If you’re location filming then having a set of lights makes sense, and these days there are plenty of options to consider, including complete self-contained kits in a handy carrying case.
The filmmaker of yesteryear had a task on their hands when the time came to undertake location work. Invariably, lights would be part of the mix and these would be cumbersome, frighteningly delicate, would pump out copious amounts of heat and would require a mains supply or an unwieldy and expensive mobile generator for their power source. Not a happy proposition, and when you consider a set of lights rather than a single unit would have been the norm, it’s not surprising that such operations involved a full team of assistants.
Contrast that to the situation that exists now. LED technology has changed the entire landscape of location lighting and simplified matters to the point where even the self-contained filmmaker would usually have some lighting options tucked away in a corner of their gadget bag that would be capable of working off battery power and pretty much pumping in a spot of shadow-lifting brightness wherever it might be required.
The good news doesn’t stop there, of course. Not only is the modern light fixture compact, lightweight and durable, but many will have filtration built in to ensure they can adapt to whatever colour temperature might be required, while the RGB fixtures can also supply unlimited combinations of colour to deliver even more possibilities. The icing on the cake is the pricing, and the fact is that lighting has rarely been more affordable, and so this really is an area that the serious filmmaker should be looking at very closely.
The amount of choice out there, however, does create its own issues in that it can be confusing to work out exactly what you should be looking at acquiring, and what fixtures are likely to have the capability to deliver the performance you require while having the flexibility to grow alongside your business. This is where it pays to talk to a reliable retail partner such as CVP, whose philosophy is famously equipment agnostic. What this means is that you’ll have time to talk through your requirements without being put under pressure to purchase, and you’ll never likely to be sold a piece of gear that you don’t actually need.
“It’s a fact that LED lights have got better and better over the years,” agrees CVP’s technical marketing manager Jake Ratcliffe, “and we’re at a point now where there are so many fantastic options on the market. What type of lights you need will depend entirely on what you’re planning to do, of course, but there are currently some great ‘small form factor’ fixtures to choose from, such as the compact Aputure AL-MC (CVP price £94), which is really nice and compact – it’s just 93x61x17mm – RGB light, which can be really handy if you’re looking to chuck some light into a scene.
“The same company also offers a really interesting alternative in the form of the B7c (CVP price £76.99). In terms of what it can do, it’s similar to the MC but it’s shaped like a lightbulb, so you can swap out bulbs on household light fittings and replace them with these colour-accurate RGB lights, which can then be controlled wirelessly via Aputure’s Sidus Link app.”
Piecing Together a Kit
With light fixtures this small, affordable and flexible, all kinds of options open up, and it’s up to the creative mind of the individual filmmaker to work out the best way of taking advantage. For those who might be looking for a complete solution, rather than a head or two packed away in the gadget bag for when they might be required, there are a number of lighting manufacturers who specialise in these powerful little fixtures who have pieced together a complete setup that’s perfect to take on location.
Both of the Aputure lights mentioned, for example, come in a handy outfit. The MC is available in a four or 12-light combination (CVP prices £488.99 or £1458.84 respectively), while the B7c comes in an eight-light kit (CVP price £728.99), and is remarkably affordable given its potential to light an entire set with complete remote control being provided over each bulb’s virtually infinite colour output.
“Plenty of brands sell kits that come with everything you may need to get the lights on location and ready for you to shoot,” says Jake. “These will often come in some kind of soft bag or hard case and can include stands, the fixtures and power supplies, as well as any other bits and pieces that might be needed to get the light onto a stand and ready to go. While not every fixture has kits available like this, we can certainly advise should someone have a particular set of lights they want to be working with, and we can piece together a lighting package from scratch.”
It’s a case of developing technology moving the goalposts and creating fresh opportunities for those who are looking for evermore flexible ways to work. Staying on the small side, for example, are tiny specialist light fixtures such as the LitraTorch 2.0 (CVP price £100), which are square and feature 16 LEDs offering 90+ CRI at 5700 daylight temperature. They’re also waterproof and capable of delivering 800 lumens of continuous light, and are perfect for everything, from a light to have on your smartphone if you’re vlogging through, to being small enough to place inside a dark cupboard or other otherwise normally inaccessible area, where an element of fill light might help to enhance the overall look of a scene.
“There are plenty of really small lighting fixtures available that can be battery powered and controlled remotely,” says Jake, “so you can put them into weird scenarios that you would not be able to put regular fixtures in. It very much depends what you’re looking to achieve. You may need to just fill in shadows on someone’s face quickly, or just punch some light into a space with minimal or poor lighting conditions. Just bear in mind the size of your light source: the distance you are from your subject will really impact on how hard or soft the result will ultimately be.”
Not every location-lighting job can be handled by smaller fixtures, of course, but there’s equally plenty of choice as you move up to larger and more powerful products and there are kits to suit every requirement and most budgets. Light panels are particularly versatile if you’re looking for a fixture that has the potential to create soft light without the need to employ modifiers, but Jake is particularly impressed by the latest generation of LED COB (Chip On Board) lights, which offer many advantages over standard options.
Essentially, they consist of multiple LED chips – typically nine or more – that are bonded directly to a substrate to create a single module. Since the individual LEDs used in a COB are chips and not traditionally packaged, they can be mounted in such a way that they take up less space and the highest potential of the LED chips is then able to be exploited. When energised, the LED COB package appears more like a lighting panel, and it results in a greatly increased lumen output per square inch.
“LED COB lights will give you much more versatility when it comes to shaping your light,” observes Jake, “so if you can deal with the extra weight of carrying modifiers, these will be better in most circumstances. Good on-location lighting is all about balancing the natural light in a scene with your artificial sources. So, the ability to control the colour or temperature of your light is crucial, and COB LED fixtures such as the Aputure 120D II (CVP price £598.80) or the Godox SL-200W (CVP price £540), allow you to add a range of modifiers to change your light, which means you can really finesse your output.”
Creating with Colour
Of course, the development of RGB fixtures in recent years has opened up some brilliant new opportunities, and it’s given filmmakers the chance to play with infinite variations of colour at the twist of a control and without the need for any filters to be involved, saving endless amounts of effort.
“A big benefit of fixtures where you can change the colour of your light is the ability to match and tweak your light to create exactly the effect you require,” says Jake. “However, fixtures such as the Prolycht Orion 300 (CVP price £2203.20) and ARRI Orbiter (CVP price £4738.26) are looking to bring an even bigger benefit to RGB fixtures by using an array of Red, Green, Blue, Amber, Cyan and Lime (RGBACL) LEDs. Together with some clever software trickery, these lights are able to achieve fantastic colour fidelity.”
Clearly, such precision positions these cutting-edge new fixtures at the very top level of filmmakers, but it’s clear there are endless options out there and those making their first cautious move into motion can still start out at a much lower level and then work their way up the lighting food chain as and when commissions start to demand it.
“When it comes to choosing a fixture for on-location use, there are so many things to consider,” says Jake. “How it’s powered, the size and weight of the units, build quality, light output, fixture type and light accuracy. What you need to prioritise will depend on what’s most important to you. We help people make decisions like this all the time and we’ll be able to recommend a lighting setup that will be based around their exact needs.”
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One of CVP’s resident team of technical experts, and a self-confessed camera nerd who gets way too excited over kit, Jake’s background mirrors that of so many creatives these days. After graduating with a degree in photography he took up a freelance career and found that many of his clients were asking for video services so, rather than turn the work away, he started to teach himself the filmmaking basics. Having been based at CVP for four years now, Jake epitomises the ‘equipment agnostic’ approach of the company and devotes his time to advising customers who might be looking for impartial feedback on which products to invest in as they look to make the same journey into motion.
Compact and powerful LED lights such as the latest DMG DASH are now changing the lighting landscape for filmmakers.
The innovative Aputure Accent B7c bulb can be used in standard light fittings and remote controlled, and it’s also available as an eight-light kit.
Kits such as this Ledgo-600 Daylight Location Lighting outfit come with three stands and a carry case for just £912.
The neat and stylish LitraTorch can work brilliantly to throw light into dark and inaccessible corners.
CVP can piece together a kit for filmmakers based around preferred gear, such as the highly rated Aputure 120D II Video Light.
The Aputure AL-MC lights employ RGB technology and come in a four-head outfit that’s hugely versatile, robust and portable and yet costs under £500 in a bespoke case.
Aimed at the high-end filmmaker, fixtures such as the Arri Orbiter are using RGBACL technology to deliver almost perfect colour.