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#1 Tom Savige

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 06:20 AM

Hey Guys,

Me again, with another of my imbecilic posts. This time I would like to know what lights you would reccommend buying. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we eill be mainly shooting on location.
I have worked out that It will end up cheaper to actually BUY lights rather than rent them a million and a half times...
I am thinking of getting a Redhead Kit (3 Redheads), A Blondie and a pole cat allong with a gel collection and maybe an Arri 150w Fresnel.

Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and whatnot are out of the question.

should I add or subtract any items? Any feedback would be appreciated.

Cheers Tom.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:15 AM

Hey Guys,

Me again, with another of my imbecilic posts. This time I would like to know what lights you would reccommend buying. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we eill be mainly shooting on location.
I have worked out that It will end up cheaper to actually BUY lights rather than rent them a million and a half times...
I am thinking of getting a Redhead Kit (3 Redheads), A Blondie and a pole cat allong with a gel collection and maybe an Arri 150w Fresnel.

Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and whatnot are out of the question.

should I add or subtract any items? Any feedback would be appreciated.

Cheers Tom.



Well, your projects usually drive the choices of lights (and other equipment you carry). That's typically why lights, camera, grippery and other things are rented on an "as needed" basis. You may invest some money in a small package and find that you've put most of your money into a lot of things that aren't the right things and/or aren't enough for what you need to accomplish.

That said, if you're hellbent on purchasing, think first about the kinds of environments you may be in and the kinds of shots you may need. From there, with your experience and the experienced advice of others, you may be able to come up with a realistic list. Without knowing precisely WHAT you'll be shooting and where, giving a list of lights, etc is a bit of a shot-in-the-dark.

I currently shoot a lot of interviews, which for the most part, are medium to close-up singles in practical locations that are small (offices, small "stages," real home living rooms, etc). For this, I own and carry an Arri 1K open face, two Arri 650w fresnels, an Arri 300w fresnel, and a small Omni with a 500w bulb in it. I also carry four C-stands, a small number of solids and diffusion frames, various stingers, dimmers, cubetaps, ground lift adaptors, and a few sandbags. I also have a roll of ND Gel that I can tape up on a window if necessary and two Wescott frames with net diffusion/ND for outdoor shots that I use to knock down backgrounds and/or reflectors or diffusion. And one magliner. All this fits into the back of a pickup truck for easy transport. If I decided to carry any more, I'd have to upgrade my vehicle to a larger SUV or some kind of bobtail production truck.

With that quite small package of gear, I can shoot just about any smallish environment and move fairly quickly on my own, but too big of a room would require extra lighting and grip.

All of that (minus vehicle) cost roughly 6 to 7 grand. So, I don't know what your budget is or what you hope to shoot, but that "list" above can give you some sense of what "that" kind of shooting needs and costs.

Hope that helps in some way. :)
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#3 Tom Jensen

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:58 AM

I would say get a small kit and rent the big stuff. Arri kits are nice and a Kino kit.
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 09:19 AM

If you want the best bang for buck plus versatility then consider 1K PAR theatre cans. They make a good and cheap foundation set that you can rent to expand on based upon your specific set needs. Frankly, most situations can be handled by straight or bounced PAR cans. It will give you an un-exotic look. But, you can't beat the price and durability factors.
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#5 Rich Steel

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:48 AM

I can't recommend Dedolights highly enough. They are brilliant. Compact, well built, dimmable but also very expensive. I've bitten the bullet (a few years ago) and bought a set of DLH-4's and also the 5ft Dedo-Octodome kit. I did have a couple of Kino-Flo Diva Lites but got rid of them as the Octodome is so much nicer (in my opinion).

I've also got a couple of Arri 1k True Blue Fresnels which rarely come out the case and did look at buying 3x 575 HMi units from Richard Andrewski, unfortunately between Richard and I, we couldn't sort out some teething problems between supplying and returning and to cut a long story short the deal fell through with losses from both supplier and buyer. Shame really as he does have some great products which you should consider rather than a red head kit.

Check out coollights.biz

Regards

Rich Steel
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#6 John Brawley

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 02:35 AM

I can't recommend Dedolights highly enough. They are brilliant. Compact, well built, dimmable but also very expensive. I've bitten the bullet (a few years ago) and bought a set of DLH-4's and also the 5ft Dedo-Octodome kit. I did have a couple of Kino-Flo Diva Lites but got rid of them as the Octodome is so much nicer (in my opinion).



+1 on dedos. These days cameras tend to be ay more sensitive, i find redheads to much of a blunt instrument.

Dedo's would be my desert isle lamp because they are very very flexible. (and expensive)

Dedo's were the first equipment I bought after my meters. And a very big +1 on the octodome. I had to force the local distributor to order one in from the catalogue but now everyone here has them !!!

jb
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#7 Tom Savige

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 07:07 AM

+1 on dedos. These days cameras tend to be ay more sensitive, i find redheads to much of a blunt instrument.

Dedo's would be my desert isle lamp because they are very very flexible. (and expensive)

Dedo's were the first equipment I bought after my meters. And a very big +1 on the octodome. I had to force the local distributor to order one in from the catalogue but now everyone here has them !!!

jb


Thanks John, I went to a Cinematography lecture of yours earlier on in the year and I can recall you saying that they were one of your favorite lights. I don't think I'll be able to afford them though, I'll probably just end up borrowing them from School

What are they mainly used for? I hired them one day for a Short I was making and found that they make a good hair light. Is there any other uses for them? Could guys please post photos.

Thanks, Tom
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:18 PM

What are they mainly used for? Is there any other uses for them? Could guys please post photos.

http://www.flickr.co...6346088/detail/

Dedos are good for eyelights, hard spotty top lights, bouncing into foamcore from a distance, use in softboxes, pretty much everything. They're nice because they have such a wide focus range (very wide to narrow), they produce a very even beam, they put out a ton of light per watt, and they're tiny, lightweight, and dimmable with multiple ways to power them (batteries, car inverter, AC power). Plus the globes are super cheap and they last forever. They're my desert island light as well.
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#9 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:31 PM

Light is not just about electiricty and lamp heads. I have recently had to remind myself to learn how to use black frames and white foam-board.

3 6ftx6ft frames, black, white and bounce fabric, 4 stands and some sand bags can create some amazing shots. Da Vinci worked without electricity :-)

I have one of the huge octodomes and the mounting just broke off last week (and the light dropped onto the talent..) but I used a MSE grip head to mount to the light and it works better - the bolt holding the octodome is not ideal... and I had 2 Dedo DL4 bulbs pop on me but they were being abused so that is understandable - but otherwise I hammer the lights and they are working fine.

For low budget - get 2 DP lowel lights and a RIFA - and the above frames and fabric.

my 2 cents

Rolfe
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#10 Bob Hayes

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 05:28 PM

I own and carry an Arri 1K open face, two Arri 650w fresnels, an Arri 300w fresnel, and a small Omni with a 500w bulb in it. I also carry four C-stands, a small number of solids and diffusion frames, various stingers, dimmers, cubetaps, ground lift adaptors, and a few sandbags. I also have a roll of ND Gel that I can tape up on a window if necessary and two Wescott frames with net diffusion/ND for outdoor shots that I use to knock down backgrounds and/or reflectors or diffusion. And one magliner. All this fits into the back of a pickup truck for easy transport. If I decided to carry any more, I'd have to upgrade my vehicle to a larger SUV or some kind of bobtail production truck.


This is exactly my philosophy. I like the “Kit” style lights because they are easier to handle alone or with a small crew. The Arri soft light kit has everything you need in one box. I also have three c stands, I actually I use light stands because the fold up smaller. I like this style of light because of its versatility. You can bounce it or light directly with it. You can light a large night exterior with it. If you go with Kino Flo type lights they are very limited. I also own a Lowell DP kit, and six Lowell Tota lights. Everything packs up into my SUV. I own the amount of gear I can use alone or perhaps with two other crew members. If I need larger lights I’ll rent a truck and get a full crew. You can get most of this stuff used on the internet and if you are patient get a great price.
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#11 Guy Holt

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:09 PM

I would like to know what lights you would reccommend…. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we will be mainly shooting on location.… Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and what not are out of the question…. Any feedback would be appreciated.


From the description of your productions, it sounds like you will need a portable generator to power lights on location. Given the wide variety of portable generators and motion picture lights available, in order to maximize the number of lights you can run on the generator it is important to use the right kind of generator and the right kind of motion picture lights. Especially, given that the increasing use of personal computers and microprocessor-controlled recording equipment in HD production has created an unprecedented demand for clean, reliable power on set at a time when the trend in lighting is toward light sources that can generate harmonic noise and dirty power. If one uses the right equipment, it is possible to create clean stable set power that is capable of reliably operating larger lights (HMIs up to 6kw or Quartz lights up to 5kw), or more smaller lights (7500 Watts total), off of portable gas generators.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say at the outset that in addition to being a gaffer, I also own and operate a rental house that rents and sells a lot of the equipment I will recommend in this post. If it sounds like I’m hyping certain product lines it is not because we rent and sell them exclusively. We are dealers and rental agents for all the major brands. The equipment I am about to recommend, I recommend as a professional Gaffer of a lot of historical documentaries for PBS’ American Experience and The History Channel (see my “credit-entials” on Imbd). I recommend this equipment because I think it offers greater production capability for the dollar than anything else out there at this time.

My recommendations are also based upon extensive research I have done on the use of portable gas generators in motion picture production. For this research, I ran a series of tests in order to analyze the interaction of conventional AVR generators (a Honda EX5500 with Crystal Governor), as well as inverter generators (a Honda EU6500is), with the prevalent light sources available today.

My tests came up with some rather startling results. They show that when your lighting package consists predominantly of non-linear light sources, like HMI and Fluorescent lights, it is essential to have Power Factor Correction circuitry in the ballasts and to operate them on an inverter generator. The combination of improved power factor and the nearly pure power waveform of the inverter generator creates clean stable set power that is capable of reliably operating larger, or more smaller lights, off of portable gas generators than has ever been possible before. I have compiled the results of my tests in an article for my company newsletter and it is available on our website at: http://www.screenlightandgrip.com/html/ema...generators.html

Based upon my tests, I have come up with a package of lights that maximize the light output that can be had from a portable generator. The lights that make up this package capitalize upon the following technological advances in lighting and production technology by Mole Richardson, K5600, Power to Light, and Kino Flo:

1) More efficient and compact HMI, Quartz, and now Fluorescent Par Lights.
2) Brighter and more efficient "short arc" HMI bulb designs.
3) 120/240V Electronic small HMI and Kino ballasts with Power Factor Correction.

In order to maximize the number of these lights that can be run on a portable generator I have combined these lights with proprietary distribution technology I developed during my tests that enhances the production capability of the new Honda Inverter Generators. Since, I’m almost out of space here, I will give my recommendations for lights that will give you the maximum production value from portable gas generators in successive posts to come. I will also detail my reasons for my choices.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Boston
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#12 Guy Holt

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:13 PM

I would like to know what lights you would reccommend…. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we will be mainly shooting on location.
… Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and what not are out of the question…. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Continued from above.

For Key sources to light your medium/close up, I don’t recommend incandescent lights because they are the least efficient of all the available light sources. Since eighty percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent light goes into the generation of heat, they generate less lumens per watt of any other light source. Add to that, the fact that the Full CTB gel required to convert incandescent lights to daylight has a transmission factor around .3 (it takes a 1000 Watt incandescent source to generate 300 Watts of day light balanced light) make them the most impractical light source from an efficiency standpoint to operate on a portable generator. For this reason, I suggest you use the new Kino Flo Parabeam fluorescent par light where you would traditionally use an incandescent light as a Key source.

The Kino Flo Parabeam 400 fixture is similar to a 2,000 Watt incandescent softlight in both quality and intensity. But unlike a 2k softlight, they can operate both 5500K (daylight) & 3200K (quartz) lamps and use 1/10th the power of comparable incandescent soft lights. These features make the Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures, like all fluorescent lights, a more efficient light source to operate off of portable generators.

In HD Digital Cinema, the quality of light is more critical than ever. In High Def every detail of on camera talent is rendered clearly on the screen – even the imperfections. Where traditional hard light can exaggerate textural details, soft light is generally better for lighting talent in High Def productions because it can subdue those same textures and render a more cosmetic appearance. I suggest the Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures, over other fluorescent lights, to replace incandescent soft lights because they are more suitable to serve as a key or backlight source than any other conventional fluorescent movie light fixture.

What distinguishes the Parabeam fixtures from other fluorescent lights is their throw, power efficiency, and the innovative accessories Kino Flo makes available for the fixtures. Accessories include barndoors, a gel frame, a diffusion panel, and Honeycomb Louvers. These features enhance the production capabilities of the Parabeam fixtures and make them suitable to serve as a key or backlight source where conventional fluorescent movie light fixtures are not.

Conventional fluorescent movie lights (Kino Flo’s included) have a very broad soft light output that is hard to control. The light also tends to drop off rapidly which means that to serve as key source, the units need to be positioned close to the subject they are lighting. These characteristics make them best suited to serve as key sources in documentary interview set ups where the keys are typically positioned close to the interview subject. In that capacity they generate a wonderful soft light that wraps around the interview subject without wilting them. But, given these characteristics, conventional fluorescent movie lights have only limited applications as fill sources in dramatic set lighting – that is until the development by Kino Flo of their ParaBeam fixtures.

The ParaBeam fixtures have computer aided designed (CAD) parabolic reflectors that focus the light output where it is needed most for lighting dramatic scenes - at a medium distance – making it an ideal key source for HD Digital Cinema. If you compare the photometric tables of the Parabeam 400 and the Diva 400 (which uses the same four lamps), you will notice that at 16’ the Parabeam 400 puts out almost three times the light level (28FC) than the Diva 400 (10FC) even though they both use the same tubes. In fact a Parabeam 400 generates as much light at 16’ as the 4’ 8-Tube Kino Flathead 80 fixture, yet uses less than a quarter of the power (2 Amps verses 9.2 Amps.) While the seven amp difference is not a major consideration when using house power, it can make a difference when your power is limited (coming from a portable generator) because you can use four Parabeam 400s for the same power as a 4’ – 8 Bank Kino Flathead 80. Kino Flo Parabeam ballasts are one of the few Kino ballasts to include filters to reduce the return of harmonic currents into the power stream and improve their power factor. The Parabeam fixtures have power factor ratings of over .9 making them an especially suitable fluorescent light for use on small portable generators.

Not only are the Parabeam fixtures more efficient, but they are also easily controlled – an essential requirement in a Key source. Parabeam fixtures are controlled by interchanging Kino Flos’ innovative Honeycomb Louvers. Louvers are available in 90, 60 and 45 degrees. Swapping louvers provides beam control similar to that of swapping lenses on an HMI Par. These features enhance the production capabilities of the Parabeam fixtures and make them suitable to serve as a key or backlight source where conventional fluorescent movie light fixtures will spill all over the set. These features make the Parabeam fixtures the best candidate of all fluorescent lights to replace incandescent soft lights in their roll as dramatic key sources. And, the power you save by not using tungsten instruments for keys and backlights, enables you to power more lights on the generator than you could otherwise.

If by chance you are shooting with the Red Camera, Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures are ideal for filming with the Red One. Since the Red’s native color balance is 5000K, it looks best when the lighting package consists of 5500K sources. Using tungsten light sources doesn’t make a lot of sense because balancing tungsten to 5000K is not very efficient for the reasons given above.. A 1000W 3200K light becomes a 300W 5000K light when you put Full CTB on it. It makes more sense to use HMIs to light for the Red’s native color balance of 5000K because they provide more lumens/watt and require less filtration with gels. A 400 W HMI will give you considerably more output than a color corrected Tungsten 1k, and use up a lot less of the limited power available from your generator. Unfortunately HMIs are expensive to buy or rent.

Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures are a cost effective alternative to HMIs because they can use 5500K tubes. The provide beam control similar to that of swapping lenses on an HMI by interchanging their honeycomb louvers. And, they are even more efficient sources than HMIs. When using 5500K tubes to light for the Red’s 5000K native color balance, you can warm the lights without losing output to CTO gels by simply mixing in 3200K tubes with the 5500k tubes. Compared to LED Fixtures, Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures offer greater versatility. Able to interchange different color temperature tubes, and vary beam spread with their interchangeable honeycomb louvers, the Parabeam fixture can do what it takes four different Lite Panel LED fixtures to accomplish – Spot and Flood in both 5500K and 3200K. Offering great light quality, output, beam control, and versatility, the Kino Flo ParaBeams makes an ideal key or back light source for HD cinema production.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Boston
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#13 Guy Holt

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:17 PM

I would like to know what lights you would reccommend…. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we will be mainly shooting on location.… Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and what not are out of the question…. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Continued from above.

Where you are shooting dramatic shorts, it’s likely you will be shooting outdoors at night and will need some HMIs to light the deep background and edge your actors with moonlight. I am recommending that you create a moonlight edge with HMIs, rather than a tungsten edge, because HMIs will cover a lot more area given their high output (lumens/watt). To light deep background on night exterior sets, I would recommend that you rent one of the dual wattage (2.5/4kw) HMI Pars. Not only will the Par configuration give you more output but it will also be more versatile. When you need a lot of light for fill on day exteriors you can lamp it with a 4k globe. When you don’t need the punch of a 4k Par, like on this night exterior, you can swap the 4kw globe for a 2.5kw globe giving you more power to run additional lights on your portable generator. The 15 Amps you save by burning the smaller 2500W globe will power quite a few more lights when you consider that a Kino Flo Parabeam 400 uses only 2 Amps. For example, it is possible to power a lighting package that consists of PFC 1200, & 800 HMI Pars, a couple of Kino Flo ParaBeam 400s, a couple of ParaBeam 200s, and a Flat Head 80, in addition to a PFC 2.5kw HMI Par off of our modified Honda EU6500is Generator. Given the light sensitivity of the HD cameras, this is just about all the light you need to light both the deep background and action area of your night exterior. The new Mole Richardson 2.5/4kw HMI Day-Lite Par is an especially compact 2.5/4k Par.

For versatility and high output in a small HMI fixture I would suggest the 800W Joker Bug Light. Its’ par configuration offers punchy directional lighting. Its bug configuration is ideal for soft banks and lantern lights. It can take a soft-tube for linear soft lighting. And, now an innovative Bugabeam Adaptor enables the 800W Joker Bug to be plugged into the back of a Source 4 Leko to create a controllable high intensity daylight balanced beam projector.

The 800W Joker Bug’s lantern adapter is an accessory that I think you will find especially useful for your night exteriors. A Joker Bug Lantern armed out behind talent in a two shot with a 20’ boom arm will create the Reverse Key Lighting that is typically desired for night exteriors. In this approach, the one light does the job of two Keys and allows for rapid resetting for cross cutting singles because there are not light stands in the background of each single. With this kind of versatility, the 800W Joker Bug is an HMI light to have since your budget will allow you to have just a few.

To round out a HMI pkg. that you can run on a portable gas generator, I would suggest the Mole 1.2kw HMI Day-Lite Par. With a Power-2-Light Power Factor Corrected (PFC) 1200W electronic ballast, the Mole Day-Lite 1.2 HMI Par will draw only 11 Amps (verses the 19 Amps required by standard electronic ballasts.) The lower draw of the Power-2-Light PFC 1200W electronic ballast will be helpful at your Bungalow set because it will enable you to power it off both 20A, as well as the more common 15A, wall circuit. Where you quite often don’t know the rating of the wall circuit that you are plugging into, the lower draw of the Power-2-Light PFC 1200W electronic ballast will ensure that it will work where a standard electronic ballast will not.

While a definite advantage when plugging into your bungalow location, the added efficiency of a PFC 1200 ballast will make a huge difference when powering a lighting package off of a portable generator at the missile location. For example, when you consider that a Kino Flo Parabeam 400 draws only 2 amps, the 8 Amp difference between using a PFC 1200W electronic ballast and standard non-PFC 1200W electronic ballast, can mean the difference between running four additional Parabeam 400s on a portable generator or not – I think you would have to agree that is a major boost in production capability. More on the benefits of using Power Factor Corrected Small HMI & Kino Ballasts on portable generators in my next post.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Boston
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#14 Guy Holt

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:20 PM

I would like to know what lights you would reccommend…. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we will be mainly shooting on location.… Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and what not are out of the question…. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Continued from above.

To maximize the number of lights that you can run off your portable generator, I would suggest you run all your HMIs on Power Factor Corrected ballasts. This will not be easy because until recently Power Factor Correction (PFC) has not been readily available in 800 or 1200 Watt HMI ballasts in this country (the EU countries are further along in this respect), and not always available in 2500 and 4000 Watt ballasts. A name brand to ask for is Power-2-Light. Power-2-Light is the only ballast manufacturer to include Power Factor Correction (PFC) as standard in their 800w, 1200w, 2.5kw/4kw electronic ballasts. Formerly only available in the larger ballasts of other manufacturers, this advanced electronics reduces current spikes and harmonics in the power line and contributes to a more economical use of power than typical electronic ballasts. For this reason, Power-2-Light PFC electronic ballasts enable the operation of both larger HMIs, or more smaller HMIs, off of standard wall outlets and portable generators. Power-2-Light PFC ballasts, used in conjunction with a modified Honda EU6500is and a step-down transformer/distro, can go a long ways towards eliminating the need for large diesel generators, or dangerous tie-ins, in many situations.

Until the introduction of PFC circuitry in smaller HMI ballasts it was not possible to reliably operate more than a couple 1200W HMIs with non-PFC ballasts on a conventional generator because of the voltage waveform distortion they created. The harmonic noise that magnetic and non-PFC electronic ballasts kick back into the power stream has an adverse effect on the power waveform of conventional generators where it does not on grid power. Normally, when you plug an HMI light into a wall outlet you need not be concerned about current harmonic distortion producing voltage distortions. The impedance of the electrical path from the power plant is so low, the distortion of the original voltage waveform so small (1-3%), and the plant capacity so large, that inherently noisy loads placed upon it will not affect the voltage at the load bus.

However, it is an all together different situation when plugging HMIs into conventional portable generators. Given the large sub-transient impedance of conventional portable generators, even a small degree of harmonic noise being fed back into the power stream will result in a distortion of its’ voltage. Add to that, the likely hood that the percentage of the generator’s capacity taken up by non-linear loads (HMI or Kino ballasts) will to be very high given its small size relative to typical lighting loads, and given the increasing prevalence of non-linear light sources (HMI & Kinos) in production. Finally, add that the original supply voltage waveform of a conventional generator is appreciably distorted to begin with, and you have a situation where the return of any harmonic currents by an HMI or Kino ballast will result in significant waveform distortion of the voltage in the distribution system.

In the past, the primary factors limiting the use of HMIs on portable generators has been their inefficient use of power and the harmonic noise they throw back into the power stream. The power waveform below left (from my article) is typical of what results from the operation of a 2.5kw non Power Factor Corrected HMI load (electronic ballasts) on a conventional portable generator. The adverse effects of the severe harmonic noise exhibited here, can take the form of overheating and failing equipment, efficiency losses, circuit breaker trips, excessive current on the neutral return, and instability of the generator’s voltage and frequency. For these reasons it has never been possible to reliably operate more than a couple of 1200W HMIs on a conventional 6500W portable gas generator. Harmonic noise of this magnitude can also damage HD digital cinema production equipment, create ground loops, and possibly create radio frequency (RF) interference. The increasing use of personal computers, hard drives, and microprocessor-controlled recording equipment in production has created an unprecedented demand for clean, reliable power on set.

Posted Image


For this reason, when your lighting package consists predominantly of non-linear light sources, like HMI and Fluorescent lights, it is important to have power factor correction (PFC) circuitry in the ballasts and operate them on inverter generators. The combination of improved power factor and the nearly pure power waveform of inverter generators makes it possible to power larger lights, or more smaller lights, than has been possible before on a small portable gas generator. For example, the power waveform above on the right, is the same 2500W load but with power factor correction operating on our modified Honda EU6500is Inverter Generator. As you can see, the difference between the resulting waveforms is startling. Even though the load is the same, the fact that it is power factor corrected and the power is being generated by an inverter generator, results in virtually no power waveform distortion. For this reason, sensitive electronic production equipment will operate reliably and without damage. And, the generator is capable of operating larger, or more smaller, lights than has ever been possible before on a portable gas generator.

For example, the substantial reduction in line noise that results from using power factor corrected ballasts on the nearly pure power waveform of an inverter generator creates a new math when it comes to calculating the load you can put on a generator. In the past we had to de-rate portable gas generators because of the inherent short comings of conventional generators with AVR and Frequency governing systems when dealing with non-PFC electronic ballasts. The harmonic distortion created by non-PFC ballasts reacting poorly with the distorted power waveform of conventional generators limited the number of HMIs you could power on a portable generator to 60% of their rated capacity (4200Watts on a 6500W Generator). But now, where inverter generators have virtually no inherent harmonic distortion or sub-transient impedance and power factor correction (PFC) is available in small HMI ballasts, this conventional wisdom regarding portable gas generators no longer holds true.

Where before you could not operate more than a couple 1200W HMIs with non-PFC ballasts on a conventional generator because of the consequent harmonic distortion, now according to the new math of low line noise, you can load an inverter generator to 100% capacity. And if the generator is our modified EU6500is inverter generator, you will be able to run a continuous load of up to 7500W on it with our 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro as long as your HMI and Kino ballasts are Power Factor Corrected.

According to this new math, when you add up the incremental savings in power to be gained by using only PFC HMI ballasts, add to it energy efficient sources like the Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures, and combine it with the pure waveform of inverter generators, you can run more HMI lights on a portable gas generator than has been possible before. For example, the 7500W capacity of our modified Honda EU6500is Inverter Generator can power a lighting package that consists of a PFC 2.5kw HMI Par, PFC 1200, & 800 HMI Pars, a couple of Kino Flo ParaBeam 400s, a couple of ParaBeam 200s, and a Flat Head 80. Given the light sensitivity of HD cameras, this is pretty much all the light your will need to light both the forground and deep background of you night exteriors. (For more details on how this is accomplished I suggest you read my newsletter article on the use of portable generators in motion picture production. The article is available at www.screenlightandgrip.com/html/emailnewsletter_generators.html. )

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Boston
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#15 Guy Holt

Guy Holt
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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:24 PM

I would like to know what lights you would reccommend…. I am making a large amount of short films with some friends, we will be mainly shooting on location.… Please keep in mind that my budget is very limited, so 18k HMI's and what not are out of the question…. Any feedback would be appreciated.


Continued from above.

If you have some large scenes, with a number of extras, and a preponderance of warm light sources like house lights or street lamps, I would suggest that in addition to using the HMI pkg. described above to light your deep background, you bounce a large tungsten light into a 8x8 Ultra bounce as your key source. The most powerful tungsten light that you will be able to run off a portable generator or power off a wall outlet is Mole’s new 5KW Tungsten Par. Unlike traditional 5KW luminaries, the Tungsten Par uses a specifically designed General Electric 5KW Tungsten Halogen lamp intended for Axial Operation. Like an HMI par, the new Mole 5KW Tungsten Par places the lamp on its side and uses a highly polished parabolic reflector and converter lenses to adjust the field of light. Mole has computer engineered the interaction of lamp, reflector and converter lens to obtain unmatched light performance. This fixture is able to achieve output comparable to a standard 14 inch 10K Fresnel, but it draws only 42 Amps (compared to a 10k’s 84 Amps).

To power the new Mole 5KW Tungsten Par without a large diesel generator or tie in, you can use a Transformer/Distro to step down the 240V output from our modified Honda EU6500is to a single 60A/120V circuit capable of running the 42 Amp load of the 5k. A Transformer/Distro will also enable you to safely access more “house power” on your location. It is likely that, unless the bungalow uses propane gas, it will have a 240V Range Plug and/or Dryer Plug. A Transformer/Distro can also step down these common 240V power outlets to a single 120V circuit capable of powering bigger lights (like the 5k Tungsten Par or 4k HMI Par) , or more smaller lights, than is possible on the house 120V circuits alone. By giving you access to more “house power” through common 240V household outlets, a Transformer/Distro can eliminate the need for dangerous tie-ins or expensive tow generators. Use this link - www.screenlightandgrip.com/html/HDPP_Transformer.html - for more details on the use of Transformer/Distros to access more “house power”.

You might consider renting two transformer/Distros and two Honda EU6500is inverter generators. I have found this to be an ideal set up for many of the situations you face in indie film production. For night exteriors, you could use one generator with a transformer distro to power the 4k Par to light the deep background. The second generator with a transformer distro would power smaller HMIs or Kino Flos that would light your talent action area. Two generators would allow you to light both foreground & background (the sign of good production values) without having to run tons of cable. You might also consider renting a 18 Gallon Extended Run Fuel Tank for the EU6500is supplying power to the 4K Par lighting the deep background. An extendend Run Fuel Tank will run the generator for a continuous 18 hours, so that you can set it and forget it, without worrying about it running out of fuel in the middle of a shot (use this link for more details http://www.screenlig..._Fuel_Tank.html.)

You can use one of the transformers on a 240V range or dryer receptacle to power the 5k Tungsten Par; while using the other transformer to run a 4k Par along with a 1200 Par on the Honda 6500is to light the deep background and back edge your extras. I have used this same combination of wall outlets, 60A step-down transformer distros, and Honda EU6500is generators to eliminate the need for tie-ins or a tow genny on many of the historical documentaries I have gaffed. For example, I have used this same package repeatedly at a historical mansion in Easton MA called the Ames Estate.

Posted Image
(Scene from "Unsolved History" powered from 50A/240V range outlet through step-down transformer/distro)


A popular state fee free location, the Ames Estate, like many historical house/museums, does not permit tie-ins and the electrical wiring in the house is so antiquated that it is unusable. Fortunately, they have a 50A/240 volt circuit in the carriage house for a welder they use to repair the mowers they use at the park. Our standard mode of operation when shooting there is to run 250V extension cable from the welding receptacle to a 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro placed in the entry hall of the house. Using a 60A Siamese at the Transformer/Distro, we then run 60A 6/3 Bates extensions, down to the library, to the second floor, and back to the maid’s pantry. At the end of each run we put another 60A Siamese. A 60A snackbox on one side of the Siamese gives us 20A branch circuits. The other side we leave open for a large HMI or Tungsten Light. Now we can safely plug 1200 & 2500W HMIs, or even a 5k Quartz, into our own distribution anywhere in the house.

Posted Image
(Typhoid Mary in quarantine on an island in New York's East River. Note the view out the window of the East River shoreline at the turn of the century.)


To maintain continuity between shots on these dramatic historical recreations, we usually bring a 4kw HMI Par in a window on one side of the room as a sun source and a 1200 par through a window on the other side as a northern light source. We usually power both heads off of a Honda EU6500is through a second 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro. Since the Honda EU6500is can be placed right on the lawn, we are saved from running hundreds of feet of feeder back to a tow generator in the drive.

Posted Image
(The exterior of the actual location used for the quarantine island. A 30' blowup of a picture of the East River at the turn of the century was rigged outside the windows of a house in Arlington MA.)


We have been able to use this same basic distribution package at numerous museums and historical houses throughout New England including Sturbridge Village. Fortunately for us, to make ends meet, many historical houses rent themselves out for events and weddings. For that reason, they usually have at least one updated service with 30 or 50 Amp 240 volt circuit for the warming ovens of caterers. I have included several production stills from these shows. Use this link - http://www.screenlightandgrip.com/html/HDPP_Transformer.html - for more production stills of PBS and History Channel historical documentaries shot entirely, or in part, with our 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro at the Ames Estate.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Boston
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