Lighting kit options
Unfortunately, a full professional light kit can be pretty expensive in the UK. You can pick up a basic studio three-light kit for under a grand, such as Arri Redheads. This includes a trio of 800W lights, stands, and a case to carry them all in. But you won't want to walk around with this for great distances. The carry case is designed for carting to and from road transportation.
One of the best value portable setups we've come across is a Dedo DLH4 kit - and even that is Â£1,149 ex VAT. It comes with all the lights and stands you need packed into a specially designed soft case, and is much lighter than the Arri kit. However, the bulbs are only 150W, so won't be able to light such large spaces.
Both of these kits above are likely to be more expensive than your camcorder, unless you splashed out on a professional model. For those on more modest budgets, we have had some reasonable results using clip-on halogen work lights, which can cost as little as Â£12 each, for example from Rhyl Lightworks Company. However, the light emitted from work lights can be quite harsh, so it's often a good idea to bounce it off another surface. Using a paper diffuser on a high wattage work light won't be a good idea, as they can get pretty hot.
Clip-on lights aren't going to look very professional, either, if you need to give the right image for a paying client. Even though end results are what really counts, you also need to look like you know what you're doing! But for amateur work you can use any light you want, so long as it is powerful enough and it doesn't have any unwanted colour cast. So to conclude this week, here are a few tips of how to get the most from just a single light source.
Although we've described the traditional trio of lights, you can improve things merely by attaching a single video light to your camcorder. It will need to have an accessory shoe on top to mount this (which is the reason why we bang on about this feature in our camcorder reviews!). Dedicated camcorder lights cost anywhere from Â£30 to hundreds. However, you can still achieve some excellent results with any bright single light positioned at different angles horizontally and above or below the camera.
For example, try placing an intense light at eye level close to the camera angle. Your subjects will look washed out and be forced to squint, making them look a bit shifty. Alternatively, move the light round to the traditional 45 degree key light position, and enjoy the moodier shadows. Move it further round to 90 degrees to see only half your subject's face lit, for a sense of mystery. Put it behind them pointed down from above, but don't engage backlight compensation on your camcorder, and they will have a bright halo but a face shrouded in darkness.
So these are the bare essentials of lighting and a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing, which will hopefully encourage you to try a few different things. Even more fun can be had with gels, which are coloured plastic coverings for your lights. But that's another story for another weekâ€¦