Lighting is one of the most important elements in crafting your video towards having the exact look and feel that you want. Films have been shot using everything from sunlight to candles, with lots of variety in between.
Lighting needs run the gamut, from huge budget productions to small, DIY vloggers, and there’s something for every niche. This article will explain what to think about before buying lights and will provide a glimpse into the current lighting marketplace.
Lighting needs run the gamut, from huge budget productions to small, DIY vloggers, and there’s something for every niche.
There are several variables to consider in choosing the right lights. Lighting type, power options, color temperature and color rating are all important.
We will look at four main types of light being used in video production. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
HMI lights use mercury vapor and metal halide to create a high output of light with decent energy efficiency. The light provided from HMI’s is very similar to that of natural sunlight (6000K), making them “daylight” balanced. These lights cost a lot upfront, but can save on power costs. On the downside, they require bulky ballasts and are not fully dimmable. You’re not likely to encounter one of these large, expensive lights unless you’re working on a professional film set.
Tungsten lights are like super-powerful versions of the old incandescent household lightbulb. At 3200K, Tungsten is the standard color temperature for indoor lighting and to achieve other temperatures, gels are used. Tungsten lights are lower-cost and have good color rendition. On the downside, they get hot, they require lots of power, and the bulbs require sensitive care. For decades, Tungsten lighting dominated on set, but with new technology, fluorescent and now LED lighting is becoming more prevalent.
Fluorescents use gas to create a glow, which is amplified by a layer of phosphor coating. These lights are very energy efficient and can have a range of color temperatures from 2700K to 6500K. Fluorescent lighting is compact and generates little heat. Regular-use fluorescent lighting can create a problems with ‘flicker’ and color rendition. Fluorescent lights especially made for film, have special ways to negate the flicker and poor color quality inherent in home-use fluorescents, but are considerably more expensive.
Light emitting diode (LED) units are energy efficient, but produce limited output. LEDs can provide variable light across the RGB spectrum. They are a fast growing part of the landscape and are increasingly being used with Fresnel lamps. They have an extremely long lifespan, allow for full dimming and are very rugged and safe units compared to the other bulbs. They are usually more expensive, but prices are coming down every year as this technology becomes more widespread and economical.
AC, battery or both? Someone who works primarily in a studio will have very different needs than a run-and-gun documentary crew. Along with power options, you’ll also want to know the lights draw and output. How much energy does the light use, and how much light does it produce? Output can be measured in terms of wattage (w), lumens, candela, lux or foot-candles (fc).
Will you need lights that are balanced for indoors (3200K), outdoors (5600K) or maybe ones that offer variable control and can provide a wide range of color temperatures? The answer will depend on where you will spend the most time shooting and what other lights you may already have in your kit.
Color rating is a measurement of how well the light system will accurately reproduce color. The Color Rating Index (CRI), developed in the 1960’s, measures how well the light will reproduce the full range of colors in a subject, compared to a standardized source. 100 is perfect color rendition score; a CRI 95 or above is preferred.
Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) is a similar, but more modern measurement. Instead of color variance being based on a human observer, it is measured by color changes that can be detected by video camera. A TLCI score above 90 is acceptable.
On the Market
CAME-TV Boltzen 55W Focuasable Fresnel Daylight LED - $298
The Boltzen 55W Focusable Fresnel LED is a daylight (5600K) balanced fresnel lamp with wifi control, AC or battery power, and CRI rating of 96.
Litepanels Caliber -$329
The Caliber by Litepanels is a small, 17W LED fresnel that puts out equivalent light to a 150W Tungsten bulb. It is daylight balanced, and comes with some gels to adjust 1/2 CTO or 1/2 CTB. The Caliber can be powered via AC or AA batteries and can vary from a 15-73 degree beam.
Dracast LED 500 Pro - $800
Dracast's LED 500 Pro bi-color is an $800-dollar LED panel that allows variable 3200K - 5600K color temp at a CRI of 95 with a 45 degree beam and AC or DC power capabilities. It draws only 30W and provides up to 2700lux at three feet. If you only need either daylight, or indoor light, instead of both, you can get a $600 single color version.
Arri L7-C LE2 - $3336
The Arri L7 series are powerhouses of the LED Fresnel world. They are fully adjustable between 2800K -10,000K, 15-50 degree angle, with a >90 TLCI, and 0-100% dimming. The L7-C provides DMX RDM or onboard control.
Ikan Lyra 1 x 2 Bi-color soft panel LED - $1399
The Lyra 1x2 Bi Color LED has a 95+CRI LED performance with 1/2 stop diffusion. Color temperature is adjustable from 3200-5600K. It has an LED readout, and offers DMX in/out. It casts light at 110 degrees and provides up to 581lux at ten feet from subject. The Lyra is AC powered.
BBS Lighting Area 48 Soft LED - $2,300
BBS Lighting’s Area 48 Soft LED was one of the first lights to use the remote phosphor technology which allows for highly accurate and consistent color rendition, brightness, and afterglow. It uses 122 watts and generates an equivalent to 1200 watts of traditional lighting at 98 TLCI. The removable phosphor panels come in a variety of color temps, including 3200K and 5600K, and can be easily switched in and out. The Area 48 uses AC or DC power and is rated to 50,000 hours.
BBS Lighting Pipeline Reporter Kit - $799
This is a unique light kit from BBS that can be very useful for vlogging, interviews, and in tight spaces. This kit comes in one of three color temp options - 3200K, 4300K, or 5600K. Each light draws 10W and puts out over 1000 lumens flicker-free. The units each have a small footprints and offer 1/4-20’’ threading for mounting.
Kino Flo Celeb LED 201 DMX - $3,000
Kino Flo’s Celeb LED 201 draws 100W but puts out an equivalent to 750W from a tungsten fixture. This LED panel offers AC/DC power, flicker-full dimming performance with variable temps between 2700-6500K and programmable color presets at CRI 95.
Zylight F8-200 LED Fresnel - $3,300
The F8-200 is a compact light that provides quite a punch. It can be purchased in either daylight, indoor, or blacklight. The Daylight model provides as much light as a 400W HMI, while drawing a maximum of 200W. The 16-70 degree adjustable beam provides 97CRI/TLCI rating. The light is fully dimmable and can be used with AC or battery. The LEDs are rated to 50,000 hours of life.
FotodioX C-700 RSV Flapjack - $445
FotodioX’s C-700 RSV Flapjack is a ultra-thin 18’’ LED that provides variable 3200K-5600K output at a CRI of at least 90. It takes AC/DC power options and is dimmable from 10-100%. The C-700RSV is made to provide a soft, even glow. Its thin size, plus built in 1/4-20’’ threads allows for very creative mounting option and it can run over two hours on battery power.
Cineo Lighting Standard 410
The Standard 410 is a new product from Cineo Lighting that delivers 25,000 lumens of flicker-free, full-gamut RGB light from its two foot by one foot diffused lamp. It draws a maximum of 410W can be controlled via graphic panel on the unit or remotely via wired or built in wireless CRMX.
Cineo Lighting Basic Matchbox LED - $333
This 3.25 x 5.25 x 1.5-inch LED panel for on-camera has a CRI between 94-98 and provides 1000 lumens with a 160 degree beam with full dimming.
Lowel Pro Power Daylight LED - $378
The Pro Power Daylight LED provides flicker-free light at CRI:95 in a beam that can be focused between 10-43 degrees. It has AC/DC power options and puts off 2292 lumens — comparable to a 100W tungsten. The light is available in indoor or daylight color options.
Lumos 300MK LED - $2200
The Lumos 300MK LED is a 1x1-foot LED panel that offers variable color temperatures and DMX control. It draws 50W of power, and puts off what would be equivalent of 400W from tungsten bulbs. 95-98 CRI rating means highly consistent color, and the AC/DC options means this light can find use in a variety of settings.
Photo Beard PhotonBeam 80 LED - $1350
This LED uses remote phosphor for even lighting comparable to a 400W tungsten, while drawing only 80W of power. The light comes with daylight and tungsten filters to change color temp quickly and can be powered via battery or AC. It boasts a TLCI of 95.
FloLight Fl 110 AW - $349.00
The FL110AW uses two 55W biax fluorescent lamps putting off an equivalent of 500W of light with 10,000hrs of life. Using either the side panel or wireless controls to achieve 100-30 percent dimming on this fixture, which is available in either 3000K or 5400K color temperature with flicker-free CRI:95 performance.
Westcott Ice Light 2 LED - $500
Westcott’s Ice Light 2 is the next generation of their popular handheld light. Its lithium ion batteries charge in 2.5 hours and provide 60 minutes of power. It casts 5,500K light in a 72.6 degree beam with a 96 CRI. It has 1/4’’-20s at either end for easy mounting. With 10-steps of dimming, built-in diffusion, gel clips, and a digital display, Westcott’s Ice Light 2 can find a place in multiple applications.
LumeCube - $80
The Lumecube is well suited to mobile applications, action cameras, and even DSLRs. The 6000K light is a 1.5-inch cube, with 10 brightness settings between 150-1500 lumens. Lumecube can be used as constant light for video, as a flash for still photography, can be controlled via Bluetooth or manually, and has a variety of mounting options including setups for drones, smartphones, and cold-shoe mounts. The Lumecube is battery powered, USB rechargeable, offering 2+hrs of battery life, and is waterproof to 100 feet.
Litra Torch - $80
The Litra Torch is 1.5x1.5 inches, waterproof, drop proof and is touted as an “adventure” light. It provides 5700K color temp light at three Lumen settings: 800, 450 or 100. It’s lithium-Ion battery is rechargeable via micro-usb. The Litra Torch has a variety of mounting options including a 1/4"-20 thread and embedded magnet.
Knowing your needs and how they fit into the current marketplace makes it easier for content creators to get the right tools. Spending some time now to familiarize yourself with the wide range of lights available will allow video producers to have the right tools for whatever jobs are ahead.
Blind Spot Gear Ltd.
Light and Motion
Litepanels (Vitec Group)
Mac Tech LED
Photon Beard Ltd
Quantum Promark Brands
Erik Fritts has has a degree in film production and experience in corporate video, TV, and film. He has two awesome dogs. Follow him online: @ErikFritts