Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) address some of the major challenges that wedding and event videographers often face: the need for a dependable, portable light source with a low power draw that reduces the need for extra batteries or clumsy AC power cords.
As such, they are a great technical solution. But LEDs can also be a great creative tool as well. The fact is that we use lights mostly for the camera’s sake, like meeting its tech specs for minimum image illumination. But we can also now think about using lights for the sake of the shot and its aesthetic impact, accentuating the storytelling aspect of our productions with lights on-screen, not just off-screen.
LEDs have certainly been written about before in Gear & Now, and most recently, two such units have been explored in particular detail by award-winning videographer and EventDV contributing editor Joe McManus in his LED Lights Shootout.
As we’ve read, LED lights are capable of generating much greater brightness and at a much lower power consumption rating than standard tungsten lights. They operate at a much cooler temperature than tungstens, and they have a greater life expectancy—some say 50,000 hours or more, compared with about 1,000 for tungsten bulbs.
Yet, LEDs are no lightweights. There are now LED units rated with a 2,000 lumen output, so they have the punch that videographers often require.
New Ways to Use LEDs
LEDs can also be readily used in daylight, as well as indoor or in mixed light environments, as most now come with suitable color temperature matching for faithful video image reproduction. Whether they are so manufactured, or whether a color filter is used, or whether newly developed, bezel-based color temperature management systems are employed, LEDs can meet many different specific color and light requirements.
But LEDs are much more than a simple Luminaire on a light stand, much more than a handy camera-mounted device. Because they come in several new configurations, many new colors, and some amazing new shapes, LEDs can be used in many different ways—not just on top of the camera or alongside it, but out in front, as well!
From the Star Wars lightsaber-like light tubes often seen attached to low riders and other souped-up motor vehicles to new Flex lights that look like glow-in-the-dark necklaces or lengths of ropes, LED lights can be used like oil paint on canvas, adding elegant-colored accents and engaging illuminated textures to almost any setting or scene in which you may find yourself.
Picture this: Using some of the uniquely shaped LED accent lighting available online from sites, such as www.holidaylights.com, the head table at your next wedding reception is illuminated by small white LED "icicle lights" that bathe the guests in a soft, diffuse glow. Using a suspended bead garland made up of several strings each with dozens of tiny LEDs, the bland wall behind the speaker’s podium is now awash in soft light itself, and the entire surface acts as a backlight, adding depth and separation between the person speaking and the background.
They’re not just for weddings or other family-centric video productions either. Even on commercial, corporate, or institutional productions, placed lights can be easily used for aesthetic and technical reasons.
LED LitePads from Rosco, for example, are slim, flat lighting boards, and as such, they can be used both in-sight and out-of-sight as architectural accents during shoots at company HQ, illuminating such lost spaces as office corridors or stairwells. In the CEO’s office, the front of a computer monitor can be gently illuminated or a desktop picture frame can be highlighted.
They come in many different preconfigured shapes, or they can be custom-ordered to fit. Prices start around $60 for a 3"x3" panel; 12"x12" sizes are precut as well. The light-emitting acrylic panels can be placed flat on a table, hung on a wall, or suspended from a ceiling. Each panel comes with a power adapter; 10' extension cables are available.
Rosco LitePads output as much as 2800 lux, depending on their size, and their soft white light is rated at 6000 K.
Many more traditionally shaped and configured lights (camera- or stand-mounted, for example) can also be used in unusual positions and creative placements.
Litepanels, a company well-known for cool LED illumination for video, has its own line of LED products, including camera- and stand-mounted solutions. Its MiniPlus and even the 1'x1' panels can be creatively placed off-camera when required. Litepanels products feature integrated on/off/dimmer dials, flip-down filter and gel holders, and either AA battery or AC operation.
Dimming, variable focus ranges, and now wireless remote control capability mean that LEDs offer many of the same professional controls and adjustments as standard illumination tools.
LED manufacturer Zylight (its Z90 camera-mount LED is "a clear winner" according to McManus) is showing its Remote (Figure 1), a new wireless device that puts control over an unlimited number of lights in the palm of your hand.
Imagine being able to adjust light output, color presets, crossfades, and other special effects remotely! It just opens up a world of convenience and creativity at a wedding reception or Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At the very least, you can very quickly and easily fire up a light at the podium, when someone unexpectedly gets up to make a toast, without running madly to the front of the banquet hall!
And when videotaping onstage productions or school plays, wireless remote control over lighting just can’t be beat. The Remote itself is powered by an internal battery, recharged via an AC adapter or computer USB port. Even without wireless control, a single Z90 unit has some cool special effects built-in, as McManus pointed out. Colored gel effects are available with a simple push of a button and a twist of a dial.
Why should the DJ have all the fun? Videographers can bring their own light shows!
The Lux-Led-dv camera light (Figure 2) from bebob Broadcast Engineering and 16x9, Inc., announced last year but now shipping with some enhancements, arranges its five high-output LEDs so that they can be adjusted from 40 degrees to 60 degrees. Like most top-notch LEDs, the unit’s output is fully dimmable with daylight color temperature maintained at full saturation.
The light operates at several voltage inputs (from 6.5V to 28V), so it can be used with several different cameras with an inline power supply adapter, including standard Canon BP, Panasonic CGA, or Sony NPF Ls.
The Lux-Led (for broadcast cameras) and the Lux-Led-dv can be used on board a camera, handheld or stand-mounted, without the need for extra accessories or brackets. The light shifts position 3" (8 cm) up and down or forward and backwards, for greater control and light shaping. bebob LEDs are street-priced around $775.
Switronix’ new XD Light is a lightweight, on-camera unit for both DV/HDV, effective but without all the trimmings. Its output is rated at 20W, daylight 5600K light.
The unit operates with DC input or from a Sony L series battery for about 6 hours (large capacity battery). The light comes standard with both 1/4" thread and hot-shoe mounting options.
LEDs from VIDLED are available between $275 and $435, providing prosumers and professionals alike with cool white lights for on- and off-camera use. Lights in the series are available as 3000K (warm), 5600K (daylight), and 8000K (cool); the dayLED uses a combination of warm and cool LEDs. You can use a diffusion gel to help further even or spread the output beam. All the lights are dimmable with a single-turn potentiometer from 10% to 100% without color temp changes.
VIDLED lights are fairly standard shape, measuring about 5.5" x 2" x 1.6"; the standard series needs external (DC) power, as they do not include a battery pack. Several power options are available. Now, hopefully it doesn’t happen too often at wedding receptions, but VIDLED does say its lights are "quite resistant to water" (the power supply may not be).
Underwater Lighting: Sunray
If you really needed lighting with water everywhere, you might want to check out the Sunray series of LED lights (Figure 3). Underwater videographers swear by them, partly because they are rated at up to 1000 light lumens and partly because the company has a range of housings and LED solutions for underwater videography.
So the growing range and type of LED lights and lighting accessories provide both creative and technical solutions for most video assignments.
Lee Rickwood (lrickwood at goodmedia.com) is a media consultant and freelance writer.