May 26, 2016 at 7:54PM

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LED work lights, How useful are they?

What are the pros and cons of using them?

2 Comments

If you are trying to build a set they can be quite helpful, as they tend to be very cheap, and they don't require nearly as much power to get lots of light on the subject. They are also very useful if you need to illuminate areas around craft tables. As for using such lights to light a scene...here's what separates the pros from the cons:

1. CRI (Color Rendering Index). If your CRI is 80 or less, you are going to get ugly skin tones and other strange colors that are a pain to fix in post. I try to avoid anything less than 90.

2. Realistic Color temperature. Does the white color of the light match other sources reasonably well (i.e., daylight to daylight, daylight to tungsten, tungsten to tungsten)? If you have daylight coming in a window, a tungsten practical, and an LED that's generating yet another color of "white", it won't do you any favors.

3. Light shaping. 3-point lighting (key, fill, rim) is the foundation of a good cinematic look. How easy/hard is it to get hard shadows (key), soft shadows (fill), and proper focus/cutoff (rim)? Quality fresnel lights make it easy to focus, spread, and shape the light beam, as well as also making it easy to mount lighting modifiers to get fills, directed diffuse light (eggcrates), etc.

4. Finally, you want a robust system to be able to put the lights where you want them and have them stay there. Cine lights are designed to sit well on lighting stands that are very adjustable. Lights that don't have a good interface to tripods are going to be fidgety.

If an LED work light has a good CRI, a good color temperature, powerful light shaping ability, and can be placed where you want it, aimed where you want it, and can be trusted to say there throughout the shoot, then you have a tool that will do the job well. If you lack one, two, three, or all four of these capabilities, the compromises will be obvious to you, your crew, and, quite likely, those who watch your movies.

May 26, 2016 at 8:19PM

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I've found the small battery powered ones to be useful in adding accents or extra light to a subjects face. I did a mini-doc last month where most of the light was ambient, but the little bit extra light from the LED really made them stand out.

June 1, 2016 at 1:52AM

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