Revolution’s Effects on Older Lights

LED LIGHTING

"Revolution’s Effects on Older Lights"

by

CHRIS KENNEDY

(Director of Photography, Kiaro Pictures)

As a cinematographer, lighting to me is the most important tool in my arsenal. It creates mood, depth, style, and enhances the story visually more than any camera or lens. This generation’s lighting revolution is LED, which every year improves itself in output, quality of light (CRI), and options for its use. While using an extremely small energy output being cool to the touch, LED lighting is very attractive to filmmakers.

I remember about four years ago on a music video set I used my first LED light in a professional setting. There was lots of skepticism over how little light it emitted, the horrible green cast or bad quality of light, and that it was only a panel made up of around 500 small lights, which left us with little to shape the light.

Fast-forward to today, I am using them in every one of my shoots, you can choose from any type of light from blasting the sun away with the Mole Richardson 1600w Fresnel which is equivalent to a 10k tungsten light that you can plug into your house (no need for generators), to what is called Source Four. These panels replace the once-industry standard Kino Flo, mounting a battery to it to give a small and portable/hand held fill light, to even using LED roll tape to mount literally anywhere. Simply putting in LEDs can literally be used in any situation!

But I’m not going to talk about the benefits of what LEDs can give us-but what this increase in competition is doing to older lights. Since the industry is turning to LEDs the cost of the not as efficient and too hot to touch tungsten lights has fallen drastically! There are very few LED options with a high output 2k tungsten equivalent, and since there is very little competition in this area of the market the prices are extremely high. Sure I can buy a Dracast LED5000 light for $2,500, which is about equal to a 3.5k tungsten light, but I can also buy a new Arri 2k openface light for a little over $600! I’ve been taking advantage of the used market on websites like EBay and recently bought a slightly used 2k DeSisti Fresnel with shipping for $124!

I know it seems backwards to go back into this inefficient and old technology. But there’s just something about naturally using a tungsten light with a high output that I prefer over a LED/fluorescent alternative at the same 3200k color temperature. All while having an extremely high output, it gives me option to book light, light larger environments and/or bounce my lighting into a much more pleasing look then just pointing a harsh light into someone’s face.

So I’d encourage anyone on a budget for lighting, who wants tried and true name brand lights, all with high outputs to look back to the lighting which this industry built itself on-not only while it’s still available, but with costs which are next to impossible to beat! But if your willing to wait, I’m sure LED will have higher outputs at these costs pretty soon…

WRITTEN BY CHRIS KENNEDY (DoP, Kiaro Pictures)