Crazy Business. The search for alternate lighting.

One of the crack staff at the Visual Science Lab holds the KRT-LF2007zorbato beta 2.0123.  An assembly of "under the sink" florescent fixtures, white gaffer's tape and, of course, a well placed Bungee cord.  The background is subtly lit with actual daylight.

The universal lighting instrument doesn't exist.  Yet.  But that doesn't stop intrepid or misguided photographers from spending time and energy looking for alternate light sources.  Something different from the ubiquitous shoe mounted flash unit.  Witness the proliferation of low cost florescent lights recently aimed at the gut of the photo market.  Marvel at the sheer number of "me too" monolight flash units pouring out of China.  And share the agony and the ecstasy of my breathtaking dive into the pool of LED lights recently.

There area couple things driving this new lighting evolution.  One is the introduction of generation after generation of digital cameras with built in (and very, very capable) HD video capability.  It's like having a chocolate bar or a small bag of potato chips;  you just have to try them.  Take a bite.  It's the same way with the video stuff.  After most people take a big bite of supposedly sexy video they recoil from the whole enterprise.  Holy crap!  Video actually takes enormous amounts of both planning and work to do well.  Surprise!  But that won't stop people from giving it a try.  And when they do the first two things they discover are:  Lighting helps.  And flash doesn't work.

This leads them on the "Journey of Continuous Lighting Tools".   At first blush the time honored tungsten movie lights comes to mind.  But the joy is short lived.  The lights are hot.  Hot enough to quickly destroyed the filters you put on them to convert their tungsten light balance to match daylight.  Hot enough to effect your air conditioning bills.  And the lights suck up power.  Lots of power.  Enough to pop circuit breakers left and right.

That leads people to florescent lighting.  Which leads people with deep pockets to beautifully color corrected Kino Flos but leaves those of us with shallow pockets to try our best with Home Depot fixtures or the cheaper camera store/Frankenstein lighting units.  Some are really good.  And with high quality, full spectrum, high CRI lamps can be really, really good. But most miss the mark when it comes to color matching with daylight.  And the tubes, being glass, are big and fragile and filled with toxic mercury (well,  not "filled" but there is mercury in them....).

That leaves LED lights.  And so far I'm having fun playing around with them.  I've bought a couple of "no name" bigger panels from vendors on Amazon but I'd really like to play with the entire Lite Panels catalog of lighting units.  The panels I have now put out a fair amount of color correct light and are both "green" and cool.  The one thing none of the continuous lights do is to freeze action well.  For that you either need a lot of light or a bright FLASH of light.  But I've been eyeing  progress from Lite Panels of a version of their product that can be synced to your camera and, when you trip the shutter, the panel's LED's do a quick burst of light that's 400% stronger than regular "full power".  Makes sense since the turn on time of the LED's is nearly as instantaneous as that of a Xenon flash tube.....

When the manufacturers perfect this instant flash technology and bundle it in with their regular continuous performance these LEDs could become the Universal Light we've been looking for.

Related but having nothing to do with technical details is the fact that I'm always looking for interesting looking light.  (That was a convoluted sentence.....)  and the ability to use LED's close in, and in radically different configurations, means a different aesthetic lighting method and that means a new look.  Or the creative adaptation of an existing look.  At any rate, it means constant exploration, which = fun.

More fun is a good thing to have.

Note:  I just found out that two local cinema rental shops in Austin rent Lite Panels......hello?  Also,  if you've purchased on of the ePhoto 1000 LED lights will drop me a line and let me know how you like it?  It's next on the list.  Must hide list from family.....


David Bateman said...

I see an other book in the works! "lighting of those difficult video projects" Or something. It would be good to see how LED compares to fluorescent, especially with cost.

'/1nc3nt said...

For short distance try LUMISHEET from fawoo.com. It's a patented flat illuminator.

For longer distance an array of LUMIDAS with built-in diffusor might work well. You can ask for usa distributor through my colleague fuoco@fawoo.com.

Fawoo is a high-end LED lamp producer from Korea, personally I am experimenting with it as well. I think it's much better than cheap chinese LEDs. They use expensive SMD LED with very high luminance.

kirk tuck said...

Hmmmmm. A book. Do you think so?