Wedding videos make up over 90% of my business. And as a result, the majority of my equipment is based around that. I like everything to be portable and ready to use at a moments notice. At a wedding, I am lucky if I have five minutes to set up. However, in recent months, I have been getting more and more corporate clients. It is essentially the exact opposite world of shooting an event. Events are scheduled, only happen once and go by pretty fast. There are no retakes, and no second chances. It can be a real rush to recording a live event. Corporate videos take much longer to film versus the amount of video used. I recently created a series of four videos for a real estate company. We recorded all of the talent on the same day, and each video was edited down to around two minutes. Six hours of being on location equaled about eight minutes worth of video in the end. But my biggest equipment problem for this shoot was the lighting itself. As I said earlier, all of my gear is set up for live event work. This means I use a small on camera light with my camera and don't have studio lighting. For this shoot, I borrowed lights form my friend. They are lights that have been around and I would trust to work anytime, but they are out dated, and in an enclosed room, they get VERY hot after only a minute or two. This leads me to my search for new lights.
There are three main types of lighting to look at when putting together a kit for portable use. There are Tungsten, Florescent and LED. Tungsten is the old technology, it works great but can be very HOT. The color temperature if a very pleasant 3200K giving a warm feel to the lighting. But, if you read the news, tungsten lighting is on its way out. On a residential level, these are the old school lightbulbs that are no longer being made. Besides, like I said, they are very hot.
Next are the florescent lights. To be honest, I don't have much experience with these. We have a bank of them at the TV studio I teach at, but as far as portable units I have never had the pleasure of trying them. One thing I know for sure is that they use up power much like the tungsten. These are not lights you are going to run off of batteries. Tungsten will use more power than florescent in the long run, but still not always practical for location shooting.
This bring me to my last option, LED! LED lights are the new sensation. I have an LED light for my camera that I can change from daylight (5600K) to tungsten (3200K) by simply turing a dial. It runs off a Sony L type battery and barely weighs anything. So for my light kit, I want to LED as well, but there are so many choices out there.
My first option is a light kit from Genaray. I don't know much about this company. In fact, wikipedia doesn't know anything about them, so they are pretty new. What I do know is that I use their on camera light. And of the three LED light kits I am looking at, they are the least expensive. They are currently listed on B&H for $758 (currently a mark down from $1204) for a three piece kit with stands and dimmers. These lights run off of AC power and are daylight balanced. The only way to change color temp with these is with a filter. The reviews seem to have great things to say about them. My main concern is that the fixtures are round, which can be awkward to pack inside the bag. Also, there is no bag included with this kit. I am not sure if the company is not including the bag as a way to make the price more attractive, but I would prefer a kit with a custom made bag. Maybe I should write them a letter.
This next kit that I am looking at does have a bag, and I think that's a good thing. This is the Lowel Blender Kit. Is the that trusted brand I used when I borrowed my friend's lights. Lowel is a brand that has been around and usually their stuff works. Why is it called blender? Well, these lights are able to be either 3200K, 5600K, or anywhere in the middle. You can blend color temperatures to match your location, or to create interesting lighting effects. The kit also comes with diffusors for each light. These are also AC powered (no batteries here). Where as the Genaray was a good price, the Lowel kit is double the price at $1399. But for something at that price point, and with a name like theirs to back it up, there are not a lot of reviews on this product and it has been out for over a year. Some say that the lights are too under powered when trying to use natural window lighting as part of the mix. This was going to be my first choice, but after reading reviews, I have to thing some more.
This brings us to the third choice in this buying process. The ikan IFB576-s. Like the Lowel, the ikan can adjust color temp. Dimmer control is also included. And yes, it has a case. In fact it has two cases, because these lights are bigger. These lights can be controlled on the back by either a LED touch screen or control knobs. The readings are always displayed so you know exactly what color temp you are at. What set these lights apart? For one, they have barn doors to control the spill of light. Also, the price. They are bigger lights and they come with a bigger price tag. These lights will set you back $1619, but at least you get two bags.
And for my last selection, lights from a company that is better know for their motion backgrounds than their lighting. Digital Juice has a light kit called the MiniBurst. There are lot of things that I seem to like about these lights. They are small, so they can go anywhere. The demo video actually shows them using these with suction cup mounts in a car. They are also battery powered! They are powered by the Sony L type battery for up to 6 hours (at least they claim 6 hours). They are again, balanced to daylight but they have included a warming filter to try and get down to tungsten. And yes, they have included a carrying case. They are also nicely priced at $799 (marked down from $929). These lights are a strong contender to become part of my equipment stash.
There are of course many more lights out their than these four. Bescor makes really inexpensive LED lights, but I have seen them and they look and feel as cheap as they cost. Their are also other light kits that go far beyond the $2k mark. These are the lights that I feel are the strongest with in this price range when comparing the features that are offered and the versatility of the lights.
This post has honestly been, a way for me to think about what lights I want to pick. Hopefully it can help you as well.