Why did Richard build his own fixtures?
Having a background in electronics Richard felt it was no problem to build his own fixtures (and later to tell others about it through the Cool Lights video). This later expanded into Cool Lights USA which is primarily represented here, in this website. Today, Cool Lights offers both ready-made fixtures for those without the DIY inclination but still preferring to spend less and DIY parts for those so inpired to build their own.
I’ve seen the Cool Lights DIY video but don’t feel up to the experience of making the enclosure, what can I still do?
If you find the right sheet metal fabrication shop you can make a very attractive fixture but finding the right one is the big chore. You will find many that will quote you impossibly high prices to make what you need and may find only one or two which provide a suitable price. It is an exercise of determination to call all the fabricators in your area and find the best one for your needs. When you buy the Cool Lights video you get all the plans necessary to take with you to the shop to communicate what you want. One way to quickly narrow down the list of shops is to pre-qualify if they have hand-fabrication available or are a totally automated shop. Since you are only building one or two lights and not going into major production you won’t want to be choosing an automated CNC shop because they have horrendous “tooling” charges you will have to pay for setting up the machines. A hand fabrication shop may be a bit more expensive per item but this makes more sense for just one or two.
Why did you produce Cool Lights: DIY Fluorescent Video Lighting Volume One in video form and not a book?
Richard thinks that the how-to video is a really effective means of communicating ideas and information. In any case, the video is supplemented with other necessary drawings and information to make it a complete package.
Is 89 minutes long enough for such a topic?
Richard actually shows you how to build no less than 6 different kinds of lights (halogen worklight conversion, 2 x 55w biax fixture, 6 x 55w biax fixture, 126w softlite fixture, Softbox fixture using seven 42w bulbs and a softbox fixture using a 200w CFL) through a combination of great editing, fast speed footage, and an ongoing, professional and high quality narrative. In addition, he shows you how to build your own dimmer which can be used either with some types of special dimming-capable CFL bulbs or incandescent fixtures. There are other chapters on simple, off-the-shelf solutions that don’t require much construction at all (Home Depot class products for example) and also electrical and other types of safety necessary during work of this type.
The price seems higher than many how-to videos?
The more specialized the information, the higher the price. What other videos or information on this subject are available on the market? This video is the only one of its kind. In addition, Richard has synthesized a great deal of information in the video and all its accompanying information making it really much easier and more understandable. This video can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars depending upon the amount of lighting you need for your productions. This price looks small in comparison to the savings!
Is it hard to make that worklight conversion project (also known as the Low Key)?
We show a 2 hour method of adding sheet metal barn doors to a halogen worklight fixture that we converted to fluorescent lighting in the video (using about $2.50 for the barn doors and another $8.50 for the fluorescent conversion which adds another hour also). We have a kit available to speed this barn door process up to more like 20 minutes (down from 2 hours) and make it really easy to add barn doors to one of these types of cast aluminum fixtures. Elsewhere, in the Cool Lights Video Magazine we have shown the updated process making the barn door addition quicker. There is a free CL-BD4 Barndoor template we give away if you want to make your own barndoors as show in the video or the CL Video magazine but our pre-made barndoor kit will save you a bunch of time too!
But you’re only using a 30 watt CFL in that fixture. Can that really be enough light for a video project?
Richard had about six of these he converted and they were really his workhorses on the production of the video. In fact, the first fixtures Richard made were 6 x 55 watt and he didn’t really use them at all in the video other than for demonstration purposes of how to build them. He found they were just too overpowering and would only be necessary in a large studio environment. He also decided to take a more subtle approach to lighting, only using what was necessary and adjusting the iris appropriately. In this way, several of these worklight conversion fixtures were used to pinpoint light certain areas and give really professional results (thanks to the barn doors).
Why can’t the barn door idea just be used for a halogen worklight (not converted to fluorescent)?
There is no reason you couldn’t just add the barn doors to the halogen fixture and not convert it to fluorescent if you want to go on using one of those really efficient HEAT GENERATORS. No problem! Anyway, the barn door kit we sell will make this a 20 minute proposition and afterwards you will have a really professional looking light that is quite a bit more functional too. See our first entry in the Cool Lights Video Magazine which shows how to add barn doors using our barn door kit or the free barn door template we provide to do it all yourself.
I really like the design of your 126w softlite, are you going to be making it available?
The most efficient use of this type of fixture would be for making a hard, point light source softer–as was the case with the old style ‘ziplights’. Metal halide would have been the obvious energy efficient choice for a modern version of such a fixture, but time ran out and a great deal more research had to be done to make that happen-so Richard chose to put a fluorescent light in it at the time for purposes of the video and construction. Since the very nature of fluorescent light is already to be more broad (soft and diffused) rather than ‘point’ (hard), the softlite hood is really not necessary for anything other than toning the light down; thus not the best use of such a fixture. The hooded softlite would make a great and attractive package for delivering a diffused metal halide though as a future product from Cool Lights.