What’s the difference between an Airbox softbox and a Chimera softbox?

chimera vs airbox price

I was talking to a prospective dealer,  he asked me,  “but seriously, what do I tell my customers?  They’ll ask me, ‘why buy this Airbox and not a Chimera?'”

Chimera softboxes are great products, I own several of them, but an Airbox is a different thing than a Chimera, each with their own advantages.
Both of them are:
•great ways to diffuse and soften an LED light source.
•black on the outsides and silver on the insides
•effective at making a bigger, softer source without creating a lot of unintended spill to the sides and back.
•can use both lighter and heavier grades of diffusion in front of the light
Here’s where Airboxes are different from similar Chimera products:
•An Airbox is more economical than a Chimera.
chimera vs airbox price

•An Airbox is more adaptable and convenient in how you pack it and how it mounts to the light, and it works with lots of different light fixtures:

You can pack an Airbox up any which way since it has no rigid parts.  You can put it into the size of space you have available for it, rather than needing it’s own container. You can even leave deflate the Airbox and leave it mounted to the light when you put the light back into the bag or case. A Chimera has a mounting ring/square and springy steel rods that are necessary for it to mount to the light and to create its shape.

An Airbox packs up like this:

Airbox-Model-1x1-softbox-folded-into-a-rectangle

Airbox Model 1×1 softbox folded into a rectangle

or like this:

Airbox-Model-1x1-Kit-w/eggcrate-grid-folded-flat-like-a-sandwich

Airbox Model 1×1 Kit w/eggcrate grid, folded flat like a sandwich

or like this

Airbox-Model-1x1-kit-and-Litepanels-1x1-in-a-bag-together

Airbox Model 1×1 kit and Litepanels 1×1 in a bag together

•An Airbox is brand agnostic in its fit, so can be used with more different fixtures than a Chimera.

Since Airboxes mount to the light with straps and velcro rather than a speedring/slide, you can put them on not just on any brand of appropriately-sized panel, but also on non-panel sources you may come across. Our Airbox Model 1×1 fits on not just the old Litepanels 1x1s, but also the new Astras, which has slightly different dimensions, and also any other brand of 1×1 panel, such as Flolight, Dracast, Came-TV, Dedolight, Visual Buddha, Limelight, and many others.

The flexibility goes beyond just panels- here are some examples of Airbox softboxes on some non-panel sources:

Airbox m126 on BBS pipeline

Airbox Model 126 on BBS Pipeline linear remote phosphor light

Airbox M126 on BBS pipeline 2 Resized

Airbox Model 126 on BBS Pipeline remote phosphor- back

1x1-on-flex-2

Airbox Model 1×1 on Westcott Flexlight LED- profile view

1x1-on-flex-1

Airbox Model 1×1 on Westcott Flexlight – rear view

Airbox Model 1x1 softbox folded around West Flexlite LED fixture

Airbox Model 1×1 folded up with a Westcott Flexlite

 

Some of my customers look at Airbox diffusers as a minimalist quick and easy solution, something to just keep with their LED panels so they’ve always got a quick way to soften, direct and control your panels. Me, I almost never use LED lights raw, except as a bounce or maybe a backlight. I always put some diffusion in front of them, either as a softbox or else as a diffusion frame on a stand.

yours

Tom Guiney

Airbox Lights

Relationship between Diffusion, Softening and Distance

diffdist 2

I came across this interesting article by Ed Moore and Stephen Murphy, where they tested a lot of different lighting diffusion materials. I recommend checking it out: Here is the stills version and thevideo version.

Some selects from that post:

Half soft frost diffusion

Half soft frost diffusion

Half soft frost, one of my favorite diffusions because it’s most efficient, getting you the most softening for the least loss of output available. Not surprisingly,  that’s what I use as the front face in Airbox Inflatable Softboxes.

Half Grid

half grid cloth diffusion, aka “light grid”

Light grid cloth is another favorite of mine when I’ve got brighter sources to work with.

Diffusion and Distance from Subject

It’s an interesting study but what I didn’t see them mention is the distance from the diffusion material to the subject.  That is hugely important to the effect.  A leko right next to a tennis ball will wrap more than a 10K through and 8x diffusion frame at a great distance.  You want the source soft?  Then sit that diffusion frame just on the very edge of frame, as close to the subject as you can get it. You want it a touch harder?  Back the frame up a bit towards the light. The apparent softness is largely about the size of the source relative to the subject.

Here’s a quickie test I did in my office on the topic using some of my daughter’s dolls, a Litepanels Astra EP (generously on loan from Litepanels), and an Airbox Model 1×1 softbox. The photos go from nearer to farther.

diffdist 1

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 11″

diffdist 2

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 32″

diffdist 3

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 52″

diffdist 4

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 75″

Notice the drop shadows.When the 16″x16″ source is just out of frame, there is no visible drop shadow on the girl doll’s face from her left hand, and barely any visible on the male baby’s face from the girl doll’s right hand.

Here’s a sketchup to illustrate the concept:source distance comp

This is why you never can get as soft by putting diffusion directly on the face of your light as you can when using a softbox or frame that’s a distance in front of the unit.
Tom Guiney
Airboxlights.com

Litepanels Astra review

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Litepanels Astra Review

 4.5/5 stars

If you’re into lighting with LED panels at all, you must have heard about the Litepanels Astra that came out last year. Litepanels were the first in the field of LED panel lighting for video, and after being thoroughly and extensively copied over the years, they’ve now released a spiffed-up design of their original product. They were also kind enough to lend me one, and here are my impressions after playing with it around the house and using it on several shoots.

  • Output

What I noticed first is how bright it was. When set to daylight-only, it’s just about two stops brighter than my old Litepanels D-Flood, or four times as bright. That’s pretty remarkable, especially since it’s a bi-color. Bicolor panels are generally accepted as being less bright than single-color panels because there’s only room for half as many LEDs of each color. The daylight emitters are brighter than the tungsten emitters because the base output of the emitter is quite blue and it requires a denser and more complex mix of phosphors to adjust that blue color down to roughly 3200K. When set to tungsten, the Astra is a stop and a half brighter (3x) than the old Litepanel.

Old Litepanel daylight flood, ISO 320, 111” (282 cm) metered at f/2
Astra panel, set to full daylight, ISO 320, 111” (282 cm): f/2.8 .8

In the spirit of research, I also compared the output to one of my other go-to panels, the Dracast 1000 Daylight 1×1.  The Dracast single-color was about the same, maybe a hair brighter, but that’s not really comparing apples to apples, since the Dracast is a single-color panel and the Astra is a Bi-color, which is another point in the Astra’s favor.

  • Color

Right after I got it, I put it up in my living room and banged it off the wall and took some pictures of my kids. The wall had a yellowish tint which threw things off, but shooting on preset 3200K, things looked fine. Whatever LED-based inaccuracies there may in the spectral output of this light, it was still a pleasing color to be around and the kids looked pretty good. Possibly they look a touch yellow/green, but the bounce wall is a little yellow as well.

70My kids will give me a hard time about these when they’re older

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To be more scientific about it, here are some screen grabs of tests I shot using a DSC Labs Oneshot color chart with the panel set to both tungsten and daylight output. How does the skin tone look? My skin looks decent unless you count the age spots and unshavenness, but the yellow chip on the chart looks a little green-brown, which is odd because on the vectorscope the yellow chip appears to be skewing towards red, not green. It also looks like the red chip is a little orangey, skewing a bit towards yellow.

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The Astra only comes in bi-color. The rows of LEDs alternate between blue and orange, and you fade between them with a dimmer knob on the back.

75Alternating diagonal rows of blue and orange LEDs. Fade between the two is continuous and smooth.

76Power button, dimming knob in the middle, color fade knob on top, accessory panel under logo

This is a simple, user friendly setup, with the controls close to each other and easy to operate without looking with one hand. Each control has a different shape so you can distinguish between them by feel without looking.
Some may object that you cannot dial in a specific Kelvin color temperature, but that didn’t bother me much. You can light by numbers or you can light by eye(and monitor), and my style has always been the latter.
  • Shape, ergonomics, and the yoke

The shape and ergonomics of the Astra are much improved over the traditional 1×1 panel format. Firstly, the yoke is angled forward so that the light doesn’t sit directly over the stand.

77Litepanels Astra showing tilted yoke

The benefits of this are that it can tilt down and not have its own yoke interfere with the beam, especially when using front-mounted accessories like a softbox.  The yoke is tilted forward just enough so that when you put the light up to a relatively normal above-eye level height, you can still focus it at the subject, even with a softbox or barndoors on.

Second, the heavy bits are moved off of the panel and onto the yoke. The ac power supply brick and the external battery are mounted to the yoke where it sits on the stand, rather than on the back of the panel as is traditional. This is huge. Have you ever had the big fat battery on the back of your panel throw it way off balance so that it suddenly tilts up to the sky? That little issue is handily take care of.  You can see here the battery mounting plate on the back of the yoke just over the mounting point.

78Note: AB battery plate just above mounting plate

A drawback to this change is that moving the power supply to the yoke seems to have left us with messy external cables! Both the AC adapter and the battery plate had a 3-pin XLR output that you plug into the back of the unit, and the unused one dangles freely, which bothered me a bit.  I asked Litepanels about this and they sent me an image of the yoke with built-in clips to keep the cables straight. The panel I was using was a beta, so didn’t have the cable routing all worked out yet. The routing clips in the yoke will be good for the XLR that you are using, but it doesn’t solve the dangling unused cable issue.

79Unused XLR Power Cable dangling

80Cable routing in yoke detail on up to date version of Astra

I would prefer if the cables from both the battery plate and the AC adapter were hidden inside the yoke. It is a bit annoying to unplug a cable from the back of the light and plug in a different one when you switch from battery to AC power or vice-versa.  Some competing panels do the switch from battery to AC just with a switch. As a product manufacturer myself, I can guess that it’s not that they didn’t think of it, it’s more about the cost. It’s always the cost.

Third, added to the yoke are two ¼-20 threaded holes on the sides of the yoke, nice if you want to add another baby stud to the side for rigging or to store the ¼-20 tiedown when using the panel in a junior receiver. These tapped holes aren’t that big a deal, I don’t see them being useful all that often, but it’s still a neat little feature not offered by the competition.

81Baby stud in side 1/4″-20 hole

Fourth, they improved the yoke-tightening knobs, making them bigger more hand-friendly, and putting them on both sides of the yoke.

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This isn’t critical, but it’s nice. The combination of the big knobs, the well-balanced light and the battery weight going on the yoke results in a pleasant user experience: quick to aim and stays focused right where you point it, with the only drawback being that there are two knobs. I do wonder if they couldn’t have made it work with just a single right-side knob. A leko has only one knob and stays put, a 1200 par has only one knob and stays put, why can’t a lightweight panel just have one knob? Still, the light was quite nice to work with, smooth and fast to focus.

Fifth, the body of the light is all rounded molded plastic with not a hard corner in sight. The plus side of this is that it’s nice in your hands, nothing to nick yourself on, and is a marked deviation from the boxy form they initiated last decade, but will this molded plastic hold up to rental house abuse? Only time will tell on this one. As well, the controls didn’t feel as durable as I would like though. The power button in particular felt a little clinky and plasticky, and the knobs are plastic and I fear they’ll get busted off when the light gets shoved in and out of bags over and over.

   The gels are now slid in from the side rather than the top. I could see this being good, so hard gels won’t fall out when you flip it upside down, but I also found it a little fiddly to get gels in and out. The plane where the gels sit is below the plane of the front of the unit, so you bend the gels a little to stick them in. They’ll definitely stay in, unlike most panels where you’re putting the light away and THUNK, two hard gels fall out and hit the floor and make you look clumsy or careless. Sliding the gels in the side is an improvement over the old style.

  • Other Features- cooling

The Astra has a feature that I haven’t seen on other units: a fan.

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Perhaps the fan’s purpose is to extend the life of the emitters or preserve their color by keeping the temperature down, especially if they’re in a long-term installation?  I don’t know.  In any case, it’s extremely quiet.  I had thought that that would be an issue on sets where there is sound, but the fan noise proved to be a non-issue.

The Litepanels writeup about the cooling mode says:

“Efficient thermal management with user selectable dual cooling mode
– Completely silent passive cooling mode
– Ultra-quiet active cooling mode with double light output”

The way to switch cooling modes wasn’t apparent to me, so I missed this feature when I had the light in my possession.  I don’t know which cooling mode it was operating in; it was probably passive mode since the fan seemed to go off shortly after I turned the unit on. If you can leave the fan on and double the light output, that could be a cool feature, since the fan was extremely quiet and would be little trouble even on a sync-sound set.  I’ll have to revisit this section later next time I get my hands on an Astra. I left it in the mode it was in  out of the box for all my testing.

 

  • But…It’s still an LED panel

The output is still the usual multiple source that you get from LED arrays. This can be objectionable, both in looking a little funny when someone has a multiple nose shadow. It’s actually worse with this unit than with some others because the Astra uses fewer/ larger LED emitters.

84Multi-edged cast shadow from a Litepanels Astra

There’s a sheet of etched polycarbonate over the front that protects the emitters and diffuses the light to a minor extent, but the only real solution to the multi-shadow thing is diffusion set out in front of the light, becoming a new source. Diffusion right on the face isn’t really going to help much, since you can see all the emitters and they’re not a unified source. Here’s an Astra with an Airbox, making a nice soft single source with no multiple shadows.

85Litepanels Astra with Airbox inflatable softbox on it at the top of the image

86Note: clean soft edges on shadows when Astra is used with an Airbox

  • Cost

I was pretty surprised to learn that the retail price is only 1500$. I paid 2200 each for my old d-floods back in ’07. Yes, there’s more plastic in the build than I would have expected, but it’s still a much lower price than I’d have expected from Litepanels, never known to be an inexpensive brand. It makes sense; there are so many copycat brands now, and we can hardly even call them copycats anymore! Lighting with LED arrays is now well established, and some of these latter day panel makers are doing it so cheaply and so well (c.f. Dracast). It only makes sense that Litepanels would have to bring their prices down. It’s a crowded space, as they say. I believe that the AB gold mount battery plate is an add-on for an additional 140$, as would be the optional dmx control module.

And at the end of the day, what’s my opinion? Is it a good price for what you get?

Yes! I wouldn’t be surprised if the Litepanels Astra became the new standard in rental houses, the one that customers ask for by name. It had all the advantages of a traditional LED panel, being bright, light, convenient, simple and fast to work with, battery-powered, but with some improvements beyond those basics. If I was going to buy another LED panel, I’d likely buy an Astra.

Tom Guiney

Gaffer, DP, inventor

Airboxlights.com

LED panel comparison: color charts, vectorscopes, light loss

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People ask me all the time, “what LED panels do you recommend?” “What’s the color like on that panel?”and “”Does putting an Airbox Softbox on the light affect the color?”, so I decided to do some testing, as scientifically as possible.  What you’re looking at is footage shot of the DSC labs OneShot chart, where each of the color patches is carefully calibrated to match up to the six points on a vectorscope, as well as four skin tone patches that line up with the “skin tone” line on a scope.  A perfect light source and a perfect camera would land each of the dots right on the vectorscope targets. You can observe which way a light is biased by seeing in which direction the six points tend. Distance from the center indicates saturation.  For example, the top target on a scope is the red reference, and if you see the top point on the star significantly to the left of the target, you know that the light source skews towards yellow. One the source that’s used in this sample chart, you can see how desaturated the green point is, indicating an overall magenta cast.

Here is a sample vectorscope with the targets labeled clearly, if vectorscopes aren’t something you look at often.

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The video below is made from the powerpoint I put together of the results.  A video of stills in a powerpoint of vector scopes and color charts?  That’s some exciting viewing! No, but seriously, it’s data that actually tells you something.   If you want to click back and forth to examine those vectorscopes closely, you can download the powerpoint.

•Tungsten source for a control group
•Litepanels Astra, set daylight
•Litepanels Astra, set tungsten
•Dracast 1000 daylight
•Litepanels D-Flood c. 2007 manufacture
•Flolight Microbeam 512

 

 

I plan to add some budget panels to the testing mix as soon as I’m able so we can see how much difference there really is between the cheaper panels and the pricier ones, but this is what we’ve got for now. Also, when I do more testing, I’ll strive to be more precise with the exposure.

My take on the test results:

1) I’m surprised that the leko doesn’t look better. The skin tone looks good, but on the scope, the yellow still looks a little desaturated and skewed towards red, and the magenta skews towards red as well.  That’s not too surprising since it’s somewhat aged bulb and probably burns a little warmer than it ought. It’s possible that a little glare on the surface of the chart threw things off.

2)The Litepanels D-Flood, the original that people refer to as a “Litepanel”,  still works but is pretty outmoded now.  You can see that it’s two stops less bright than the more modern panels.  The color also is a little iffy on the scopes- pretty much all six colors skew one way or another. It looks liek an overall magenta cast- see how the green point is short(desaturated) and is slid way up towards yellow and red.

3)Astra Daylight- most of the points look pretty close to on, except the green again.  Were they making sure to avoid the famous green cast of LEDs and overcompensated towards magenta? My skin tone looks pretty good though.  I’d happily use that on a shoot. I couldn’t perceive any material difference when I put the Airbox on the light. Interesting was that the Astra set to daylight was almost, but not quite as bright as the single-color Dracast panel. One-color panels are always brighter than their bicolor cousins because all the LEDs are devoted to the one tone, rather than having half of the emitters dedicated to each side of the spectrum.

4)Dracast 1000- This was the brightest panel I tested. Also worth noting is that this panel runs a little warm on a standard color meter, around 5000 K.  White balancing the camera to the source made this not very apparent, but it’s something to know about.  On the scopes the blue and cyan points are pulling towards each other, and the yellow is definitely skewed towards red.  I find the yellow square on the chart a little icky looking. The skin tone? Not bad, looks a little pink to me. However, on the scope, the magenta point seems pretty spot on, it’s just that its complement in green that is off-target.

5)Litepanels Astra, set to tungsten. The scopes seem to be more on-target here than in the other lights, except for that yellow point which is skewing to the orange and the red which is oversaturating a little. For a tungsten LED, it’s quite good.  Those traditionally have been the worst-looking LEDs, but they seem to have gotten it right with this one. The skin tone isn’t perfect, it does bring out the reds a little more than I like.

6)In general, there didn’t seem to be much noticeable color shift when I added the Airbox Softboxes to the lights.  FYI! 15% off all Airbox products, Nov 27-Dec 2, Black Friday-Buy Stuff Monday sale. Airbox Inflatable softboxes are a tool to adjust the quality, not the color, so it’s nice to be able to say that they are neutral in color.

7) The Flolight Microbeam 512-  looks like the exposure was a bit off here, but nonetheless, the red looks a little orangey and the blue is kicked towards green. I’ve used that light lots of times on shoots though and I haven’t heard any complaints.

Those are just some impressions, please make you own decisions from the data about which lights have the best color.  I am not a colorist, just a lighting guy trying to get some objective data on these lights. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone more expert than I!

if you’re still curious, here is more information on vectorscopes and the DSC OneShot.

 

More lighting and camera gear 2014: FS7, Sourcemaker blanket, Twintube Dolly, Gruvgear Muver

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New lighting and camera equipment from 2014 that bears mention:

Sony’s Fs7 has been one of the most ballyhooed releases this year. I recently got the chance to do some testing Adam Wilt and Art Adams. Adam Wilt wrote some thorough articles about it which are worth reading. I’m looking forward to reading Arts writeup when its done, but here’s my really quick .02 – like the smarty handgrip. All those controls you can operate without taking your eye of the eyepiece! I was also very impressed with the dynamic range. S-log 3, we were actually short of hard pressed to create an indoor situation that exceeded what camera could still resolve. Granted,  our biggest light was an 800 joker, but it was still impressive that the camera could still see detail on the t/45 white curtains where the beam of light was hitting them as well as in the unlit T/1 patch of dark wood in the foreground, about eleven stops apart.  We’ll wait and see the actual test results though once Art has done the edit.
60Sony FS7, test shoot w/Art Adams and Airbox Lights
Sourcemaker inflatable 4×4 soft source with eggcrate:
How cool is this?  It’s like a 4×4 diffusion frame with a light behind it, except there’s no light behind it! Seems ideal for tight spaces.  I do think you need a pump or helium tank to blow it up; I think you’d turn blue and faint, trying to inflate this by mouth. These are the same people who make the large helium filled balloons you see on big night exterior sets.
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Sourcemaker LED Blanket
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The back and the front of their LED blanket stretched on a 4×4 frame with a diffuser balloon and eggcrate on it.Solid grip twin tube dolly:  this is like an improved version of the ever-popular Dana Dolly, with some significant improvements. Most notable feature is the track: The track breaks down and fits in one case, assembles with no seams between pieces so your frame doesn’t bump when dolly goes over it, and the track is extremely stiff- it doesn’t bow(“smile”) under the weight like the speedrail track of a dana dolly does. The dolly carriage grabs onto the track rather than sitting on top, so the carriage and camera won’t fall off and can be underslung easily. Very nice stuff, but pretty pricey- about 3x as much as a dana dolly setup, in the neighborhood of 4k.

6465
See also Rigwheels; they’re another cpmpetitor in the field of portable dollies.  Also a good system, less expensive than the twintube, but more than a dana dolly.
Bagolite:
Its a giant inflatable tube that mounts to the front of a medium/large HMI par like a 4k or 6k par.  It makes a giant glowing sausage that you only have to support at one end. It definitely was eyecatching.  I could see that being useful in some situations. If you needed to arm out a large bright soft source and weren’t able to support the far end because the stand would be in frame perhaps?  On their website they show it being used to light a car, which makes sense since it’s would make one long continuous reflection on the curved finish of the car. The massive size of the source is probably the most important feature; to get a single soft source that big could take some significant effort using traditional tools. Still, I’m not holding my breath to see this all the time.
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Plastic apple boxes: So simple! A lot f the best new gear is just that, super simple.  These apple boxes won’t start to splinter and come apart on you, probably won’t show the wear as much as traditional wooden ones.  I was told they were priced approximately the same as normal apples. Plus, you can get them appropriately colored for chroma key work in green, blue, or red. at filmtools.com
******* MISSING PHOTO  *******
Who thought that regular old carts had room for improvement! This is an LA company who make these carts that can be configured lots of different ways, as you see in the video. They originally were making stuff for musicians and bands et al., but bands and shoot technicians have a lot in common. Folds up very small for portability, sets up quickly in loads of different ways. We have a customer group in common: video shooters for whom compactness and portability is essential. I got the chance to use one on a job yesterday, and it was awesome!  Really sturdy and adaptable, but importantly, that center wheels lets it turn on a dime. Red Scorpion LED Maxibrutes: Daylight-balanced large LED heads with output that can compete with a 4k par, but on a single 20 amp circuit! To get that kind of output, they’re set up with arrays of emitters, much like the familiar Maxibrutes, 9-lights fays, and Dinos. Each LED emitter is set into an MR-16-style parabolic refractor, directing all of the light forward.  Some of their smaller units are compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes. They’re a small startup started by a working gaffer, just like Airbox, but watch out for these lights! That kind of output with such minimal power draw could be a really big deal in days to come.
68Red Scorpion LED maxibrute
69Red Scorpion LED
Other tidbits- Recently discovered that more excellent lights have proven to be compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes- the BBS area 48 and the Cineo LS and Cineo Maverick! See the full list of lights compatible with Airbox Inflatable softboxes here.

Custom Catch Lights or Eye Lights

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Lighting Exercise: Custom Catchlights

50I’ve always had this thing for unusual catch lights in people eyes, something other than the usual rectangle or dot.  Catchlights, also referred to as eyelights, are generally understood by photographers and videographers to be important; people’s eyes seem a little dead when there’s no light reflected in them. Not coincidentally, the times there’s no light reflected in someone eyes is usually when there isn’t any light source in front of them, so they’re usually a bit backlit or sidelit anyway, which might lead people to feel that the person looks a little gloomy.

Exhibit A: No Catchlight

51Grim selfie with no eyelight

The notion of using customized eyelights to give some sort of special meaning to an image was inspired by something I saw once in a comic book. Somehow through the years I still have the comic book.

Exhibit B: Creepy Eyelight

Kalibos the nasty psychic robot is invading our hero’s brain and stealing the secret he most wants to protect. Kalibos’ eye is sporting a creepy cross as he’s reading Grimjack’s mind
******** MISSING PHOTO ********
52Grimjack having a rough day after having his mind abused
I don’t know what that little cross in the eye meant, if anything, but the image stuck in my head over the years. And much appreciation to Steve Pugh the artist and First Comics.
Anyway, back to the topic.  Catchlights are important in videography and photography.  Why not exercise all the options available and make them extra cool?

Why not have a shape appear in their eye?

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She’s not going to invade your mind, she promises.

Or how about a word?

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Hmm, what’s she like?  Oh right, she’s NICE.  It says so right there on her eyeball.

Or while we’re at it, why not put a company logo on a pretty girl’s eye?

******MISSING PHOTO********
It’s really simple how to do it.  You need a large luminous object and some opaque black material.  I used diffusion marked up with black tape, slid into the front pocket of Airboxes mounted to LED panels. The logo I printed out black on white paper.  This takes a lot of toner, beware. It could be any luminous flat object though.  A 4×4 frame of diffusion with a light behind it would work well, and make custom cutouts out of black tape and blackwrap.  Light your subject from the front using this source with the black cutout, fiddle around with the placement to get the catchlight where you want it, and call it done.
These are the tools I used:
55sheets of 250 in the front pocket of an Airbox Model 126
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Airbox Model 1×1 with a printout of our logo in the front pocket

Remember that words will be reversed in the reflection, just like a mirror.  You have to put the words in so they appear backwards.
Good luck with all your lighting experiments!
Tom Guiney

Airbox LED softboxes on: Mirrorless better than DSLR for video?

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Is mirrorless the new deal for DSLRs and lower-budget smaller-scale video shooting?  Or I guess I should say “DSLM”.  That’s the new term I heard at the WPPI trade show in Las Vegas last week. It was most often mentioned cheek-to-jowl with the term “hybrid” photography, which was also new to me. Mirrorless and hybrid are a trend, which you can see with the field dominating Canon releasing its EOS-M to jump into the fray.

Will Crockett feels strongly this way.  his aurdience is primarily photographers who are transitioning over towards video, since their clients are asking them to.  Some of mine are asking me the reverse:
“did you shoot any stills when you were shooting that part?” And my answer’s always, uh, no, because I was shooting video. I didn’t shoot any stills.  Maybe that’s a lack of planning on my part, that maybe I SHOULD shoot stills along the way when I’m shooting video. So shooting “hybrid” is apparently more and more of the new deal for all of us.

I pressed him on a few of the points in his video.
1.Why’s he think it’s so much easier to shoot video with mirrorless like a gh2 or gh3 than with the old favorite the 5d?
response:  a) autofocus actually works on mirrorless cameras for video, but autofocus in unavailable in video to DSLRs other than the Sony a99.  b)mirrorless is natively 16:9, making post a little easier. c)more video options like 720 or interlaced available in mirrorless and Sony alphas  d)better overall low light performance in mirrorless.  Performance in his words being a combination of being able to autofocus, judge AWB, and produce good image quality above ISO 2000.

2. Autofocus for video:  I said I still find the autofocus on my GH2 not sufficiently reliable for video work. Sometimes it can follow a moving subject, sometimes it just completely blows it and makes the background really sharp.
Response: Agreed, but still better than you can’t ever use it at all.

3.Lots of lenses available:  My impression is yes, you can use lots of lenses on a micro 4/3 mount, technically the most of any format, but in reality, a lot comes down to the quality of the adapters, and a lot of the affordable ones are crap. The lack of iris control on my Canon EF mount lenses when on a m43 mount, not to mention the sloppy wobbly connection between the lens and the camera, makes those lenses basically unusable on m43. There is that cool 550$ smart adapter from redrock micro, but that’s pretty spendy. Not to mention the 2x crop factor of the M43 sensor, where your nice wide 24mm EF mount is all of a sudden basically a normal perspective lens.
Response: agreed.  He tries to avoid using adapters except for his Leica glass. Using native lenses is far preferable in most cases.

One thing that can be handy about mirrorless is they’re much smaller and usually less expensive for both bodies and glass than pro DSLRs.  Now that Lumix has put out a series of top-quality lenses for M43 format, it feels like a real alternative. When I first got my GH2, there was no fast “normal” zoom available, the equivalent of the Canon L 24-70 2.8. It caused me some heartburn.  Thankfully, now there are the Lumix G X series lenses, which are awesome.  And small! And not that pricey! Only about 1200$ each.

Small camera? Small can be very good sometimes.
When you’re just using it as a SLR-style camera, or traveling, that’s cool.  I find once I kit it out with all my crap for video, like my d-focus cage, rods, monitor, full-size tripod, and mini slider, it’s far from small. Sure is nice to rig up on something.

Here’s when little is a big advantage. Check this out:

13I don’t think you could do that with a chunky SLR with a big lens on it.  well, maybe, but it wouldn’t be as fast and it would be harder to do and bounce around more and maybe not work.

Conclusion:
While it’s not the only way to shoot video, and all of our favorite DSLRs are still leading the field, I think the day isn’t that far away when it will just seem like the more logical choice to shoot video with sleek little DSLMs packed with pro video features than with “big” DSLRs. They’re just more video-friendly.  I’m not going to get into the partisan fight about which camera looks better, but there are a lot of just plain practical concerns that make mirrorless attractive. HD live feed to your monitor, for one, so you can keep stuff in focus once you start rolling.

When you’re shooting small like this, you’ll want your lighting kit to be pretty compact too. What better way than totally collapsible almost weightless softboxes for your LED panels? Check us out.
yours
Tom Guiney
Airboxlights.com
Inflatable softboxes for LED Panels

 

Micro Grip and Lighting Kit

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Sometimes I get this notion like I’ve got all the answers on something, an of course that means I don’t. I got my eyes opened a bit on how small you can go with gear and still be very effecive. This is particularly relevant when you’re working by yourself or with a very small crew. I gaffed a Chrome spot for a dp named Norman Bonney, and he had a whole kit of totally miniaturized gear, optimized for fitting in one vehicle and for taking on airplanes.
Kit was
1 case: 4 LEDs, 2 1×1 panels and two 6″ x1′ panels
4 skinny little 18/3 “stingers”
A bag of slender aluminum stands, of a degree of sturdiness that I had previously dismissed as Mickey-mouse student film stuff. Some stands were 3/8″ studs at the top, some were standard 5/8″ studs.
Portable fold-up flag kit
Collapsible 4×6 westcott scrimjim frames and a duffel bag full of soft goods.
Instead of heavy duveteen, he carried lightweight ripstop nylon
And the grip kit: instead of heavy steel 2 1/2″ steel gobo heads, these tiny little 1 1/2″ grip heads. So this is what your “C-stand” looks like:

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A tiny stand, a tiny head, and a tiny cardi. Slender, but big enough to handle this lightweight collapsible 4x frame on an interior set:

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And all the bags and cases were 49 lbs or less and less than 62″ long, making it all air-travel ready.
I dig it!  I shoot a bunch of little jobs where it’s basically just me, and if everything fit in bags and cases and didn’t weight all that much, that would be just fine with me.
Handy items in my kit as far as extreme portability are the inflatable softboxes I make to go with my LED lights.  They just squish down on top of the lights in the case and add barely any weight or bulk since they’re inflatable. Also handy are these cheesy “Impact” brand light stands that I got a while ago and then regretted because they seemed so flimsy.  They’ve proved really reliable, even if they are lightweight. They work.  When I’m not bringing “any” lights, I bring my two 1×1 panels in their laptop bags and these two lightweight stands and my little briefcase of small LED units and Airbox softboxes.
Trivium: “Impact” is one of B&H’s house brands of gear, along with Pearstone and probably a few others.

Matting a subject into an existing background and matching the light.

It is handy to have some kind of reference for what the light was like in the earlier situation. That is something I didn't have. The closest thing to that I have is the tree on the right side of frame.  Looking at the tree, you can see that there was warm, hardish light falling on it that is kind of sidey or three-quarter backy. It's shadow side is pretty dark, but that's a detail I chose to not imitate as faithfully.

The need to have an accurate reference is why the special effects guys shoot a few frames of a little painted ball and a reflective sphere in the same lighting setup as you just shot the live action.  It shows them what and where the lights were, and how they looked on the subject. The mirrored chrome  phere shows them all the lights, and the painted ball shows them what the direction and quality of light was falling on the talent.

Lacking any reference for the viewer in frame can be handy too, since if you've fudged it a lot, no one will know. In this situation, the tree and the hillside are the only reference points the viewers will have. All the viewer will know is a sense of warm light, coming from a low angle, sidey and backy,  relatively hard. The wash over the grass on the hillside even suggests that the light isn't necessarily that hard.

Since I was lighting a portrait, I chose not to be entirely faithful to the light in the photo.  Hard sidey late-season light  with a deep shadow side might not be the most flattering thing for a holiday portrait.

The studio setup:

When you’re matting the subject of your shoot into a plate of an existing background from another prior shoot, I think what gives away the fakery the most is if the lighting doesn’t match.  I will show you a little homegrown experiment in attempting to make two people shot in a “studio” look like they were lit by the same light as was falling in an earlier outdoor situation.
This is the original situation, a meadow on Martha’s Vineyard.  Much more scenic a background than my living room.

It is handy to have some kind of reference for what the light was like in the earlier situation. That is something I didn't have. The closest thing to that I have is the tree on the right side of frame.  Looking at the tree, you can see that there was warm, hardish light falling on it that is kind of sidey or three-quarter backy. It's shadow side is pretty dark, but that's a detail I chose to not imitate as faithfully. The need to have an accurate reference is why the special effects guys shoot a few frames of a little painted ball and a reflective sphere in the same lighting setup as you just shot the live action.  It shows them what and where the lights were, and how they looked on the subject. The mirrored chrome  phere shows them all the lights, and the painted ball shows them what the direction and quality of light was falling on the talent. Lacking any reference for the viewer in frame can be handy too, since if you've fudged it a lot, no one will know. In this situation, the tree and the hillside are the only reference points the viewers will have. All the viewer will know is a sense of warm light, coming from a low angle, sidey and backy,  relatively hard. The wash over the grass on the hillside even suggests that the light isn't necessarily that hard. Since I was lighting a portrait, I chose not to be entirely faithful to the light in the photo.  Hard sidey late-season light  with a deep shadow side might not be the most flattering thing for a holiday portrait. The studio setup:

It is handy to have some kind of reference for what the light was like in the earlier situation. That is something I didn’t have. The closest thing to that I have is the tree on the right side of frame. Looking at the tree, you can see that there was warm, hardish light falling on it that is kind of sidey or three-quarter backy. It’s shadow side is pretty dark, but that’s a detail I chose to not imitate as faithfully.
The need to have an accurate reference is why the special effects guys shoot a few frames of a little painted ball and a reflective sphere in the same lighting setup as you just shot the live action. It shows them what and where the lights were, and how they looked on the subject. The mirrored chrome phere shows them all the lights, and the painted ball shows them what the direction and quality of light was falling on the talent.
Lacking any reference for the viewer in frame can be handy too, since if you’ve fudged it a lot, no one will know. In this situation, the tree and the hillside are the only reference points the viewers will have. All the viewer will know is a sense of warm light, coming from a low angle, sidey and backy, relatively hard. The wash over the grass on the hillside even suggests that the light isn’t necessarily that hard.
Since I was lighting a portrait, I chose not to be entirely faithful to the light in the photo. Hard sidey late-season light with a deep shadow side might not be the most flattering thing for a holiday portrait. 

The studio setup:2

Not fancy.  A bit awkwardly narrow. But it worked. If we were shooting motion and not stills, it would have to be a greenscreen (not blue because she has blue eyes and I had on a purple shirt) and be pretty evenly lit.  Still are much more forgiving, so a purple bedsheet worked out fine. I used the two kinos at the left rear to make a large wrappy 3/4 back source, 2900 bulbs plus 1/4cto and light grid cloth. The key is a 3' chimera Octaplus with a 1k bulb and 1/2 soft frost over the face. I didn't use the stock diffusion that comes with it, I clipped a layer of half soft frost to it so it wouldn't get too soft,  retaining some of the specular quality of the bare bulb and silver reflector inside.  All the light in the landscape frame is on the hard side, and I didn't want the key light to jump out at the viewer as being overtly different. I had a large 12' black negative fill taking the shadow side way down, killing all the bounce from the whitish wall, but it ended up looking too gloomy and noir, so I ended up furling it out of the way and adding a 1x1 litepanel instead as an eyelight. I chose not to go as hard as the real sun in the picture because I thought I could get away with it and that it would be more flattering on my wife's features. There's no obvious frontlight source in the landscape photo, but all the lit background areas are distant enough from the lens that the viewer really doesn't know what's close to the lens. Perhaps a soft 3/4 front key could even make sense...

Not fancy. A bit awkwardly narrow. But it worked.
If we were shooting motion and not stills, it would have to be a greenscreen (not blue because she has blue eyes and I had on a purple shirt) and be pretty evenly lit. Still are much more forgiving, so a purple bedsheet worked out fine.
I used the two kinos at the left rear to make a large wrappy 3/4 back source, 2900 bulbs plus 1/4cto and light grid cloth. The key is a 3′ chimera Octaplus with a 1k bulb and 1/2 soft frost over the face. I didn’t use the stock diffusion that comes with it, I clipped a layer of half soft frost to it so it wouldn’t get too soft, retaining some of the specular quality of the bare bulb and silver reflector inside. All the light in the landscape frame is on the hard side, and I didn’t want the key light to jump out at the viewer as being overtly different. I had a large 12′ black negative fill taking the shadow side way down, killing all the bounce from the whitish wall, but it ended up looking too gloomy and noir, so I ended up furling it out of the way and adding a 1×1 litepanel instead as an eyelight. I chose not to go as hard as the real sun in the picture because I thought I could get away with it and that it would be more flattering on my wife’s features. There’s no obvious frontlight source in the landscape photo, but all the lit background areas are distant enough from the lens that the viewer really doesn’t know what’s close to the lens. Perhaps a soft 3/4 front key could even make sense…

Here’s the pre-edit photo from the shoot:

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And here’s the final result.

There is a greenish kick on Alex' camera right cheek and neck that comes from the landlord-chosen semi-white wall paint, but I left it in since it seems to work, echoing the yellow-green grass we also see on frame right. The edge on the back of my head and shoulder are consistent with what we see raking across the grass. The key level is a bit brighter than is absolutely believable given where we know the sun is, but hey.  I wanted us to look nice. So how successful is the fakery? Important question is how successful does it need to be for the client's purposes. In this case, the client is me, and the target market is friends, family, and colleagues with whom I want to keep in touch with.  A forgiving bunch, generally. Not one where you get a lot of clients furrowing their brows and reaching out to touch a certain little spot on the monitor.  Knowing where the image is headed gave me the leeway to light it more flatteringly and a little less realistically, and it's important to know how strictly realistic it ought to be. Choose your battles.

There is a greenish kick on Alex’ camera right cheek and neck that comes from the landlord-chosen semi-white wall paint, but I left it in since it seems to work, echoing the yellow-green grass we also see on frame right. The edge on the back of my head and shoulder are consistent with what we see raking across the grass. The key level is a bit brighter than is absolutely believable given where we know the sun is, but hey. I wanted us to look nice.
So how successful is the fakery? Important question is how successful does it need to be for the client’s purposes. In this case, the client is me, and the target market is friends, family, and colleagues with whom I want to keep in touch with. A forgiving bunch, generally. Not one where you get a lot of clients furrowing their brows and reaching out to touch a certain little spot on the monitor. Knowing where the image is headed gave me the leeway to light it more flatteringly and a little less realistically, and it’s important to know how strictly realistic it ought to be. Choose your battles.

Hi-speed shooting, tungsten filaments, and flicker/pulse

Tweeted on the topic of high- fps shooting today.  More info here:

It is commonly understood that when you’re shooting above 120 fps, you can’t use small lights, that a 5k is the smallest light that you can use.  Why? In brief, because a smaller, thinner filament can cool and therefore dim quickly, as the AC voltage cycles up and down 60 times per second on a 60-hz system.  To the eye, and a normal framerate, the very brief dim period of out put in between +120volts and -120volts that happens 60 times each second isn’t visible at all, the same way you can’t see hummingbird wings or helicopter blades.  When you’re shooting extremely high speed, these “brief” dim periods are extremely obvious, and the lights that appear steady to your eye appear to be pulsing in a very odd way.  With larger, thicker filaments, like on a 10k or 20k, it takes a much longer time for the heat and light to dissipate out of the metal, and by the time the filament would be noticeably darker, the voltage has already reached it’s next peak and the brightness of the filament is restored.
Today it was pointed out to me by a DP I’m about to work with that the “nothing under 5k” rule is actually a conservative overcompensation(a little typical of us gaffers and electricians, I think).  I’ve pulled maxibrutes (9 x 1k Par-64 bulbs) off of an order because I heard that we were adding a bit of high speed.  Jim Matlosz (Www.dpmatlosz.com) clearly knows what he’s doing, if you look at his site, and he said, “Yeah, you get away with it sometimes. 1ks?  Yeah. I’ve seen them flicker, and I’ve seen them not. We’ll try it.” But in any case, he firmly asserted that 2k is the safe smallish light, not 5k.
Regular tube-shaped kinos are fine when they’re bright enough, because kino ballasts ramp up the frequency of the current to about 10,000 hz.  Interestingly, the u-shaped kinos like diva lights, parabeams, and vistabeams are problematic sometimes.  That requires further research; I don’t know why they aren’t fine and the straight tubes are.  They must use lower-frequency ballasts.
“Flicker-free” HMIs:- those arent really flicker free.  Their brightness still increases and decreases 60 times per second, but they become “flicker-free” by squaring off the top of the AC sine wave.  The amplitude(height) of the wave is increased, but a filter is applied that cuts off the top of the wave beyond a certain point, which gives you an almost completely flat-topped, steep-sided waveform, almost a true square wave.  This results in seeing the maximum brightness for a relatively longer time out of each cycle and having the transition between brightness peaks be relatively brief.In any case, don’t use flicker free HMIs at a framerate higher than 150 fps. Some people say 120, but that might be just staying on the safe side.

yours
Tom Guiney, gaffer and DP
Airboxlights.com inflatable LED diffusers for Litepanels
twitter lighting tips @airboxlights