I've been trying to figure out how to store my newest gimbal. I wanted a solid case that would protect it while traveling to weird locations. I looked around the studio and spied an old, black Pelican case wedged under some Metro shelving. I hadn't opened that particular case in years but I pretty much knew it had some old light fixtures from a different age. I opened it up and found one Lowell Tota-Light (pictured above) and two Lowell VIP lights. All three are tungsten light fixtures that take 500 watt bulbs and have barn doors that fold up to protect the lamp.
My instantly retrieved memory of these lights was about how often I burned my hands trying to handle them before they cooled off and how hot the rooms got when we had three or four of theses fired up to shoot ancient Sony Beta SP video. Since it was pretty cold outside yesterday and I wanted to set up a quick light for my on camera chat I decided to just put the Tota-Light on a C-Stand, put us a big diffuser and then see if the lamp still worked. It did. Well. And it kept me warm for a while.
Funny, we've more or less (collectively) relegated inexpensive "hot" lights to the trash heap of video production but yesterday's session reminded me about a few features that I'd more or less forgotten in the heedless pursuit of LED lighting at all costs.
First of all, you can buy a used Tota-Light fixture for around $75 and a lamp for about $15. Aim it at a diffuser and turn it on and you've got an amazing amount of light in one small, inexpensive package. Bounce a 500 watt off the ceiling and you can evenly light up a small space. But there's more to it than quantity. Hot lights/tungsten halogens are very, very color accurate. There are no big spikes in their spectrum like there are in most inexpensive LEDs and nothing to correct. If you are matching lights from set to set you'll have no problem with hue or color temperature with your lights. They sit there at 3200° until the tubes burn out or you assistant bangs them around before they've cooled and kills the filament.
They can also be (see the Total-Light) small and light and easy to use.
When I shot some video yesterday I set up the light and set the camera at the tungsten bulb setting for WB. When I looked at the virgin footage with a vector scope enabled in Final Cut Pro X the light fell exactly on the flesh tone index line with no weird spikes or splintered. The white dot was centered and compact. Nearly a perfect white balance. No muss, no fuss.
They do suck up electrical power. They do run quite hot. But damn they are color accurate and easy to use.
No, not giving up on the LEDs now. The tungsten lamps are pricy and prone to having short and sad lives. But I'm not ready to jettison these three little lights. They've got some practical use left in them.
Nice to rediscover stuff.