A light bank is practically a must in any videographer’s lighting arsenal. Finding the one that will give you the kind of light you are looking for, at a price that fits your budget, is what we’ll investigate here with Chimera’s new Video Pro Plus 8005 Light Kit.
The Video Pro Plus Light Kit features a 24″x 32″ collapsible lightbank with a 1000-watt mogul base lamp. The kit also includes an internal baffle, front panel diffuser, 40-degree fabric eggcrate grid, speed ring, stand and carrying case.
Setup is simple and involves inserting four tensioning rods into sleeves sewn into the light back, inserting the rod ends into the speed ring and mounting on the included light stand. From here, you can optionally install an internal diffusion baffle or go directly to affixing the front panel.
Our first attempt at a complete setup took us about 7 minutes out of the bag. We did find that it is important to actually read the directions, as there is a right way to affix the internal baffle. If it is positioned backward, the fabric is too close to the end of the hot bulb. Subsequent assembly time was much faster, as we became familiar with the process and were able to leave the tensioning rods in place.
The Manfrotto A630B Avenger stand is a good match with the Video Pro Plus. It can elevate the top of the light to just above 12 feet, with stand spreaders parallel to the ground. At this height, the whole assembly becomes a little top-heavy, but nothing even a five-pound weight or sandbag wouldn’t stabilize. On the other end of the scale, again with stand leg spreaders parallel to the ground, we could lower the top of the light to about five feet.
Even though the Video Pro Plus is made of heat and flame-resistant material, Chimera still recommends that you keep the top flap open for venting. Hook-and-loop strips on both the flaps and midway on the light box hold any one or all four of the rear flaps open. While this keeps things safe, it also makes for a good deal of rearward light spill. Even with all the flaps secured in place (again, not a recommended practice, but done here for photographic purposes only), there is a small amount of light leakage from the rear.
We found it was best to position the light bank before the unit is turned on, as there is no secure place to grab it while loosening the adjustable bracket. You can tilt the light to about 45 degrees downward and just past 90 degrees backward. Since the light is rectangular, you may also want to rotate it by loosening a brass thumbscrew at the back of the speed ring. As with most hot lights, it is important to use protective gloves when adjusting it while in use, and this half-inch thumbscrew hit 183 degrees after 60 minutes of operation — too hot to handle with bare hands. You’ll also find rotation is easiest when the rear flaps are folded back for venting and secured with the hook-and-loop strips.
The quality of the light is excellent. In our tests, we found there to be no pronounced hot spots, even without any baffle, front panel or egg crate grid in place. The rate of fall-off at the sides is smooth and the overall light pattern is nearly a perfect oval.
One of the hardest aspects of using a light bank is controlling the light direction. Using these soft light sources can be as frustrating as cat wrangling; light scatters practically everywhere. Using the collapsible 40-degree egg crate grid provides a good way to herd those stray photons (see photos).The recessed front panel also gives you an added degree of directional control.
To get a sense of light intensity with the three light modifiers, we took light meter measurements with a Minolta IV meter, setting the shutter speed to 1/60th of a second and the ISO to 100 (this provides a good average of a standard video camera’s light sensitivity, but gives finer degrees of measurement). We position the light as we might in a standard talking-head setup, placing the center of the light bank 6 feet away and 3 feet above the metering point. In the following light modifier configurations, we found readings at the center of the beam:
- With front diffuser panel, interior baffle and egg crate grid = f1.44
- With front diffuser panel and interior baffle = f2.0
- With front diffuser panel = f2.04
- Bare bulb = f2.8
Some kits include the new Quick Release Speed Ring for even faster disassembly; however, our test unit had the standard mounting ring. Removing the tensioning rods takes moderate leveraging, but not as much as other units we’ve tested. Tension isn’t so strong as to have the rods snap back at you when the first one is removed.
It is possible to leave the optional internal baffle in place when folding the light bank; however, Chimera recommends that you remove the front diffuser panel before packing up the light kit. While it was not suggested in the literature, we felt uneasy leaving the six-inch long lamp in the speed ring socket for transport, as it could easily be broken, so we donned gloves and carefully removed the bulb, placing it back in the original foam and cardboard container.
Putting your subject in a good light is the mark of a professional videographer, and large light sources are a mainstay. While it is not the least expensive similarly sized light bank, we found the Chimera 8005 Video Pro Plus Light Kit gave us a high degree of control with the kind of quick setup we would need in just about any lighting situation.
Lightbank Dimensions: 24″ x 32″
Weight (excluding stand): 5.2 lbs.
Lamp Type/Rating: Mogul socket, 1000 watt max
Modifiers: Internal baffle, front panel diffuser, 40-degree egg crate grid
Included Accessories: Manfrotto Avenger light stand, 44″ carrying duffle
Optional Accessories: Adapters to convert to flash heads; varying degrees of diffusion fabric for front panel
- Very even light quality from a moderately small source with a good degree of control.
- No handle on speed ring to grasp when adjusting light. Some adjustments are awkward.
A professional portable quality light bank kit that provides controllable soft light.
Contributing Editor Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer, and lecturer.
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