What is a type(s) of lighting equipment you would recommend a dp to own?

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  • #202026

      Hi Roger, Im at a conundrum of what lights and gaffer equipment to own as i have inspirations that are all over the place I like to work off existing natural light but at the like Emmanuel Lubezki, Robby Müeller and Joshua James Richards, but at the same time be heavily stylized like Vittorio Storaro and Benoit Debie, and moody like Bradford Young and Rina Yang. What I’m trying to say is that practically, I want a lighting kit that would grant me full control but I want a small, minimal lighting package that would work with how mobile I like to be, so my thought was that I would defer the biggest bulk of the lighting to whatever rental house Im near and just rent the bigger units, but I would like to have lights with me in case that is impossible, but I don’t want to bear the brunt of carrying around large light sources with the little van space I would have. So I ask, what is a piece(s) of lighting equipment you would recommend a cinematographer to own themselves?

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    • #202045

        As a DP to own or not equipment… it’s the million dollar question.

        My take is it depends greatly what are you offering. Are you a DP? Or a production company? As a DP all you really need are a lightmeter and maybe a set monitor or maybe not even those things. But as a production company you may need all the tools to do your job or some tools and you will rent the rest.
        All of this is quite related to which level you are working. At higher (more budget) production level people/production companies don’t tend to own stuff. Everything comes from rentals. Why? One answer could be The simple fact of the maintenance of the tools is a high cost that very few production companies wants to deal with. Don’t underestimate how much cost to fix and keep in working order a set of lenses or a camera or even a set of lights.
        The lower you go on budgets the more normal is for production companies and DPs to own stuff.
        Being that said if you want to own stuff just make a list of the items you need and compare with your rental. If the tools you need pay for themselves in a short period and can keep generating revenue for you at every shoot then it make sense to buy/own.
        If you are starting and you need to practice and bring as much stuff as possible for a shoot then I would say for a basic lighting package the basics would be few “soft” lights, few hard lights everything LED for simplicity. Lots of black material, lots of bounce material. Few 4x4s, 6x6s frames. Few stands. Basically look at your car/van and see what can you fit in there.
        My personal opinion is that at lower budgets (no money, no crew) what you really want is to substract light not to add light. So to me I would prefer as much Molton black material as you can carry rather than start putting lights. Also the price of renting Molton is absurd compared to what it cost to buy and there is no maintenance cost associated. Same could be said about bounce material, fabrics are really a good investment. I could also start talking about all the LED technology and how fast it changes, so putting lots of money on fancy lights don’t makes sense in the actual market neither. But that’s my personal opinion.
        Some of the Dps you mentioned have shot movies without a single film set light.


          It also depends on your budget.

          Aputure LS600X + Fresnel as big Key (maybe softbox). LS60X as little spotlight. 2 Astera Titans (one DOPChoice snapbag and one grid). And one Floppy and a Ultra Bounce floppy. Some stands to rig everything.

          Will be around €6000,- in total.


          This is what I personally brought with me if I had to do a job as cinematographer and want to bring a small package.


            There are also affordable but great alternatives to the Astera Titans (Godox, Nanlite ect). You might also consider flex-LEDs (e.g. Falcon Eyes) as they are lightweight, larger/soft sources and great for travel or mounting at ceilings ect and come in Bi-color and/or full RGB.

            A word in general, Chinese / Korean brands (e.g. Aputure, Nanlite, Godox, Falcon Eyes) have come a long way the past 10 years, the LED light emitter quality is already there and built quality finally also catches up with “western” quality, but at much lower prices, so if your budget is low it might not be a bad idea to look there.

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