Cool Lights Softlight Fixture Product Questions

Currently Cool Lights Softlight fixtures are in two categories: biax lamp type (Softlight series) and Compact Fluorescent (CFL) self-ballasted type (Softbox series).

Why don’t you offer other types of bulbs?

The 55 watt biax tube has become the defacto standard for film and television with higher quality CFL bulbs closely following. Just look around at the number of products out there that use this tube as the basis. There are many high quality 2 or 4 foot linear tubes available but many feel that the biax tube offers so many advantages (not the least of which is that biax fixtures are a bit more portable than a 4 foot wide fixtures) that it makes the most sense to jump on that standard bandwagon and help support it. Other benefits include the fact that it is voltage independent of whatever country you are using it in (the ballast is what must adapt to a country’s voltage), it is extremely color stable, and it is inherently dimmable if you have a dimmable ballast and other controller hardware driving the tube.

Softlight Series (Biax) Fixtures

Why do you call it “Softlight Series”?

Fluorescent lights are what we call broad or “soft” sources. The other alternative is a point or “hard” source. A tungsten halogen or metal halide (HMI) are good examples of a point light source. Point or hard light produces excellent shadows, has a longer throw than fluorescent and can be used for more “dramatic” effect when necessary. On the other hand, soft light sources are generally considered very flattering and are extremely useful in the new “HD” age where the detail shown on the screen can sometimes be too much or too real. Cool Lights Softlight Series and Softbox fixtures provide a very energy efficient and flattering soft light source for all your media productions.

What is the difference between a “softlight” and a “softbox”?

A softlight or softbox were both created for the same reason–to soften up a hard or point light source. Another way of saying this is that they act as diffusers to make the harsh light of a point light source much softer. The classic softlight (also known as “ziplight”) used a hood to indirectly shine the light out on the subject. This indirection was the method of diffusion. However, the aperture for emitting light wasn’t always that large thus the light output wouldn’t be a soft as that coming from a much broader source.  Fluorescent lights are already soft so our Softlight series fixtures are a modern or larger-faced version of the traditional zip or softlight and provide a pleasing diffused and broad light in different sizes/wattages. The classic softbox includes a reflector hood made of heat-resistant fabric and a silk diffuser on the front. This easily allows an even broader source when you need it as softboxes can often be found in huge sizes.  The Cool Lights Softbox fixture adapts to this classic softbox hood and allows any mogul-based bulb up to 600w to be diffused by the reflector hood and silk diffusion material. If you use one of the mogul-based, self-ballasted CFL bulbs (like our 200w 8U bulb) in our softbox fixture, there may be no need for the diffusion silk on the front. On the other hand, it comes in handy sometimes if the bulb is a bit too overpowering and needs to be toned down a bit. Since these CFL bulbs are not dimmable, extra diffusion material is your main “poorman’s” way to tone down the light.

What is your warranty on the fixtures?

1 year parts and labor on all our fixtures that were purchased directly from Cool Lights. Warranty is non-transferable, so does not pass from one owner to another.  You must return the fixture to us at your cost for any repairs. We pay return postage. After 1 year all repair and postage costs are paid for by the user.

What is the difference between the Portable Softlight Series and the Studio Softlight Series units?

1).  Weight.  The portables are made with aluminum reinforced plastic polycarbonate.  Very strong but light.  Studio models are made of aluminum and heavier.

2).  Mounting.  Yoke on studio models and “lollipop” (multi-axis mount) on portable.  Lollipop allows swinging around at just about any angle you can imagine.  Yoke only allows movement one way horizontally but not vertically.  Either way, the stand adapter is an option when ordering (drop down box at bottom of product page) so you need to pick that on checkout unless you have another stand adapter that will work with any of our models studio or portable.

3). Carrying Cases.  Portables have carrying cases (see CL-CCL1A under accessories / carrying cases).

4).  Surface Treatment.  Studio models have powder coating which is tough but not suitable for repeated “throwing in the back of the car” or carrying around.  Large powder coated surfaces would eventually get scratched up and worn down.  They are mainly designed for use on a stand or ceiling mount grid in a studio environment.  The portables have minimal powder coating, just large plastic surfaces exposed.  The plastic is very tough and dull objects tend to bounce off it, like hammer blows, etc.  Can be dented but fairly hard to break it.

5). Price Difference.  The portables are hand assembled in a long process plus they have specialized parts like the aluminum skeleton and lollipop.  Thus they are more expensive.  The studio models go together quicker, use machine stamped and readily available parts and are less expensive because of that.

Other than those points, as far as light output and quality, they are the same since they use the same bulbs and ballasts.

Dimming vs. Non-Dimming Models

We have both dimming and non-dimming in both Portable and Studio Softlight Series.  The dimming models are always more expensive as they use a more complex and expensive dimming type ballast.  We refer to the dimming models as “manually dimmable” which means they have a dimmer pot on the unit itself and no remote dimming capability (like DMX) at this time.  The non-dimming models use a fluorescent ballast which is not dimming capable and less expensive but still very high quality.  Both versions put out about the same amount of light.  Both versions have “bank select” switches which means you can turn the bulbs on/off two at a time.  On the dimmable version, the bank select switch allows you to dim however many bulbs are turned on.  Neither dimmable nor non-dimmable can be dimmed by a dimmer attached to the power cord input.  This would potentially damage the unit and void your warranty so please do not even try it!

What about your reflectors, are they efficient?

We think the reflector is almost as important as the bulb and ballast and spent quite a bit of time engineering a high quality, mirrored aluminum reflector using products from the best and most well known name in Mirrored Aluminum: Alanod. The reflectors are available as a separate product item for those that already have some kind of home made enclosure. The Cool Lights reflectors are 2.5” wide by 22” long and 1.5” tall. The reflector kit includes 2 bulb clips and mounting screws.

What is the quality level your 2G11 bases?

Cool Lights chose the most-used (in film and television fixtures) 2G11 base and spent a bit more money on it because it was felt that many of the cheaper ones would cause many problems later. The one chosen makes it easy to insert the tubes as well as take them out and grips them well. Not just one, but two stainless steel bulb clips are also included on the reflectors to help support the biax tubes. No cheap plastic ones that tend to melt over time. These 2G11 bases and bulb clips are available as separate parts on the website.

Softbox Series (CFL Self-ballasted) Fixtures

What kind of socket is in the fluorescent 200 watt softbox fixture?

Most all 200 watt 8U CFL bulbs have an E39 or E40 (similar enough to be interchangeable) socket (or as it is also called “base”). The E39/E40 base looks just like the more common Edison or E26/E27 base but is a much larger version. The E26 and E39 are mostly used in the USA and the E27 and E40 are mostly used elsewhere in the world. Richard designed the softbox fixture to use an E39/E40 base because there just was not a suitable fixture available that would give all the called-for parameters for the large base, 200 watt CFL bulbs to be successfully used with a softbox.

Why a fluorescent softbox?

A softbox is really used to diffuse an incandescent or point source and make it very broad using a silk translucent diffusion material. A fluorescent light, by its very nature is already a broad source so diffusion material is not necessary normally to make it more diffuse (so just remove the velcro’d material!). Richard decided however that the typical softbox makes a great portable fixture and had embarked on a quest to make a fluorescent softbox. Along the way Richard found the 200 watt 8U compact fluorescent (CFL), self-ballasted bulb and decided that it was ideal for use in a softbox hood. After that it was just a question of finding the best fixture to use to make it functional with the typical softbox speed ring adapter. After several DIY tries, Richard just designed a solution that could be manufactured inexpensively but still provide a quality fixture—the result was our 200 watt softbox fixture.

Is there a warranty on the softbox fixture?

1 year parts and labor. There isn’t much to go wrong with that fixture. It is very simple. Unless you burn it out somehow that is.

Why is there no power switch on the softbox fixture?

There are many that would believe this was a cost-saving feature but that is far from the truth. The currently common 200 watt CFL contains its own ballast and is therefore a complete package with everything necessary to make the light work. Our softbox fixture was designed primarily for this lamp (or any of the 105, 125, 150 watt bulbs that use the E30/E40 base). However, there is a much less commonly available version which has a separate ballast. While this actually makes more sense for a number of reasons (bulb replacement cost being the foremost), the market has mainly decided that self-ballasted bulbs are “the thing”, despite the fact you are probably throwing away a perfectly good ballast when the CFL tube is worn out! Richard designed the softbox fixture to use either type of bulb. The separate-ballast type usually have a ballast in a metal case with input and output cords. You can normally plug a fixture which contains a non-ballasted bulb directly into the ballast using the standard 3-prong wall power cord, then just plug the ballast into the wall using its own power cord. The original prototype fixture had a switch and Richard noticed that the voltage jumped over the switch whether it was on or off. It was obvious that this was due to the relatively high voltage necessary for the CFL “running over” the switch (which was rated for only 250 volts). The safety implications of this alone are very obvious. So Richard decided it was far better to make a fixture without a switch so each user could decide whether they liked to use the self-ballasted kind of CFL or the separate ballast kind with this fixture. One more thing to think about in deciding which one you like better is the fact that with the ballast being so close to the bulb in the self-ballasted type, it shortens its life somewhat. The separate ballast kind is safely removed from the light usually and several feet or inches away so may enjoy a longer life because of this. Once the bulb is worn out, you simply replace the bulb (at a much lower cost) and use the same ballast.

Will the softbox fixture work with other kinds of “mogul” base bulbs?

Yes! In fact we have another very interesting solution coming up. Keep watching for developments in this area. The mogul base we chose is fine with any bulb up to and including 600 watts of actual draw power (600 volt pulse rating).

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