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Constructing China Balls


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#1 Natascha Reichert

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 11:41 AM

Did anyone ever try to built China Balls from the ones IKEA sells?
Are there any experiences with the highest possible wattage?
Thx for your help!
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#2 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 12:48 PM

China balls are good for beer gardens and student films.

I think the wattage is a function of the socket of the cord. You can definitely get a 250w bulb in one.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 12:56 PM

I like China balls for a lot of reasons. I normally use the medium and large ikea balls and yes, wattage is based on the socket you put in them. On those plastic ones Ikea sells; I'd not really want to go too high of watt. if you can find nice ceramic ones, then I can see around 300 watts in them pretty well.
You might want to put some diffusion material over the bottom hole of the china ball to get rid of the hot spot which comes through there and soften it up.
They're very nice as a soft wrap source. I often bang them off of a C-stand's arm and boom out as a fill light.
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#4 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 01:01 PM

"China balls are good for beer gardens and student films"

I work with an academy award winning DP who lights entire sets with them and has for years.
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#5 Danny Lachman

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 02:33 PM

http://www.lanternlock.com/

they make high wattage sockets for use in china balls.

Edited by Danny Lachman, 01 November 2008 - 02:35 PM.

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#6 Danny Lachman

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 02:40 PM

also, just fyi - the "silk" china balls don't work very well in terms of diffusing the light. It's like trying to diffuse an hmi by shooting through fabric instead of a diffuser gel.
just don't want anybody to waste their money.
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#7 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 03:36 PM

Ive used the Lantern Lock Version with a vertical strip of 3 FAY lights, measuring around 1500w. It was a 3 foot chinaball. Worked just fine. In other ones, we had 1k bulbs and 500w. The main problem with the is controlling their spread, which means keeping tons of scrap duvytyne on standby and maintaining them since they are so fragile. There is a purposed for them though.
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 05:28 PM

China balls are good for beer gardens and student films.

I think the wattage is a function of the socket of the cord. You can definitely get a 250w bulb in one.


That's a brave statement when you'd be hard pressed to find an electric crew that doesn't carry at least a few of them.

To the OP: You can go to homedepot and get a cheap extension cord and porcelain socket and wire them yourself. They're super easy to do. If you really want lots of punch, you can order the type of 2-pin socket that is in smaller fresnel fixtures so you can get a 500W lamp in a larger china ball. If you do that, make sure to be careful with it, though. There is a pretty serious danger of setting the thing on fire if you're not careful.
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 05:57 PM

Yeah, I've been seeking controversy ever since I read that Norman Mailer article in the New Yorker!

I've used chinese lanterns many times, and they are certainly an effective, low-cost, way to light a space, but I hate all the "fixing" (scraps of duve, etc.) they demand once you try to make them an actual source.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 09:22 PM

Yeah, I've been seeking controversy ever since I read that Norman Mailer article in the New Yorker!

I've used chinese lanterns many times, and they are certainly an effective, low-cost, way to light a space, but I hate all the "fixing" (scraps of duve, etc.) they demand once you try to make them an actual source.


I know a gaffer who bailing-wires them to the bottom of a table-topped flag. Once that is done skirting it seems much quicker and easier.
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#11 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 10:12 PM

good idea in regards to the bailing wire idea. That takes care of the topper!
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#12 Evan Pierre

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 11:16 PM

China balls are good for beer gardens and student films.

I think the wattage is a function of the socket of the cord. You can definitely get a 250w bulb in one.


To OP be sure that you have porcelain sockets for the bulbs, plastic can melt.
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#13 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 11:23 PM

By The Way, A melting plastic socket smells like fish going bad IMO. Took us a while to figure that one out the first time it happened, now I know immediately
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#14 John Brawley

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 12:37 AM

China balls are good for beer gardens and student films.

I think the wattage is a function of the socket of the cord. You can definitely get a 250w bulb in one.


Every gaffer I've worked with carries them. I use them all the time on commercial productions.

You can go above 150w, but you need ceramic bases as mentioned. Also, they are an extreme fire hazzard. You should make sure you have an extinguisher handy, especially if you aren't using something like a lantern lock. It's very very easy for the bulb to come in contact with the paper and then you've got a BIG problem.

They are a great and unique light source. Especially handy because they are light and quick to rig and are great for steadicam walk-alongs. They do tend to spray the light around a bit though.


jb
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#15 JD Hartman

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 12:35 PM

I've used 250 to 300w globes in 16" ones, with plastic sockets and have not had any problems yet. Yes, ceramic sockets are the proper choice and I would also use high temperature wire (16-2 HPN), not lamp or zip cord.
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#16 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 12:54 PM

For myself, and this is personal preference; when I have the plastic sockets I tend not to go above 150w.
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#17 Jack Kelly

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:42 PM

You might want to put some diffusion material over the bottom hole of the china ball to get rid of the hot spot which comes through there and soften it up.


If using the paper or silk china balls, I'd be a bit nervous about covering the holes at the top and/or bottom because of the fire risk. Try running the china ball (with the top and bottom holes open) and notice how much air moves up through the china ball. I would have thought that most tungsten lamps would get dangerously hot without that airflow.

Given that the original poster was talking about making "DIY" china balls, has anyone tried building their own china balls using fluorescent fittings? I'm thinking of somehow suspending a single fluorescent tube (with a protective plastic sheath) inside a china ball for a really soft, cool-running lamp (but, granted, it won't output a huge amount of light).

Many thanks,
Jack
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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:45 PM

I can see that being an issue; but, at the same time; I don't think with a smaller bulb and just covering the bottom hole it'll be a problem. I normally don't run over a 200W in my balls, i mean they are only paper and so far no fire/burning smell. It helps to have the biggest ball you can; of course, to keep the bulb away from the sides and also allow all that airspace to help keep things cool. Though you do well bring up something to be mindful of.
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#19 Matthew Buick

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 08:32 AM

I've been looking around and it seems ceramic bulb holder are readily available from reptile supply shops. I think I might modify ordinary lamps for use as practical and motivated lights. Do you know any bulbs that'll produce less heat and still supply about 150 - 250 watts of light?
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#20 Iga Mikler

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:52 PM

I am wondering about if anyone built a china ball that is wireless meaning battery driven? I am thinking of using it as a fill in some exterior shots where i am moving alot with the actors (hand held) cu but they are walking through a big area that i cant control by lighting it..low budget school project.. there are street lights but as they go in and out of them its pitch black...
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