As cameras have gotten smaller and lighter, so have lights
Figure 1. Phantom, a thriller shot mostly in an old Russian submarine, used small, cool-running Litepanels MiniPlus lights due to the tight spaces and proximity to the actors. In Government Video’s June issue, Art Kingdom provided an excellent run-down of new lighting products primarily for studio and fixed-location shooting. (“‘No Light, No Picture’ Says Lighting Producer”). NAB2013 also showcased a wide range of lighting choices for the “run-and-gun” crowd.
Some of these units, typified by their light weight, small size, DC power and camera mounts, were the subject of a lawsuit brought by Litepanels. At the end 2012, concerns spread throughout the industry that the lawsuit could limit or eliminate competing lighting products, unless licensing fees were paid. Early this year, Litepanels received a court judgment that resulted in most of the companies named in the lawsuit now paying licensing fees to Litepanels.
The bottom line is that today there are many companies offering a wide range of LED lighting products, including Litepanels and most of the companies named in its lawsuit. In spite of the successful patent defense ruling in Litepanels’ favor, NAB2013 demonstrated that the run-and-gun, camera-top LED lighting market was more vigorous than ever.
Litepanels’ on-camera series provides a range of units from the AA-battery powered Micro and Micro Pro, to the AC/DC Ringlite Mini, which is available in tungsten, daylight flood and daylight spot options. The Miniplus IR (infra-red) has become popular for nighttime reality shoots, law enforcement and military.
Because the Miniplus IR gives off no visible light, it has found a decidedly non-production related use as a “light grenade”: It is tossed into a darkened room so that IR vision gear and IR “camera worms” can get a good view of contents or occupants before entry. Litepanels’ most interesting on-camera light is the Sola ENG, a daylight-balanced Fresnel that can be powered by AC or, with the included D-Tap power cable, DC from Anton/ Bauer batteries. With a 15- to 50-degree adjustable beam angle, this little Fresnel could be quite handy.
Ikan Corporation provides a highly flexible unit, iLED-ONE, that uses interchangeable LED bulb-reflector units. Shooters can change between daylight or tungsten, spot or flood with a simple bulb change. These bulbs are the same as those used in the iKan ID400 ENG/ field light.
The iLED-ONE is designed to be powered by the iKan AC107 power supply, which is essentially an adapter that comes in the user’s choice of Canon 900, Panasonic D54, Sony L or BP-U battery compatibility. Despite requiring the separate purchase of battery adaptor and charger, the iLED-ONE makes an affordable, flexible on-camera light.
Figure 2. With 16- to 170-degree beam angle (spot to flood) and IP54 water-resistance rating, the lightweight and portable ZyLight F8 LED Fresnel provides lots of punch and flexibility even in wet, dusty, hot or cold shooting situations. Shooters who need more punch and variable color temperature should consider the iKan iLED312. This unit provides variable color temperature (3200K to 5600K) and dimming knobs on the back of the unit. The back also sports two Sony L battery mounts, although the unit can run with just one battery in place. Or, it can be powered with the supplied AC adapter.
Sometimes even “run-and-gunners” have to stand their ground — outdoor sit-down interviews, or perhaps a small static event in a remote area where AC power isn’t reliable or readily available. On-camera lighting may not have adequate punch or coverage, so for these situations, lightweight, DC-capable free-standing units might be required.
The Frezzi HyLight provides the equivalent of 100 Watts of incandescent light output from a single- LED bulb-reflector in a 1.2-lb head that draws only 24 Watts. The back of the unit sports a V- or A/Bmount compatible with commonly available professional video batteries. (V-mount or A/B-mount must be specified at time of purchase.)
The HyLight is fully dimmable, and provides a choice of three different beam angles through interchangeable bulb-reflector assemblies. If good luck abounds and reliable AC power is available, the HyLight’s AC power converter is designed to snap on the back of the light in place of a battery.
Another option from Frezzi for those that need more punch is the SkyLight. It delivers output equivalent to a 650-Watt tungsten bulb, or a 200-Watt HMI, with an actual draw of 75 Watts. The SkyLight is also available with either a V- or A/B-mount plate on the back, along with a 4-pin XLR power connector.
Like the HyLight, the SkyLight is fully dimmable and provides beam angle control through quick-change reflector assemblies. Frezzi provides single-, dual- and triple-head kits with all the accessories you might need (filters, barn doors, stands, AC/adapter-battery charger units, and batteries) in lightweight packages, snug in padded cases, ready to pickup and go.
ZyLight, which came to prominence with its Z90 LED on-camera variable color light, has entered the off-camera, ENG/field lighting market with the F8 LED Fresnel light. Unlike the Z90, purchasers have to choose between a daylightor tungsten-balanced F8. The 8-inch diameter lens can be adjusted to throw a beam angle from a 16-degree spotlight, to a wide 70-degree floodlight. The F8 also carries an IP54 waterproof rating which makes it ideal for shooting in less than ideal weather. It is also fully dimmable, and can be controlled by a wired DMX controller or a Zylink wireless controller.
The F8 requires a 10- to 18-Volt DC power input, which can be supplied by a standard 14.4-Volt broadcast camera battery mounted to the back of the unit, or via 4-pin XLR connection. The compact F8 (it is less than five inches thick when fully collapsed) comes standard with AC adaptor and barn doors. A battery mounting plate is optional.
Old-style incandescent and HMI lighting all had disadvantages that “run-n-gun” shooters used as excuses for inadequate lighting: The lights were too power hungry, ran too hot and were too fragile for the rough-and-tumble work style of many ENG/field production operations. Advances in LED lighting have addressed those issues, and allow even the most frenetic shooting situations to have quality lighting available, whether mounted on or off camera.
Day, night or foul weather, with such lightweight, rugged, DC-powered units in plentiful supply, there are no longer any excuses for poor lighting in ENG / field operations.