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Portable Battery Powered Lights

Published : 20th October 2003


I have a question that might provide some useful knowledge when on remote locations. I'm going on vacation very soon and doing some back packing in Turkey. I’m looking for a CHEAP and highly portable light that’s battery powered. My specific situation is going to be where I'll hike into man made caves where their may be little or no available sunlight nor existing artificial light. I'll be carrying nothing more than what can fit in a large backpack. The format I'll be shooting on is 24P (approx. 320 ASA) and since this is a vacation and not a job I probably wont have anyone to help me.

The light would also need to have a fairly wide beam (not a flashlight) and the rooms shouldn’t be much bigger than what you would expect in a traditional home with the walls being a off white color (bounce). Shots will be short so battery life doesn’t have to be long (1hr/per day should be just enough).

Anyone have any creative solutions to this problem? (Cheap, light weight, small, battery powered, bright enough for 320asa/f1.7) Xenon, halogen, fluorescent, HID, etc?

Thank you in advance,

Brett Erskine
www.CinematographerReels.com



Brett Erskine wrote :

>Anyone have any creative solutions to this problem? (cheap, light >weight, small, battery powered, bright enough for 320asa/f1.7)Xenon, >halogen, fluorescent, HID, etc?

I've been doing some "Home Depot Lighting" for a project. I discovered some small 12v xenon bulbs in my local store that really put out some light. They are used for under counter lighting and are cheap. You would have to find a fixture for them and wire it up , but that would get you a decent bang for your buck.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.



How about MR 16 fixtures in the 20w and 50w varieties?

They come in five beam configurations from narrow spot to wide and could work off a camera battery in your own enclosure or an Anton Bauer fixture.

Walter Graff
NYC



A few ideas...

Coleman makes a twin-tube fluorescent lantern that runs on eight ³D² cells that might put out enough for you; should be relatively soft as well. The fixture itself is dirt cheap and I¹m certain there are other makers that would be similar.

My really wacky idea is a SureFire M6 with a piece of diffusion, sort of like a small soft box, in front of the lens. This is not cheap, about $400.00 bucks, but I don¹t know anything else that packs so much punch in a small package. You get 250 lumens for an hour run, or 500 for a twenty minute run. The M6 requires six 123A lithium batteries. I always carry a SureFire 6P, which uses two 123A¹s, and it really throws a beam.

I guess you could also try one the on-camera news-type lights; there are small Chimeras available for them and you can probably pick up a used unit cheaply.

Lastly, you might consider fuel lanterns purchased on the scene. I¹ve shot a commercial using three of them and they do make a beautiful light with a little bounce behind them; pretty rapid fall-off, of course.

Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

Best regards,
Leo Ticheli
Director/Cinematographer
Birmingham/Atlanta



>I’m looking for a CHEAP and highly portable light that’s battery >powered.


I recently had to shoot in a cave with battery powered lighting. I wound up using a 2,000,000 candle power light from Pep Boys.

I put some diffusion over the front, and it gave me a nice bright source with a fairly wide throw. They have a 12v 3Ah battery built into them which give you a 20 minute burn. If you got a 20ah 12v battery and some wire from your local electronic store you could probably get a 2 hour burn.

The lights cost $35.00, and are a halogen light with a very efficient parabolic reflector. The ones I got were yellow.

I also tried a 2,500,000 candle power light which was actually weaker once the diffusion was applied. It seems that the bright candle power measurement applies only to the hot spot - which was simply more tightly focused on the supposedly brighter light.

I used a 115ah marine battery while shooting, which I calculated would give me a 10 hour continuous burn on the lights. A bit heavy to lug through caves though.

Best of luck!

Rachel Dunn

               http://www.racheldunn.com

"...you start out wanting to make the greatest movie ever made, and you end up just wanting to live through it."
-Truffaut

             Cinematographer  Los Angeles



I would go for the flame-based lighting the people who lives (or lived) in that environment would use to live and work inside those caves, used as key lighting, supplemented with a couple of groups of cheap battery powered fluorescent fixtures (some even have internal rechargeable batteries) held in position by collapsible ENG-type light stands (you can use Velcro for attaching the fixtures to the stands) for fill light (to be gelled with CTO and Minusgreen to match the key light colour).

If in need of limiting the light spread, you can make up cheap flexible black plastic barn-doors you can, again, attach to the fixtures with Velcro. That way you would, not just light the location, but give it a true and natural feel. It could all fit in a backpack.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial Spain)



Arturo Briones Carcaré wrote :

>I would go for the flame-based lighting the people who lives (or lived) in >that environment would use to live and work inside those caves,

No. Sorry, but if you mean actual fire inside a cave, then don't. The cave environment probably sensitive, even if it is a man made cave.

Soot will accumulate on the Cave ceiling.

Went to some caves once off of Route 50 (loneliest road in America), Lehman caves I think. Very interesting, informative too about how our presence inside the cave affected the "ecosystem" of the cave.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer - Gladstone Films
Cinematography Mailing List - East Coast List Administrator
Better off Broadcast (B.O.B.)
New York, U.S.A.



I didn't mean big fires, but candles, oil lamps or some kind of lanterns, which are much more friendly in that respect. If you mean it doesn't matter the flame size, those would be forbidden, also consider we are talking here about Turkey...There the authorities can be much less strict.

Think also this is not something to happen daily anyway, so the cumulative deteriorating effect can be much lesser than the cumulative effect of simple human breathing (this effect alone, for instance, was causing a intense deterioration of the stone-age primitive paintings of the caves of Altamira, in Spain; so visits were strictly restricted to a few people a day (or a week, I can't remember now exactly) and today are forbidden while a perfect life-size replica has been made for visiting)


"I was lucky enough to visit the real Altamira caves at age seven, before the restriction"

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker (They are nicer in the photographs anyway)
Madrid (Imperial Spain)



>I didn't mean big fires, but candles, oil lamps or some kind of lanterns

Is it me or did this guy say he was alone doing this on vacation? Now you folks have him carrying around car batteries and 55 gallon drums of kerosene. Some vacation!

How about a simple double barrel 100 watt 12V MR16 sun gun that plugs into the camera or a battery belt and 250 watt 30 volt Lowell Pro light which will light up a 4 story building very easily. These simple lights light up the cave and don't take a 'boy Friday' to carry around.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
www.film-and-video.com



Well, the best solution for the cheapest price and the smallest size, plus the least weight, that I could think of would be the SONY battery video light model no. HVL-20DW2 and a couple Sony np-f960 infolithium batteries.

The batteries are the size of 2.25 mini - dv tapes and the light is the same. Each battery lasts practically all day. The light fits on a hot shoe and if you think it's too sourcie, bring some rubber bands and the diffusion of your choice.

Here's what I found through Google, under a hundred bucks for the light :

http://www.nextag.com/SONY_10w_20w_Video~3061414z0znzzz1zzhvl

_20dw2zmainz2-htm


Heres a price search for a battery

http://www.nextag.com/SONY_NP_F960_LI~3001823z0znzzz1zznp_

f960zmainz2-htm

Plus just just check out www.sony.com and do a search under professional products

Best of luck,
PJ Gaynard
Renaissance Filmmaker
Rochester, NY

Disclaimer - I have no financial connection to this company or equipment



I would highly recommend the Frezzi Mini-Arc.

I think it's the best sun gun for your situation. It's a bright and fairly broad spread HMI that runs on inexpensive NP1 batteries. It can also be clamped on the handle of any camera without using a hot shoe, 1/4" or 3/8" threads.

Light output is about 100-125 quartz watts, but the draw on the battery is only 24w. This certainly will be more expensive then a home depot DIY creation, but you should be able to find this light at a local rental house who could get you the light for your shoot and it probably won't be too bad. If you had to but the light batteries and charger you'd probably be looking at about $1500.

Illya Friedman
Senior Camera Rental Agent
Moviola Cameras
Hollywood, CA
www.moviola.com



Keep in mind, too, not just for lighting, but all your gear, there is probably not a more humid place on earth short of being underwater...and cold...if this is a real cave.

Stewart Ebneter
DP/Gaffer
Los Angeles



Patrick Gaynard writes :

>The best solution for the cheapest price and the smallest size, plus the >least weight, that I could think of would be the SONY battery video >light...

Can you be more specific about battery life? These may solve a problem for me, but I need a realistic idea of how long they'll run at the 10-watt and 20-watt levels, respectively.

Thanks for any info....

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



K5600 make a small 200 watt fixture that will run off a 30v battery belt with an invertor- use it in the jungle at 100% humidity all the time its lightweight and rugged.

Phil Savoie
Producer / Cameraman
BBC Natural History Unit

BBCi - http://www.bbc.co.uk/



Philip Savoie writes :

>K5600 make a small 200 watt fixture that will run off a 30v battery belt >with an invertor use it in the jungle at 100% humidity all the time its >lightweight and rugged.

Is the invertor sealed? I though it would be the first thing to fail under high humidity conditions.

Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com



>Is the invertor sealed? I though it would be the first thing to fail under >high humidity conditions.

The invertor has been back to K5600 in CA since it gave me problems after purchase. Not sure what they did but it has been AOK for the past three years of frequent use.

Phil Savoie
Producer / Cameraman
BBC Natural History Unit