Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Domestic Lighting In The UK

Published : 6th August 2003


I might be doing a couple of weeks' worth of shooting in the UK this autumn (mainly talking heads), and plan to take along a compact lighting kit that includes a couple of Lowell L-lights, which take Edison-base, screw-in household-type bulbs.

Regrettably I haven't been to Britain in years, and don't recall what type of domestic lamp bases are used there. I recall a European bayonet type, but someone recently told me the Edison base is also commonly used. Can someone enlighten me?

I'm making up some series adaptors that will let me use 120v bulbs in pairs, but will also want to pick up some small 220V bulbs (probably domestic 50 watt halogen Par-20s, which work nicely for backlighting and background accents) and some larger ones to pop into practicals as needed.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


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> I'm making up some series adaptors that will let me use 120v bulbs in >pairs

Why not just use 220 bulbs?

Walter Graff
NY



Walter Graff wrote:

>Why not just use 220 bulbs?

That's why I want to know what kinds of domestic lamp sockets are used in the UK. I'd like to be able to use some of the same bulbs in my units and also in practicals.

The series adaptors are for backup (in my experience Par-20 filaments tend to be on the fragile side, and I'd like to be able to use my 120v bulbs as backups if I need to). I'd also like to travel as light as possible, so don't want to carry around more bulbs than I'll reasonably need. Better to pick them up locally if necessary.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



>I'd like to be able to use some of the same bulbs in my units and also >in practicals.

But if you are bringing fixtures, then who cares what sockets are used. Any Lowell light has a 220 equivalent bulb.

Walter Graff
NY



> Any Lowell light has a 220 equivalent bulb.

Oh I get it, you also want to use some practical and par lamps too.

Walter Graff
NY



Normally bayonet mounts but any large DIY store will have ES as well.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based
www.cinematography.net



220-240volt 60w, 100w and sometimes 150w ES (Edison screw) on some side lights, but more often bayonet.

James Welland
www.jameswelland.com



Dan Drasin wrote:

> That's why I want to know what kinds of domestic lamp sockets are >used in the UK.

Nearly every film light made in the US for 110v bulbs has a 220v version available. Just not in the variety of wattages, so you can get your bulbs here and try them out. Wiring in series will work, but it is a pain in the rear, in practice.

They real problem is adapting your lamp cords to the UK versions. The easiest way is to bring a bag of female sockets, buy extension cords in the UK and adapt them yourself. The cords are much cheaper there than here. The connectors are much cheaper here than there. Most adaptors are designed for electric shavers, etc. They are too flimsy to carry much of a lighting load.

>The series adaptors are for backup (in my experience Par-20 filaments >tend to be on the fragile side

Just get 220v Par-20. Pick up practicals as needed.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brain Heller wrote:

>They real problem is adapting your lamp cords to the UK versions.

It would even be easier to bring a few power boards from home, and just attach an English lead to them. If you are brave enough, you could also wire sockets in pairs together, to serialize your 110V bulbs.

Make sure you stick to the ratings of course.

cheers

Martin Heffels
Filmmaker/DP/editor,
Sydney, Australia



Esteemed colleagues...

Thanks for your advice and suggestions about domestic bulbs in the UK. I surfed around last night to see what might be available in the UK, and overall found a narrower range of light bulbs (types, wattages) than we have over here.

But enough for my purposes.

One thing I wasn't able to find at all are high-wattage (200W equivalent) compact fluorescent bulbs, which I use in Chinese lanterns. I'm not sure I can run two of those in series, and don't have a ready source of 220-240V to do a test. Of course, with such low wattages I could also use a small transformer. And for incandescents I could probably use a cheap, solid-state travel converter as long as the bulb filaments stay quiet.

My kit will be a small one -- mainly for interview lighting -- so this isn't a major conundrum. But thanks again.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin writes

>Regrettably I haven't been to Britain in years, and don't recall what type >of domestic lamp bases are used there.

The standard lamp base is the bayonet cap base, but due to the wide range of lighting fixtures from other parts of Europe you can pick up lamps with:-

BC Bayonet cap
SBC Small bayonet cap
ES Edison screw
SES Small Edison screw

>I'm making up some series adaptors that will let me use 120v bulbs in >pairs

Remember to use identical wattage's of lamps in series.

The most common 50W halogen lamps are the MR16 low voltage bi-pin dichroic's although these are being displaced by the vastly inferior 50W 240V version with a GU10 base similar to a fluorescent starter socket. The 240V GU10 halogen lamps offer extra heat, lower output, a low ‘orangey’ colour temperature, short life and explosive failure. But hey, they're cheap because no transformer is needed, so manufacturers just love 'em.

Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com



Clive Mitchell writes:

> Remember to use identical wattage's of lamps in series.

Natch.

Has anyone tried this with compact fluorescents (w/both magnetic and electronic ballasts)? I imagine that if both lamps don't fire simultaneously, there could be a major voltage discrepancy between them that could damage one or both.

>The most common 50W halogen lamps are the MR16 low voltage bi->pin dichroic's

I think I'll stick with the Par-20s -- the outdoor type, which has a nubbly-glass face that evens out the beam very nicely. They're also physically tougher than the indoor-type spots and floods, and less hazardous than the open-face reflector-halogens.

BTW, I recently installed some permanent video lighting in a small presentation theatre, using Par-38 or 40 outdoor halogens (30-degree-beam type) and Lowell clip-on barn door sets. I control them individually with an X-10 remote-wireless dimmer system, which works very well, and costs almost nothing.

These outdoor bulbs throw an extremely even beam, and are sharp enough so I can flag 'em off the projection screen. The bulbs are mounted in Lowell L-Light sockets, which also accept Tota-flags, etc.

The L-lights are neat units for small lighting kits. They're small, inexpensive, and equipped with an Edison-base socket so you can turn them into as many kinds of light as you can find appropriate bulbs for. You can get accessory barn door sets that let you use them with small bulbs, and for larger Par lamps you can use the larger clip-on barn doors.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin writes :

>One thing I wasn't able to find at all are high-wattage (200W equivalent) >compact fluorescent bulbs

I've never really come across the high wattage compact fluorescents here in the UK, the highest one I've come across is a mere 32W.

Of course, the "monstrosity of great luminosity" in the Things to make and do" section of my website might class as a high output compact fluorescent light.

I don't think it would be a good idea to run compact fluorescents in series because of the risk of load imbalance causing an excessively high voltage across the internal electrolytics. But then, I haven't tried it.

Clive Mitchell



Martin Heffels wrote :

>If you are brave enough, you could also wire sockets in pairs together

Be careful. If you'd join two cables into one socket (joining 2 earth wires, joining 2 neutral wires and joining 2 live wires), you'd wired them up in parallel - not serial. means still having 230V over it. Or did I get your wiring suggestion wrong?

cheers

Carolina Schmidtholstein
Lighting Technician
London, UK



>careful. If you'd join two cables into one socket

That's right, but not what I meant :) I meant:

This is the normal situation you would have with two sockets:

                          L --------O------O

                          N --------O------0


This the modified one:

                          L --------O /-O
                                         /
                                      O-/ O--
                                             |
                          N -----------------


Disconnect the neutral of the first socket and the live of the second socket, but let the neutral go through to the second socket, and then connect the neutral of the first socket to the where the live was on the second socket. And indeed as someone earlier mentioned, it requires lamps of the same wattage (same internal resistance), or else one gets higher voltage and burns out.

Another good thing is that you can't accidentally blow one of your 110V lamps by plugging it into a 240V outlet, because it needs two lamps to be connected in order to work. For 240V lamps this wouldn't matter.

cheers

Martin Heffels

Filmmaker/DP/editor,
Sydney, Australia


>Carolina Schmidtholstein writes :

> careful……Or did I get your wiring suggestion wrong?

I would join one plug and two receptacles, putting the live wires (hot and neutral) in *series*, but connecting both grounds together or not using the grounds at all. This is a very low-wattage, *highly* portable , lightweight set up which may use 2-wire (ungrounded) extension cords. For domestic use here in the USA I'd be using two 50-watt incandescent PARs (backlight and set light) and one or two compact fluorescents in Chinese lanterns (Key/Fill), each drawing about 40 watts each. In the UK I would replace the compact fluorescents with 150W or 200W household incandescent bulbs.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA