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Flicker free fluorescent
  • I am picking up a few par64s to play with and I am looking for some good flicker free fluorescent CRI 93+ bulbs to go in them (both spot and flood). I usually stick to tungsten as much as I can but wanted to branch out and play with something different. So my plan is to turn off all the lights in my living room and re-light using a more cinematic style (maybe turn it into a weekend short). Its really just an exercise/learning experience. I have a gh2 that seems to hate fluorescents in the past and flickers but everyone talks about the colors you can get from them if you can pull something off. Is it possible to even film using the gh2 with fluorescents? I would like both 24p and slomo to be flicker free.

    My lighting style is a bunch of little lights vs floods of light and the room itself is a kitchen/living room about 600 sq/ft. I do have one sliding glass door but it doesn't get a lot of light. I will be test lighting both day and night. Thanks for all opinions and recommendations!

    Also, just so everyone knows. Setting your shutter speed to 1/50 or 1/60 does not fix this problem. It may reduce it but it has been my experience that it does not.

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • For example, I found this really interesting: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?302623-High-wattage-low-cost-and-fast-setup

    I wanted to try that but unless I had some way of making it a high frequency electric ballast setup then I would be wasting time. Again, it would also be nice to use high CRI blubs to get better color renditions.

  • Fluorescent bulbs are flicker-free as their built-in ballasts are electronic. Fluorescent tubes will be filcker-free if their ballasts are electronic rather than magnetic, i.e. if they flicker, swap out the ballast for an electronic one.

  • @spacewig oh nice! I didn't think the bulbs had the ballast built in (figured it was apart of fixture). My job just got a whole lot easier. Something else that stuck me as interesting is that tubes put out more lumens vs bulbs. So basically the deal with fluorescents is surface area matters.

  • What you can do with the bulbs is build clusters. You could easily build a fairly compact fixture with bulbs that equals or outperforms a typical tube setup. You just have to get creative and construct or acquire some kind of softbox or other form of diffusion that also spreads out the surface area of the source.

    There are amazingly talented, top-shelf DPs that build their own fixtures this way for augmenting practical light on location rather than "movie lights".

  • I believe that Kino-Flo ballasts run at twice the frequency of standard electronic ballasts and that reduces their on-camera flicker.

  • @DouglasHorn
    That sounds about right. My Cowboy studios don't flicker but I've noticed some bad rolling banding lately at anything other than 1/40th shutter.

  • @BurnetRhoades thats a great idea I'll have to keep an eye out for some good setups. Anything in I should be looking at socket wise in particular?

    Are the fast ballasts tough to find? If you going to go through the trouble of building a kino it would suck to not have it perform. Ill see if I can find something on the types they use.

  • If your contemplating kino tube style lighting, look at Philips tube range - TL-D90. CRI = 90+. Available as 3000 and 5000K.

    1/8 CTS (straw) will convert 3200 to 3000. And. 1/8 CTB will convert 5000 to 5500

    Use electronic ballasts, and will be flicker free
    (Note flicker free at normal shutter speeds. Beyond normal shutter speeds ... test ... And be prepared to restart the camera to avoid the rolling.)

  • @omnidecay The bulb option has the ballast built in. It's the tubes you have to source your ballast for.

    One particularly lazy "bat strip" fixture that I built once was by taking a powerstrip and plugging the bulbs in via socket adapters you can get for cheap at Home Depot, etc. They're bulb sockets that plug into a standard outlet. Take two powerstrips done up like this and you've got the potential for a 1K+ depending on the bulbs used.

    I had the powerstrips attached to a long dowel that I also got at Home Depot which was the perfect diameter to go in a C-stand.

  • @BurnetRhoades Ha, I love it. Its like a string of Christmas lights only a 1k. I Have some bulbs on order and am definitely going to play with this.

  • The screw-in kind of flo bulb has the ballast inside of the plastic base of the bulb. The long tube flo bulbs do not. Those ballasts are in the light fixture and can be either magnetic or electronic. Magnetic ballasts will resonate with the frequency of the current for your country, 50 or 60Hz. Electronic ballasts can be anywhere from hundreds of Hertz to MHz+.

    I built some homemade flo lights from Kino bulbs and dimming electronic ballasts. Cheaper than Kino or Cool lights but still pricey and hard to make. I rarely use the dimming less than halfway because the color of the bulb starts to change and I rarely use more than 2 of the 4 bulbs in the light at a time. More often than not, I'll gel/diffuse/scrim the light and just dim slightly for taste. Because of this, I'd say if you make your own, don't worry about dimmability.

  • Good call @svart. What did you use as a base for your custom flo build?

  • Dimmers are too much trouble to worry about. Just make the banks switch-able and it's as good in practical terms. Has anyone tried the jumbo CF self-ballasted bulbs? I have a couple of big 85watt (advertised as 350watt incandescent-equivalent) from Eiko (5,000K). You can run them on standard medium bases and put them inside a china ball for a large daylight-balanced area filling soft source. I could imagine putting several together to create a big coffin box or other improvised lighting instrument.

    I do want to mention, though, that one of the things I really love about Kino-Flo fixtures is that they really are designed well for use on set. I have some Kino-Flos and also two off-brand Diva-light-like fixtures. The off brand ones were a lot cheaper, but they are a PITA to use sometimes. The Diva is always easy. I think a lot of the extra cost of a genuine Kino-Flo goes into the usability features.

  • I haven't ever really been that impressed with KINOs, as far as construction. The design with built-in barn doors, that I like, but examining the materials themselves...some kind of metal impregnated, corrugated plastic or cardboard (depending on the era and model) left me kinda underwhelmed. I guess it does keep them lighter weight.

    On SICK BOY, we had a pair of KINOs that were used always (then down to one when one couldn't hold a proper color temp) and I used a cluster of those 100W, full-spectrum CFLs on a stand back in a room or a few times outside acting as moon fill. I never used this setup as a key because I didn't build anything to really control the light but it was a great, cheap way to throw some light from another room, etc.

    We didn't have enough pre-pro time so I never got a chance to source some good, big China-Balls but that's on the agenda for next project. We'll likely still use either some KINOs or LED equivalent for our keys but I can build up a bunch of cheaper, powerful lights to pre-light rooms with, taking the Harris Savides approach:

    I light a room and let the people inhabit it, as opposed to lighting the people...It's more organic. You want to protect the people you're working with, and there's a constant battle between the best light for their face and the best light for the story. You don't want to get to the point where the audience notices the light.

    ...which is kinda-sorta the interiors analog for what Terrance Mallick's DPs do with exteriors (and interiors lit by exterior light).

  • I use BlueMax bulbs, they are very high CRI, silent, and the mercury is glued into the bulb in case you drop one. The batch I have color temp measures 5200K but I think the temp may vary slightly from batch to batch, at least on the website the specs vary slightly from time to time. None of mine have stopped working so I have not tried a recent batch.

  • @omnidecay I found some dimmable ballasts on ebay, bought Kino 3200K bulbs and bought the 4pin sockets and clamps from some online light store. I used the corrugated plastic that Kino uses by buying a few sheets from a sign company (used a lot in the sign industry apparently) and used some scrap metal for the frame. Wiring wasn't difficult but finding a decent box to put around the ballasts and wiring was since they are pretty long. I made the light so that the plastic wraps around the whole thing and becomes flags, just like the Kino does.

    Overall, I'd say it works pretty well but I'm going to take 2 of the 4 bulbs and make 2 smaller lights instead. As I mentioned before, at full brightness I rarely use more than 2 of the 4 bulbs. Flo light falls off faster than tungsten so I always find myself using the lights much closer than I normally would with diffused tungsten. 2 lights with 2 bulbs each would be better in my case at least.

    I found with the Kino brand bulbs, you HAVE to run them at full power for a few minutes before dimming so that the phosphors are warmed up. If you don't do this, your color temp is really strange.

    All in all, I use my homemade HMIs a lot more anyway.

    Here's a link to the thread I made when I was building this light: http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/3961/diy-kino-type-fluorescent-lights/p1

  • @BurnetRhoades - Filmtools has the big (30-inch dia.) china balls from Lindcraft. A few of these light a space well if you're going for that look. Making a book light from your big CF sources is also an option--or just bouncing or diffusing, instead of both.

    To me, the louvers, etc. are nice with kino and worth it. I don't know how much @svart saved on his DIYs but that's probably a little too much McGyvering for me.

    I do the same thing with letting the bulbs warm up on high first, whether I use Kino bulbs or Osram. I think it's just about the phospors warming up and it would probably happen eventually at a lower setting but it's better to run them on full for 2 minutes then dim down.

  • Man, were coming up with a lot of good options for fluorescent setups itt!

    @svart nice link and ty for the info. Do you ever wish you went with bulbs instead of flo's because of the ballast? Idk why, but I keep worrying about that. I like you 4bank and imagine it would do the job nicely.

    @BurnetRhoades that quote is pretty much how I try to light my scenes.

  • I built a bulb box too but it's kinda heavy. I bought a bunch of cheap plastic (low wattage only!!) screw-in (edison) bases and attached them to a board. I wired them together and placed a bunch of flo bulbs in them. It works fine but like I said, it's a bit heavy. Maybe I'll try one from the leftover corrugated plastic sheets I have.

    I built my 4 bank flo for around 200$, which is about 1/4 the price of a kino brand dimming 4 bank light. While part of it was simply an exercise for the sake of doing it, the other part was knowing I could save money. It was a lot of work though and it still comes a little short of Kino build quality although it's holding up nicely.

    Also, the cheap bulbs have a very heavy green cast to them no matter the color temp. They need heavy 1/4 "minus green" gelling to have more of a pure color and even then it was still hard to get them perfect because brands and batches seemed to have completely different results. I find that the Kino branded bulbs were much better in that regard while the other brand bulbs people use have varying degrees of green.