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Looking for a Cheap Soft light option


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#1 Mark Allen

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 03:45 PM

I would like to do a little personal shoot in home-type spaces. I'm very used to using kinoflos (and occasionally chinese lanterns) on sets and I'm wondering what would be my best option to create a similar look to that.

I'm aware of the "graphlight" and that's an option - but I am not sure I was loving the samples I saw from that.

Can someone suggest what they feel would most approximate the kino flo 4bank look that I'm used to using?

Thanks!

(I'll be shooting digital btw if that matters)
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 02:43 AM

I like using 216 diffusion on a tungsten fresnel. Have a go and see if you like it.
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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 06:14 AM

You can build your own fluorescent units fairly cheaply. I have a couple that a I built for a short that probably cost about £80 ($160) each. The important thing is to get a High frequency ballast, and tubes with a high CRI. For instance, Phillips TL-D De Luxe tubes are relatively cheap, and have a CRI of 98 - that's better than Kinos.
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#4 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 08:48 AM

if it's a "little" shoot you can just rent some kinos. if you need the light for a long time and/or want to buy maybe the lowel rifas would be something to go for? i love those and they are just as easy to set up as kinos.

/matt
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#5 Troy Warr

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:39 PM

Hi Mark,

Don't mean to hijack the post - but I think this is still on topic and applicable to what you're doing. I've done some tinkering along the lines of Stuart's suggestion and am curious to hear more about his solution, if possible:

You can build your own fluorescent units fairly cheaply. I have a couple that a I built for a short that probably cost about £80 ($160) each. The important thing is to get a High frequency ballast, and tubes with a high CRI. For instance, Phillips TL-D De Luxe tubes are relatively cheap, and have a CRI of 98 - that's better than Kinos.


Stuart, do you happen to have any recommendations, links, tips, etc. to share? I've been looking to build something similar to what you've described.

Mark - I've experimented with low-cost, lightweight ballasts from Home Depot, as well as relatively cheap daylight-balanced (approximately) fluorescent bulbs. I was shooting 29.97fps miniDV and don't remember getting any sync or flickering issues at all. Color balance was OK as I recall, but I'll admit that I wasn't too concerned about it for that particular project. The frosted bulbs didn't give much in the way of diffusion, but I tried plastic diffusion sheets (the kind in office/warehouse ceilings), tissue paper, and standard white printer paper. The latter worked best for me. If your ceilings and walls are white, just bouncing the light works well, too.

In my opinion, fluorescent is almost always the best low-budget solution if you can make it work and it fits your project - and from what you mentioned, I think it certainly would. The low power requirements and cool running temperature are perfect for a home environment - I've shot photofloods and tungsten (Lowel Tota-Lite) in a cramped apartment, and the heat and power requirements were hard to deal with.

If you're not looking for a DIY solution, how about just standard white Chinese lanterns? Fit them with 23W (100W incandescent equivalent) compact fluorescent bulbs and they'd be pretty powerful, yet very soft. Another ambient solution might be to use incandescent torchiere lights fitted with compact fluorescents. Make sure that you get good quality ones, though - I have cheap ones in my lamps at home, and they take forever to warm up and have developed a pretty nasty yellow cast.

Best of luck!
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#6 Mark Allen

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:38 PM

Not a hijack at all, sounds like we're looking for a similar thing.

Basically - I need to have one light available at all times - so renting isn't an option. It's not a money earning project, so I'd like to keep the purchase under $200 - the cheaper the better.

I'd like to hear other people's experience with the daylight balanced flourescents - flicker problems etc.

Where would I get the kinds of lights people are mentioning? Home Depot?
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 02:20 PM

Lowell Lites now sells some (somewhat pricey) compact flourescent bulbs that are daylight-balanced and have a high CRI value (hardly any green, like Kinoflos). I'm sure you can find some other brands online. Since they last a long time, it's probably a good investment, although they might not be as bright as a blue-dipped 500w photoflood globe (but considerably less hot, and bluer.)

You could probably create a lightweight wooden or aluminum frame to hold a bunch of sockets and these compact flos for a multi-bank unit. It would create a nice daylight-balanced soft light and wouldn't use much power. The frame then could be backed by some tinfoiled cardboard base to increase light output.

See the Lowell Ego lite for a description of the bulbs:
http://www.lowel.com...luorescent.html
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#8 Mark Allen

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 02:32 PM

Is your frame suggestion in regards to using the lowel lamps (bulbs) without the rest of their "Ego" gear?

how does the quality of light of this compare to a kino?

What is a blue-dipped 500w ? Are they very very hot? Would it be hotter than four lowel ego lamps?

Thanks!
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#9 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:19 PM

The problem with buying fluorescent units from somewhere like Home Depot (or B&Q in the UK) is that the ballast is unlikely to be a high frequency one. If it has a starter, it's more than likely a cheap ballast, and you might get flicker from it, particularly at non-standard frame rates.

If you're shooting at sync speeds, then they might be adequate for your needs. However, you WILL need to change out the tubes, as they always come with the cheapest Cool White or Warm White, which have a CRI of 50-60. As I mentioned before, Phillips have a line called TL-D Deluxe Pro which are 5600K with a CRI of 98. They also have a slightly cheaper range just called TL-D which are 5600K and CRI 95. Both of these are comparable to Kino tubes in terms of color rendition. If you want 3200K, then try Sylvania Luxline Plus. They are 3200k-3400k ( I think) and have a CRI of 90. There are other tubes with high CRI, but these are the ones I've found to be readily available. You might not find them at Home Depot, but a specialist lighting store will carry them.

As far as my lamps go, if anyone's interested I'll take some photographs and try to do a step-by-step guide.
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#10 Mark Allen

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 06:49 PM

That would be interesting to see Stuart. But don't work too hard on it for my sake. :)

I'm also interested in LEDs. Has anyone used these professionally? Eventhough the lights themselves seem to be pretty pricey - the technology is not. I might be able to talk an electronics industry friend into building me one (or several) - he tells me you can color the light very well - but I've literally never seen these used before on a set. Would it create a similar look?
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#11 Troy Warr

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:27 PM

As far as my lamps go, if anyone's interested I'll take some photographs and try to do a step-by-step guide.


Stuart - thanks for the information! I'm eager to investigate the Philips bulbs. I've used cheap bulbs (Sylvania, I think) with acceptable results, but it would be nice to invest in some better bulbs for longevity and for better color. As far as a high frequency ballast - any suggestions? Would that be something that a specialty light store might also carry? What is the intended application there - is it for video, or is there a more mundane reason for their use?

I'd also love to see some photographs of your lamps - and maybe just a basic how-to if you get the chance. Was it mostly about just finding the right bulbs/ballast and then rigging a stand, or are there other factors involved with what you did?

I'm also interested in LEDs. Has anyone used these professionally? Eventhough the lights themselves seem to be pretty pricey - the technology is not. I might be able to talk an electronics industry friend into building me one (or several) - he tells me you can color the light very well - but I've literally never seen these used before on a set. Would it create a similar look?


I haven't used LEDs professionally but I've also looked into them (I'm quite a jury rigger in case it's not quite obvious). They do look a lot like fluorescent lights, and use even less power (6 watts outputs the light of a 100W incandescent bulb) and run completely cool. But, you're right that they're expensive - with some rigged electronics you could probably save money over a commercial unit, but not a whole lot. White LEDs cost *way* more than color LEDs (about $1-$1.50 each, compared to a few cents for a color LED), and you'll need a large array to get an appreciable amount of light.

A rig like the Litepanels 1'x1' costs $2000, and uses a 24x24 grid of LEDs (576 total). Even at bulk rates, the LEDs add up real fast. It's still a great idea - and one I'd love to see done on the cheap - and it will last you forever since the life span of an LED is tens of thousands of hours. But, for low budgets, it seems that fluorescent is still probably the best option out there.
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#12 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 06:26 AM

There are plenty of HF ballast manufacturers. For Example:

Click here

They don't have starters, and wiring them is simple. The most complicated bit is connecting the cable from the tubes to the ballast. Each tube has 4 wires, so with a 4 tube fixture that's 16 wires to connect. It can get a little complicated, but it's not difficult as long as you're organised...
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#13 Troy Warr

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 01:06 AM

Hey, thanks, Stuart. That's a great link - they don't seem to be set up to ship to the USA but it gives
a good idea of the manufacturers, specs, and prices. I'll do some Googling to see if I can find a local source based on what they're offering there.

Personally, I think I need to start by doing some research on fluorescent technology. I was more or less winging it with my Home Depot solution, and wasn't aware of the technical differences between ballasts. The models that I went with fortunately proved to be adequate for my project at the time, but that was most likely just luck. I didn't need to do any wiring - the ballasts came with slide-in connectors for the prongs on the fluorescent tubes - but I'm comfortable with basic electrical work so it sounds like it's handleable.

It would still be cool (only if you have the time) to see a couple of pictures of your setup, just to get a visual.
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#14 Mark Allen

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 01:36 PM

I'm continuing this thread after doing some research.

David's suggestion of the array of ego lights in a box is a good one. I may try to find someone handy to put that together for me. I simply have no mechanical skills at all. Also - huge question about the ego light is.... where do you get the pieces to plug the ego lights into if you're building your own frame? (Sorry I'm so unknowledgable on this side of the business.)

Looked into the whole LED (thanks Troy) - yeah - expensive for now.

The blue lights linked in this thread... would they work if put into a configuration like this? http://members.aol.c...group/china.htm Would that give enough light? (a 250W daylight bulb in this plexi-glass bulb)?

Trying to get clever with price I also was thinking about using a standard chinese lantern on this stand (after taking off the ikea 60w limited electrics) http://www.ikea.com/...Number=60103854

Is that nuts? Couldn't be much differnt in weight (if using paper chinese lantern) Can you use a paper chinese lantern as a key fill without a fire?
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#15 Mark Allen

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 01:54 PM

okay realizing now that ikea option is stupid as it's the same price as a cheap stand, so ignore that one. Was a whim.

So - to help me understand things. It seems like for a light to be a fill, it needs to be about

How many lumens? 8000?

How many watts for tungsten and flourescent does it take to reach that? Is it consistent among similar types of lights? (I'm guessing not?)
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 03:11 PM

Hi,

I have done quite a bit of fiddling about with this sort of thing.

Fluorescent is great, and the tubes Mr. Brereton mentions are the highest colour temperature I've ever seen at that CRI. The blue phosphors are spikier than the red, so usually, the bluer the tube is, the lower the CRI, which makes high CRI daylight tubes difficult. HF ballasts are easy - some are even dimmable, but they are very expensive and suffer exactly the same problems as dimmable kinos.

LEDs are problematic. The CRI isn't acually that bad, but they're very very blue indeed as they're actually blue LEDs with a yellow-emitting phosphor on the front. CT reads at about 12000K on my camera, and it's worth bearing in mind that they aren't actually that efficient - definitely much less efficient than average fluorescents, and probably not that much better than good (halogen cycle) tungsten once you've brought them down to a feasible CT. Problem two is that the commercial types at least have a worryingly short life during which they slowly go purple, as the phosphor is an organic type which decays rapidly under the intense shortwave radiation of the diode. The upside is that you can now buy white LEDs by the bucketful on ebay and there are tungsten balanced types available (CRI unknown). Driving them can be a bit of a pain unless you're willing to put a series resistor on every one of them (ebay auctions often include these) and suffer the efficiency shortfall.

The big upside of LEDs is that you can produce a soft lightsource that is also pretty directional in a very small space. This is otherwise hard.

I have built lights using cold-cathode fluorescent tubes. The off the shelf types are also very blue, almost cyanish, but the CRI is OK with filtering and efficiency is reasonable. The same phosphor technology for fluorescents is effective here and you can get accurately balanced daylight and tungsten emitting devices. Ballasts for CCFL are almost invariably Royer converters which are intrinsically HF, and decent ones (which don't run the transformers too hard to reduce their cost) have an EMI-friendly sinusoidal output, so the sound department won't scream about their radio mics not working. CCFL tubes are available in diameters down to about 3mm - micro-flos are CCFL - and build rather nice arrays. Can be bought cheap in bulk.

CCFL 12x12" panel with 12V power supply:

Posted Image

Underexposed to reveal the tube layout:

Posted Image

1" thickness. Switchgear and power input, support frame:

Posted Image

Compact fluorescents are good as many use ringing-choke drivers which are HF by default; most are low-CRI "warm white" style phosphors, though.

Compact fluorescent array:

Posted Image

Lamp:

Posted Image

Hope this helps.

Phil
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#17 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 04:29 PM

Fluorescent is great, and the tubes Mr. Brereton mentions are the highest colour temperature I've ever seen at that CRI. The blue phosphors are spikier than the red, so usually, the bluer the tube is, the lower the CRI, which makes high CRI daylight tubes difficult.


I've just dug out a Fluorescent Lamp information sheet that i was given by the place I buy my tubes from. It's quite a long list, but the useful 'Tungsten' or 'Daylight' tubes are as follows:

Deluxe Natural 3500K CRI 92
Colour 930 3000K CRI 95

Artificial Daylight 6500K CRI 92
Northlight 6500K CRI 93
Colour 960 6500K CRI 98

Note: These are not brand names, but types of tubes. To get them, you'll probably have to find a specialist lighting store. Most DIY type stores will not stock them, and will not know the difference.
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 05:09 PM

Hi,

You know what, I may actually have got that directly backwards - perhaps the lower CT is harder to get decent CRI. I may be spouting drivel again. Sorry.

Phil
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#19 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 05:13 PM

Well, I didn't want to say anything.....
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#20 Paul Bruening

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:08 AM

I know lots of folks here love floes. I try to stay away from them. I don't work with them enough to predict their color spikes dependably. I've ended up with weird colors where I didn't expect them, like make-up and wardrobe. I've been corrected here for accusing floes of not having full color spectrum due to their inherent color peaks. I still assume that filiment lamps deliver an even color range better than floes.

I guess this is the point where someone flames me.
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