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What to get for initial Lighting setup?


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On November 4, 2016 at 2:21 AM, TheRenaissanceMan said:

I just struggled a bit with this very issue, and here's what I ended up doing.

I started with a couple used Mole Richardson 1K fresnels. I got each for about $150 off eBay, used in good condition. Beautiful lights, very robust, and easy to control. They're my bread and butter--I use them on everything.

Next, I hopped over to Home Depot and picked up some dirt cheap clamp lights. Fitted with some high-wattage incandecent bulbs, they're great for accents, hairlights, background splashes, etc.

Next thing on the list (should be coming this week) are a few ETC Source Four Pars. $70 each shipped, again used. These are 575W tungsten fixtures, but the design of the bulb makes them about the same output as a 1000W open face. These are great for bouncing or pushing through diffusion if you just need raw output, but they also come with 4 lenses: wide flood, medium flood, narrow spot, and very narrow spot. These attachments don't produce the same quality as a fresnel, but they're usable as direct light and easier to control than a redhead. I've used them on a few sets for background punch, kickers, and even as an effect spot for a dream sequence, and they're surprisingly versatile. You can even pick up 3rd party barn doors for $15 or so. Dollars per lumen, S4 Pars are unbeatable.

As soon as I sell off a few more things, I'm picking up a couple Aputure Amaran 672S LED panels. Excellent CRI, dimmable, run on batteries or AC, remote operable, and easy to diffuse (if necessary) with the built-in umbrella mount or Aputure's softbox attachment. I'm debating going with the Ws instead, as I already have enough hard lights, and maybe a variable color temp version, but we'll see how things pan out once I'm actually ready to buy.

Last item on my wishlist is a Lowel Rifa. I admit, this one is a luxury item; it's essentially a big tungsten softbox, but what makes it cool is that you can have it out of the bag and set up in maybe 20 seconds because of the slick way it collapses and expands. Great for motivating interior lights, as a dramatic toplight, beauty light, or anything else you'd use a big soft source for. Some of the newer Rifas even have a system where you can replace the tungsten fixture with three florescents, lowering your power consumption and giving you the option of daylight balance. Very nice. You can find used ones missing the front diffusion sheet for reasonable prices, then just replace the front for $20 or so.

Just remember, don't skimp on light modifiers, stands, and flags.

Go back to Home Depot and find those big 4x8 ft. pieces of styrofoam insulation--white on one side, silver on the other, 1" thick--cut them in quarters (halves if you have the space), and wrap the edges with gaff tape. Bingo bango, you've got some pretty dope bounce boards! If you're using fresnels, grab some used scrims off the 'Bay. They're a little pricier than dimmers, but they won't mess with your color temp when you need to knock down your output. Buy some basic Lee Gels (get these new) in all the essential flavors: CTB, CTO, Straw, Diffusion, ND. They sell a combo pack of 1'x1' gels that include all these, as well as more exotic stuff and some fun colors (primary red is a personal favorite). Grab a bag of clothespins to hold them on your barndoors, and 1" pony clamps for anything else that needs securing. Grab some blackout fabric (duvetyne) for negative fill and controlling spill. Extension cords seem like a "duh" item, but you'd be amazed how many beginners forget about them. You can't be loading 4000 watts of light onto one circuit, so keep enough of these around to run power everywhere you need it. Lastly, some black wrap (I use Rosco Cinefoil) is great for any time you need to shape a light on the fly. I like to cut mine into big, useful-size pieces so they can be reused from project to project.

When it comes to stands, it's hard to cheap out. You simply don't want to trust heavy, expensive, hot lights to a subpar stand. Most brands are great, although my friends speak pretty harshly about Impact. I haven't used enough to confirm or deny. A lot of people like to use C-Stands for their lights, especially the Matthews ones. Personally, I think they're best-used to hold your bounce cards and flag, as the leg design and articulating arm on the top make gripping and positioning modifiers quick and easy. A good one will run you $180-200 retail, although areas with more local filmmaking may have some on the used market for less. In terms of actual light stands, my favorite for the dollar is the Kupo Master Combo HD Stand. It folds up nicely, has both a baby pin and a junior receiver, gives you a leveling leg for uneven surfaces, a solid steel construction, and can hold up to 88 pounds. What a beast! Best of all, they only cost $150 retail. Use these for your fresnels, Rifas, or anything you need to fly high. Don't forget to pick up some sandbags to keep all this from tipping. I have a set by Impact filled with fine gravel from Home Depot (I feel like they should be paying me for this). Lastly, for your C-stands, some Matthews flags are a staple in any grip's kit. It's essentially just a sheet of black fabric on a metal frame with a post on the end for clamping into a c-stand knuckle, but they're invaluable for shaping your light the way you need it.

This may seem daunting at first, but the best way to learn is to pick up the basics and start using them. Practice makes perfect, and lighting is no exception.


Some good suggestions in here. I learned a ton from this post. Do you have a Vimeo page? I'd love to see your work. 

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59 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

I'm very tempted by these:

I think these are what I'll order next for my lighting kit, once my next few audio purchases are sorted out.

I'll definitely be interested to see what you think of them. They're intriguing fixtures for $199, but I wonder how good the output will fare against comparable tungsten options.

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2 hours ago, mercer said:

Some good suggestions in here. I learned a ton from this post. Do you have a Vimeo page? I'd love to see your work. 

Unfortunately, my Vimeo page doesn't have anything good on it right now, as most of my work is either still being shopped to festivals, corporate work I can't release, and/or class projects I don't feel represent me. I have a few passion projects in the works I'll hopefully be able to put up soon. :)

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