Lighten Up, People…Part One

Lighten Up, People…Part One

The burgeoning business of recording video is starting to make me look at camera stuff again – specifically lighting equipment.

My first discovery was that standard room lighting is horrible. My studio has downlights that run on big circular fluorescent tubes with a colour temperature of old liver. They are positioned to make everyone look like zombies. If I ever start filming horror movies, I’m set.

The trial reels using the modelling lights on my standard mono-head studio flashes showed them to be too dim, too yellow, and too cumbersome for the game. They are dynamite lights for still photos and the light modifiers are just what I need, but the difference between a flash tube and an incandescent light bulb is far too great.

The next stage was to look at odd little LED and ring lights. Let me excuse myself from sounding foolish – these lights were hauled along to a recording session by the dancer who was appearing in the reels. Bought from some eBay seller, they were literally falling to pieces as we tried to set them up. Gaffer tape and bad language eventually stuck several to their equally shoddy light stands and some recording was possible before they broke apart.

The light from them was actually quite usable – but again far too dim to allow decent apertures or frame control. And the prospect of touching them and having to gaffer tape yet another part together was frightening.

Ever-resourceful, I repaired to Bunnings ( Bunnings and repair are generally synonymous at my house ) and looked at LED light panels. Were I fixing a car or plastering a wall in a new home I would welcome some of the battery-powered work lights they sell. Less useful for the photographer, though, as they are small panels, albeit bright. They are also generally intended to stand upright or clamp on workshop edges. Not really a good idea for studio lighting, though I may snaffle one for my model airplane workshop.

Then the security lighting shelves. Here I found similarly small LED panels with brackets intended for under-eave mounting. They were sturdy and had a metal bracket with a 1/4 inch mounting hole. Powered by 240V ac, they had a standard 3-pin plug and could connect with any extension cord.

Well, to cut it short, I bought some – and brought them home and made up amateur brackets that allow the light modifiers from my Elinchrom lights to slot in front of them while they screw onto the top of the light stands. I can project into standard reflectors, soft boxes, and umbrellas. But the mountings are none too sturdy and the colour temperature is fixed – if I need to modify it, it’s back to theatre gels. There have been some good reels produced, but we are still not at the MGM sound stage level yet…and I am tied to the studio AC lines by a series of big extension cords. It pays to step warily when moving about a lighting setup.

Little wonder I found myself drifting to the back of the Stirling Street shop to see what real lights are made by actual photographic light makers. I was not disappointed. Read in the next few posts to see what I found.

Note: Nothing is wasted around my place – we are still eating leftovers from the holidays…of 2018. I converted three of the Bunnings LED panels to fixed lighting for my model airplane box set, and they are great. And at least all three panels can put out the same colour temperature.

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