Join Erik Naso for an in-depth discussion in this video Low-budget lights, part of Video Lighting: Choosing Lighting Gear.
(host) Building a light kit from scratch can be expensive. And I know it's nice to save a few bucks on gear. I get it. This stuff isn't cheap. Be careful when you're buying inexpensive, or cheap, lighting gear. These are electronic devices. And faulty wiring can cause issues. Like shorting out, or worse, cause a fire. Cheap stuff can have cheap components. And not last very long with repeated use. If it breaks, good luck trying to get it repaired.
The really cheap stuff is, generally, disposable. You know the phrase, "You get what you pay for" right? Durability is something I look for in lights. Especially if you aren't the only one using them. I have to admit I'm a tad anal when it comes to my gear. But trust me most grips, or hired help, are not. And the lights tend to take a pretty good beating out in the field. Another consideration is light quality. LED and fluorescent fixtures all have different color quality.
The color accuracy ratings must be high to achieve a proper balance without color shift issues. Color meters are expensive to buy. So you end up trusting the company's ratings and hope for the best. I will say, in the last few years, color accuracy, or CRI ratings have improved a lot with LED lights. I would look for a rating at 90 CRI or above. Even the low budget models are performing pretty good.
In the past they tended to have color shifts; like magenta and green. Not a good thing. And would require a lot more work in post. My rule is buy it once and in the long run it will save you money. I know it's tough to afford lights on a really tight budget. Trust me, I get it. My son, who is in film school, called me up for some advice on a project he was getting ready to shoot. He asked me about lighting a scene, but they didn't have any video lights and no budget to buy or rent.
Ah, a true indie production. I sent him to Home Depot to pick up a few $10 clip on work lights. These are great for getting the room brighter. And you can clip them onto anything. Add in a few lamps and you now have a very inexpensive lighting setup. Plus you can use a variety of bulbs to get whatever color temperature light you're looking for. I highly recommend using fluorescent or LED bulbs. You'll get good output and low heat, to keep things safe.
The work lights are hard to control because they're designed to flood the room with light. (chuckles) But hey, it's way better than just a table lamp. Right? Try bouncing them into a corner. Or covering the front with the fusion. A great option, to spice up a scene, is a standard string of Christmas lights. While these don't put out a lot of light; they're a very soft source and can be used in very creative ways. Christmas is never over when you're a DIY filmmaker. Another great inexpensive omni directional lighting option is the China ball.
They are very nice and soft and work well for round table type discussions. You can get them at IKEA for cheap, around $12 Put a standard, LED, or tungsten bulb inside to get a super soft and pleasing light. They can be fragile, so it's a good idea to have a few extra. China balls have to hang from the cord. So you might find using them a little problematic. A long boom arm on a c-stand would be a good choice. Or for walking shots, get a painter's pole and tape it to the end.
If you want higher quality nylon versions that will last. Check out paperlanternstore.com If you're really tight on cash, get creative. And use some of the DIY tips to get your scene light up.
- Selecting lights for illuminating a subject
- Lighting large rooms
- Exploring portable, on-camera, and battery-powered lights
- Reviewing tungsten, fluorescent, and LED fixtures
- Considering low-budget lights
- Comparing light stands
- Exploring modifiers and cases
- Determining whether to rent or buy