617 Route 303
Blauvelt, NY 10913
The most important ingredient in any recipe for good, professional-quality video is light. Video is a medium of light. Other factors – sound, composition and special effects – are also important, but if the lighting isn’t right, then the video doesn’t look right. To put it bluntly, an amateurish approach to lighting can reduce any professional video project to the equivalent of an expensive home movie. The Arri Softbank kit will certainly make for some very expensive home movies, but for the professional, it will pay off in the end.
Buy, Rent, Borrow or Steal
For many professional videographers, the solution is to buy, rent or borrow a light kit. A “kit” is typically a set of lights, stands and accessories that pack neatly into a rugged case. The flexibility of the kit and the amount of control in different lighting situations is important. Currently, the Cadillac of video lights is the Arri Softbank kit, which comes in four different configurations and combines rugged design, versatility and raw power in a solid rollaway case. The kit includes one 300W Fresnel, two 650W Fresnels, one 1,000W Arrilite, a Chimera Video Pro Soft Bank, 4 sturdy adjustable stands and a full set of barndoors, scrims and accessories. While it’s true that for the price of this kit you can get a brand new 3-chip DV camera, the versatility and solid design of the Arri Softbank kit make it a favorite among a number of video rental outfits.
The lighting instruments included in the Arri Softbank 1 Kit all exhibit the quality and excellent design you’d expect from lights manufactured by this highly reputable company. The three Fresnel lights, for example, all have solidly mounted mesh screens that function as gel mounts (gels not included) as well as points for solidly attaching the included barn doors. To change the lamps (bulbs) or to remove them for transporting in the included soft foam carrying case, you flip open the entire top of the light. This means you don’t even need to remove all of the accessories you’ve carefully attached. Each of the Fresnels has a twisting flood/spot control on the back of the light which adjusts the light’s intensity and focus. From the thick cast metal casing to the aluminum barrels to the thick rubberized cables and the clear soft plastic cover on the on/off switch, these impressive instruments are all about quality and professionalism.
The 1,000W Arrilite is a bit different in design from the other lights. Its flood/spot control is on the bottom of the light and replacement of its bulb is via the front of the light and is a bit of a pain. Yet, in terms of quality and rugged design, it’s easy to see why the Arrilite has become a popular solution for video studios worldwide. The included Chimera Video Pro Soft Bank attaches to the front of the Arrilite via the (also included) Chimera Speed Ring, which makes assembling and tearing down the Soft Bank a snap. Needless to say, 1,000W is a lot of light. This is much more than what you’ll need for portraits and talking heads.
The four Manfrotto AS-2 stands included in the kit fold neatly down to just over 3 feet in length and are capable of extending to over 9 feet. At full extension with one of the heavier lights attached, these stands are prone to wobbling a bit, so the use of sandbags or other weights to hold them down is recommended.
As previously mentioned, each of the lights included in the kit comes with a set of barndoors, filter frame, single and double scrims and lamps. The included accessory pack includes a carrying case for the lamps, a pair of leather gaffer’s gloves, a set of clothespins (for attaching colored gels and diffusion materials) and a 25-foot heavy-duty extension cord. Also included are a small drawstring ditty bag and a larger zippered accessory bag. The accessory kit is a nice touch, intended to get the videographer set up and shooting video almost immediately after purchasing the kit.
Last, but not least, the Arri Softbank kit comes with heavy duty wheeled cases complete with custom foam inserts and anvil-style latches. It’s a rugged design that inspires confidence in the kit’s ability to withstand rough treatment from ham-handed assistants, buff UPS delivery drivers and indifferent airline baggage handlers.
To Rent or Buy
Of course, all this quality and completeness comes at a price that’s likely to cause sticker shock in all but the wealthiest of videographers. Still, we’d like to remind you once again that these kits are widely available for rent in larger urban areas.
It’s not an accident that rental companies are fond of the Arri kits: their durability keeps them working properly, shoot after shoot, even in the most unforgiving of conditions.
If you do consider taking the plunge and purchasing one of these excellent kits, you’re not likely to regret it, not even after years and years of service.
Joe McCleskey is an instructional media specialist.
Lights: 1x 300W Fresnel, 2x 650W Fresnel, 1x 1,000W Arrilite
Accessories: Barn doors, Scrims, Filter Frames, Lamps for each light, Chimera Video Pro
Bank (Small), Chimera 7 1/4-inch Speed Ring, 4x Manfrotto AS-2 Stands
Accessory pack: leather gaffer’s gloves, clothespins, ceiling scissor clamp,
25-foot heavy-duty extension cord, carrying case for lamps, ditty bag, accessory bag
Case dimensions: 40 x 19 x 13 (inches)
Weight: 78 lbs. (fully loaded)
• Rugged, professional design
• Complete complement of lights
• Good selection of accessories
Summary: The Cadillac of portable video light kits, it’s a good choice for purchase or rental.