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First Continuous Lighting Purchase


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#1 ryan Strong

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Posted 23 February 2011 - 10:50 PM

I am a still fashion photographer who is making the move to add video to my set up. I shoot with a Canon 5D MKII.

I am very use to Alien Bees strobe lighting. They are not cheap but they are not expensive and for the quality they are a great product - I've never been let down.

What I am looking for in continuous lighting is something the same. I need a workhorse single light setup. Like with my Alien Bees, I want to be able to use my continuous light purchase in studio and out on location. So as I said a work horse. It needs to be fairly mobile. I usually have an assistant with me but there are occasions where I do not.

From Googling around and forum search I've landed at the Kino Flo Diva-Lite 201 as the top contender for what I am looking for. It is very important that I have a nice cool daylight balance - something to what I am use to with my strobe lighting.

Another light that caught my interest due to it's mobility and lightweight was the LED Litepanel 1x1... however I am a little skeptical of the light quality and fall off vs the price....

Does anyone have any comments or suggestions as to what I should get that would be easy for me to step into with this new video world?
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#2 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:24 AM

[

I want to be able to use my continuous light purchase in studio and out on location. From Googling around and forum search I've landed at the Kino Flo Diva-Lite 201 as the top contender for what I am looking for. It is very important that I have a nice cool daylight balance - something to what I am use to with my strobe lighting. Another light that caught my interest due to it's mobility and lightweight was the LED Litepanel 1x1... however I am a little skeptical of the light quality and fall off vs the price....


You are right to be concerned about the rather anemic output of Litepanel 1x1s. If I were you, I would also be concerned about the output of a Diva_lite 200. As you make the transition from using strobe packs to hot lights, you will find that hot lights don’t have the output that your packs do. While you won’t need a lot of output in studio situations with the Canon, where you will miss it is on locations where you need to balance daylight to control contrast. If you think you will need to do that on a regular basis, you would probably be better served by a Kino Flo Parabeam 400.

But, first in the interest of full disclosure, I should say at this point that in addition to being a gaffer, I own and operate a rental house that rents and sells the equipment I am about to recommend. If what I am about to say sounds like I’m hyping the Kino Flo product line it is not because we rent and sell them. We are dealers and rental agents for just about all the major brands. As a professional Gaffer of a lot of tight budgeted historical documentaries for PBS’ American Experience and The History Channel (see my “credit-entials” on Imbd), I think it is worth looking at the Kino Flo Parabeam fixtures.

What distinguishes the Parabeam fixtures from the Diva and LED fixtures (and all other fluorescent lights for that matter) is their throw, power efficiency, and the innovative accessories Kino Flo makes available for the fixtures that enhance their production capabilities. Accessories include barndoors, a gel frame, a diffusion panel, and Honeycomb Louvers. Honeycomb Louvers are available in 90, 60 and 45 degrees. Swapping louvers provides beam control similar to that of swapping lenses on an HMI Par. The Diffusion Panel, on the other hand, slightly softens the beam structure in the open face mode.

In the end, which fluorescent light will serve you best, depends on how you plan to use it. If you will be shooting dramatic scenes (as opposed to interviews) and will need something that will stand up to prevailing daylight, you would be best served by the ParaBeam 400 fixtures because they 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 a better key source for HD Digital Cinema than even the Diva 400 or 4’ 4 Bank Kinos. 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 – making it an ideal light to operate on a portable generator for exterior location work.

The flip side, is that the Parabeam 400 will be harder and less flattering to your talent as a key source in an interview set up. A Diva 400 will make for a more flattering key source in interview set ups than the Parabeam 400. But, where a Diva 400 generates a very broad soft light that tends to drop off rapidly they generally do not have the “throw” to serve as a key source in dramatic sets ups or to balance prevailing daylight. Another advantage to the Parabeam 400 is that you can use the accessory diffusion panel or put diffusion on it to make it softer, where you can not make a Diva 400 harder or make it throw further.

Not only do the Parabeam fixtures have more throw, but they are also easily controlled – an essential requirement in a Key source for dramatic lighting. 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 serve as dramatic key sources.

Another, advantage to the Parabeam 400 is that it draws less than half of the power (2 Amps) than a 4’ – 4 Bank Kino (4.6 Amps). While this nearly 3 amp difference is not a major consideration when using house power, it can make a difference when your power is coming from a portable generator because you can use two Parabeam 400s for the same power as a 4’ – 4 Bank Kino. Kino Flo is able to obtain such efficiency in their Parabeam fixtures by incorporating Power Factor Correction circuitry into their ballasts. As it does in HMI ballasts, this advanced electronics contributes to a more economical use of power than Kino Flo’s conventional electronic ballasts and reduces the return of harmonic currents into the power stream. With a Power Factor Rating of over .9, the Parabeam 400 fixtures are especially well suited for use on small portable generators. So I highly recommend them if you plan to shoot outdoors a lot.

This last recommendation is 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. I have compiled the results of my tests in an article for my company newsletter and it is available on our website.

All Kino Flo fixtures are a good choice for operation on small portable generators in the limited sense that they use a quarter of the power of a comparable tungsten soft light. However, the ballasts of the older style Kino Flo fixtures, like the 4’ – 4 bank Kinos, that use the T-12 tubes (the Single, Double, and 4 Bank Fixtures, the Wall-o-Lite, Flathead 80, and the Image 20, 40, & 80 fixtures) are not power factor corrected and return harmonic currents into the power stream. When used in quantity, as in studio chroma key productions, they can constitute a source of considerable harmonic noise in the power stream. For this reason, Kino Flo cautions users, on their website: “Kino Flo ballasts are generally not power factor corrected. They will draw double the current on the neutral from what is being drawn on the two hot legs. On large installations it may be necessary to double your neutral run so as not to exceed your cable capacity.”( FAQ “Why is the neutral drawing more than the hot leg” at http://www.kinoflo.com/FYI/FAQs.htm#2) For a detailed explanation for why harmonic currents cause unusually high neutral returns see my article on the use of portable generators in motion picture production available on our website.

When you plug a single 4’ - 4 Bank Kino into a wall outlet you need not be concerned about harmonic currents. 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 in comparison to the load of the one light, that the inherently noisy load of the 4’- 4 Bank Kino will not affect the voltage at the distribution bus.

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Left: Grid Power w/ no load and a THD of less then 3%. Center: Conventional Generator w/ no load and a THD of 17-19%. Right: Inverter Generator w/ no load and a THD of 2.5%.


It is, however, an all together different situation when plugging Kino Flo T-12 fixtures or non-PFC LED power supplies into conventional portable generators. As a comparison of the oscilloscope shots above and below indicate, the return of harmonic currents by conventional Kino Flo T-12 ballasts and non-PFC LED power supplies can generate voltage distortion in the power stream. Given the large sub-transient impedance of conventional portable generators, and the fact that the original supply voltage waveform of conventional generators is appreciably distorted (a THD of 17-19%) to begin with, you have a situation where the return of any harmonic currents by a non-PFC electronic ballast (HMI, Kino, or LED) will result in significant waveform distortion of the voltage in the distribution system.

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Left: Grid Power w/ Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite. Center: Conventional AVR Power w/ Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite. Right: Inverter Power w/ Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite.


Given the effect of just one 10–tube Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite with non-pfc electronic ballasts on a 5500W conventional generators, what would be the accumulative effect of a typical lighting load on a generator? To see, I ran a package consisting of two Arri 1200 HMI Par Pluses with standard Arri non-PFC electronic ballasts in addition to the Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite on the Honda EX5500 (a conventional generator). And, for the sake of comparison, I ran the same package but with power factor corrected electronic ballasts on our modified EU6500is (an inverter generator.) The difference between the resulting waveforms below is startling.

The adverse effects of the severe harmonic noise exhibited below left, 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. For a detailed explanation for why this is, see my article on the use of portable generators in motion picture production available on our website.

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Left: Conventional generator power w/ pkg. of non-PFC Elec. HMI Ballasts & Kino Flo Wall-o-Lite. Center: Scope time base adjusted to bring elongated waveform back on screen. Right: Inverter generator power w/ Pkg. of PFC Elec. Ballasts & Kino Flo Parabeam 400.


Why are harmonics suddenly an issue in motion picture electrical distribution systems? First, one must appreciate that the power generation and electrical distribution systems developed for motion picture production were never designed to deal with an abundance of non-linear loads like electronic HMI and Kino Flo ballasts. It’s a problem that has only recently begun because of the increasing use of these types of non-linear lighting loads. The problem is being further compounded by the increasing prevalence on set of sophisticated electronic production equipment like computers, hard drives and HD monitors which are themselves sources of harmonic distortion. The increasing use of these microprocessor-based equipment in production has created an unprecedented demand for clean, reliable power on set at a time when the prevailing light sources are dumping more and more noise into the power stream.?

It is worth noting in the oscilloscope shots above that the distortion of the voltage waveform is considerably less in the case of the inverter Honda EU6500is generator (far right) than that of the conventional Honda EX5500 generator (left.) The reason for this is that, as discussed at length in my article, the original waveform of the power generated by the EU6500is (an inverter generator) has less harmonic distortion at the outset than that originally generated by a EX5500 (conventional generator.) 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 (HMI & Kino) and operate them on inverter generators like our modified Honda EU6500is. 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.

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Wide Shot of Night exterior scene lit with our HD P&P Pkg.


For example, the substantial reduction in line noise that results from using power factor corrected Kino and HMI 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 the harmonic noise of non-PFC electronic ballasts. The harmonic distortion created by non-PFC ballasts reacting poorly with the distorted power waveform of conventional AVR generators (as evident in the oscilloscope shots above) limited the number HMIs and Kinos you could power on a portable generator to 60% of their rated capacity (4200Watts on a 6500W Generator).

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Two Shot of Night exterior scene lit with our HD P&P Pkg


But now, that inverter generators have virtually no inherent harmonic distortion or sub-transient impedance and power factor correction (PFC) is available in both small HMI and Kino Flo Parabeam 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 capacity. And if the generator is our modified EU6500is inverter generator, you will be able to run a continuous load of up to 7500W as long as your HMI and Kino ballasts are Power Factor Corrected.

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The PFC 2.5 & 1.2 HMI Pars, PFC 800w Joker HMI, Kino Flo Flat Head 80, 2 ParaBeam 400s, and a ParaBeam 200 of our HD P&P Pkg. powered by our modified Honda EU6500is through our 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro


According to this new math, when you add up the incremental savings in power to be gained by using only PFC ballasts, and combine it with the pure waveform of inverter generators, you can run more lights on a portable gas generator than has been possible before. For example, the 7500W capacity of our modified Honda EU6500is Inverter Generator powered a lighting package for a recent Red shoot (see production stills above and below) that consisted 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 all the light needed to light even a large night exterior. (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 on our website.

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A Distro System consisting of a 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro, 2-60A GPC (Bates) Splitters, 2-60A Woodhead Box distributes power from a modified Honda EU6500is. Even though the generator is 100' away to reduce noise, plug-in points remain conveniently close to set.


Given how well Kino Flo Parabeam ballasts interact with inverter generators, not to mention their versatility (they can operate both 5500K & 3200K lamps) and their efficiency (they consume 1/10 the power of comparable incandescent soft lights), Kino Flo Parabeam lights would appear to be the better option if you are looking for a light robust enough to work in the studio as well as on location.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting and Grip rentals and Sales in Boston
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#3 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 11:48 AM

Thanks for the informed reply.

Topically I think the Parabeam might be an overkill for my first piece of continuous lighting - especially regarding the mobility of the unit, it's twice the weight of the Diva.

I generally will only be shooting with 1 MAYBE 2 subjects at a time. Certainly I'm up for being persuading it just seems like the Parabeam may be too much of a unit for me. I am, though, convinced that Kinos may be the better direction then the LED route.

Lower priority question about the Kino... I run my portable power off of an Alien Bees portable battery power system that has a pure sine wave inverter. Check it out here: http://alienbees.com/VIIsystem.html — Would this be able to power a Kino Flo correctly? If so how long?
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#4 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 12:56 PM

Lower priority question about the Kino... I run my portable power off of an Alien Bees portable battery power system that has a pure sine wave inverter. Check it out here: http://alienbees.com/VIIsystem.html — Would this be able to power a Kino Flo correctly? If so how long?


If the inverter produces a “true sine wave” then you will have no problem operating a Kino. How long it runs depends on the Kino. The Divas & Parabeams are Power Factor Corrected and so are more efficient than other models and makes of Flos.

I think the Parabeam might be an overkill for my first piece of continuous lighting - especially regarding the mobility of the unit, it's twice the weight of the Diva.... Certainly I'm up for being persuading it just seems like the Parabeam may be too much of a unit for me.


If you are going to shoot around available light – either outdoors or indoors with windows – you are going to need at least the output of a Parabeam 400. Nothing less will cut it. I don’t want to leave the impression that a Parabeam 400 will provide sufficient output to balance windows without treating the windows. Anything short of a 4k Par will require that you put ND Gel on the windows. For example we lit an episode of “Electronic Field Trip,” an educational program that is broadcast on PBS and streamed over the internet to schools. Co-produced by Ball State University and the National Park Service, each episode of “Electronic Field Trip” features a different National Park. In addition to live satellite casting from the Carlsbad Caverns, this episode of “Electronic Field Trip” included then First Lady Laura Bush leading a 4th grade class garrisoned in the Mess Hall of the Navy Barracks overlooking the USS Constitution in science experiments related to cave geology. 



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Then First Lady Laura Bush leading a 4th grade class in a science experiment.


Given the importance of their special guest and the scenic setting outside the windows, the show's producers wanted the USS Constitution to be seen clearly through the windows. Under the circumstances it was a difficult task to create flattering light on the First Lady, while balancing the interior lighting to the exterior, so that the USS Constitution would be seen clearly through the windows.

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Navy Mess Hall overlooking the USS Constitution and Boston Skyline seen clearly out the windows.


What I did was rig Kino Flo Flat Head 80 fixtures (4’- 8 tube fluorescent lights) flush against the ceiling over each table as high frontal key lights for the participants around the tables. The lights were then dressed with black show card so that they looked as if they were permanent fixtures.

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Opposite wall of Mess Hall with Flathead 80s and book lights.


To securely rig the Kino Flat Head 80 fixtures to the drop ceiling we used Porta-Grid Clamps (pictured below). A new style of drop ceiling clamp that I developed several years ago, which has been used on major network television shows like NBC’s ED, the Porta-Grid Clamp turns an ordinary drop-ceiling into a full-blown studio grid.

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We used our patented Porta-Grid Clamps to securely rig heavy Flat Head 80 fixtures into the drop ceiling of the Navy Mess Hall.


To fill in this soft high frontal key light, we then rigged 6’x6’ book lights with 4k HMI Pars. A light source that large creates a wonderful soft light that doesn’t throw shadows, which was important because cameramen moved constantly back and forth in front of the book lights. Not only were the book lights very clean looking, with the light and hardware hidden from view, but if seen reflected in the large plate glass windows, they looked like a window on the opposite side of the room. The final ingredient for success was a layer of ND 9 gel on the plate glass windows overlooking the USS Constitution to bring the exterior levels down three stops and in line with the pumped up interior.

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A 4k HMI par bounced into ultrabounce and then through silk makes up a super soft booklight.


Where the output of Parabeam 400s are similar to that of Flat Head 80 fixtures, these production stills clearly demonstrate that even with Parabeam 400s you need to be able to rig them close to talent as well as put heavy ND on the windows if you are going to hold detail out the windows. Hot lights simply don’t have the output of strobes. A Diva 200 is not going to be good for more than a kicker in the studio. You are going to need something a lot bigger on location.

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#5 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 01:59 PM

I think the Parabeam might be an overkill....I generally will only be shooting with 1 MAYBE 2 subjects at a time. Certainly I'm up for being persuading it just seems like the Parabeam may be too much of a unit for me. I am, though, convinced that Kinos may be the better direction then the LED route.


In my experience, if you can’t gel the windows you probably need at least a 4k HMI par to pick up the interior levels in wide shots. Here is an example I think you will be able to relate to: my company, ScreenLight & Grip, lit a rather unusual job for Bose. What was unusual about it was that it was a still shoot, but because they wanted to also shoot video simultaneously, they wanted to use Hot Lights. To get a daylight output comparable to what the still shooter was used to required that we use 4k HMIs as our key source. The picture below shows the 4k bounced, but we used it direct through a light diffusion frame, and even then we not able to hold much details in the windows. As you can see from these stills, a 4k was just barely enough when we were not gelling the windows (there were too many to gel.)

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Samples from still shoot for Bose where a 4k HMI par was used to fill talent against windows (Bob Packert Photography)


The problem with 4ks is that they draw too much at 120V for a 20A wall outlet. For this reason, most productions rule out using a 4k HMI par because they think it requires renting a generator - an expensive proposition. In this situation it was simply not an option because we were shooting in a sixth floor loft. What most productions don’t realize that common 240V wall receptacles, like the dryer outlet in this loft, can power HMIs as large as 4kw. How it is done depends on whether the 4k has a magnetic or electronic ballast, and whether the electronic ballast has Power Factor Correction (PFC) or not (Arri calls it ALF for Active Line Filter.)

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4k & 1.2ks HMI Pars powered from 30A/240V dryer outlet through step-down transformer/distro for Bose still shoot.


I have found, that without the benefit of a scout, the only reliable way to power 4kw HMI ballasts on wall receptacles is from 240V circuits through a 240v-to-120v step down transformer like the one my company, ScreenLight & Grip (SL&G), manufactures for the Honda EU6500is generators that we modify. Like it does with the enhanced 7500W/240V output of our Honda EU6500is Generator, a step down transformer can be used to convert the 240 volts supplied by these industrial and household 240V receptacles to 120 volts in a single circuit that is the sum of the two single phase legs of 30/50 amps each. In other words, out of a “30A/240v” or a “50A/240v” circuit our transformer makes a 60A/120v circuit that is capable of powering bigger 120V lights, like 4kw HMIs (even Quartz 5ks, mini brutes (5850W) or Six Light Mole Par (6000W)). These days you can count on just about any location having a 240V circuit. The most common are air conditioner outlets, dryer outlets, range outlets, outlets for large copy machines in offices, and the outlets for motorized equipment in industrial plants. Many of these household and industrial 240V receptacles use a three wire system (no neutral) because they are designed to power single phase motors or heating elements that draw a perfectly balanced load and return no current because the single phase service legs are 180 degrees out of phase and cancel each other out.

A transformer will also greatly simplify your set electrics by automatically splitting the load of whatever you power through it. As long as you plug lights in through the transformer, you no longer have to carefully balance the load over the two 120V circuit/legs because the transformer does it for you automatically. If, like our 60a Full Power Transformer/Distro, the transformer is outfitted with a 60 Bates receptacle, you can use 60A GPC extension cables, 60-to-60 Splitters, and fused 60A GPC-to-Edison Breakouts (snack boxes) to run power around set - breaking out to 20A Edison outlets at convenient points (rather than one central point.) The best part about using a transformer with a 240V receptacle in this fashion is that no matter where in the distribution system you plug in, the transformer automatically balances the additional load, so that you don't have to. It is so simple that you don’t have to be an experienced electrician to distribute power on set. For instance, on this Bose shoot we used a 30A/240V dryer receptacle to power a 1200 Par, and some KInos, in addition to the 4k Par. Use this link for more details about using step-down transformers to power larger lights on interior sets.


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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 02:20 PM

Thanks for the informed reply.

Topically I think the Parabeam might be an overkill for my first piece of continuous lighting - especially regarding the mobility of the unit, it's twice the weight of the Diva.

I generally will only be shooting with 1 MAYBE 2 subjects at a time. Certainly I'm up for being persuading it just seems like the Parabeam may be too much of a unit for me. I am, though, convinced that Kinos may be the better direction then the LED route.

Lower priority question about the Kino... I run my portable power off of an Alien Bees portable battery power system that has a pure sine wave inverter. Check it out here: http://alienbees.com/VIIsystem.html — Would this be able to power a Kino Flo correctly? If so how long?



Are you shooting interviews?

I do a LOT of those and do very well by keying with an ARRI openface 1K with a small Chimera. A head & shoulders shot (and background lighting) doesn't require a 40' truck. A simple ARRI kit (1K, a couple 650w fresnels, a 300w for a backlight) is sufficient.

I don't know what your goal is or where your experience lies, so ignore what I say if necessary. But I have seen "film guys" who come from that environment thinking that they need a lot of "movie stuff" to shoot simple one-camera shots. There's a time and place for 40 footers and all the stuff in there, but for single camera one-person shots, there's no reason to get into sine waves and all of that. :)

Some guys who do this DO use Kino Divas as the Key. I'm not a fan of them, but it is done, particularly if they are shooting all day long, such as for press junkets. Kinos throw off less heat which is a big factor when shooting in small environments for a long time when the A/C has to be turned off for a sustained periods.
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#7 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 04:38 PM

There's a time and place for 40 footers and all the stuff in there, but for single camera one-person shots, there's no reason to get into sine waves and all of that. :)


I would have to disagree. It is precisely when you don’t have the 40 footer and the Crawford Studio Unit on the Tractor that you have to get into sine waves and all that. Voltage waveform distortion as a result of harmonic currents generated by non-PFC HMI, Kino, & LED power supplies is not a practical problem on large film sets because of remedial steps taken in the design of form specific generating and power distribution systems engineered to remediate the adverse effects of harmonic currents. With 2/3 pitch windings, MQ Power studio (Crawford) generators are specifically designed to remediate the most troublesome of the harmonics generated by non-linear loads, like non-PFC HMI, Kino, & LED power supplies. As such they have specifications for total harmonic distortion (THD) values of less than 7% under full load, and of not more than 3% of any given harmonic current. For this reason, and the fact that they offer a comparatively low sub-transient impedance value and are typically oversized for the load, harmonic currents generated by non-PFC HMI, Kino, & LED power supplies do not cause substantial voltage waveform distortion.

However, it is an all together different situation when plugging small HMIs and Kinos into a small portable generator that is not specifically designed to remediate the effects of harmonics. Given the comparatively large sub-transient impedance of conventional AVR portable gas generators, and the high THD value of their inherent power waveform (19.5% under full linear load), you have a situation where even a small amount of harmonics being fed back into the power stream will result in a large amount of harmonic distortion in its’ voltage. Making the matter worse is that, given the increasing prevalence of non-linear light sources in production, it is likely that the percentage of the generator’s capacity taken up by non-linear loads will be very high given its small size relative to the size of HMIs typically used on these generators (575-2500 Watts.) Small portable conventional AVR generators present a perfect (electrical) storm where the return of any harmonic currents results in a very high degree of voltage distortion.

I’m not suggesting that Ryan needs a big HMI and the big generator to operate it. But, when balancing for sunlight you need at least a 4k Par. And, you don’t need a big genny to run it. You can run it on a modified Honda EU6500is generator. To record dialogue without picking up the sound of the generator, run the generator out of the back of a van or truck. To avoid line loss over the long cable run to the generator use a Transformer/Distro on set to boost the voltage to compensate for the drop of voltage you will get over the long cable run. Even with a 4k, it is worth putting your subject under a full silk to take the direction out of the sun. A full silk will enable you to use the 4k closer, with heavier diffusion, to model their faces. If you use a Power Factor Corrected 4k, you will have enough left over on a modified Honda EU6500 to also power an 1800W Par or ARRIMAX to serve as a kicker. I’m not talking about a 40 footer, I’m talking about a 1-Ton Van package at most to shoot a stand up out side. Anything less and it will look like the evening news.

If you have any questions about using transformers with generators, I would suggest you read an article I wrote on the use of portable generators in motion picture production. Harry Box, author of “The Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook” has cited my article in the just released Fourth Edition of the handbook. In addition, he has established a link to it from the companion website for the Fourth Edition of the Handbook, called “Box Book Extras.”

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If you haven't yet read the article, or looked at it in a while, it is worth reading. I have greatly expanded it to be the definitive resource on portable power generation for motion picture production. Of the article Harry Box states:

"Great work!... this is the kind of thing I think very few technician's ever get to see, and as a result many people have absolutely no idea why things stop working."

"Following the prescriptions contained in this article enables the operation of bigger lights, or more smaller lights, on portable generators than has ever been possible before."



The “Box Book Extras,” site is also worth checking out because it includes other source material used for the handbook, articles by Harry Box published in other periodicals, related websites, a list of production oriented i-phone apps, as well as more in depth discussion of topics touched upon in the handbook. You can log onto the Box Book Extras site at http://booksite.focalpress.com/box/setlighting/ with our pass-code "setlighting." Use this link for my news letter article on the use of portable gas generators in motion picture production.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, SceenLight & Grip, Lighting and Grip Rental & Sales in Boston.
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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 04:44 PM

Some guys who do this DO use Kino Divas as the Key.


A Diva 200 simply won’t be enough to fill talent against windows and hold detail outside the windows even in an interview situation. Without either gelling the windows or substantially boosting the light levels inside, or both, when you expose for your talent, your exterior will blow out. If you expose for the exterior to hold detail, your talent will be underexposed and become a near silhouette. Even a 1200W HMI won’t do it without gelling the windows. But, where a roll of 4 stop ND1.2 gel will set you back $140.00, it will be expensive and time consuming to gel the windows if there are a lot of them.

If you don’t believe that you need at least a 4k HMI par to pick up the interior levels to shoot one or two people against a window here is another example. My company, ScreenLight & Grip, lit a segment of a special two-hour program for British Television’s Channel 5 that required a news format set up in a tent overlooking a beach (similar to the Press Junket Brian refers to.)

Posted Image
Host June Sarpong interviewing a marine archaeologists


The show told the story of the Whydah - a pirate ship that sank off Cape Cod nearly 300 years ago. In a unique TV experiment, marine archaeologists on Cape Cod dove to the wreck to salvage pirate booty live on air. In addition to the dive on the wreck, the program also included specially shot dramatic recreations of the story of the Whydah’s notorious pirate captain Black Sam Bellamy. To link between the modern-day adventures of the marine archaeologists and those of Black Sam Bellamy, co-presenter June Sarpong hosted marine archaeologists and pirate historians from a makeshift studio under a tent situated on a bluff overlooking the dive site.

Posted Image
Host June Sarpong interviewing a marine archaeologists


Where they wanted the dive site to serve as a backdrop to the makeshift studio, the show's producers wanted the Salvage Ship to be seen clearly on the water in the shots of June and her guests. This requirement created a similar interior/exterior contrast problem to the one you are facing.

The task of balancing interior levels to exterior levels was further complicated by the fact that it was a clear sunny day. We rigged a couple of 4kw and 2.5kw HMI Pars into the frame of the tent in order to get them as close as possible to our subjects, but even then we didn’t have quite enough output to compete against the sun outside.

Posted Image
A 4k HMI Par was rigged overhead as a key for each subject


The final ingredient for success was a double net strung across the open backside of the tent. The net further reduced the contrast by bringing the exterior levels down and in line with the pumped-up interior. The trick in situations like this is to strike a delicate balance between the interior and exterior light levels so that the net disappears to the camera without the exterior becoming overexposed and losing important detail – the Salvage Ship out on the water in this case. Another advantage to netting the background is that it takes the hard edge off of HD. It creates the illusion of a shallower depth of field or the selective focus we associate with film.

Posted Image
A double net was stretched across the open side of the tent facing out onto the water.


Where it took a 4k Par on each of the talent, plus a double net across the back, you can see that you need a lot more light to balance interiors to exteriors than you will get from a Diva 200.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting & Grip Rental, Boston, MA
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 06:19 PM

I agree that with a genny of some sort and bigger units these issues are important, but for small shoots when we're plugging into house power, it just doesn't come up.

The most I can really plug in while shooting day exterior are two 800w Joker Bugs fired through a silk. IF I've chosen my background poorly and have to attempt to balance to daylight, I use a Westcott frame with double scrim behind the talent to take it all down.

Perfect situation? No. But unless someone is shooting a feature with a 40 footer, 4 Grips, and 4 Electrics, the fact is that most budgets won't allow for all of that stuff which renders all of "that" technical stuff somewhat superfluous.

Again, I'm not suggesting that it's NEVER useless to know and use all of that technical stuff, but if the shoot is small, there simply USUALLY isn't a budget for larger units and all the necessary elements to make them work (people, genny). When working alone, there isn't time or money to bring a genny, set it up, set up the big units, get it all going and maintain it WHILE simultaneously shooting, which is presumably what the Cameraman is there to do. When working alone, we have to find the lighting and camera package that is adequate enough to accomplish the goals while still being logistically in line with the parameters of limited time and budget while working alone.


Ryan didn't say that he was looking exclusively for day exterior lighting which is why I brought up the idea of a Diva and the ARRI 1K openfaced (as I use) for a Key. I also noted that he was usually going to be working alone and that most of his shoots would be one subject or just two. Taking all of that into account, recommendations for bigger units (which of course are preferable) aren't really applicable. Most smaller shoots simply don't have the resources to bring larger units with generators where all of that "sine wave stuff" becomes necessary to know.
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#10 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 08:18 PM

Guy thank you for your input... as well as Brian. The situations I'm going to run into will not be as involved as some of what you have noted in your examples Guy.

Brian you are exactly right when you make mention of having to bring large units and generators. That simply would not be the case. If I go exterior with no power option, I would want to use my battery powered pack that is a pure sine wave inverter.

I am familiar with wattage. If I run my Alien Bee 400 strobe at full power it would be 160 true Watts. I would be perfectly fine with that amount of power.

The Diva-Lite 200 puts out 110 total watts. The Diva-Lite 400 puts out 220 total watts.

The ParaBeam 200 puts out 110 total watts, and the ParaBeam 400 puts out 220 total watts.

Honestly I think I would be fine with 110 total watts. I'm not trying to over power the sun... and honestly if there is a window present in the room, I will want to motivate that light, not overpower it or contradict. My shots are VERY natural in their appearance.

Take for example this still shot of mine that I shot at a local cafe...
Posted Image

I love the over exposed windows and then I just had a low powered strobe off to the right of the subject to light the face and the clothes. If I can accomplish something like that then I would be happy.

SO with all that in mind... does that change anything? I mean I certainly don't want to go out spend the dough and get something I won't be happy with, but I certainly do not want to over do it either.

Edited by ryan Strong, 24 February 2011 - 08:20 PM.

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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 08:43 PM

Some of this is going to depend upon the latitude of your video camera. For the type of shot you use as an example above, it means having a larger source backed off (to stay out of your wide frame) shot through a large diffusion frame or Chimera. Again, the type of light unit(s) you use depends upon how much latitude your camera can deliver but it you're talking about a fully sunlit background, it will take at least a 1K to fill in your model while still letting that backlight blow out. IF you wanted to match the key with that backlight, then yes, you'd have to hit her with quite a bit (at least 2K to 5K depending on exactly what the sun was doing back there).

I get by with a smallish Arri kit that has a 1K openface, 2 650w, and 1 300w. To do what you did in that shot above, I'd want at least another 1K to cover myself. You can always knock a stronger source down, but you can't get more out of a smaller source if you need it.
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#12 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 08:47 PM

Some of this is going to depend upon the latitude of your video camera. For the type of shot you use as an example above, it means having a larger source backed off (to stay out of your wide frame) shot through a large diffusion frame or Chimera. Again, the type of light unit(s) you use depends upon how much latitude your camera can deliver but it you're talking about a fully sunlit background, it will take at least a 1K to fill in your model while still letting that backlight blow out. IF you wanted to match the key with that backlight, then yes, you'd have to hit her with quite a bit (at least 2K to 5K depending on exactly what the sun was doing back there).

I get by with a smallish Arri kit that has a 1K openface, 2 650w, and 1 300w. To do what you did in that shot above, I'd want at least another 1K to cover myself. You can always knock a stronger source down, but you can't get more out of a smaller source if you need it.


Sorry I am very unfamiliar with video speak. When you say like 1k and 2k etc. What do you mean? And to be honest... I'm not extremely technical on the side of still... I mean I know what to do and do it to get the right result, but why or how I got there was just by pure art form on my part.

If you do not mind, when you refer to products that you are suggesting like a ARRI or a Chimera, do you mind linking to the product to a site like B And H so I can see specifically to what I am dealing with?

And again I only want 1 lighting fixture to do the job.
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#13 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 08:52 PM

Side discussion... what's the deal with these?

http://www.bhphotovi...luorescent.html

Seam super mobile and cheap. Do they get the job done?
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#14 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 09:15 PM

For something like that shot were I working on video I'd be starting @ about a 2K.... though honestly I'd want a 1.2K PAR HMI.... Don't think in overall Watts, you gotta think in Footcandles. How many FC does your strobe throw off? Then you have to look at the photometrics for the lighting you're thinking about buying.
As Brian says, I'd probably go for Tungsten units (cheaper, and I like their skin tones more than any daylight heads) to purchase. They're generally more rugged, with less things to go wrong, cheaper, don't have to worry about power factors ect.. Problem is they're hot!
When it comes to buying lighting, first thing I got was an Arri kit (Softbank D IV 650w/300w/2x 150s) and I've brought it to every shoot I've ever been on no matter what other lights I have because I know I'll almost always find a need for just one more small _____ somewhere.

Another light to look into which has some nice output for low power draw are Dedos... Pricey says me, but they're nice instruments.


@ ryna, 1K (baby) 2K (junior) are 1000 and 2000 watt fresnel lighting instruments respectively. Generally made by Mole Richardson and/or Arri in Motion picture work. Basic light you'll find on most sets and real work-horses.

a 1K or a 2K can also refer to Open-face lights (Mighty Mole, Arri Open Face ect...) but generally the term is used for fresnels in my experience.
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#15 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:00 PM

For something like that shot were I working on video I'd be starting @ about a 2K.... though honestly I'd want a 1.2K PAR HMI....


Is this the unit you are referrin too?? http://www.bhphotovi...2K_Par_HMI.html

That light is $6,500! You would need that just to get a shot like that!? Holy moly. Maybe I really don't understand video but that seems ridiculous!

I mean forgive me to each his own but we are talking about light. As I mentioned I use Alien Bee lighting for strobes for stills and they are middle of the road price point $400 for a unit - pro gear like Profoto are like triple that price and to be honest I've used both and in my personal opinion I didn't see that big of a difference and if were to invest in that type of gear I certainly would not see triple my ROI. I understand there is a art element to this that money and gear can never overshadow and that's hopefully what I want to capitalize on is just my overall judgement and creative eye.

Again I'm not making a motion picture Oscar. I am just wanting to use light to shape my subject and be able to get decent quality result.

If I am still too vague to what I am wanting or how I am going to be using my continuous light please ask so I can help us to start to draw some conclusions as to what I need.
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#16 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:06 PM

That's one of the 1.2 HMIs; and demonstrates why in video work it is often more cost effective to rent (wait till you see the price of the bulb!)
A lot goes into a light which can produce a lot of foot candles for a long period of time of a set color temperature in a continuous spectrum for film/video work which won't flicker with a shutter going at 1/48th or 1/60th of a second.
I'd not every recommend buying an HMI-- rental for sure. I was just giving my starting point to light a scene such as that.
To buy, as Brian mentions, most bang for your buck is a Tungsten light kit with color correction gels (though you loose 2 stops going 3200K to 5600K)

I'd highly recommend renting any of the gear you're thinking about buying before you do and using it in the real world. With film equipment, as it's a much smaller market than any photo stuff, you get what you pay for and be prepared to spend more than one would expect.
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#17 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:20 PM

Sorry I am very unfamiliar with video speak. When you say like 1k and 2k etc. What do you mean? And to be honest... I'm not extremely technical on the side of still... I mean I know what to do and do it to get the right result, but why or how I got there was just by pure art form on my part.

If you do not mind, when you refer to products that you are suggesting like a ARRI or a Chimera, do you mind linking to the product to a site like B And H so I can see specifically to what I am dealing with?

And again I only want 1 lighting fixture to do the job.



Here's a picture of one of my greenscreen setups: http://www.dzyak.com/greensetup3.jpg In it, you'll see the ARRI 1K openface with a small Chimera as the key. I use 2 ARRI 650w units for the greenscreen itself and 1 ARRI 300w fresnel for a backlight. I can't remember offhand what footcandles I light to, but I generally have to toss in double scrims on the 650w to balance the green to the key.

In that setup, shooting with a Sony F900, I'm shooting wide open on the lens... a 2.8 I think it is.

Here are the units we're talking about: http://www.google.co...ed=0CFIQ8gIwCA#

http://www.filmtools...rilighting.html

http://www.arrishop.com/

http://www.chimeralighting.com/
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#18 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:33 PM

In that setup, shooting with a Sony F900, I'm shooting wide open on the lens... a 2.8 I think it is.


Oh wow shooting wide open in the studio with all of that light? Yeah video is way different then still. I think Adrian is probably right - it may be wise for me to rent for my first few shoots to get an idea of what I will need / want.

I love owning my own equipment I'm able to just head out whenever I want, but apparently I have a lot to learn about video.
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#19 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 10:40 PM

Don't forget, the ISO of most video cameras is somewhere in the 200~400 range and shutter speed for 30p is 1/60th or for 24p is 1/48th. it doesn't change as you can change in still photography or else you "screw up
" the motion. As for speed, as you increase speed, you increase noise and since you have smaller sensors which are inherently less sensitive than larger sensors, you're fighting a bit of a loosing battle. Plus there is a limited dynamic range to most video cameras (also due to what it has to do, 30 shots every second...) -v- stills cameras (shooting stills) necessitating the ability to limit your contrast range (control contrast) more than if on stills/film.

Also forget how "watts' equate to output. It's a lot different in the video world as you're dealing with more forms of light (incandescent, tungsten/halogen, HMI, Floro, LED, Sun) each of which have different efficiencies and "quirks." Even 2 1K lights may have vastly different output levels, even 1 light, if it's a spot/flood will change how much light i can put over such and such area at such and such feet, which is why one must look at the photometric data on the fixtures you're thinking of using/buying.

I found this helpful when I first started playing around:

http://www.arri.de/l...calculator.html
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#20 ryan Strong

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 11:15 PM

Don't forget, the ISO of most video cameras is somewhere in the 200~400 range and shutter speed for 30p is 1/60th or for 24p is 1/48th. it doesn't change as you can change in still photography or else you "screw up
" the motion. As for speed, as you increase speed, you increase noise and since you have smaller sensors which are inherently less sensitive than larger sensors, you're fighting a bit of a loosing battle. Plus there is a limited dynamic range to most video cameras (also due to what it has to do, 30 shots every second...) -v- stills cameras (shooting stills) necessitating the ability to limit your contrast range (control contrast) more than if on stills/film.


I've screwed around a little with my 5d MKII and the ISO on it is great even at really high levels 3200 ISO even. I can go down to 1/30th of my shutter — I've been wondering how the shutter works with video.... so my Canon 5d MKII is set to 24p. So I should be shooting with my shutter at 1/48th and then adjust aperture to taste? I like 24p as I like that "film" look.
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