'Gallery' Category

Gritty Details

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

If you’re new to all this lighting for film/video, you may wonder why I have the products divided up into “hard light” and “soft light.” A great kit is comprised of both types and they both have their place and strong points as well as weak points.

We talk a lot about soft light today with HD being more and more prevalent. The reason being that most of the time we want to flatter our subjects and after all, how many really have that perfect “Hollywood” complexion? It’s all about shadows and highlights and whether the light source is capable of producing them well or not. After all, we’re working in a 2D medium, but trying our best to make it look 3D. Just as with painting, the only way we can do that is with the proper use of light and shadow–and the correct lighting chosen to suit the mood and look of the production.

Our first products–fluorescent lights, are inherently diffused or soft sources like tungsten behind silk or other methods of diffusion. They are this way because they are such large or broad sources. We choose fluorescent and like diffused sources for those times we don’t want shadows re-produced correctly. A subject with visible skin pores or wrinkles may need some more flattering light to NOT reproduce that. Other shadows behind the person may be reduced as well thanks to soft light. However, because fluorescent and other diffused sources don’t reproduce shadows well they would never be good for throw or projection as in when you want to put up a cucaloris (“cookie”) pattern on the wall behind someone. You need a good, hard light like a fresnel or other spotlight type fixture for that. A small point light source produces a hard light–like a tungsten or metal halide bulb which has a single, concentrated tiny light source inside.

Sometimes you want all the details for those “artistic shots.” You want to see every pore or wrinkle for that drama and character development. That’s when hard light comes in. With pure, hard light, you get great definition and detail. Every pore or wrinkle becomes more well-defined because you are using a light source which produces more defined shadows. A “cookie” cutout pattern put in front of such a light produces a relatively good reproduction of that pattern on the wall. Diffused sources like fluorescent just can’t do that as well and produce far less shadows and detail is “abstracted”–thus soft lights are considered more flattering for those “beauty shots.”

A good illustration was recently sent to me by our friend and customer Chris Witzke. I’ve posted some of the shots below he did from a photo shoot using only our CL-MF0150 (CDM 150) fresnels (5400K bulb).

As I often say, a fresnel is part of the “spotlight” class of fixtures and as such should produce a nice round (and adjustable) spot of hard light. To do this, the lens should have no diffusion in it at all (even though some fresnel producers are doing just that today) and thus should give you this type of definition when you want it. I suppose they’re doing it to make up for any imperfections in bulb/mirror alignment but that’s the wrong fix! They’ve forgotten what a fresnel should be or what we want from it. After all, you can always add diffusion to a source, but you can’t take it away if its built into the lens.

Here’s a link to Chris’ site so you can see more of his great work.

CW Example 1

CW Example 2

CW Example 3

Tire Promo Interview using Cool Lights

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Recently our good friend Jim Arthurs did this interview shot using a Sony EX1 and two Cool Lights CL-SFT1 kits (5600K) and a CL-MF0150 CDM 150 fresnel (5400K). The softbox kits were fill and key and the CDM 150 was used as a rim light from back and behind on the right. The subject matter was an inventor who is promoting a new and innovative kind of tires for cars. You can see the full interview here (640 x 360), or Quicktime here and finally in 720p here.

Tire Promo 1

Tire Promo 2

Green Screen Done Right…

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

We’re initiating a Gallery on the site to use as a home for customer pictures of our products in action. A place where we can all learn from each other’s methods.

Our customer Doug Urquhart (, Atlanta GA) has two studio model CL-655s. As you may guess, the CL-655 is quite a light monster for output, but they aren’t being used for lighting the screen you see below. Here’s a great panoramic shot of his studio. You can see our CL-655s on stands at the sides of the screen. Click on the picture for a larger view.


Just like I always tell potential customers when they write to me: light in two layers 1). screen with inexpensive fixtures and 2). subject with other kinds of soft or hard lighting. In fact, you don’t need a high CRI fluorescent tube for lighting your screen so you don’t need expensive models of tube, nor do you need expensive fixtures.

Doug’s project cost about $2500 and uses simple, Home Improvement store, 2 tube, shop light type fixtures for the cyclorama lighting layer. Just make sure the ballasts are electronic, flicker free and of course silent. You can buy one that you’ve verified is electronic to test out and if you don’t like the results, take it back and try another fixture until you do have the right one. For his green screen, he went the hard, built-in cyc route. Many use large sheet linoleum to create such a cyc and paint it with the appropriate shade of green or blue.

Back to the lighting issues around a screen like this. What you use for the subject lighting layer depends entirely upon how well the lighting needs to integrate with the background plate which will be substituted for the green screen in final process and what effects are necessary to get it to look natural. Doug is using the CL-655s for blanket soft lighting the subjects in the foreground.

Another variation on this would be to use the 8U 200w bulb hung upside down either bare, with no diffusion or in a lantern type setup. I call these poor person’s spacelights. Spacelights (high wattage lanterns) are used in green screen and other cyc settings when there may be more than one camera angle involved and the lighting needs to be flat and even over the whole screen area.

One thing you may know is that a green screen needs to be as evenly and flatly lit as possible to get a clean key without much work. Another indispensable accessory to get for your shoplights is a set of “cracked ice” or “prismatic” styrene diffusion panels to put over them (or just buy them that way when you’re getting your fixtures). Many fixtures do include these as part of the deal. These type panels don’t cut so much light as they just smooth out the output. We even recommend them to our customers that need that extra bit of smoothing on our studio models but not cutting any light. Just cut the panel to sizes to fit into our slide-in adapter right behind the barndoors.