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LED lighting setup for interviews
  • Hi everyone - haven't been around here much lately. Been happily busy with my GH2 shooting docs, corporate vids, etc... Thanks again to everyone who put time into the hack. You guys are great.

    I was hoping to get some recommendations on lighting and grip gear. I have a budget of about $1500 US total for everything. I'll be doing a combo of Craigslist for the grip gear (found some c-stands and sandbags for a good price on there) and Amazon/Rest of the Web for the lights.

    My main question is in regards to how many lights you all would recommend I get for a starter kit? There is a good deal on the CN-900 light over at ePhoto's site. I want to grab them quick, given the sale price. Not sure how much longer they'll be up for that price.

    Light-wise, I was thinking about going with: 2 ePhoto CN-900 lights 1 ePhoto CN-600 light

    Originally I was looking at getting 3 500-LED bi-color lights. They're cheaper, but I'm concerned about the amount of light in a larger room.

    I read that Vitaliy recommends bi-color lights. But I'm not sure if the budget will quite work out for me on this one. It looks like I'll have to gel the single color lights.

    This is primarily for interviews, both interior and exterior with a battery. I've read about a couple options on batteries.

    Also, I will be shooting a short in the next couple of weeks. It's a single location, single-camera sitcom-style short. The main location will be a (hopefully) medium to large basement-style room.


  • 27 Replies sorted by
  • I know 2 things for sure.

    1. Most of these single color lights have a pretty bad green spike. I shot something a few weeks ago, was in a hurry since we were so behind and since I was by myself, forgot to gel my 500 LED. Well, now I have an ugly ass green skintone shot to fix, if I can, before I hand it off to the Producers. If what I hear about the bi-color helping to correct this is true, more than worth it and I'm going to try out on of the 312 ones to see.

    2. If you look close at the way the hinges are mounted on the barn doors for these lights, you'll notice two types depending on seller and manufacture. I have 3 kino knockoffs that have this same hinge and they SUCK!!! I have to carry around a small wrench they supply to tighten the damn things up every time I use em. I've tried lock washers and all kinds of stuff but they keep breaking free. It's a real pain in the ass. My 500 LED on the other hand has a solid bar that runs the length of the side where the barn doors attach and it's never loosened up. I've noticed that the ones Vitaliy has on here don't have any barn doors. I'm wondering how much they are necessary? They really don't cut the light off as traditional open face and Fresnels do.

  • My main question is in regards to how many lights you all would recommend I get for a starter kit?

    Usually two or even one big light is enough for starters (+reflector and some smaller directional lights for hair, etc). For small interviews.

    LEDs are amazing. But. Cheap ones suck. As far as I aware, CN are among the worst. Generally, it is the reason why you see only one big light - DN, on deals. It also has LED flaws, as all of them, but less.

    Also, good to remember that big and good V-Mount batteries are not cheap and charger for them either.

    May be just get average LED for moving things and fresnels or fluos kit for bigger inside things.

  • +1 on the kino idea from Vitaliy You can pick up some cheap knock offs and use good bulbs for better CRI. I think I paid $225-$250 for each 2ft, 4 bank I bought and love them. They don't dim but that's all too easy with some ND. Here's a couple screen shots of a PSA spoof I shot with them. Testimonial style. Don't skewer me for the resolution! It was shot with a HVX200, original model, so it's not the best but the lights still work well for it.

    Screen shot 2012-09-02 at 3.53.18 PM.png
    975 x 515 - 313K
    Screen shot 2012-09-02 at 3.53.41 PM.png
    976 x 520 - 284K
  • @vicharis, @vitaliy_kiselev Hey guys - thanks for the advice. Which Kino knock offs do you recommend? Vitaliy - if getting only one LED, which size do you think? 900, 600, 500?

  • Thanks, Vic. I was literally just looking at that on Amazon. Good timing! Which 500 did you go with? Is it the bi-color?

    How do you typically find that you set up your lights? Do you use the fluorescents as key and fill and the LED as a back light?

  • Also, how are the light stands that it comes with?

  • It changes all the time. I really don't have a set way as I'm still learning. I just keep trying different combo's out till I like what I see. There's a lot of guys who are MUCH more experienced than me on here that could help. This setup was 2 Flo's behind the guys facing a white wall to blow it out and give it that PSA look, then used another one off to the left of them as the key and knocked it down a couple stops, then threw the 500 LED behind them as a hair to try and give some separation. In narrative stuff and improve webseries stuff, I use the 500 as a fill sometimes but it's so hard to match with the Flos. It's one from Fancier I believe and it's just the 5600ish one. 1st gen I believe.

    As far as stands, the ones that come with the Flos are pretty damn good. I didn't get one with the LED, so I purchased another one like the flo one for it. Rock solid.

  • Thanks, Vic. All excellent info - and your stuff looks great. I went to film school back in the 90s and yet I feel like I'm learning everything all over again.

    So my current thoughts are 2 kinos, 1 900, and possibly 1 500 bi-color.

    Can you gel the 500 to get it close to the flos?

  • I would hold off on the 900 if you're going to get two of the kinos. I'd go for a set of the 312 bi-color LEDs on here that Vitaliy got a deal on. They have great reviews and you can dial them right in to the kinos instead of gelling to match. Lee just came out with a specific gel for led lights that match them to 3200k but it still is off a bit from the flos from what I can see while I'm editing. Still needs some -Green.

    As far as the case goes, I'm not sure. It might be too small. Think I've taken a look at it before but I'll go measure the kinos tomorrow and let you know the true dimensions.

  • Thanks - much appreciated and will look at the 312s.

  • @5thwall The dimensions are 25x17x4 but they have mounting attachments on a long side and a short side that can come off. I'm actually going to remove the one along the short side so they mount flatter. That should make that dimension about 22-23.

    It also looks like someone else is using that bag for the same lights so it looks prefect. I'm going to order one and see!

    It'll be in on Thur and I'll let you know

  • That's great news. Look forward to hearing how the bag works for you. I ended up getting the 2 4-bank kit. I also ordered a 2-bank 550W for fill light. Also picked up 2 c-stands and some sandbags off of craigslist today. Pretty decent price for some well-used c-stands. And the guy threw in some 1/2 and full CTO - so that was really nice of him.

  • You'll need some -green too. Prob anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2. It never hurts to knock em down with a 1/4 :)

  • Yeah, I've got some calls out for some -green. There's an expendables recycling shop that I'm hoping has some.

  • I take it you're in LA then? The place in Van Nuys?

  • That's the one.

  • Yep, they rock for that fast stuff. Weird being in the back of a house though. First time I went there I was so lost.

  • Hey y'all. So I got my LED light panel and 3 4-bank ePhoto fluorescents. I'm pretty happy with everything. Just wanted to give a shout out to an amazing company in Burbank who makes custom light cases, flag cases, etc... I like supporting the little guy (or gal) and it doesn't get much littler than Sita's operation. She didn't ask me to post this and I'm in no way affiliated with her company, I'm just very happy with the work she did on all the bags. If you live in LA, and need very reasonably priced bags for your lights or gear, I highly recommend giving her a call. Her site is

    If you are out of town, my only recommendation is that you talk to her to see if she can help. She needed to keep my lights for a couple days so she could size the bags properly. Everything is sized to fit snug.

  • @5thwall

    May be make small video about lights and this cases?

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I'll be shooting with the lights in a week and a half. Will post some of that footage when I get it. In the mean time, I've attached a pic of one of the cases for the fluorescent 4-banks. And below is an all-too-lengthy explanation of what I ended up getting and experiences thus far.

    One gripe about the fluorescents is that I have to echo @vicharris about the barn doors. They are crap. If anyone has figured out a way to get them to remain in place, please let me know. I think it's just a cheap design. I'll be resorting to gaff tape in the mean time.

    Oh, and don't buy the Cowboy Studio 2-bank. I wasted a week on those after a return and replacement and then another return. Bad ballasts on both units. And the tech department and customer service at CS was crap as well. I guess I shouldn't be shocked. We all know it's cheap stuff. But still...

    I checked the color balance on the lights with the GH2 set to 5400k and a gray card filling the frame. At 5400k, they are very close with a little bit of a pull toward cyan. Maybe a 1/8 minus green would help. Need to test that next week. Does anyone know what gel would be the most like a 1/8 red? There is no 1/8 red, that's why I'm asking.

    The light panel was an el-cheapo ePhoto 900 LED. I know, Vitaliy, you recommended that I go with a better model. I just need it for fill in outdoor and had a budget to keep. I color balanced that one, too. It pulls toward cyan/green. Again, will look at gels for it next week. The built-in magenta and "tungsten" hard filters are useless. I actually found the diffusion filter helped bring it closer to the center mark on the vectorscope.

    Got a Switronix SWXPL90SK1 Power Kit from B&H for the LED. They seem to be perpetually on sale. Also got an XO Vision XO420 350-Watt Power Inverter with 2 AC Outputs for powering a light or two from the 9V in my car.

    After testing the XO Vision, I was able to power the 900LED. Separate from that, I was able to power 1 bank of one of the fluorescents lights. I wasn't planning on using the flo outside, so it's just good to know what it can power. I've been looking at a Power Bright PW1100-12 Power Inverter 1100 Watt 12 Volt DC To 110 Volt AC which attaches directly to the car battery for more intense setups where I can get far enough away.

    Reason I'm looking at using the car battery power for lighting is that I was on a shoot in Bakersfield a few weeks ago and this really would have come in handy since we need to block sunlight outdoors and needed to key the talent. Since I didn't have the battery, we couldn't do it, unfortunately. The shoot lasted a couple hours, so a single battery for the LED probably wouldn't have lasted.

    For stands, I got 3 Ravelli ALS Photo Video Light Stands. They seem fine. People on Amazon like them. Sandbags will help. The light stands that came with the ePhoto Flurorescent kit are pretty cheap. I am using one of them for the 900LED since it's so light. I'm using the other one with a Pad Prompter.

    BTW, the Pad Prompter is kind of expensive, but it works as advertised. Ended up getting Teleprompt+ for both the iPad and the MacBook (which can control the iPad app). It all works fairly well. You can't edit the files on the MacBook that play back on the iPad app, unfortunately. I'll say this, it all works well for the budget. But it doesn't work as seamless as a high end teleprompter with a proper remote. I'll be testing it out next week, as well.

    Ended up getting 2 c-stands and sandbags from Craigslist. I'm unhappy with that purchase. I was in a "gotta get this stuff now, frame of mind." And I just sort of thought that C-stands always stand the test of time. For the price I bought them for, I could've spent relatively a little more and bought new ones. In any case, I got a new arm for one and I'm using the other one specifically for flags and scrims, which will be fine.

    I won't really know how this will work until next week's shoot. My feeling is that the fluorescents will flow. They'll look good as is or with a little minus-green. The LED will do well as a creative light - add a strong filter or use it as a hair light or something. Haven't seen the location yet, so not really sure what our options will be.

    Thanks again to Vitaliy and Vic for their input.

    2592 x 1944 - 2M
  • @5thwall Love the bag! That's awesome. How much did you pay for that again? As for the minus green, they make it. I have 1/8 and 1/4 minus green, or magenta that I use on mine. Expendables should have it.

  • @vicharris. Thanks for the recco. I am aware of minus green. Just looking for the equivalent to a 1/8 plus red.