September 4, 2014 at 1:48PM, Edited September 7, 7:42AM


what lighting kit?

hi guys can you recommend a lighting kit for 3,000 dollars? i am just starting out. i know there isn't a "do it all" light but should i go tungsten or fluorescent, led? i just wanna make short comedy films for youtube. any recommendations?


It's really a matter of taste, but if I was working on a budget and could only get one or two lights, I'd be looking at bi-color LED lights with a built in dimmer. These lights are versatile, light weight, and low maintenance. Some can even be powered by batteries making them an even more valuable tool. If you go this route, you'll want to invest in some light modification as well; specifically you will want to have various diffusion methods at your disposal to soften the light.

Fluorescent lighting is also pretty great, but isn't as versatile in my mind. If your shooting videos for youtube, I'd stick with LED lights unless you happen to be independently wealthy.

September 4, 2014 at 2:37PM

Douglas Henderson

thank you for taking the time to reply . yes me too i am thinking led but i only liked
the arri lc-7 but i only can buy one of these any cheaper led suggestions because i don't
think one light is enough. again thank you

sellami djamel

September 4, 2014 at 3:15PM

i disagree with the bi-color on a budget thing. the vast majority (if not all) bi color array-style lights have half of their emitters daylight and the other half and achieve the adjustability by dimming one or the other. so if you have a 1000 head. you ONLY get the 1000 power in the middle (when all of the emitters are at full strength) at either end, you're only get half of what the unit could provide.

i'd suggest getting daylight fixtures and a range of CTO gels.

wayne granzin

September 10, 2014 at 12:50PM


"have half of their emitters daylight and the other half tungsten"

wayne granzin

September 10, 2014 at 12:52PM

Hi Douglas,

I don't know if you can help... I just purchased three bi-color dedo light and have a problem with one of them. Unfortunately Dedo is closed until Jan 19.

One of the heads turns on but is not responding to the power supply. It initially turns on fine but 3 seconds after lighting the light turns to a warm color temperature and does not change color or dim. I’ve tried it with two different power supplies. Both of the power supplies work fine on a different light.

Any idea who I can contact that can help me with that?


Steve Eli

January 6, 2015 at 10:35AM

Lighting is just like anything else. It's not necessarily all about what tools you are using. It's much more important that you know how to use them.

Do you need more than one light? Technically you can shoot with available light, so... no. You don't need it. That said, when you get into the artistry of cinematic lighting it's pretty important to have a few. A standard kit will have at least three lights (so you can execute three point lighting).

There is no "one light fits all" scenario. In some cases the best light for the job is an incandescent bulb inside a china ball hanging from a c-stand.

If you want to invest in some professional lighting, I would either save up some more money, or get a less expensive 3 light kit from ikan or something. Or you could get really inexpensive CPL softbox lighting lighting kit from amazon until you can take the plunge into an arri kit.

September 4, 2014 at 3:57PM

Douglas Henderson

Really agree with you !

Fen Yang

September 7, 2014 at 2:12AM

Don't buy any cheap lights man! If you buy Kino Flo, mole richardson or Arri they will last decades, you can expand you kit this way rather than having to replace stuff. With 3 grand and filming mostly web comedy, the priority with a small kit will be exposing with soft keys and being able to light multiple people. I would buy 2 kino flo 4 banks and get tungsten and daylight bulbs with cstands and sand bags. Then with the left over money get either a leeko or a 1k fresnel. Leeko's will be your best friend bounced of a showcard gaffed to the ceiling allowing for characters to walk through spaces. Also With 4 foot fixtures you can light multiple people together and its simple set up. Do not buy a L7C! Just get some gels on tungsten you get higher quality light for 1/10 of the price. The L7C is really for studios and productions where cost is a non issue. Buy used if you are buying brand name, you'll get the same performance for cheaper.

September 4, 2014 at 4:22PM

Indie Guy


I agree with everything you said, but I think you blew your budget.

Can you recommend a place where we can find a selection of used name brand lights? Not being facetious. I'd love to get my hands on some used 4-banks!

Douglas Henderson

September 4, 2014 at 4:47PM

it might be a little over so drop the leeko or 1k until you can afford it. Don't get a case for the 4banks you don't need it.

Indie Guy

September 4, 2014 at 4:57PM

I definitely agree, get 2 good lights, we use Kino Flo's ALL THE TIME. Very diffused light right off the bat.

David Luderer

September 6, 2014 at 7:47AM

I agree, the kino flo's can help you in just about any situation. Very versatile.

Colin Huang Ruobin

September 7, 2014 at 10:09AM

For your price range you probably couldn't get a kit but the lights these guys make are awesome. If you could squeeze out enough for an HS you could do a lot of damage. I'm hoping to pick one up eventually and then fill it in with some homemade led lights.

September 4, 2014 at 4:46PM

Jonesy Jones


I've never heard of Cineo. Have you used them personally? Can you elaborate on your opinion of them? Thanks!

Douglas Henderson

September 4, 2014 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 4:49PM

I've not used Cineos but I've seen them used in person. They are phosphor lights. Don't be fooled by the color of the panels; the light doesn't come out orange like you'd think. The yellow panel actually emits at 5600k. Of course, they have panels for the other color temps but at a glance, all the panels just look like varying shades of yellow/orange when they are unlit. And they sure are bright!

Damon Mosier

September 5, 2014 at 12:43AM

I have used Cineos often and pretty much are a must have for me, especially when doing interviews and shoots in small spaces. They put off VERY LITTLE heat and can be easily touched or moved with bare hands. These are the solution of not baking the talent to the point of huge beads of sweat rolling off of them. Their output in light is crazy good (HS=4k and LS=almost a 2k) and is beautifully soft.

Simply put, these have all the benefits of open faced LED panels but the light and color quality of tungsten/HMI sources. These are a no brainer. (Also see the BBS Area48 that uses RPT (remote phosphor technology) too.)

I've made a video album dedicated to RPT lights here:

Check it out!

Alex Fuerst

September 11, 2014 at 5:08PM


Do you have a crew or are you working on your own? I'm a fan of keeping things simple when I'm working on my own, or with a small crew. If that's the case, I'd still rock some light weight LED's even though everything Ryan said is true.

September 4, 2014 at 4:55PM

Douglas Henderson

I really like the Ikan iLED 3 series lights. We have small Arri fresnel kits, Kino diva kits, small lowel kits, a few Arri LC-7s, etc. These Ikan lights are fully dimmable, color controllable, they lock together to create a larger panel, they are super light weight too. We are already standardized on the sony np batteries for most accessories and these take two of those. Get a couple of tota-tilters and use them with existing stands or get some new lightweight stands in your kit. They don't work for everything, but they work well for most smaller productions.

September 4, 2014 at 5:29PM, Edited September 4, 5:29PM


Check ebay for the knock Arri fresnels. Often these are listed as "like arri." You can get these pretty cheap and they are decent. I've used the 300 watt variety on a couple small shoots but you can pick up the 600 watt versions as well.

With hard tungsten light like this you can go soft, but you can't go hard with soft light.

You have to be careful with LED because sometimes the cheap ones just don't produce the right color of light.

September 4, 2014 at 8:44PM

Mike Tesh
Pro Video / Indie Filmmaker

I'd recommend an affordable "knock of brand" light kit. This company seems to make decent kits with good prices, here is a link:

September 4, 2014 at 10:00PM

Stephen Herron

Ironically I got down-voted for posting a link to a company I learned about through a NFS article. Hey I'm just trying to help. Fresnel's are not exactly the most complicated fixture, these are actually built well and it's a bargain for someone starting out but some people are so set in their ways they have a hard time believing quality can come from anything but a name brand.

Stephen Herron

September 5, 2014 at 9:57AM

Have you personally used these?

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 1:14PM

Not trying to be critical—I would absolutely love it if cheap fresnels work well. Knock-offs when dealing with high wattage just makes me really, really nervous.

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 1:15PM

I just got a fiilex 360 kit. High CRI value, bi color without losing intensity, water resistant, low power usage so you can use batteries, the kit comes with a case safe enough to check in on a flight. One of the greatest things is their accessories you can attach, barn doors, diffusion, focus etc.

September 4, 2014 at 10:38PM

Alex Smith

I had never heard of fiilex, but I'm really glad you posted about them! Compared to hot lights, what is the comparable output of the 360? Around 300?

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 1:37PM

Frankly, I would get some c-stands and a good set of rags. Yes, good quality lights are a better long term investment than cheap lights, but flags/nets/etc. are what allow you to control your light. So even with cheap lights you can still shape it into something nice.

September 5, 2014 at 12:34AM


It's a good advise :)

Fen Yang

September 7, 2014 at 2:19AM

There's already been a lot of great stuff said, namely reminding you to not forget about lighting support and modifiers, like good stands, flags, reflectors, etc.

That said, I get that you need a light kit. LEDs are great because of low heat, but buying a cheap LED set is the worst thing you can do—you really need a pricier LED kit to get accurate colors, which is important for mixing with other light sources as well as keeping skin tones looking nice.

Buying a used fresnel or open face lights can be good, but they put off a LOT of heat, and that's worth knowing and considering how that fits into your shooting style. I've never used knock-offs and admittedly would be a little afraid to.

Kino Flo kits are fantastic. Low heat output, and you have the option to go tungsten or daylight by just changing the bulbs, something that's really easy to do in the field. Only downside is they are soft lights, and will only be soft lights. You can't really make them be a spot light.

For the cheapest, safest getting started kit, my first recommendation would be to find a used Lowel Omni kit, and buy some light stands, and somethings to work as flags, nets, etc. I love fresnels, Kino Flos, and LEDs, but to just get started, it's hard to beat the value of an Omni kit. If you want daylight balance, just buy some (name-brand) CTB gels. They're dirt cheap. Don't forget sandbags either—for that, feel free to buy a no-name brand. After all, it's just a bag you fill with sand :)

A kit like this one, in particular, would be awesome:

It's sold by Adorama, so it's actually a reputable name, and it has a variety of softboxes and hard lights, with stands and a case. PERFECT.

September 5, 2014 at 4:39AM

David S.

I agree with David. Film schools love those lowel kits because they're great for beginners. Save $2,000 for rentals if you ever need any specialized stuff.


September 11, 2014 at 8:06PM

I am all aboard the LED train. They're super slim and lightweight,so they can fit into all sorts of tight spaces. I shoot a lot of music in basements and whatnot so I always have to tuck a light wherever I can.

September 5, 2014 at 6:31AM

Pat Heine

IMO Do Not Buy Lights!

Save most of your money and just buy an annual inland marine insurance policy (should be less then $500) and a sekonics light meter w/ a scope (L-758Cine DigitalMaster) and seriously consider getting a color meter (C-500 ProDigi Color)

Those are the core three items you need to work w/ lighting setups like a pro

in terms of insurance:
Find the closest electrical & grip lighting house and ask them who they use for their insurance and that you are starting out and want to get insurance to rent w/out holds. They will often give you the contact info for their broker as well as alternates they except. Speak to those brokers and tell them you want to rent from that rental house. You should be able to get the insurance you need for somewhere between $200~500 depending on your state, city and vendor requirements. BAM, now you can rent true professional production lights for dollars on the hundreds, get hands on experience using those lights, learn lingo and if you have any questions on how to use the lights the rental house will tell and/or show you!

If you unfortunately live no where near a rental house...
Consider moving closer to one if you are serious about learning your craft.
If that is not an option, I recommend buying at least a light meter of some kind and a 3 piece used mole richardson tungsten set like 1K/500/250 watt set and c-stands. Make sure to get scrims, barndoors and cinefoil. Get at least one gobo knuckle/arm for use with light modifiers like cookies/silks/flags/solids on C-stands. Buy a bunch of sandbags. Buy/Craft some white & black bounce boards. Maybe craft a baby pigeon board or two. You can use milk crates w/ a liner to store and transport most of it (minus the stands of course)

Also buy several heavy duty electrical 15amp stingers (think construction quality power cables). Get a Chinaball of at least 500watt - google lanternlock for for the best chinaball for c-stand use. Do buy color correction & theatrical gels. You may also want to consider looking into a Source4 light by Etc and gobos - they are great for lighting and adding texture to backgrounds.

I really do not recommend DIY lighting solutions.
Best of Luck & remember to have fun and experiment!

September 5, 2014 at 7:55AM

Daniel Reed
Hat Collector

I'd like to know, Daniel—why are you so adamant about getting a light meter? It sounds like this guy just wants a light kit solid enough for a 1-3 person crew to shoot a comedy series for YouTube.

Not trying to criticize, I just occasionally hear of folks going nuts for light meters without really giving a reason why they are so essential.

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 1:09PM

I don't know how you could recommend for someone to move to be able to rent lights, like how is that a practical solution at all?

Alex Smith

September 5, 2014 at 1:17PM

The original post is pretty vague on the details of what the lights would be used for, in what situation, and the quality of light desired. So its pretty difficult for me to give an answer one way or the other.

I would also caution to the call to automatically purchase lights. DIY kits could possible meet their needs.


September 6, 2014 at 11:15AM

Since I wrote this two years ago, my opinion and the lighting world has changed.

There are some great LED lights worth buying that most houses don't have for rent:

Daniel Reed

September 16, 2016 at 12:00AM, Edited September 16, 12:00AM

4Wall lighting operated and they have used Arri fixtures on the sight for a great price. For me - these have been a great workhorse! Kino's are great but when you need to keep it focused then fresnels are the way to go. The other thing to remember with some of the cheap LED and CFL fixtures is their color. Temperature is one thing - but I have used cheap units that have huge green spikes and it requires a lot of time in post to get your colors (especially skin tones) looking normal again.

September 5, 2014 at 9:10AM

Scott Selman
Content Creator | Filmmaker | Producer

Lots of interesting advice, I feel like some is focused on a starter kits and not necessary web comedy. Comedy doesn't require as much hard light as soft light, the priority is general exposure. And in the case where multiple characters need to be lit, larger sources are required. 150, 300, and even 650 watt units won't output much with diffusion or book lit. And Leds need diffusion too, you'll get half the output of a 4bank if you use a 1x1 with diffusion. Realistically I would want the highest output of diffused light. And theres nothing wrong with soft backlight.

That site is awesome and the prices are very acceptable.

No Lowel, they aren't built to last.

September 5, 2014 at 9:43AM

Indie Guy

You make a lot of really good points. It's comedy, which typically means it'll be high key lighting, unless a gag calls for something else.

I stand by my Lowel recommendation, but you are right—they aren't the most durable. You do have to take care of them.

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 1:12PM

Hey David, I started with a Lowel kit myself. I feel like its the natural kit beginners get attracted to, I got some great experience with the kit. If I did not have a scar from a run in with a tota, I would be more forgiving. Plus those rifas collapsing by themselves! Torture. But If it was lowel or led, I would say lowel.

Indie Guy

September 5, 2014 at 1:33PM

Oh, totas. I've always been a little nervous about those, seeing as how they are 95% lava-hot metal and 5% power cable.

You had a rifa collapse in on itself? While turned on? That's a huge bummer and fire hazard. We have one for a while and it's been great, but now I'll have to keep a closer eye on it.

David S.

September 5, 2014 at 2:08PM

Wait a bit for new LED technology to drop. Wish I could say more and will be able to in a month or so. Will likely be an article right here on this site actually.

Revolutionary LED tech is on the way.

September 5, 2014 at 2:08PM

Luke Neumann

Lots of good comments... I don't think anyone has mentioned one of the best, budget solutions...china balls. I've seen whole movies and whole reality shows lit with them. They're super cheap, versatile, and lightweight. Some of those and some hand squeezers work perfectly for whatever...key light, ambient light (the way space lights are used for a base exposure)...background lights...

The arri kits are nice, and having everything all together has some appeal, but I'd piece together a package to get the best of everything and build up a more rounded arsenal.. Get a kino flo 4' fourbank or a Diva 400 as your main light. And get an arri or mole tweenie/650 fresnel...and a small fresnel for a 3rd light, like an arri 150 or 300 or the Inbetweenie (300w mole fresnel)...

And then get c-stands (not crappy lightweight light stands or blade stands, which come in the kits). The diva 400 or 4-bank needs a full stand, and the full stands and gobo arms can be used for many other things. Even just for holding a light, it will do it better, such as getting a hairlight/backlight in there without having a stand in the shot.

Someone said get cheap dirt. Never get cheap dirt. They break and gravel gets everywhere...or when they don't break, the weave and/or stitching isn't always tight enough and dust gets out. It's very annoying. I've never replaced a MSE bag.

LED: no. Not with $3k. The only LED's that are dependable are very expensive, like the litepanels...and you get such a small area of coverage with them (note: I reverse everything I've said if you're primarily doing interviews and that sort of thing.) LED's don't have the throw of fresnels, nor the large soft source of kinos.... It's starting to change...but not just yet. And not at the level that's cheap enough with only $3k. Save that for additional gear later.

September 5, 2014 at 6:27PM

Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op

Correct on the LED's not having enough output but just wait. HMI output that fits in the palm of your hand, is cool to the touch, and is battery powered.

Dim-able, replaceable, custom lenses for modification, and priced decently.

Luke Neumann

September 5, 2014 at 7:33PM

Also in the process of buying a kit so just going to give my $0.02 here...

Depending on what you're shooting and how often, buying a $3000 kit isn't going to make sense. There are thousands of different kinds of fixtures and then you have an increasing number of different emitter technology. Pair this together, and its almost impossible to give an answer to a question like this.

Often times, DPs or gaffers will purchase kits when they know that, when it boils down to it, they will use this fixture on every shoot. For me, that would be a Source 4 with a retrofitted lighting engine because I know how I like to use it and I know how to adapt it to whatever I need. However, if I'm doing interviews, obviously thats not going to be as useful as a few Kinos and a Dedo. Also, if I'm shooting a noir, I'll want beam projectors and fresnels to give me control. But if I'm shooting a scene in an office against a wall of windows, I'll want powerful 5500˚k lighting (be it HMIs, plasma or floros) in a small, discreet package.

The point I'm trying to make here is that until you have knowledge of what lights you personally like to use for what situations, don't spend a bunch of money on something that will stick with you for life. I suggest renting from a local rental house and maybe asking them for what they would suggest for your specific shoot. This is the only way you'll find out what is/isn't worth buying.

I worked on a shoot in January this year where I was gaffing with the Arri L-series and Locasters. My experience with LEDs up to that point had been shitty LED panels and on-camera fresnel-type lights. However, I've never been more happy with a light than the Arri L7-C. Beautiful colour rendition, insane amounts of colour flexibility, quiet, cool, and easy (although massive). I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't used it I would've continued to avoid LEDs like the plague. But now that I've used them, I'm actively looking for an LED fresnel solution to work with my shooting style.

Hopefully you take something away from this! If you need some more specific examples, let me know!

September 5, 2014 at 10:11PM

Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer

thanks a lot guys for the feedback i'm really liking this website i appreciate that you take time to respond.
i like this style of comedy :

i think he achieved that with tungsten but i don't know a lot about tungstun lighting
i'm thinking of buying this kit:
and two diva 401 lite :
because i have a digital juice green screen and maybe i will do some interviews and they
don't get hot which is a good thing for me.
so i will buy this two diva lite kit but i'm a little skeptical about the arri lights are they good
enough?and do they mix well with the diva lite with 3200k bulbs?
and if you have some informations about the lighting on the video above and maybe some tips about how to lit a romantic scene and can i achieve that with the lights above.
again thank you all

September 6, 2014 at 5:08AM


Tungsten is extremely common and excellent, don't listen to anyone talking about problems with cables or heat. Film sets get a warm with tungsten, they don't become a sauna. And I'd rather run cable to another room rather than worrying all day whether a light will run out of battery during a take. And tungsten is the highest quality of light, it will render the best colors. The extra small soft box in that kit is not very useful. If its that small theres no difference in cloths pinning some diffusion on the barn doors. Only get a softbox if its a decent size for a 650w or above. Also buy milk crates don't buy that huge travel case, unless you intend on flying with it. Milk crates will be easier to transport fresnels via car. The diva can work fine mixed with 3200k bulbs, you might need a 1/8 magenta or green gel on the diva if you want to be perfect but its usually not necessary.

The video kinda makes my point about prioritizing large soft keys for web comedy. Theres no backlight or hard light in that video. Kinos or a china ball will be best for those type situations. China balls would be best if you are doing romantic comedy, boy meets girl scenes. When they are at the dinner table just put the china ball above and between them and your 90% done.

Indie Guy

September 6, 2014 at 9:12AM

Kinos are a little weird when being used with tungsten light. Obviously, anything can be mixed well with anything using gels, but I've had times where the Kinos will go a little magenta compared to Arris. For a romantic scene, you're going to want lots of very soft light. A good way to achieve this is through using a setup known as a "book light". This is done by shooting your source into a bounce and then through a silk/diff. I've done this before by taking a Hollywood stand and head and placing the light in the junior receiver and then placing a bounce on a pitchfork into the grip head. From there, you just have a C-stand with a 48x48" frame of your diffusion of choice and then you have a two piece, easy to move book light. Just be careful because this cuts down your light output significantly (and takes a while to setup), however it creates a beautiful wrapping of light across the face.

As far as whether or not it can be done with your fixtures, I do this a lot with Diva 401s and the KF55 tubes when I'm faking ext. moonlight for CUs. Theres no softer source than the sun bouncing off a 7.3x10^6 mile surface roughly 94 million miles away and then 239,000 miles back (also why I use daylight tubes when faking moonlight).

A very in depth look at how to create a book light can be found here:

Aidan Gray

September 6, 2014 at 9:28AM

From that video, I'm just taking a guess. The window seemed to be the key lighting source which is day light balanced.

The two guys at the table they were wither lit by the natural light coming through the window or the DP used a really soft daylight balanced source.

The guy sitting on the couch that was some form of tungsten balanced source. Since it was extremely orange and the window light stayed white, I'd guess the tungsten light was either gelled or some type of source that shift its color temp but it did not fully match the window light.

It just depends on which direction you want to go in, that look can be easily achieved with DIY kits if you know the basic principles of lighting.


September 6, 2014 at 11:23AM

I own an arri kit 650x2 300x1 tugsten for lower budgets. They are reliable, and you don't have to worry about flicker at high speeds. Then i just rent as needed. you just can't have one lighting kit to cover all needs. sometimes you need some arri 2k's sometimes a few jockers and a generator, sometimes you're shooting bts with modeling lights, sometimes lighting a green screen with kinos. the arri is small enough and flexible enough for no budget jobs

September 6, 2014 at 6:51AM

Kazu Okuda

My set is a little more expensive than yours but you might want to see if you can reduce it down the the size that fits your budget

I've got 4 200 Watt Chinese daylight LED Fresnel which I ordered from

They are pretty robust, give a good 1K equivalent light output but consume less electricity.

I also have 4 arri 650 watt Tungsten lamps which I'll change to L7-C LED soon but with budget constraint, I'm still sticking to the old one which works great.... for now.

I also have 2 small Chinese maded LED panel light which can change between tungsten and day light. Both of them are powered by 2 sony batteries. It always come handy when you really need something fast on set.

I also own a small 4K Diesel Generator which I make a special soundproof wheel cart to move them around.

all the light I had will probably fit into the 4K generator so that I can used them for most of my film shoot.

I'm planning on buying a 4K Lamp soon. But it'll not fit the 4K generator. I'll have to use it with the location electricity (just to fit 1 lamp). But it'll help you with all the key light needed both on day and night shoot.

The other one on my buying list is 1 Cineo HS to act as a bigger tunsten/daylight softlight source.

Hope this help for you to designed the light package. I'm using this for feature film that screen on theatre in Thailand. It's a very small package compare to most of the feature film lighting package but it can covered most of the shot needed with such a small budget.

September 6, 2014 at 8:07PM

Chalermchatri Yukol
Director, Producer

If you want to use Tungsten lights Arri make some of the best lights. You can get a 3 or 4 light kit for about $1000.

If shooting in doors 650w for key, and 320w for fills are are a good starting point. 650w and 1k lights are better for lighting larger rooms and whole scenes.
Another good Tungsten option is ETC, they are stage lights so you would need to get an adapter to put them on a C-stand, but they won't radiate heat like Arri or Lowell. They cost about 200 to 400 per light.

Technically you can get Lowell, they are cheaper by far, but the build quality is alot cheaper and those lights get HOT!

If you want a daylight light, my preference is Jokebugs. From 5600k. They come in various sizes and have alot of accessories you can fit to them for diffusion.

I would avoid LED'S like the plague. Overpriced, under powered. Generally a very pour CRI value.

Some good grip gear to get would also be C-stands, Sand bags (but get your own sand for cheaper) power cables and a light meter.

September 7, 2014 at 7:54AM

David Sharp
Video Editor, Cinematographer, Teacher

IMHO- if you are planning a long term shoot, then it's likely a good investment to rent your different options for a day or two and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons. Do some tests, see the problems and merits.

Might sound like an extra expense, but I'd really consider it as a way to save money in the big picture. Just a thought.

September 7, 2014 at 2:31PM


Yes. I agree. Familiarizing your self with lots of different options for a few hundred dollars will help you buy the things you actually need/like to work with up front and don't have to deal with exchanges or replacing them later.

Michael Markham

September 11, 2014 at 7:15AM

I agree as well. Very wise to "try before you buy". Just ask my ex - heyoooooo!

Benjamin Dewhurst

September 11, 2014 at 2:37PM

For this price, I would highly recommend getting a F&V Lighting K4000 kit with some minus green gels. You'll get three lights with great diffusion filters in a case - then use the extra to buy some high quality light stands (JTL makes a good one specifically for the K4000 that comes in at $55 each), V-Mount batteries (the lights can be powered with V-Mount battery or a wall power adapter).

The 5600K Daylight kit is $1,050 at Adorama right now, the BiColor is $1,399 - but reportedly, there is more of a green cast (particularly at 3200K) in the BiColor version of the light. You'll need some minus green gels either way. And you can use the difference in money to buy some reflectors or put it towards other equipment for your shoots!

September 8, 2014 at 6:53AM

Montgomery Sutton
Director of Photography, AC, Editor

Stay away from bi-color LED lights as most of them have bad color shifts as you adjust the color temperature and their light output is on the low side.

Fluorescent lights have good color and good light output, but they are bulkly and fragile to transport.

ARRI tungsten style lights have excellent color and high light output, but they are heavy and get very hot in use. Converting them to daylight balance reduces the light output by almost 2 F-stops.

I would recommend the F&V K4000 1x1 Daylight LED lights, which cost around $400, have good light output, and fairly good color. ( one of my K4000 lights is a perfect balance for 5600 Kelvin, while another is much blue-er so I had to tape on a 1/4 CTO gel to get them to balance. No magenta or green casts in the K4000 lights I own. )

September 8, 2014 at 8:13AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I am thinking of an environment like a fringe festival. The farther away the lights can be the less you will need as you do not need depth of field. High ceiling would be good. -or- Something on stage that hides the light that takes shadows out of background. Color and temp depend on what you want to exaggerate. Yellow makes older people and people who are too pale look healthier. Tungsten is your likely choice as cheap. Invest in several dimmer switches. One dimmer should have a light wired to each end of the pot and hot in the middle so that the light can be virtually moved around.\

September 8, 2014 at 1:31PM

Bob Gooding

The type of projects that you take on will determine the lights that you should invest in.
Personally I would always prefer to set aside the $3000 to hire in lights on a per project basis if I were doing music videos/short film projects.
If you're a self shooter, then you wouldn't go far wrong with some dimmable, colour temp changing LED sources for interview set-ups etc. Although, for the work that I do, I tend to hire in a couple of M40s or M18s, with a chimera and various light modifiers to get what I want. It's all about your ideas as well! Don't underestimate what can be done with just 1 lamp or even a torch. Improvise and get creative :)

September 9, 2014 at 1:48AM, Edited September 9, 1:48AM

James Oldham

Hey, so I'm going to try to reply from a slightly different perspective, as a lot of the sensible advice has been covered very well already.

Cheap items that you'll use again and again - c-stands, c-stand adapters for tripods ( you never know when you might need another light), gels, diffusion filters, reflectors, flags and other lighting control kit - are just worth buying straight away and having in your kit. Buy decent ones and they'll last you. A cheap light stand doesnt save you much over a sturdy one, and the day will come when you need to mount a heavier than usual light, so have at least a couple sturdy ones kicking about. Dimmers are amazing and good to have in your kit for when you're working with lights that aren't dimmable. This was probably the first lighting item I ever bought:
Having this sort of kit to hand lets you make the most of anything you rent.

I'm often in the position of having to make whatever scene I'm asked for using whatever lights I've been given, which is always fun. Personally I own 3 second hand 500W redheads (reliable, but run hot) a 1000W prolight and a handful of cheap LED light panels. I've got easy access to Kelvin tiles and Satchler 250W reporter lights. At the moment I'm using SoftyLite's a lot, which aren't professional kit in a lot of the senses of the word, but are so lightweight that they get used in situations when a lighting kit just wouldn't get packed. In terms of working with mixed light sources, if you hold your white balance card up where all your lights fall on it, you can white balance well enough for a lot of scenarios.

Bear in mind, I'm not advocating using hacks and tricks to make your scene work, if you have access to the right kit - but there will always be a moment when you don't have the right thing, and recognising that this doesnt necessarily mean you're stuffed - well that can be helpful.

If you're after a youtube web-comedy style of lighting then you're looking at something relatively flat and diffuse, This isn't characterised by shadows, so your usual Key Fill Back light principles apply but you want to soften everything. Your key light wants to be bright enough to fill your space and your fill light strong enough to get rid of shadows, and you'll probably put a diffusion filter / softbox over your main lights. White balance everything to neutral and you're fine. When lighting is short, you can even get away with one decent light in a softbox, and lots of additional lighting in the scene - eg china ball/desk lamp/floor lamp bouncing off a white wall. It sounds like you can afford to do better than that though, so a decent 3 point lighting kit is your friend here.

For romantic scenes, you've got the opposite situation, you want to create a feeling of warmth and closeness, shadows are your friend, light up the main players and keep the surroundings more dim and in the background. You might want a warmer colour temperature for your scene. This depends on your scene. For a romantic scene set in a rollercoaster car, you can pretty much throw out everything I just said:)

Here's a romantic scene lit with some tealights, one 500W redhead with a diffusion filter and another redhead with no filter dimmed right down to give eyelights:

There's a good chance that whatever you buy now will still be in your kit for years to come, but you may grow to have other go-to favourites. To increase the chances of getting your ideal kit right away, before you buy anything, try to borrow/rent it and see if you can make it work for the setups you need. $3000 is actually a fair amount of money and especially if you can buy used, it will go a long way. The more you work with lights, the more you'll know what works well for different scenarios, but especially what works best for you.

Final comment - lighting kits tend to be sold in 3's but I find that a 4th light is a really good nice to have - whether for getting rid of an annoying unexpected shadow, or sorting out the fact that one of the actors doesn't have eyelights.

September 9, 2014 at 4:47AM

Alia Sheikh

Very well thought out advice, Alia.

Benjamin Dewhurst

September 11, 2014 at 2:35PM

Hi, since you are starting out here is what a lighting kit should have:

- lights;
- stands;
- modifiers (diffusers, gels);
- means of transportation.

My recommendations are:

These are 300 monolight LEDs because the advantages for the kind of production you are going to be having are so many: they are highly mobile, use popular Sony batteries, these can be combined into arrays via triple hot shoe brackets, they are dimmable and sheap, they come with entry level gels. Get 12 of these and you'll be set.

Because these 300 LEDs are so light the stands can be light too. Or get the heavier version which will hold an array of three LEDs securely even on a windy day:

The bad and the transportation choices are many. I recommend getting a wheel-less box that holds all your light together and then using a handcart to move it all around. Like this type of handcart:

So, budget-wise you have:

12 x LED x $88 = $1,056
5 x 12 NP-FXX battery x $10 = $600
6 x heavy duty stands x $25 = $150
1 x bag for the lights and batteries x $50 = $50
1 x bag for the stands x $100 = $100
1 x handcart x $30 = $30
1 x fasteners (to attach the bags to the cart) x $30 = $30
Total: $2,016

Where this kit will give you a lot of flexibility -- you can light inside of a car, you can use these as a strong fill-light on a bright sunny day, you can light up a multy-person / multy-object situation indoors, and you can throw a really complex light scene together.

Good luck!

September 9, 2014 at 3:46PM


I love the Arri Softbank IV Plus 5 Light Kit, It's ultra high quality and you will be able to do pretty much anything you want. Add a softbox or two or at least get some gels and paper and you are good to go. I wouldn't buy anything else, imo for 3K. The quality is outstanding. Best of luck

September 10, 2014 at 11:58AM


Very thin budget for quality light. At least $5000 for anything decent. Invest as much as you can in good quality light kit. Dedo's x 3 and a soft key. Avoid cheap LED's as their diode's come from the lowest quality bins. B&H has the Basic 3 x Dedo kit (DL4Hs) which are going to last longer than your camera. For a soft key source - you don't have money for a Kino Flo Diva 201 or equivalent so maybe a Chimera or Photoflex with a softbox for a soft source.

September 10, 2014 at 12:09PM

Ogy Stoilov

I recently bought a fiilex 360 for low budget production and have used it to match either Fresnels or Kinos, cause it's ability to change color temperature and not loosing intensity, it's been working pretty darn good! Take a look at it on B&H. It's a new company that makes them, they have seemed really reliable until now!


September 10, 2014 at 12:35PM

Bruno Contin

I've shot a few short films using the dedolight 3 light kit. Works really well for standard interiors, ie. bedrooms, kitchens etc. Dimmable, and can be changed between daylight and tungsten balanced. 3 light kit costs in and around €2,300. More details here:

September 10, 2014 at 1:46PM

Conal Clapper
Director, Cinematographer, Actor

On a $3k budget for a comedy series, I would recommend soft lights of some kind, like the aforementioned Kino Diva's or something, complemented by at least one 650w or above Arri fresnel for when you need a bit of directional light. I'd recommend FloLights fluorescents, as they are an incredible value compared to Kino's.

I'm actually surprised no one has mentioned yet - I've used several times on set, they work great! You can get a solid 3 pt kit for just over $1,500 I believe.

And I also second what many people are saying here regarding renting first before buying. Especially if you're not making money off of the project for sure.

September 11, 2014 at 2:33PM

Benjamin Dewhurst

The two worst problems with renting is you usually need insurance, and you can't afford to practice. Having been there, I'd read until I knew what I needed, then I'd buy as good as I could afford. I've bought the cheapos that fell apart, lots of Lowells (yeah they get hot, so do other tungsten lights) and NEVER had one fall apart in 5 years because I take time to take care of the gear I own. If they do fall apart, you can get all the parts to fix tehm and still be at half the price of an Arri. Haunt eBay and Craigslist for good lights... I bought a 4 light Arri kit -- 2x 300w and 2x 600w plus all scrims, cables barndoors, stands, and rolling case; extra globes, a suitcase full of gel rolls AND a 1200w old Lowell softlight and stand -- all for $500 off a guy who got them from a band in debt and used them once as work lights on a plumbing job. I got a 3-light Lowell Omni kit with barndoors, scrims, and stands for $250 at a garage sale listed on Craigslist. Practice with lighting you own that you can set up and test will help you more than a day's rental of super-pro HMIs while you burn money trying to figure out how to light your set. Light is light, the photons are not brand-conscious. Being able to control a cheap light is better than fumbling with an expensive one. JM2Cs/YMMV.

October 9, 2014 at 6:01PM

Zan Shin

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