If you do not have the ability to light your scene or talent with natural sunlight, you will be forced to use LED, florescent, or tungsten (hot) lights. Which ones should you choose? In this article I will be talking about LEDs and tungsten lights. They both have great benefits and drawbacks.
Led is now a common type of light. They are light weight, energy efficient, and most importantly they are not hot. LED lights can come in a few varieties: 5600k (daylight) 3200k (tungsten) or both. If you are confused about what tungsten lights are, you have them in your home. They are the lights in your lamps, ceiling fans, and other home lights.
Advantages of LED
They use battery power
They do not get hot
Disadvantages of LED
They are not too bright
Light is not easy to control
Not 100 CRI
Many are plastic
Many videographers now choose to use LED lights because they are quick to setup, the lights themselves can last a very long time some 50,000 hours, and because they are so versatile when having to match color temperature. For instance, say you are in a room with some daylight shining through a window. Your talent will be sitting on a couch and there are some tungsten lights located above them on the ceiling. You could dial in your bicolor LEDs to match the overall color temperature of the room. This is very convenient, because you will not need to add CTB (blue gels) to your lights in order to match the color of the sun shining through the window. We also need to remember that there are tungsten lights above, so even if we needed to add blue gels, we would then need to turn off the tungsten lights. See how wonderful LED lights are! They are affordable now, but just because they are affordable does not mean they will yield top notch color. Many of the affordable LEDs on the market cast a greenish hue. CRI, or color rendering index measures the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. See, sunlight and halogen (tungsten) have 100 CRI score. This means they represent all the colors evenly in the spectrum.
LED lights have varying CRI scores. Some lights have a 75 CRI and others are 95 CRI. If you choose to use LED lights for your video production you’ll need to add gels to your lights to correct the CRI, or you can color correct your video in post-production. Many of the LED lights are sold as panels. You get a large light source that shines everywhere. There is really no way to control the light. You could add light modifiers to limit the light shining to the left or the right, but that means you need to bring more equipment. For instance, say you have an interviewee who will be talking about a very serious and dramatic topic. You use your LED panel to light him and you notice that the background is lit too. The background for this interview does not need to be fully lit, because of the dramatic topic. You actually wanted to just use a spill of light on the wall in the background to add dimension. Because your using your LED lights you do not have the ability to break up the light. Like I said before, you could use flags and bring in more c stands, but those are quite heavy and if you are like me who shoots alone, you may not have room in your vehicle for the extra light modifier equipment.
Using LED lights can be very beneficial, but they do have their place. If you needed to conduct a few stand up interviews in a location where there was a lot of foot traffic, you may want to use your LED lights. There would be no cords for people to trip over and you would not need to look for outlets, since many LED lights run off of batteries.
LED lights light up the whole background. I only wanted a little light in the background.
Advantages of tungsten lights
Built like tanks
Many accessories to choose from
You can shape the light with barn doors
Disadvantages of tungsten lights
They get very hot
They need electricity
Too many cords
I used to work in the news business and we used Lowel lights. These lights were located in all of our trucks and live vans. These lights are built like tanks and they can take a beating, unlike the LED lights I currently own. They do not typically run off of batteries. Tungsten lights like Lowels, need to be fired up by electricity. These lights are called “hot lights,” for a reason; they get extremely hot after just a few minutes of use. Many of these lights use anywhere from a 100 watt to 1000 watt bulbs. The light that is emitted out of them is very hard. This means that the light is harsh, unlike the soft light that comes from many LEDs. You can make hard lights soft but you can never make soft light (LED) hard. In order to make these Lowel lights soft you will need to add diffusion to them. You can use a scrim or specialized paper to reduce the harshness of the light. Many of these lights have barn doors that allow you to shape the light. You can also add the diffusion to the barn doors by clipping it with a few clothes pins. Personally, I like to use the lowel frames that connect to the light itself.
Just one Lowel Pro light. This was used for a hair light.
Omni light with diffusion and hair light.
I like these lights because you can actually shape the light without having to bring a ton of light modifiers. Lowel lights can also hold umbrellas, flags, and other accessories. That is what is so cool about these lights, the developer created this lights to be pretty handy in the field. The omini light comes with a rubber grip handle so you can move the light around without getting burned. If you do use these lights I highly recommend heat resistant gloves. There is nothing worse than trying to move the barn doors around after the light has been on for a few minutes.
There are several types of Lowel lights to choose from. If you are looking to light up a large area you can buy the DP light which holds a 1000-watt bulb. The Omni light can use a 500-watt bulb but can also use a 300-watt bulb. I use the Omni for a key light with a scrim and diffusion paper tucked into the gel frame. Pro lights can be used as fill lights or a nice hair light. These lights are just so very versatile.
I also like the fact that you can go to http://lowel.tiffen.com/edu/ and get educational tips on lighting. You can see what lights works best in certain situations and get more info on light kits.
Omini as key, Pro light as hair light, and one Pro light as fill.
I have been working in television and media for over 18 years. My experience includes news photojournalist, editor, producer and storyteller. I am a five time Telly Award winner.