For many indie filmmakers, choosing lighting equipment is often less about the right features and more about the right price. So, chances are if you've been trying to light a film on a budget, you've worked with LED lights.
This is because they are often much more indie friendly than traditional tungsten lights: they're much more affordable, require less power, and don't heat up as much (which is great for those who are inexperienced working around lighting equipment). However, like everything else in this world -- for every pro, there is a con, and Lewis McGregor from Indie Tips lays out a bunch of them in this very helpful video. Check it out below:
Straight from his blog post, McGregor lists the pros and cons of working with LEDs:
- LEDs cost a significant amount less.
- LEDs require less power. The Aputure Lightstorm 1 (LS1) for example requires less than half the amount of power a 300w requires, yet it’s as bright as three 300ws.
- LEDs are often more portable. Many have the accessibility of being battery operated, either with standard AA batteries for smaller models or with batteries like the v-mount battery for larger LED light panels.
- A predominant feature for LED lights is that they only heat up to a fraction of the temperature a 300w tungsten light would heat to. To make adjustments on just the barn doors of the live 300w you would need gloves, or to at least wait a small amount of time before making any adjustments. Yet, a small LED light that has been on for 25 minutes straight may bear the same heat you would find from your phone after 15 minutes continuous use, which is next to nothing.
- However, the downside of LEDs is that sometimes the colour cast can be distasteful from cheaper models.
- You can actually get a fresnel light with LEDs inside instead of a tungsten bulb, which provides the best of both worlds. However, these lights are going to deplete your budget
- Another downside to LEDs is that multiple non-diffused LEDs from different brands may cast incoherent colours and unwanted shadows. Cheaper LED’s may also cause a flicker when their batteries are starting to die. Something that would not happen with a tungsten light powered from the mains.
- Although in comparison with a Fresnel light, LEDs can often seem that their build is cheaper. The barn doors as usually plastic, and from my experience when a Fresnel light has been knocked over, the sturdy metal barn doors have saved the lens being smashed more than once.
As I said before, using LED lighting is probably a great alternative to using traditional tungsten lighting if you're 1.) on a budget, and 2.) are inexperienced working with lights. LEDs are often much cheaper (in price and, naturally, build quality) than tungsten, and won't heat up enough to require you to wear gloves to touch the light or its barn doors. Furthermore, the power they need to work is significantly lower, which means you can most likely plug them into normal household outlets (as opposed to a generator) without the risk of tripping the circuit breaker/blowing a fuse and causing a fire.
I suggest checking out McGregor's full write up. He goes more in-depth about different LED lights, from the inexpensive to the not-so-inexpensive, and explains the pros and cons of those options as well.