Geek Beat Recommended Lighting – For Studio, and On the Road

You’re reading the Lighting – For Studio, and On the Road section of our Guide to Video Production Equipment. Remember: we only recommend gear we own and use!

Litepanels 1 x 1′ LED 5600K Flood Production Floodlight ($1,550) – Get it on Amazon

We used to use big, HOT, lights in the studio. But they made everyone miserable. Sure they were cheap, but you can’t put a price on comfort on the set, because it affects how much your talent can do – and how well they can do it. So we bit the bullet and converted to LED.

At first, we were buying the original Litepanels branded LED lights. They are definitely the best! They are the smallest, lightest, and have by far the longest rated useful life. The construction is top notch and they are used by ALL of the pros.

In short, if you have a big budget and are going to use these a lot, and travel a lot too, you want Litepanels. PERIOD!

Having said that, a bunch of cheap Chinese knock-offs have hit the market – and of course we had to give them a try. As you’ll see below we’ve had great results with them. BUT, Litepanels has sued for an injunction to keep the Chinese versions out of the US, and I think they even won. So either get you a bunch of those cheap ones before they are gone, or don’t say we didn’t warn you!

1200 LED Light Panel1200 LED Dimmable Video Light Panel ($550) – Get it on Amazon

These are the largest of the cheap Chinese light panels. We’ve converted over to only buying these, because you can always turn the light down, but you can’t turn it up if you get a smaller one and need more.

These larger units come with multiple hard gels in case you need to change the color, and one of them is a clear gel which softens the light instead of having LEDs just glaring. We use the clear one 99% of the time, and wish we had it on the other LED panels so we wouldn’t have to gel them.

1000 LED Video Light Panel1000 LED Light Panel Dimmable ($299) – Get it on Amazon

If the budget is tight, you can go with the 1000 LED panels for almost half the price. They don’t put out as much light, but two of them will put out more combined light than the single 1200 above.

Keep in mind these do not come with Gels, so you are going to have to clip a soft gel sheet over the panel to get even lighting or to change colors.

160 LED Video Light Panel160 LED Video Light Panel ($76) – Get it on Amazon

This 160 LED Video Light Panel comes with a rechargeable battery and is fully dimmable. If your camcorder or SLR has a standard sized hotshoe, you can mount this right on the camera.

Make sure and pick up a couple of extra NP-50 batteries as well as a charger for them. You’re going to want to have spares because when these run out the light drops off very quickly.

Canon Hotshoe AdapterMini Shoe to Universal Shoe Adapter ($29.95) – Get it on Amazon

For the Canon Vixia cameras you’ll need this adapter to be able to mount the portable light panel on top.

BTW, don’t bother trying to buy the cheaper versions of this adapter. I already did and they either don’t fit, or break very quickly. You just have to suck it up and spend the $30.

Light Stands

Manfrotto Light StandYou’re going to need stands for the lights. I recommend the air-cushioned Manfrottos. They hold up well, and if you are trying to adjust things with one hand and it slips, the light doesn’t come crashing down. They protect your lighting investment.

Neewer ReflectorNeewer 43″ 5 in 1 Reflector ($15) – Get it on Amazon

First of all, WOW! These reflectors are cheap! But just check the Amazon ratings. Over 300 ratings with nearly 5 stars! So you’re really getting your money worth here.

Now, what do they do. Well, several things:

  • If you’re outside, no amount of lighting will overpower the sun. So just have an assistant hold a reflector and redirect the sun where you want it!
  • If there is too much sun directly on your subject, use either the translucent or black one to cut down or eliminate the direct light in that area.
  • Indoors, you can use the solid white one to reflect just some of your main lighting to fill in areas that otherwise have too many shadows, but where you don’t want to shine a light directly.

Vagabond Mini LithiumVagabond Mini-Lithium ($239) – Get it from Paul C. Buff

Sometimes you’re going to want to take some of your studio lights on-location. Another reason that we love LED panels is that they don’t use much power. And we’ve found the perfect solution to powering them when you are nowhere near an electrical outlet – the Paul Buff Vagabond Mini Lithiums!

These little power packs were designed to power flash photography, but we suspected that they would do quite well with our light panels so we took a $500 gamble and ordered a pair. Sure enough, they work perfectly! They’ll power even our biggest LED panels for WELL over an hour in the field.

And as a special bonus, they’ll power just about anything else that uses a 110 outlet. Laptops, margarita machines, … whatever!

White Balance!!!

One last thing! Don’t forget that if you are lighting things up, you need to white balance! You can find the White Balance tools here.

Questions? Comments?

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