March 28, 2018 at 1:40AM, Edited March 28, 1:48AM


Starter lights?

The short version is that my li'l indie crew and I are about to embark on a microbudget feature. The first of a thousand trials is that my homebrew lighting MO, as it stands, isn't going to cut it this time, so I'm looking into my first lighting equipment since I bought my paper lantern and getting a little overwhelmed.
I need to reliably create 3-point lighting setups in on-location and outdoor sets, in a variety of lighting situations, in a time crunch-- ideally, something battery powered, versatile, and small. One final note is that the budget is super small. Like laughably small.
So NFS, what are the absolute basics I need to light 100 minutes of day and night scenes, impress the director, and keep my job?


Do you plan to get lights that compete with daylight? Not going to happen on a tight budget and not going to happen from battery power.

If you just need to compliment daylight, it may be easier. In outdoor scenes in harsh sunlight, build a 4x4 or 8x8 diffusion with white bedsheets and copper or pvc pipe. Also use bounce cards or reflectors to fill in anything with too much contrast.

Indoors, I recommend not worrying about battery powered lights. They are going to be expensive. The batteries alone are going to cost anywhere from $50-250+ each depending on if they are a camcorder battery, v mount or gold mount.

I bought the interfit F5 3 light kit for green screen and found it incredibly useful for even complimenting direct sunlight indoors. I'll link an example.

That being said they are very soft and hard to control. I would recommend a 3 light kit and a model omni light if possible. The omni isn't going to be as good as a fresnel but it'll be cheaper.

With those four lights, reflectors, diffusion, etc. You can do just about anything you may need. Night exteriors may be a bit more difficult however... Not sure I have a cheap solution for that.

Here is a video where the subject is in front of a window, lit indoors with 3 interfit f5 lights:

March 28, 2018 at 7:02PM

You voted '-1'.
Matthias Claflin

Unfortunately I've got a good few night exteriors to worry about. Barring what I said about budget, what's a good starter set? Do on-camera lights make the cut?

Dave Sulk

March 29, 2018 at 12:42AM

I would definitely avoid on camera lights. What camera are you shooting with? I hate to even ask that because you really should be lighting for 400-800 ISO however if you have something like a Canon C100, Sony A7s (first gen or second), Sony A7r (I, II, or III), Panasonic GH4 (with speedbooster), and some fast glass, you can shoot at 1600-6400 with a relatively clean look.

In that case, I'd look into LED fresnel lights (as they are more versatile than panels). Two Aputure c120d lights could probably do most of this. I'd bounce it/defuse it for soft light or go for hard light like a street light by throwing it high on a c stand. The issue with these lights is the price. they run $645 without a stand. That being said CAMETV makes some that are basically straight knock offs. Can't speak to the quality but they might get the job done.

If you are shooting on something with poor low light quality I'd suggest finding a way to run an extension cord inside and use either the lights I mentioned earlier or some 800w red heads (which are very cheap). Outside shooting at night can be hard. A solution could be shooting day for night. It may help with the alertness of actors as well if you have long night shoots. For a film I shot last year we had a night scene that would run about 20 seconds and we did the two shots we needed during "blue hour" with minimal lighting. That was shot at ISO 400. Worked like a charm but you really only have 30-45 minutes before the light is gone so make sure you practice several times before blue hour.

Matthias Claflin

March 29, 2018 at 4:39PM

What Matthias said! The most versatile battery powered affordable lighting: Aputure
That said, using white boards, diffusers, flags and all that from the Dollar store will help. Shower curtains etc. Maybe buy batteries off of Ebay at 1/4 of the cost.
If you're shooting interior, you've got way more options at a lower price tag. Stay close to power outlets? Otherwise, I second Matthias' notion about a camera with low light capabilities such as the a7s2

April 3, 2018 at 11:01PM

Milan Schere

Hey everyone, it's been a few months but for the sake of people digging up this thread, I'd like to follow up a little!
I ended up with about a $500 budget, but only a portion went to actual lights; we were missing a lot of basics, like extension cords. I ended up using a bunch of floodlights on clamps, lots of bounces, and 3 on-camera LED panels. The ones I used most were 2 Yongnuo 300-II bicolor panels (I liked it so much, I even wrote a review: )
My biggest sell for these lights was flexibility and time. As much as I liked some other options, battery power was a must, screwing in lightbulbs for half an hour wasn't too appealing to our schedule. It also allowed for a lot of control over the lights, and it wasn't that hard to add or remove diffusion as I saw fit (though I did miss some harsh tones, but oh well.) So, still not a "real lighting kit", but we finished the movie. And yeah, the night scenes came out.
Having a bare-bones setup taught me a lot about lighting. In case anyone in my shoes is reading this for advice, what I learned best is that, you guessed it, the best equipment is the equipment you have with you. Hopefully for the next round I can spend a little more and play with the things this thread suggested-- my setup definitely got the job done, but didn't allow for a lot of creative control.
If you'd like to see what exactly I did, the project will be out this September!

July 14, 2018 at 5:44PM

Dave Sulk

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