Archive for the 'Lighting' Category

28
Mar
17

Profoto Air Sync & Air Remote

The Profoto Air Sync and Profoto Air Remote are basically the same as each other with both having 8 channels, 300 m range, 10 to 140 hours battery life transmit mode fast /slow, 30 hours battery life receive mode, 30 min auto power off, and integrated antenna.

The difference is that the Pro Air Sync will only trigger a flash i.e. just fire it like a sync lead but without the lead. Whereas the Pro Air Remote also lets you control the flash so you can change its power setting and modeling light function.

Just to slightly confuse you the Air Remote also comes in a TTL version for Canon and Nikon (TTL = Through the lens). This means that the remote will transmit TTL information to any Profoto flash with TTL Air Support and this will allow for fully automatic point-and-shoot shots. It can also be used in manual mode (without TTL) or Hybrid mode that allows for you to shoot first with TTL and then switch to Manual mode to make adjustments, and that’s good because TTL is often inaccurate.

All Profoto Air Remotes can be used with non Air equipped flash systems by using 2 units, one on camera and one connected to the sync socket of the flash, just like a pocket wizard system. However this will not allow for the control of flash power, modelling light, or TTL operation. It’s worth noting that you can mix Pro Air Sync and Pro Air Remote to achieve this.

Profoto equipment we have that supports Air and or AirTTL operation:

Profoto B1 Air & Air TTL

Profoto B2 Air & Air TTL

Profoto B3 Only the Air

Profoto B4 Only the Air

Profoto D1 Only the Air

Profoto 7A Neither is supported

Profoto 8A Only the Air

Profoto Acute 2  Neither is supported

Profoto Air Synch & Remote

 

Broncolor

 Broncolor used to be simple, they had a RFS (Radio frequency Sender) that controlled power and synced the flash and that was about it. It was a bit fiddly as you had to alter a “trimpot” underneath the unit to change channel and double check that the pack was on the same channel, also the packs (Grafit etc) had a weak aerial that was either missing, forgotten, or broken. The Scorro packs we stock now have this aerial built into the handle.

Broncolor also did a little gizmo called an IRX (Infra Red Sender), an infra red sync trigger that came in surprisingly useful from time to time, particularly in areas with radio restrictions.

Broncolor has now upgraded the RFS to the RFS 2. It operates like the Profoto Air Remote and controls the power & more on any RFS equipped Broncolor Flash, like a Broncolor Scorro for example. An additional RFS 2 Receiver can be used to trigger non Broncolor equipment by attaching to the sync port with a short cable.

The Broncolor RFS 2 has 40 channels compared to the Profoto Air’s 8. I would think this is an advantage once or twice every millennium.

Broncolor

Pocket Wizard

Pocket Wizards are a third party wireless sync trigger and either the Pocket Wizard 2 or Pocket Wizrd 3 system will trigger any flash from any camera provided you have the correct cables to connect.

Connect one pocket wizard on to the hot shoe of your camera (or connect it to the sync socket using a small lead) and attach another one onto the Flash (again connecting to the sync socket with a small lead). Check they are both on the same channel and away you go.

Easy, just be careful that the correct size leads are supplied for the flash.

Historically Profoto used the larger jack and Broncolour used the smaller one but they are both changing this around to keep us on our toes. Here at Pixipixel, we ensure you’re supplied with the correct cabling, even if it means providing both sets for your shoot.

Pocket wizards however also have a few tricks up their sleeves that you don’t find on the brand specific triggers from Broncoor and Profoto.

Firstly, the Pocket Wizard 3 units will automatically switch to transmit or receive depending on what they are being used for, a very clever feature. The Pocket wizard 2’s came as a transmitter, receiver, or a transceiver; they can do both but you need to select which.

The Pocket Wizards claim to have the longest range of 300m and that’s pretty impressive as I can’t even see a camera at that range.  But it gets better, you can also use pocket wizard units as “repeaters” i.e. you could put one at a half way point 300m from the camera (transmitter unit) and a further 300 metres away from the flash (receiving unit) thus extending the range to 600 metres and this can be extended even further.

Based on rough calculations it then follows that, with the circumference of the world being approximately 400 thousand metres it would take approximately 133,333 pocket wizards to transmit a sync signal the long way round the globe from camera to flash, and lots of AA batteries too.

Ok I know that’s silly but I had a customer who used to put flashes up at the top of huge sporting stadiums and the like and use this “Repeater” facility to trigger them from his seat in the stands so it can come in very useful.

The same guy also used to make use of another function available on pocket wizards and that is the ability to be powered via a USB port on the unit. This is great if you have to set up the pocket wizards say 24 hours before you are going to use them, this can happen more often than you would think. During my years living in Melbourne, for “Carols By Candlelight”, lights had to be set up in the rigging and subsequently could not be accessed for a day so the pocket wizards would go flat by the time the sing-song got going. Attaching an external power source via the USB allowed for them to be left on and not go flat.

The other great use for pocket wizards is the ability to use them to remotely trigger a camera rather than a flash. A special cord is required to do this and it’s called a Trigger cable; it comes in Canon or Nikon. Useful when the camera has a high viewpoint up on a boom, for example. Another scenario could be when shooting two cameras at the same time.

A few motor sports guys will have a camera on the opposite side of the track to themselves and trigger it at the same time as the camera they are holding this enables them to shoot both sides of the can and also get some heroic selfies. The test button has a two stage action just like the shutter release button on the camera, so a 1/2 press wakes the camera and starts auto focus and more. A full press will release the shutter.

And don’t forget you can attach one to a light meter for remote triggering of the flash during that initial setup stage. This is particularly useful if you are setting up and doing the pre light on your own.

Pocket Wizard do a range of TTL units specific to Canon or Nikon, but we do not stock these.

Sync Leads

Old school sync leads should not be forgotten. They are still a great way to trigger your flash from camera or light meter. They don’t run out of battery power, and they don’t interfere with the guy in the next studio. They are uncomplicated enough for your average photographer to understand.

In fact the only real problem with a sync lead is that they get trodden on and so get damaged quickly like an iPad lead.

We include sync leads with all flashes hired out to our clients, as they will save many a problem just by being there as a backup. I would hope that most photographers and good assistants would have a spare sync lead in their own kit.

As an aside if you ever want to test a sync lead just power up a flash and plug in the sync then “short out” the other end of the sync lead with a paperclip or your keys etc and if the synch is in good condition it will fire the flash, you won’t blow yourself up as the trigger circuit is separate from the flash circuit in modern flashes. Perhaps best not to do this if you can see “Balcar” written on the flash and you are stood in a puddle.

Synch2

Synch

Also don’t forget that most packs or mono blocks have a slave cell so in a multiple pack shoot often you only need one pair of triggers and then use the slave cell on the other packs to trigger them to fire. As light travels at the speed or er..light, the tiny delay is not likely to cause any problems unless some serious high speed or short flash duration stuff is going on.

Coolness rating of sub zero, ok that’s mean, but lets face it sync systems are never going to be exactly cool are they? In terms of usefulness then the pocket wizard system has to be a high scorer unless you are a die hard Profoto or Broncolor shooter. Now if Pocket wizard would just incorporate the TTL capability for both Nikon and Canon into the Pocket Wizard 3 then I would have to rate them as icebox cool.

 

cheers all

 

Written by Bruce Lindsay

18
Jan
17

Source Four LED Series 2 Daylight HD

To some of us 1992 doesn’t sound all that long ago but then again I studied George Orwell’s 1984 in 1984 so I guess that makes me very nearly antique (I prefer retro I think). But 1992 is now 25 years ago believe it or not, those of us that can remember back that far may recall the debut of the Source Four ellipsoidal spotlight. It took the lighting world by storm offering 1000watt of power from a 575watt fixture and in doing so earned itself the best lighting product of the year award from Lighting Dimensions International. Over the past quarter of a century the Source Four lights have undergone various upgrades and improvements with the introduction of zoom and par options and so on, but we are now seeing a radical re design featuring LED technology and all the benefits that brings to the game.

So that brings me to the light that is happily sat beside my desk at the moment.

The Source Four LED series 2 Daylight HD, ok so not the most catchy of names but at least it tells you what you are getting. So it’s an LED equipped light with a daylight output and a Source Four Style.

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The advantages of LED lights are now all too familiar, dim ability, long life and cool running being the most notable attributes and this light is no exception.

In addition, the Daylight HD version that we carry operates completely flicker free so it’s perfect for those slow motion shots. Power and DMX (in and through) connections are incorporated allowing for daisy chaining of up to 10 units and a multitude of control options including console free master/slave mode.

Nicely not everything from the last 25 years has been changed. The series 2 lights feature the same size, look, optics and beam angles as conventional Source Four lights. This means that they use the same barrel so all existing accessories can be easily retro fitted.

This is a dedicated daylight light not a Bi colour and as such can deliver colour temperatures from 4000-6500K (daylight).

But the best bit, well in my opinion anyway, is that the cool running LED’s allow for some fun and games. A quick Google image search of the Batman symbol, a printer, and a pair of scissors is all you need to summon your very own caped crusader! Well to make a bat signal anyway, I did it about a week ago and am still waiting for his arrival. Seriously though the ability to insert a home made paper “gobo” without causing a fire opens up many possibilities some of which may even be useful.

Source Fours are available in black, silver, or white. Ours comes in black, naturally.

Source-Four-LED.jpg

For the Bat signal alone I would award this light a high Brucie Coolness Rating but the fact that it’s designed with its predecessors in mind thus allowing for the continued use of existing accessories has to be recognized so lets go with a 9 out of 10 BCR from me.

Now if they launch a BI colour version we are talking a solid 10.

 

 

 

10
Jan
17

Litegear LiteTile 8×8 LED

Welcome to the new year everyone, we hope you had a great Christmas and a relaxing break and are now ready and waiting for the next twelve months of fun and games.

Now the new year seems to have brought with it a bit of a cold snap so with your best interests in mind as always we would like tell you about one of our Christmas presents to ourselves, a rather fetching blanket.

Yes we know that blankets tend to encourage you to stay in bed normally but not this one, in fact this one is definitely worth getting up for.

The brand new Litegear LiteTile is something rather special and we had our first play with it yesterday and we’re very impressed. We already have a good range of LED lights from Litegear and they are proving to be popular with you folks but this one is bigger and better than anything we’ve seen so far.

Imagine a flexible blanket of Bi colour LED’s that’s 8 foot square and what that would allow you to do. Now stop daydreaming because it’s here now waiting for you to enjoy.

Untitled.jpeg

I have to admit that personally I’d like to take it home and use it as a blanket on my 12 year olds bed, I cant help thinking that waking her up in the morning would be easier if I could make her whole bed light up at the flick of a switch!

To get a bit technical for a moment the LiteTile 8×8 actually consists of four 2×8 foot panels that can be configured to form a number of shapes, Velcro covered edges allow for each panel to attach to its neighbor or for that matter anything else that has a Velcro fastener on it. Also equipped with eyelets to allow for attachment to grip or butterfly frames as required.

Being made of hi-grade engineered textile the LiteTile is flexible enough to be configured round curves, folded, scrunched up and so on making them a truly versatile product.

As far as light is concerned the LiteTile is equipped with new CineMitter LED’s which boast a CRI and TLCI* rating of 95+ along and a extended colour temperature range of 2600K – 6000K. All new DMX enabled dimmers are supplied giving full local control of dimming and colour temperature or allowing for connection to a control desk.

Everyone will want to know what the maximum output is so for the record the LiteTile gives out a very useable and impressive 20384 lumens (that’s bright to you and me)

When it comes to powering, it’s not much more difficult than plugging in your electric blanket, granted it uses 16 amp leads but we have plenty of jumpers if you need to use a 13amp domestic outlet. Each of the 4 2ft by 8 ft panels has its own power supply so they can be used independently and we will shortly take delivery of a single power supply to run all four units together. A V-lock battery option is muted in the future and no doubt we will get one as soon as it’s available but this may be a while before it hits the market. The individual panels each have a header lead of 7ft or 2.1m in length, giving you plenty of scope to position the supply out of sight.

So if you’re in the market for a large flexible soft light then this could be what you are looking for and now you know who has it you’re really running out of excuses.

Litegear also make a 4 foot version but as you can fold the 8 foot in half and keep using it I don’t think we will rush to get the smaller one, bigger is better anyway.

untitled

The all important BCR (Brucie coolness rating) for this has got to be at least an 11 out of 10, its portable, powerful and versatile all of which are great attributes, but its also very cool and I rather like it. I can’t help but wonder what LED’s will turn up next, anyone got any suggestions?

You could take it to Glastonbury this year just to make finding your tent easier.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

TLCI means “Television Lighting Consistency Index” it’s calculated using a spectroradiometer and is a measurement of a luminaires spectral power distribution in the context of television. The results can be checked against the table below. Hopefully you all feel as enlightened and excited by this as we do.

 

 

85 – 100 errors are so small that a colourist would not consider correcting them
75 – 85 a colourist would probably want to correct the colour performance, but could  easily get an acceptable result
50 – 75 a colourist would certainly want to correct the errors, and could probably  achieve an acceptable result, but it would take significant time to get there
25 – 50 the colour rendering is poor, and a good colourist would be needed to improve  it, but the results would not be to broadcast standard
0 – 25 the colour rendering is bad, and a colourist would struggle for a long time to  improve it, and even then the results may not be acceptable for broadcast

 

 

15
Dec
16

Chroma Q Space Force

Let’s start this blog with a little question,

What has Britain’s Got Talent, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Welsh National Opera, Kaiser Chiefs, The Killers, Stereophonics, Michael Buble and The Eurovision Song Contest all got in common?

Some of you folks may have guessed it’s something to do with lighting and you would be correct, no prize however as with this being a blog about lighting it wasn’t really hard to work out, was it?

So yes all the above artists have recently used lights by Chroma Q to add some light to their performances

Chroma Q have been producing high quality lights since the mid 1990’s and launched into the LED market in 2004.  They have a good reputation for producing award winning premium LED lights for concerts and theatre productions, retail and leisure, museum installations, exhibitions and so on.

Today I want to draw your attention to the nicely named “Space Force” soft light.

This latest offering from Chroma Q is a rather nice take on the good old space lights but now in LED form.

It only seems like yesterday when the LED lights made their debut on to our photographic world but we are already getting so used to them and the many advantages they offer us in the production side of things. It’s hardly necessary to explain the cool running reliability of LED’s or the 100% dim-ability and full colour temperature adjustability from 2800 – 6500k, so I won’t, but suffice to say the all new Space Force from Chroma Q has all of this.

Space lights are designed to flood large areas with lots of lovely uniform soft light and to do this they often have to be quite powerful and hence tend to run rather hot.  Historically they also require diffusion, usually in the form of a softbox or lantern.  Also as they tend to be pointed straight down heat can be an issue, only some lights are able to do this without “cooking” themselves. Rather nicely the Space Force produces an output of up to 26,700 lumens roughly comparable to a standard 6k fixture and without any form of extra cooling required they won’t cook themselves even if pointed down and with no fan required they run (almost) silently.

Diffusion is built in as with most LED fixtures so you don’t need to add anything else (we do have an egg crate and a lantern available to fit if you need). In normal operation (without the egg crate) it will give you a 60-degree beam angle.

Best of all (well as far as our drivers are concerned) its only 8kg in weight, so it’s easy to handle for its size, our unit comes with a yoke for mounting but also has options available to hang or stack numerous lights together.

pic4

Full onboard controls are on the rear of the unit allowing for complete stand-alone operation and just in case you need it full DMX control is also catered for.

Other nice functions include a “focus” button that causes the unit to revert to a pre-set intensity for when you need to check your focus (ok I had to look this up as focusing a space light seemed a bit of an oxymoron), 2 useful memory functions are available allowing you to “store” the settings on the light for recalling later.

Don’t be fooled by the name Space force or the term Space light, yes this is a space light but its far more use than that and can be put on a stand and used horizontally as a lovely simple soft light. All of our units are fitted with a yoke to allow for this sort of operation.

pic5

So in summary this is a lightweight, cool running, quiet and yet very powerful space light all of which make it an attractive alternative to the regular units. With impressively high CRI figures (up to 97) and a fraction of the energy consumption of the non-LED equivalent light (331w at 230V) it’s sure to be a winner.

The Space Force has already won an award at the Cine Gear Expo Technical Awards coming in first place however, I bet they are hanging on my BCR score, so here it is, 8 out of 10, that’s one point for each side as it’s an octagon, it’s a polygon too but that’s something to do with a missing parrot so I won’t go there.

Oh and we have forty of them ready and waiting for you so don’t look any further than Pixipixel, no matter how big your lighting needs are.

04
Jul
16

Introducing Genevieve

Now it’s quite an unusual name Genevieve especially in the present day, I don’t think I have ever met one to be honest. I recall an old film about a car race back from Brighton and I happen to know Sainte Genevieve (Saint Geneviève de Loqueffret )is the patron saint of Paris. I didn’t know that she is said to have saved the city from Attila the Hun and an outbreak of ergot poisoning (very nasty) not to mention being appointed as the guardian of the “consecrated virgins of Paris” so the name has some interesting and amusing history but it is still very unusual.

So having said that, I would like to introduce you to the newest Genevieve in London, She hails from Belgium which is very nearly Paris in my book, so it will suffice as a introduction and she is most definitely without any doubt whatsoever UNUSUAL.

 

Now Genevieve is a big girl she is quite heavy, but tall with it and she is delightfully quiet so you can take her home to meet the folks and she won’t embarrass you, but none of that is what makes her unusual. She is unusual, because of her power and she has heaps of it, she puts a 1970’s female Soviet Block weightlifter to shame and without the steroids!

 

Ok, I’ve had my fun and before I put you off Genevive all together, I should point out that she is a truck, a 4 x 4 wheel drive truck and she carries with her a 100kva generator!

 

Yes, Genevieve is our shiny new Mitsubishi Canter generator truck and you won’t find another lady like her in London.

genevieve 1

So lets start with Geneviève’s body, as I said she is a Mitsubishi Canter truck so has constant four wheel drive, high ground clearance, locking hubs, heavy duty axles and off road tires in fact many councils use the Canter as a base for their snow ploughs so she is a tough go anywhere kind of girl. She weighs in at about 6.5 tones so she’s not exactly anorexic and requires a taco (no not as in like a burrito) as in a tachograph! But don’t let that put you off, we can always find a driver if required and a spark (electrician) for that matter.

 

One quick glance inside her shapely rear end reveals the mother of all generators producing 100 Kva at your demand for anything from charging your IPhone to bringing Frankenstein’s monster back to life. With more outlets than Costa Coffee you won’t be short of places to plug into whatever you are using in fact she has:

One each of 125 and 63 amp single phase outlets and a brace of 32 and 16 Amp ones too. If you are after 3 Phase then she is equipped with a power lock and a 125 amp socket. Ok so no USB port but you can plug your phone into the cigarette lighter like everyone else.

genevivepower.jpg

 

A modest amount of storage is available for kit at the very back but if you need 100Kva then I don’t think this will be enough room for everything you are running still it’s better than a poke in the eye!

genevieve load.jpg

But by far the most impressive thing about this lady is how quiet she is, I had Toby start her up for me yesterday and even with the rear service hatch wide open I swear she made less noise than a little Honda 2Kva generator and they are renowned for being quiet.

 

So if you like your women tall well built, adventurous, powerful and silent then Genevieve is the girl for you. Why not give us a call and arrange a date?

genevieve2

The only improvement I would make is a huge set of bull bars and a winch but I’ve spent too long down under so ignore me, she is a perfect 10 as Kevin Bloody Wilson would say (those easily offended should not look up Kevin or his music)

13
May
16

KOTW-Arrimax 12/18 kW High Speed Ballast.

Arrimax 12/18 kW High Speed Ballast

 

So lets face it no matter how much I try to make this sound exciting it not going to be.

This is a fabulous bit of kit but it’s never going to score highly in the wow factor despite it’s cost and weight, I would say that its most popular feature is going to be the wheels!

Arri_562814_Arrimax_18_12KW_Electronic_Ballast_1336488694000_417450.jpg

 

I guess in the interest of spicing things up a little I should look into what a ballast actually is. Now although probably heavy enough this is definitely not the sort of ballast used to keep a boat the right way up or a balloon on the ground it’s something else entirely.

 

Put very simply, (to suit me) a ballast is an electronic device designed to limit the amount of current in an electric circuit. It automatically allows for a higher current at start up (striking) to allow for an arc to form between the electrodes in your bulb but then immediately limits that current to an optimum level, thus allowing for the bulb to produce the desired level of luminance whilst retaining its rated lifespan. Interestingly without a ballast a thing called a “negative differential resistance artifact” would cause the current in the bulb to very quickly “RISE TO DESTRUCTIVE LEVELS” and BANG. You get the idea, no more bulb, no more light.

 

So despite my obvious temptation to blow things up I guess that a ballast is a fairly important bit of kit, unless of course your dad owns Osram. So what’s so special about this one then? other than the wheels that is.

 

Well its what’s known as a high-speed ballast and no that’s got nothing to do with the wheels, for a start they would be alloys and have low profile tyres on them if this was some kind of racing machine. No high speed refers to the ability of the ballast to produce a virtually constant output over the entire AC cycle, allowing for flicker free operation and in turn filming at higher frame rates without a problem.

 

Ok so I bet you are itching to know how this is done, well it’s all about the shape of waves. A normal AC power supply has a nice curvy wave pattern, if you care to look at it on your oscilloscope (what do you mean you don’t have an oscilloscope, call yourself a photographer but don’t have an oscilloscope for goodness sake!) it looks something like this.

c1

 

Now, a normal “magnetic” ballast does a pretty good job in smoothing this out but if we look at the image below you can see that the light output fluctuates or flickers.

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That flicker plays havoc when we are shooting at high frame rates so is not ideal.

 

A high-speed ballast like the Arri 12/18 kW squares off the wave pattern and in turn produces a far more constant light output see below.

 

c3

Clever Stuff eh??

c4

 

 

 

 

With this consistent output high frame rate filming becomes possible without issue. Arri says that frame rates up to 3000 fps are possible when using multiple sources due to the ability to use up to 1200Hz lamp operation. With a single source the new 1000Hz ballasts are fine for lighting at frame rates of 1000 fps and in many cases even faster.

 

Happily for us this square wave format should increases the life of the bulb by around 20% and you will be pleased to know it can also increase the light output by 6-8% so it is hip to be square after all.

 

Now with every up side it seems a down side must follow and surprise surprise this is no exception. The issue with square waves (other than being useless to surf) is noise. The square waves can cause the globe and igniter to buzz, the head becomes a resonating chamber and the noise, now amplified is projected out of the front of the light (because it has a big hole at the front) straight towards the set. This is not an issue unless you are recording sound and then it’s a nuisance to say the least. But an answer is at hand and it involves cutting corners!

 

By using a special circuit in the ballast the corners of the square waves can be “rounded off” this prevents the buzz and keeps the sound guys happy. This does have an effect on the Hz that you can run at unfortunately but the Arri unit still can put out a very respectful 50-60Hz for low noise environments.

c6

So that was exciting wasn’t it I hope we are all now fully trained as far as waving is concerned and I would expect to see a marked increase in oscilloscope sales in the near future.

 

But back to the ballast in question I’ve had a bit of a look at its technical specifications and it has a couple of nice features beyond its wave changing trickery, how about cold striking and hot re striking and dimming from 100 -50% of power, oh and did I mention wheels?

 

This ballast also features DMX remote dimming capabilities (that’s fairly self explanatory) and an Active Line Filter for Power Factor Correction (a what for what?). from what I can understand about this it results in a more efficient power use and also assures a consistent colour output despite dimming or mains voltage fluctuations.

 

Full safety protection for over heating, short circuit and over voltage issues is built into the circuitry making for worry free operation. ABS and a drivers side airbag are not included however so be careful when pushing it around.

 

Well, I got through that without too much brain ache and I hope you did too?  Ballasts are never going to rock your world, but without them we would be in the dark (literally) so I am glad people like Arri are putting so much effort into making them better. I am hesitant to give a BCR Brucie coolness rating as its not going to score high enough on the cool side of things so on this occasion I will use my special BCR Ballast Capability Rating and award a 10 out of 10 to this beast.

 

Oh and it weighs about 49kg so if you have an assistant to punish let us know and we will take the wheels off!!!!

b6q516k

Cheers BB

23
Mar
16

Something slightly different-Sunlight

Sunlight

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but everyone here at Pixipixel is well and truly over winter. Short cold and dull days are not exactly the stuff of great photographs or location shoots are they? This has however given me an idea……….

As a departure from my normal rambling “Kit Of The Week” blogs I’m going to try something a little different, more along the lines of a how to guide, and what better place to start than how to recreate sunlight?

So please don’t take this the wrong way, I know many of you will be well versed in this but you never know you may pick something up even if it’s only a nice tan.

Firstly a small bit of Brucie theory:

Sunlight (I’m talking about a bright blue sky sort of sunlight not an overcast miserable day) is a hard light. You can see this if you look at your shadow on a bright day, it will be well defined with hard edges and a high contrast between it and the surrounding ground, in fact often exactly what we try and avoid as image makers. So why is this?

 

Ok, so back to photography basics for a moment, a hard light is produced by a small light source like the sun!

Yes I know the Sun is big (1392000 km across ish) but it is also a long way away, so to us it appears fairly small in the sky. This would be different if we stood on Mercury, but we aren’t so stop being awkward.

Now with the light source being small and far away the light rays that “hit” us are reasonably parallel to each other and this is what gives us the hard edged, high contrast shadows that we associate with summertime. With me so far?

 

So it makes sense that to recreate sunlight we either need to find a massive flaming orb and install it at the center of our solar system and pray for a break in the clouds or use a small light source in the studio itself. I know which option is easier, but exactly which light source should we use?

 

Now up until this point I’ve been thinking in general terms but obviously you moving image types are going to need a continuous light, whereas us stills guys can use flash or continuous. This is no big deal because we have numerous options for everyone.

 

Starting with us stills guys and looking at flash lighting we have a couple of options. Firstly and most simply a bare head will work fine, provided it is positioned at a reasonable distance from the subject. The trouble with this is that the light rays will be scattered causing a more diffused effect and also any stray light will bounce around the studio, becoming unwanted ambient light and further softening the effect. A small reflector or even a snoot will greatly help with this, however a purpose built modifier will yield much better results.

 

Both Profoto and Broncolor produce Fresnel lensed attachments for their lights and these help to bring those pesky light rays under control and more parallel to each other creating a beam of hard light (much the same as a lighthouse). This is a great starting point and works very well. The Broncolor attachment is called a “Flooter” and the Profoto version is the “Fresnel Spot”.  Both are fairly large so will need to be positioned at a distance from the subject. Very small versions are available such as the Broncolor Picolite Fresnel Spot Attachment but they are best used for tabletop macro sort of work, also we don’t carry them at the moment, so best you forget I ever mentioned them.

 

profres.jpgbronpico.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happily this Fresnel approach works well, but it can be done better and both the big names in flash have specific light shapers for this, they are radically different to each other but both work superbly.

 

Profoto have the “Hard Box” this is essentially a T shaped tube with the flash head inserted into the bottom, it decreases the size of the light source and eliminates unwanted stray light giving a light rich in contrast and very similar to sunlight.

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Broncolor have gone down a different path with their “Satellite” reflector. It’s a highly polished disc reflector into which a standard head is fired this reflector concentrates the light giving the daylight effect, it’s a bit like burning ants with a magnifying glass back in the schoolyard and must not be left in the back of a car on a bright day (I learnt that one the hard way myself).

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Both the Profoto and Broncolor solutions work better if the flash heads protection glass is replaced with a special purpose one. Just to confuse us the Profoto frosted dome should be replaced with a clear one and the Broncolor clear dome should be replaced with a frosted one!!

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The next method to consider is the use of a parabolic reflector, now these “Para” reflectors are designed to bring those light rays parallel again and do a far better job than a spherical reflector, I won’t go into detail why but it’s all to do with internal angles of reflection and is also probably why rugby is a better game than football!!!

Briese make a really magnificent version specifically designed for the recreation of sunlight, it produces a spectacular fresnel like light that is also very enveloping and it can be used with flash or continuous lights.

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See how I made the move from flash to continuous so smoothly…….. I think that’s called a segway. I’m getting the hang of this I think??

 

Ok so you moving image people have been very patient with me again, thanking you, now it’s your turn.

 

Nothing changes as far as light modifying is concerned between flash and continuous, I am pleased to say so all that stuff about a small light source with parallel rays of light giving a hard light is still correct.

You can use numerous lights to give you the “sunlight” look. Traditionally an 18k hmi Fresnel has been the go to fixture for film crews looking to recreate sunlight but with recent improvements to lights we no longer always require so much power. A good alternative is the Arri max 12K or the Arri m90 9k both of which have the unique MAX reflector giving a light quality similar to a fresnel but without the lens.
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With the extra power delivered by the Arri Max range of lights you can afford to use diffusion to “take the edge off” so for an exterior shoot often an 18k or 12k unit will be used with a 9k through a scrim (1/2 stop) as a fill. In studio the smaller Arri M series units often will be employed and Kino’s or LED’s used to fill in.

The Alpha 18K K5600 is another very powerful light that could be employed to recreate daylight/sunlight, with its clear front it will give a slightly less hard light than a Fresnel but it comes with a Fresnel lens too if you need to harden up a bit so it gives you some options.

 

It’s worth mentioning at this point that despite recent improvements to cameras 18k is still the goto strength required to override sunlight, yes the Arri max range will give you the equivalent oomph at a slightly lower power rating but the sun is the sun and its not getting any duller just because the chaps at Arri are getting smarter. Film crews use 18k for one very important reason, clouds, if they appear and you don’t want to hear “cut” then you need the power of 18K to keep shooting. From what I understand this is not going to change no matter what improvements are made to cameras, well not until the sun goes super nova anyway and I think we will be safe from that for a couple of years yet.

 

Now one last thing to consider is the good old inverse square rule (remember that) it states that the strength of a light is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from its source. Now when you think about the Sun itself, it is so large and so far away from us that any exposure drop over say the length of a room is negligible, therefore a larger light positioned further away is going to give you more consistent light levels across your set than say a smaller one positioned closer. Now I don’t think I am contradicting myself as a large light positioned at a greater distance becomes a “smaller” light source just like the sun and hence retains the hard light characteristics.

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(I had to include this pic as it proves the inverse square law can also apply to people’s intelligence in relation to the distance from a tattooist shop.)

 

Ok so that’s how to recreate sunlight, easy eh it’s all about recreating the same characteristics in your light that would be present in real sunlight and in a studio when you don’t have real sunlight to work with it’s an extremely useful thing to be able to do, but once outside in the real sunlight is it a redundant skill, does it still have a use? Well to the uninitiated you would think that bright sunlight at lunchtime on a nice day would be about as good a light as you could get and it certainly is hard, high in contrast and powerful but that doesn’t really help us as photographers does it.

 

Bright sunshine is (somewhat counter-intuitively) not great for us image-makers. The high contrast nature of this light can cause us problems with tonal range and correctly exposing our subject and the background at the same time. Think about a beach scene on a bright summers day, you want to take a nice picture of the kids running out of the surf so you grab your snapper and shoot only to find that.

You have a beautiful blue sky and silhouettes for children or nicely exposed children and a washed out sky. “Damn it I spent a small fortune on this camera and  I can’t even get a snap of the kids!”

So how do we get round this problem?

Simple, you overpower the sun!

Now you can stop short of creating a small fusion reaction in your speedos to do this, as the sun is surprisingly easy to overpower (well for us stills guys it is anyway).

 

Essentially all we need to do is to meter for the background exposure and then add in some fill flash to light our subject. This flash needs to have the same characteristics as the sun to keep the feel, but we know how to do that now don’t we? Using flash for this is easy as we don’t actually need a particularly powerful flash, we as stills people only have to overcome the sun for a fraction of a second and flash equipment is good at that, it has the ability to push out large amounts of power (light) for very short amounts of time.

 

For you filmmakers however it’s a different story, yes the theory of exposing for the background and then filling the subject is the same but you need this light on for the full duration of each frame and for the entire shot. Therefore you need a lot more punch to do the same thing as us stills guys, traditionally an 18k Fresnel or similar is used for this (try running that off 4 AA’s) oh and if the kids are running any distance you’re going to need more than one to “keep them in sunlight”.

 

At this point I realize how lucky I am to be a stills guy, it puts me in mind of watching the odd orchestra walk through the green channel back in my former life, I always wondered if the double bass player was jealous of the flautist at airports.

 

That’s all folks,  let’s make this year’s summer brighter than last year by everyone using artificial lighting lots n lots. Perhaps we can bluff the sun into shining a bit more!!!!

Now before I go, the shrewd folks amongst you are probably jumping up and down screaming what about colour temperature but that’s something for a future blog I think as it’s a subject all on its own and depends a lot on what sort of sunlight you are simulating, be it midday or evening and so on I’ll get back to you on that.

Likewise if you are trying to recreate a diffused sunlight (overcast) look then we need a chat about scrims and so on, again that’s for another day.

 

I hope you all learnt something if only how to brighten up a miserable English “spring” day, or how to avoid work by reading a verbose and slightly silly blog?

Cheers for your time…… Now get back to work!

 

Merry Lighting BB




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