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Shane Hurlbut's Kino Flo Interviews: 'In Order to Be a Great Shooter, You Have to Understand Light'

kino flo fluorescent soft light lighting Frieder Hochheim Shane Hurlbut ASC hurlblog visuals interview documentary filmmakingThere are several exciting new lighting revolutions in development these days, namely LED and plasma fixtures. The first such high-output/low-footprint alternative lighting technology — all but perfected for the performance needed in high-end film production — came about twenty-five years ago, with the advent of Kino Flo Lighting Systems. Kino Flo isn’t the only manufacturer pushing alternative lighting solutions with filmmaking in mind, but its name is still nearly synonymous with the technology it helped revolutionize. Check out an excellent interview below from Shane Hurlbut, ASC, with Kino Flo founder and president Frieder Hochheim to hear about how it all began and about how the company plans on lending its namesake to some of those new revolutions in lighting, too.

Before we get to the interview, here’s a few words from Shane himself, on his experience and use of Kino Flo systems:


It’s no small accomplishment to be a permanent fixture (pun intended, whoa-hoa!) in any ASC cinematographer’s field kit, but graze through any American Cinematographer issue and you’ll inevitably discover any number of DPs and gaffers citing Kino Flo as well (Mr. Hurlbut is far from the only DP who gets a lot of mileage out of the company’s products). And, for good reason — I can think of no other soft-lighting fixture that, for instance, has the ability to screw directly into set walls actually built into its jacket design. It’s this very practical, ‘form follows function’ gaffer-centric mentality that drives Kino Flo designs, and considering president and founder Frieder Hochheim was himself a gaffer at the time of Kino Flo’s inception (on Barfly to be exact), this shouldn’t be too surprising!

Kino Flo has obviously come a long way from a pre-computer warehouse (or G&E truck), though so far their only LED fixture is the Diva-Lite-esque Celeb 200, which I have not personally worked with yet — but which looks like it carries its branding very seriously. All told, I’m still on the fence about LED soft panels in general, but feel free to chime in with your preferences and on-set experiences. As for shooters looking to build their own (lower-cost) Kino Knock-Offs, see The Underwater Realm‘s excellent bank-building tutorials!

What have your experiences been with Kino Flo fixtures specifically? What about such experiences versus those with other fluorescent manufacturers? How do the LED panels you’ve worked with thus far compare — what fixtures and flavors of technology do you prefer to work with, and why?

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  • any people that call themselves cinematographer without having read Painting with Light by John Alton are nothing but camera operators

    • I have that book, but still feel like a camera operator. Guess I should take another look… :)

      • I didnt say you only had to read this one =P,
        but its a staple amongst many

      • i know your frustration. There’s plenty of information on how cameras work but very little in regards to lighting. Sure John Alton’s book is great but it’s 70 years old and greatly needs to be updated and ACM only covers so much., and at most, will give you one lighting plot per article covering one set up in the film. Helpful, but not as much as it could be.

        If there was a series of books on lighting set ups. from features, commercials, music videos., I would buy them in a heartbeat.!

    • Orson Welles and i didnt read this book :p

  • To me what type of fixtures you choose are as important as choosing your color matrix. Different fixtures will reproduce colors in different ways. Its not as simple as Kelvin. In my experience kino flos are great for quick or difficult set ups but I keep them away from yellow skin tones or blonde hair because they skew yellow into green. Also true white balance is hard to maintain with Magenta-Green skews. Generally I keep them away from skin tones for narrative stuff. LEDs are all over the place as far as color reproduction, no two are truly the same even from the same manufacturer. Though tungsten is hottest and the most power hungry, you’ll never ever get a more flattering image on anything else. I usually stay tungsten as long as it remains feasible.

    • A good Arri fresnel 2K corrected with gels for daylight can do wonders on skin tones… but you really need a lot of power to create a setup with a few of them…

      But Kinos are great for fast setups! Love to work with them!

      I don’t know about LEDs, the CRI is just not up there yet for most of them… That horrible green cast is a pain to correct even with minus green gels…

  • Colin Allison on 05.15.13 @ 8:59PM

    As a long time Current Affairs shooter could not go out the door without Kino’s & Dedo, used the first Chimera
    banks with Tota’s but needed daylight balance, correcting with gel was a pain. (Dedo excepted)

  • I’ve shot with the new Kinoflo LED. it’s a pretty accurate as far as CRI goes and I left it on over lunch by accident and found it still barely warm on my return. I dare say I preferred the quality of light from it over the originals.

    • Dave Kendricken on 05.16.13 @ 4:46PM

      No way, really? That’s wild! I would like to get my hands on it at some point soon…

  • Love my Kino Flo Diva kit. Once you try them your hooked!

  • Daniel Mimura on 05.17.13 @ 9:48AM

    I’ve never had problems with color balance with kinos in any color situation. LED’s, even allegedly high CRI indexed ones like Litepanels and Rosco light pads, fall apart when you get into mixed light situations.

  • I was on a shoot recently that we were using a Diva Lite mixed with a few 1×1 LED panels (which were not Kinoflo) for the majority of our set ups. Other than putting up HMIs outside for consistent outdoor light, we stuck to these for almost every single set up and it looked great. The colour temperature was never a problem and we were able to get really nice soft light the whole time.

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