Finding a film lighting kit for an upcoming shoot can be a daunting task. There are many different kinds of lights you can use, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.
But understanding the different forms of film and videography lighting gives you a solid start. Learning their various strengths and weaknesses in different environments will get you more comfortable with which specific lights to choose for your own film lighting kit.
For today’s post we looked to great minds in the field, and professional cinematographers as well, to shine a light on the types of film and video lighting kits you need to know about.
The first step to painting cinematic pictures with light is knowing the types of light. Then you can pick-and-choose what’s best for your own production lighting choices.
Let’s dive in!
1. Tungsten film lighting kit
Tungsten lighting kits for film and video production have been a tried-and-true, industry-standard lighting choice for years. They’re similar to the incandescent filament bulbs common in interior lighting, so they are a great choice for interior lighting setups.
To start, tungsten bulbs and fixtures are cheap to rent.
When compared with other light sources, tungsten lights have a comparatively shorter life. So their bulbs need to be replaced frequently (even though they’re cheap).
Additionally, tungsten lights also get very, very hot. So they pose a fire risk, and must be cooled after operating before you can handle them.
And once you can handle them, you must do so very carefully. The oils from your skin pose a risk of exploding the bulb while it’s on.
Thankfully, the tungsten film and video lighting kits often come with protective covers.
2. HMI film lighting kit
An HMI is a powerhouse arc lamp lighting source that is crucial for lighting outdoors (or replicating outdoor light shining into interiors). Because they are so powerful, they are also good resource for lighting large sets.
As mentioned above, the sheer brightness of an HMI makes it a necessity for strong light sources. They aren’t the power hogs that tungstens are, and don’t create as much heat on set.
HMI lights are highly expensive, so you must have a budget that allows for them.
These require more set-up and take-down than other forms of lighting, simply because each HMI requires an attached ballast that regulates the arc lamp.
There is also additional power and safety considerations to make when using an HMI. They often require generators and personnel to operate them.
3. Fluorescent film lighting kit
If you’ve ever spotted a lighting fixture on set with a row of light tubes, then you’ve seen fluorescent film or video lighting kits at work. These lights emit ultraviolet light from mercury vapor and can be balanced for both indoor and outdoor use.
The soft light from fluorescent lighting packages, like Kino Flos, creates good lighting for video and film
Fluorescent lights offer a naturally soft light that are common in everyday interiors. And they are also affordable, easily transported, and adaptable to different shooting environments.
Like LEDs, the fluorescent film lighting kits have modest power requirements and don’t get too hot while running.
While external ballasts aren’t required for Fluorescent lights, they can help fight flickering issues the lights may have. Like HMI’s, that means extra assembly and tear-down.
Dimming is also not as easy with fluorescent bulbs as other kinds. You can always take bulbs out to reduce lighting intensity, but you don’t have the same amount of control.
4. LED film lighting kit
The LED video light are all the rage for ultra-low budget shoots.
Although their portability lend themselves to micro-budget filmmaking, there are higher-end fresnels that are growing in popularity as well.
It’s very telling that, on his website's forum Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins said that LED’s are advancing so fast that “tungsten bulbs will become a thing of the past in the next year or two.”
LED panels are very lightweight, and can be easily filtered for matching other light sources.
Also, the light from LED panels is good quality -- and its color remains consistent while dimming.
Finally, LED panels are battery-powered, compact, and lightweight. So naturally they don’t require the ballasts that HMI’s and some fluorescents do. Plus, they don’t get hot.
Planning your film and video lighting kits
There is no “best film lighting kit” to cover every shoot.
So, when planning your film lighting kit for a shoot, you’ll probably use some combination of these different lighting packages.
So a good understanding of mixed sources is very important.
Before cinematographers think about production lighting, they have to “see” the story. Armed with that vision, they are then brought into the early stages of pre-production.
Having thorough pre-production materials, like equipment lists, allows for maximum control over their film and videography lighting setups.
Using a film production software like StudioBinder is a great way to stay efficient. In it, you can add your equipment as early as the script breakdown process.
Script breakdowns in StudioBinder film production software
In a StudioBinder script breakdown, all scene elements -- from props to special equipment -- can be added either as tags of a particular word in a script, or as one-off inputs.
Adding professional video lighting kits as Special Equipment in the StudioBinder script breakdown tool
This will later feed into your production reports (such as Equipment Lists), so that you can be sure you’ll have every piece of lighting equipment you need.
This can be especially important when the film is being budgeted.
The Breakdown Summary in StudioBinder film production software
Production lighting and beyond
A filmmaker has to know his or her gear. Getting acclimated with the different kinds of film lighting kits is just the first step.
There are many great resources out there on the additional equipment you’ll need as well, such as diffusion, gels, and flags to control light sources.
If you need, pair your reading about gear with the best cinematography tips you can find. Fully hone your approach for each shot you create!
And, as always, let us know in the comments below which film lighting kits you have assembled -- and which particular lights have worked best for your shoots!
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