Hot Lights A Go Go

on May 31, 2016

What is the appeal of the hot light? What? How can anybody love a lighting system that makes a studio hotter in January? That needs specially-ventilated light shapers to work. That makes the metal snoots so hot they smell like the grille at Alfred's Kitchen? What is the deal with hot lights?

Well it is June and the weather is getting colder, and if you are in a studio right now the constant light can be a bit of comfort. It is not as good as a reverse-cycle Fujitsu set to 27º but it goes a little way to heating the place. And the metal snoot? Well, you can heat that to welding temperature with the modelling light of at the average mono block anyway - learn to direct the head of the light by using the handle at the back instead of grabbing the light modifier at the front.

The real deal with the hot/constant light is that you can see what you get. If you are training students to see what their lighting is actually doing, or if you yourself find the leap of faith between a modelling light and the end result is a little too far to make, then the constant light is the answer. It pours out through whatever modifier you choose exactly as it is. You change your ISO and white balance to match the output - about 3200º to 4000º Kelvin - and your camera is happy.

There is the fact that other sources of illumination will also make themselves felt in the final exposure...much more so than with the fast impulse and brightness level of the electronic flash...and you may have to take them into account. Hot lights work best in a darkened studio.

But here is the delightful kicker - continuous lighting is perfect for videos. If you choose a set of lights that have no noise associated with them, you can film and record sound at the same time with no interference. Even with the lights that do have some sound - they may have a slight buzz from the internal transformers or whirr from cooling fans - it is generally kept down to such a low level that professional microphones can be positioned to ignore it.

Constant light sources can be large halogen lamps, incandescent lamps, fluorescent tubes, large LED panels, and banks of smaller LED lights. In some cases the housings are fitted with dimmers or rheostats that allow you to vary the brightness of the light without changing the basic white balance. Or there are arrangements in the multiple panels to turn on and off different portions of the bank.

Note that I may have inadvertently led you astray...and that is a pun...because the LED panels can run even cooler than strobe lights while maintaining a daylight balance. The nice thing about many LED panels and large single LED lights is that they are also operable upon battery power - the ubiquitous rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can be banked up to provide full constant lighting in the field.

Camera Electronic has always had some examples of these lights - whether they are Profoto, Elinchrom, Jin-Bei, Metz, Lume-Cube or LEDGO, there is a variety to suit most purses and light outputs, from full studio high-intensity mono blocks shooting through dedicated soft boxes to tiny banks of LEDS that attach to cell phones.

It's cooler weather now - time to come in and experiment. Video students especially welcome.