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Favourite Lighting Instrument

Published : 7th July 2005

Partially for kicks, and partially for educational reasons, I'm going to ask this question :

What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/
Local resources : http://www.artadams.net/local


Art Adams writes :

> What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

I'm going to reply to a slightly different question

What would be your desert island lamp, ie if you only had one lamp type available what would it be.

A Desisti Goya or an Arri X light.

Essentially the same lamp, Arri copied the Goya and made it better,

Why?

With the black reflector you have a wonderful hard/point source.

With the silver reflector you have the widest flood daylight source I've ever come across.

If you need a soft source then the lamp with a silver reflector either through a frame of bounced is perfect.

All styles of lighting in one lamp

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net

==================

Art Adams Writes :

> What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

I'd go for the Clay-Paky Stage Profile Plus SV for its beam-shaping flexibility and the Thomas PixelPAR for sheer range of rich colours and high output.

Chay Donohoe
LD / U.K.


I would have to say that my favourite instrument is a 400 watt Joker Bug.

It is the only light that I have to have in my package. It is flexible, compact and very reliable. It is possible to plug into house power when its the last light called for on a set up. It works well either hard or soft.

Fantastic for car rigs.

Usual disclaimers apply.

Andrew Gordon
Gaffer
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada


Art Adams writes :

> What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

How about either a Barger Bag Light or a 100K Softsun.

The Barger I can plug in anywhere and get a very punchy and very even softlight that I can use with a grid and control or I can switch 1 to 6 lamps for serious intensity control.

The Softsun can be used for VERY Large and broad coverage for fill against strong sunlight exterior. It can be used to simulate sunlight on a large stage. You can use it for very large backlight coverage for moonlight.

Of course the Arri X-Light is a great solution as is the Bug Light, and have you seen the Lowell Scandals???

I WANT IT ALL!

Steven Poster ASC


Steven Poster ASC writes :

> I WANT IT ALL!

And I want it now!

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based


Favourite lighting instrument?

My eyes.

Everything else is just a crutch.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>I'd go for the Clay-Paky Stage Profile Plus SV for its beam-shaping >flexibility and the Thomas PixelPAR for sheer range of rich colours and >high output.

Actually, I've changed my mind; I'd go for the Sun; Why?

Low to no running costs, it can effectively light a large portion of a solar system and it comes in a wide variety of colour temperatures...

Chay Donohoe
LD / U.K.


Mirror rorriM

Sam Wells


Foam core. Never could so much be done with so little.

---
Disclaimer :

Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.
www.bluesky-web.com
Offices in NYC and Amherst Mass.


I disagree.

While the C-47 is a handy thing, there is nothing that you can do with a C-47 that you can't also do with gaffer tape. Clearly gaffer tape is the most important and powerful tool in the inventory. Recently I have considered wrapping a producer up in it, even.

Scott ...



>What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

I like a torch, since it helps me escape after I've blown out the studios power distribution system.

Max Powers
"So how many amps is in 220V?"


>Favourite lighting instrument?

>My eyes.

>Everything else is just a crutch.

Okay, we'll start with a dark, windowless room. I'll crutch along with a Lowell kit, you use your eyes...

Wade "not as bright-eyed as I used to be" Ramsey


Fav = DEDO Lights

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US DP
www.barklage.com


>I disagree. While the C-47 is a handy thing, there is nothing that you can >do with a C-47 that you can't also do with gaffer tape.

Wouldn't be without gaffer tape, but I hope you aren't attaching gels to barndoors with it.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


My brain, less than a cubic foot of grey matter which allows me to bodge together solutions to any challenge my DP provides me.

Favourite inventions

- Math - (without which, electricity would be a b---- to attempt to work with).

- Fresnel Lens - (cuts down size, weight, and heat absorbed by a lamp's lens).

- Beadboard - great for fill (and whacking the deserving over their heads).

Matt Efsic
Grip/Electric (DP wannabe Film Student)
Brooks Institute of Photography
Ventura, CA


>I like a torch, since it helps me escape after I've blown out the studios >power distribution system.

I like to always have a 1k VNS Molepar around for those special moments.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


Xenon or, 2nd choice, par (single lens, not array). With a Xenon one can put light, of any degree of diffuseness, anywhere one wants. Aim it from over the camera into an opposite ceiling/wall corner and you have a lovely, soft back-light. Or use it conventionally through diffusion (although admittedly you need "back-up" room). At night it can be a life saver for reaching hundreds of feet into the darkness.

Finally, use it as intended to create hard gobo effects and exploding "hair-glo". Its my one light to have when shipwrecked on a desert island with a 435, full set of lenses and lots of film.

Jerry Cotts
Satellight-X, Inc.
DP/LA


Jerry Cotts wrote :

>Its my one light to have when shipwrecked on a desert island with a >435, full set of lenses and lots of film.

But no lab! Send it to Dominic in a bottle with a note: push one stop.

Jeff Kreines


Though a big fan of Dedos, one of my favourite all-around instruments is the ArriSun 2, 200watt HMI. It's a focusable par that comes with 6 lenses to control the beam, with a smooth, effective flood/spot. Notably better output than a Jokerbug with the same lamp. Nice punch on a narrow beam and capable of beautiful light with a Chimera VideoPro Plus attached; good light for throwing cookie patterns on a background( like when I did just that to light a court room for a CNN special.) Dimmable mains and DC ballast for battery operation. Robust and well-designed, the ArriSun 2 is fairly light-weight considering its output. This little light is a big performer for daily production.

Dedo 400 is also a pretty amazing light.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


>With a Xenon one can put light, of any degree of diffuseness, anywhere >one wants.

Yeah, but there's all that fan noise. Of course, on a desert island, who cares?!

One of my top 3 is the Source 4. And when you put a Joker in it, it's pretty equivalent to a 1-2k xenon.

Craig Keif


Oh Gosh!

I forgot about the Source 4 as well as the ETC PAR. And what about the Dedo. Not to mention the Dedo 400 HMI. What a fabulous instrument.

Let's face it guys, there is just so much great kit out there for us now compared to when I started with 650 Colortrans and Masterlights.

Has anybody mentioned Kinoflos? How about them Parabeams and all of the wonderful tools that Kino has given us; from the Micro Flo to the Image 80. Wow!

How about MoleBeam projectors as well as Arri Ruby 7's? And let's not forget...

I could go on.

Steven Poster ASC


>What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

A reading light.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Art,

Interesting question. I'd say that I use a 1200 HMI with a chimera more than any other unit. For location work - it can be plugged into a home circuit, the chimera gives a soft light that doesn't go all over the room, and it's big enough that you can gel it to tungsten if you need to and still have enough light to work with.

Marty Mullin


I just worked with the Barger bag light. Both my gaffer and I are now believers...Great unit.


>I just worked with the Barger bag light. Both my gaffer and I are now >believers. Great unit.

Tell us more ....

I picked up the spec sheet when I was at filmtools in LA. like it can pack a lot of punch for it's relative size.

Duraid Munajim
DP, Toronto


Jerry Cotts writes :

>Xenon or, 2nd choice, par (single lens, not array). With a Xenon one can >put light, of any degree of diffuseness, anywhere one wants.

Since we're on a "deserted island" a xenon w/ a piece of b-board you've got the "light house" the "searchlight" and the "boat in the distance" in one...I'd just add a little Musco in the BG for ambiance...on a Barge of course. I usually insist on a couple of HMI pars, pars, source four's, Dedo's or other controllable beam lights, go direct or bounce 'em off just about anything or any coloured thing that's handy.

Nick Hoffman 600nydp


Just like a D.P. It starts out with one light, now we got a friggin' Musco on a barge?! Along with "couple of HMI pars, pars, source four's, Dedo's or other controllable beam lights".

Just joking! I just think it is sooo funny, but true. . .

Joshua Breckeen
Gaffer
Hertfordshire, U.K.


One of my favourite instruments when I need a specific light is a focal spot lens and a 1K (650, whatever) or similar Dedo. When you have to cut in a light in just the right spot and control it completely, nothing does it as well or compactly as a fresnel fixture and focal spot lens combination. I love Source 4's and such but the size when you don't need the throw is a disadvantage in confined spaces. A few years ago I even used focal spots as the key lights for actors when we wanted small pieces of light for their faces, eyes, mouths to move in and out of as they did voice over work.

Other wise something with a lot of watts and something more or less translucent in front of it. And lots of flags. Lots and lots of flags.

Randy "big and soft or small and precise" Miller, DP in LA


Joshua Breckeen writes :

>Just like a D.P. It starts out with one light, now we got a friggin' Musco >on a barge?!

So am I...I couldn't possibly decide on just one light...why I'd be scared to death, I need them all on the truck on even a talking head,(we might need 'em...who knows?) with a techno and a dolly, a steadi-cam standing by, (in case we change our minds) come to think of it, I think I just did, maybe we need that second Musco 2 clicks east? with a little straw? or CTO?...um how long would that take?

Nick Hoffman (oh just gimmie a 2 foot Kino on a stand and let's shoot it) NYDP


Chay Donohoe writes :

>Actually, I've changed my mind; I'd go for the Sun; Why? Low to no >running costs, it can effectively light a large portion of a solar system >and it comes in a wide variety of colour temperatures...

Maybe in America, but in the UK it's classed as a point source with random variable diffusion. (Normally heavy diffusion.)

Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com


Josh Breckeen writes :

>Just like a D.P. Just joking! I just think it is so funny, but true. . .

You're so right

I've done it so often myself!

"just a little soft bounce through that window"

Often turns into a bank of Dino's

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


> Tell us more ....

Well, starting with the obvious, when equipped with 6 650W bulbs, it's effectively a 4K that you can run on household outlets if you need to.

You can quickly turn lights on or off one at a time, giving you lots of control over light levels even before you bring in anything in front of the light.

Super slim, so you can use it in cramped quarters... Even with a softbox (built-in speedring, one less accessory you have to carry around).

Simple, solid construction. Easy to maintain.

You can call or email Ed and he'll respond immediately.

A fabulous, fabulous location tool especially for people like me who don't have the luxury of large budgets and huge lighting packages!

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


Peppers.

Joking, they're shit aren't they, and I've lost about 20 layers of skin on them.

By the way Art, really good question.

I've got some 3' x 3' honeycomb frames and they fit onto just about any spot light, you can trace them, gel them and they add masses of control to the lights.

Dan Bronks


> What's your favourite lighting instrument, and why?

I rarely work with anything larger than a 2k and I'm partial to Arri fresnels. It's nice to have barn doors that don't bend, scratch and loosen (Lowell), or FALL OFF all the time (Moles)! And they cool off quickly for those run and gun days.

Speaking of Moles, it's interesting that nobody cited anything from Mole-Richardson when they're the workhorses of the industry. They can be entertaining though, like when you're adjusting a stand, the barn doors fall off and your client reaches out and catches it.

On the desert island I'll take beadboard. While you guys are looking for a plug, I'll be bouncing warm tropical sunlight onto Ginger and Maryanne while the professor builds me a coconut camera.

And if I need another source, I'll just break it in half.

Jeff Oswald
Austin, TX


>Speaking of Moles, it's interesting that nobody cited anything from Mole->Richardson when they're the workhorses of the industry.

Actually I cited the Molepar although it's not your typical Mole lighting unit, but I will defend the Mole line of lighting, especially the fresnels. They are the workhorse of the industry because they are built tough and last. They lock firmly and have a fairly smooth spot to flood mechanism. The Studio 2K has a great spot to flood ratio. I love the maxi brute. The stands are solid and durable.

The drawbacks to them are that they are not light in weight and they are designed primarily for studio use. The fresnels have no lock on the top of the barndoor holders but that makes it much easier to change scrims without moving a set light/doors. The barndoors can be tightened with a nut and not by crimping the sheet metal that some lights require. The doors seems to be of a heavier gauge metal which makes them firmer when setting delicate cuts with the doors.

But like all lighting units they must be properly maintained and that's where any light will fail over the long run. Because Mole has dominated the industry for so long there are more Mole lights on stages than any other brand and some haven't been that well maintained. That can give them a bad rep but it is usually the fault of a lazy or cheap studio owner.

As far as falling barndoors...use the safety chain that comes with the barndoor. If there isn't one... add a bailing wire or trickline safety. All barndoors regardless of manufacturer should have safety's for barndoors in use.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>They can be entertaining though, like when you're adjusting a stand, the >barn doors fall off and your client reaches out and catches it.

I love the Mole 407 Baby. It is by far my favourite tungsten unit. I never order Arri tungsten as they are generally impossible to repair on location, often containing mostly plastic parts and are difficult to take apart. They also in my experience have poor spot to flood ratios. As for the barn door thing, if we receive tungsten heads with scrim clasps (like a new in-b-tweenie for example) the first thing I have the guys do on the prep is remove them. They slow everything down, and if the lamp is properly hung and operated it poses no safety risks not to have one. I'm also partial to the 9-light Fay. I think it is often ignored as a fantastic ace in the hole. I've seen it sit lonely on shelfs of trucks as gaffers struggle to get a more stop out of 5k Fresnels bounced into griffs.

As for daylight, I prefer the 400w Joker and the Arri 12k par. I can't really think of a day interior I've done that couldn't have been be lit with those two heads only.

Most recently I have been really impressed with the Socapexed Dino by Production Lighting Services. It mounts directly to the front face of a condor, eliminating the need for an operator in the bucket, and providing an entirely new way to rig tungsten night exteriors. Its great to be able to turn off a couple bubbles from the ground.

Erik Messerschmidt
CLT, LA


Maybe I just haven't worked at the wrong places, but in 30 years of television, I've never seen a rusted out Mole-Richardson. The fresnels and softlights are well built, both for performance and longevity. Mole makes some of the finest studio instruments available. They are pricey, but if you're outfitting a studio and quality of light and durability are paramount, you cannot do better. I've had the pleasure of outfitting two modest studios (under $300,000 for instruments, dimmer packs, cyc’s, control board, grid and associated cabling) and could have purchased from anyone. I went with Mole both times and everyone has been pleased with the performance.

I am not and have never been in the employment of Mole-Richardson. I do not receive any compensation or other consideration for the promotion of their products. I'm just a satisfied customer.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


You've worked in TV for 30 years and have never seen a rusted out Mole?

Not to start any sort of argument what so ever, especially considering I like Mole Richardson lights (at least most of them) but if you've ever worked with Mole Gear that has sat anywhere for a short period of time out side they eventually gain rust on them, the purple paint only stays good for oh so long, and maybe its different here in CA, where supposedly there is no rust (car joke), but in my short 4 1/2 year career I've come across countless rusty Mole Lights especially 5k's for some reason.....

J. S
Gaffer/ectric
Los Angeles, San Diego


I see almost nothing BUT rusted out Moles. Of course they're usually 50 year old units bought on the cheap by freelancers or from a rental house inventory. When they're maintained well and everything is there

I've got no problem with them. I'd just prefer not to have to use them out in the field, which is where I do most of my work.

Jeff Oswald
Austin TX


Hi JS,

No offence taken.

As stated at the head of my post, guess I haven't worked at the wrong places. (major studio backlot?) I have no doubt that if you leave Moles out in the elements, they're going to rust. I'm sure it happens as easily in New York as it does in LA. And, of course I've seen equipment abused; instruments piled, literally, in canvas hampers at rental houses, because it takes time and care to pack lights correctly, and, besides, doesn't everyone expect rental gear to look "rented?" Rental Moles are no exception. I can understand independent gaffers buying used Moles because of the abuse inherent with field production, but I can take you to a couple of rather busy studios where some of the Moles are 20 plus years old and they look exceptional.

Funny you should mention it, but a good friend of mine is refurbishing a Mole 5K. Early 50's unit, and, yes, he has done some rust removal, but not a lot.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


Hi Jeff,

I agree that Moles are not my first choice for most field production. Unless you've got adequate crew and schedule, Moles, in general, are heavy, hot and don't cool quickly. There are other instruments that are lighter, faster and have adequate punch(Dedos!). However, I have had productions where we constructed a set with grid in a library, a machine shop and a millionaire's farmhouse and shot all day on that set, where we simply refocused for different angles; and I used Moles. Again, almost a studio application.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


>Hi JS,
>No offences taken.

Nick - I think you may have confused my post with another (if you are referring to me). I looked at the posts on this subject and you and I are in total agreement on the value of Moles.

As to Dedolights, as prefer them as a compliment to a basic kit for location or set lighting. I like to use them for accents and such. In tabletop, they are invaluable. The only drawback is that they can get beat up in the rental market.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


I usually reserve judgment on lights until they've been in service for a few years, but I'll take a chance and make an early judgment for today's "Favourite Lighting Instrument" list.

I've recently taken delivery of a Bron-Kobold 400W PAR that I already love. I really like being able to carry this much light in one hand without throwing out my back (compared to the 15 year-old 575W Fresnels with magnetic ballast that it replaces). The electronic ballast has a very efficient Power Factor of .98 and the clever reflector does a good job of pumping the light out through the lens.

I also like knowing that both the head AND the ballast can shrug off the rain when the need arises. You get a beautifully soft, even light with an XS Chimera (even fits the same ring as my Arri 650). With the Chimera in place I've still got space to add a few scrims for when I need to reduce the light beyond the range of the ballast dimmer.

The usual disclaimers hold true...no connection to the company or any financial interest.

Bruce Aleksander
ABC / Disney
Houston, Texas


Hello Jim,

No, that post wasn't for you. I was answering JS out of LA/San Diego. When you read what I wrote about lights rusting as easily in NY as LA, it probably clicked that I was writing to you. And you're right. In the proper application, Moles are excellent instruments.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


Hey Bruce,

I'll try to remember to check with you at some future date about your new Bron/Kobold 400. I went to a demo on them last November. Being one who shudders at any equipment with the Kobold name on it, I was interested to see what changes had been made since Bron bought Kobold. Supposedly the ballast and head electronics are more robust. The beam seemed pretty decent. And I'm sure the water-proofing is of particular interest for news crews. When I mentioned NBC's Kobold fiasco at the Athens Olympic Games, the salesman scratched his head and said, "My, bad news does get around quick." But the Bron 400HMI does appear well-built. Let us know how it holds up.

Thanks,
Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


I've been doing ultra-light travelling shoots for about 18 months on a (mostly) talking-heads doc I'm co-producing with a friend. My entire light kit fits into a wheeled carry-on and consists mainly of a 250W Rifa (used as a soft key, or, minus the diffuser, a bounce source) and three or four Lowell "L" lights, which I use for everything else. With a choice of Edison-base MR16s and PAR 16s from 40 to 100 watts they can do practically anything in a reasonably small interior space. L-lights can be clipped to doors, bookcases, tables, chairs, etc, and draw so little power that lightweight, household extensions are entirely adequate to the task. And you can get replacement bulbs in any commercial district of country that uses Edison Medium screw-base bulbs

L-lights will take up to 300W PARs, but if you want to use their standard, rotatable 4-barndoor set you're limited to 100W. (For the larger PARs, or photofloods, you can use clip-on Lowell barndoors.)

Using 50-watt outdoor PARs with nubbly front glass, you can throw patterns on a wall without a gobo, by closing the barndoors down to a slit and rotating them until the desired pattern appears.

My only complaints about the L lights are:

- Edison-base PARs are heavier to tote around than bare halogen bulbs. (I use only the outdoor-type encapsulated halogen type, which are incredibly
rugged.)

- Their tilt lock knobs need a better-gripping surface (I've added electricians' rubber tape to mine, which makes a huge difference)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


For runnin' and gunnin' my favourite gizmo would be those magnetic mirrors that high school students have in their lockers. I keep about half a dozen of the things handy as they're great for kicking available light around for rims or fills. They're slightly stippled but do act as a hard source. They draw no power, weigh next to nothing, they're made of plastic so they're shatter resistant and can have a Lowell adapter punched though the centre so they can be spud mounted.

Paul Steinberg
Lensman
www.paulsteinberg.tv


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