects spoke about making fixtures that utilize small quartz halogen bulbs, because the TEXTURE of light is more pleasing than LED. 

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