News is a 24/7 kinda business and there will be times you’ll need something to light up the night or fill in faces of interviews during the day. The former requires something easy to use and portable – an on-camera light with enough punch to reach out into the dark. The latter can be kinder and gentler when you’re inside and want to banish unsightly shadows on interview subjects’ faces. There are a couple of ways to fill in those same shadows when out in full sunlight, some affordable and some not.
Our goals, as Videojournalists, are portability, ease of use, and affordability.
In the past tungsten lights were the portable light of choice. But they took power – lots of it. A 30w light could drain a battery belt or Anton Bauer camera battery in minutes. Those minutes varied from ten to maybe twenty if you were lucky.
Enter LED lights. Little consumer lights that run off of AAA batteries, advancing in size to larger lights that run off of AA batteries. And then even larger lights that use camera batteries or tap into the camera as a power source.
But there is a catch. While tungsten lights emit a full range on the color spectrum, LEDs don’t. This is not an issue if you’re using them for fill in daylight or (with a warming filter) as fill indoors. But light that puppy up in the deep dark of night as your sole light source and you’ll have chills at the results.
Your video will look as if it were shot in the Ice Age. Cool and blue.
You can see it slightly in this video. Using a Flolight 256 and Prolight (250w) with the camera set on automatic, shot indoors with a bit of fill from a lamp in the background, you can see the cooler appearance of the Flolight.
It is very apparent in this video. The primary light source was a set of cheap LED stage lights. Camera on automatic. Very blue.
The way to get around this issue is to carry warming cards. These are cards you white balance on which are tinted blue. So when you white balance, the spectrum shifts to the warm side.
BTW for those of you who don’t “do” manual white balance – here’s how dramatic that shift can be.
Other advantages of LEDs are that they don’t burn hot like tungstens. You can run them for hours and they only get a little bit warm and cool down quickly. That helps with break down time.
Of course they are noticeably higher in price than their tungsten counterparts. So there are trade-offs.
Keep on top of light this week by visiting our facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/thebasicsofvideojournalism.
There is a new pretender to the glowing throne of portable light. The Koll Solari line. Coming in three flavors, these LED lights have a fresnel insert that allows you to go from soft and broad to tight and spot light. Definitely gonna hafta get me one to check it out.
One more thing (12/10/13) – Just picked up a cheapie LED light on Amazon and will be testing it to see how the color holds up against my Flolights. How cheap? About $30…extra for battery and charger. Much lighter too – plastic rather than metal. But if it puts out a good light and doesn’t stray too far from the full spectrum that’s good enough for me. (Think of it as a throwaway light.)