In our last Gear In 60 Seconds video, I talked about my travel grip kit. Here’s an episode of GearIn60 that discusses the lightweight LED lighting kit that I use with my grip kit. I’ve included links below to each piece in the kit, if you are interested in building a similar kit of your own. Watch below…

Gear In 60 Seconds – Travel Lighting Kit from FreshDV on Vimeo.

I’ve been loving shooting with these affordable ePhoto LED lights. You can find them branded through other companies as well, but they all seem to be based on the same design (CN600), and are commonly available for around $300 on Amazon and eBay. They aren’t perfect, as all things in life, you do get what you pay for…certainly the more expensive LitePanels brand LED 1×1 lights will give you a little better build quality and improved color accuracy. Indeed, one issue with these cheap heads is a green spike in the color temperature. But if you use them with the included minus green filter (magenta gel), you’ll find them to work well, very close to daylight balanced when corrected.

I have a set of two 600 LEDs, and use them often as key + rim for single-person talking-head interviews. I’m using a Lowel 250w generally as my background light, but will be adding a 3rd and 4th LED head to my kit soon. I generally use my Road Rags diffusion frames to turn the key LED into a softer source, and position that very close to my subject, about 2-3 feet away, just out of the camera frame. If I need to reduce contrast, I’ll position a RoadRags frame with reflector material just off the subjects cheek opposite the key, and fill in some of those shadows with bounce. Or you can use the black flag material in your frame to increase contrast the same way. The rim/backlight LED light is generally undiffused and I choke it down a little with the LED barn doors. If you get the battery-powered versions, they will run off a 14.8v V-mount battery (and RED bricks will do the trick), so if you are without power or in a run-n-gun situation you can handle that. And of course you still have the AC adapter for power. Speaking of, their AC adapter plugs are not really production-ready…I am just waiting for one of mine to get trashed on set. Way too weak of a design. So I’m looking for a more robust 3rd party power adapter to replace them with. Again, you get what you pay for.

At approx 85%-100% power at the LED 600 key light, I can generally shoot at around f/4.0 to f/5.6 on a Canon 5D MKII DSLR, at 320 ISO and 1/50th shutter. For a camera like the EX1 or EX3, you can shoot at around F/1.9 at -3dB gain, and 1/48th shutter. For the EX, this still delivers a nice effective DOF separation from your background when you zoom in a bit. So in my opinion, the 600 LED is enough for small interview setups, but the 900 or 1200 might be more helpful when you need more stop on your lens, or wish to shoot multiple subjects at a single time. And if you are looking to shoot larger groups of people, you should also consider the 24×36″ Road Rags II kit, which offers larger diffusion frames. The original 18×24″ Road Rags kit is what I’ve got, and it’s sized nicely for a single LED light…but larger lights and more people in your frame will begin to push the limits of what it can do effectively.

Gear List:
* Pelican 0340 Cube case
* ePhoto 600 LED Light (Alternatively: ePhoto 900 or 1200 LED Lights, or LitePanels 1x1s)
* Lowel 250-watt Pro-Light
* Smooth Skin Loose Face Powder (Translucent Rice Powder)
* FilmTools KleenSlate Markers

Here’s a few set pictures from a recent interview shoot that show this LED lighting kit in use.

For more info on these cheap ePhoto LED lights, watch Caleb Pike’s review below by DSLR Video Shooter.

Important footnote: When putting your kit together and packing for travel, I cannot stress enough the importance of carefully weighing your gear cases before you head to the airport. DO THIS. If you don’t have a good travel hang-scale, use a bathroom scale…first weigh yourself on the scale, and then pick up the gear bag and stand on the scale. Subtract your weight, and you’ve got the weight of your bags. I’d recommend that you weight them twice, and make sure you have at least 1-2lbs of overhead, in case your scale is off. If you are over the 50lb maximum by even a single pound when you check-in, or your bags/cases exceed the 62 linear inches maximum, you’ll pay exorbitant overage fees. Airlines have zero sympathy these days for overages. Each airline also has additional restrictions for international flights, so be aware of those weight and size limits.

You should also be aware that some airlines like US Airways charge ridiculous fees for more than two bags…currently it’s $25 for the first bag, $35 for the 2nd, and the 3rd bag is a whopping $125. This means that three normal-weight bags on US Airways would cost you $185. In my opinion, that is outright highway robbery, so caveat emptor when you are booking tickets. Or better yet, fly with an airline that gives a flying rip about their customers…fly Southwest. With Southwest you can check two bags free of charge, and the 3rd bag is a reasonable $50. But regardless of who you fly with, know their baggage policies and restrictions before you book.

Special thanks to Jesse Rosten for conceiving and creating the GearIn60 logo intro. Seriously, you want to work with this guy.


10 Responses to “Gear In 60 Seconds – Travel Lighting Kit”  

  1. 1 BrentG

    Love this Gear in 60 series. Real cool to see what other filmmakers use.

  2. 2 Jan

    Fly Delta and ask for the media rate and you can fly with a bag up to 100 lbs for only $50.00

  3. 3 Matthew Jeppsen

    Great to know, thanks Jan! Looks like they simply require a Photo ID from the Film Company or the News organization. That could be problematic for freelancers…but certainly worth checking into.

    Thanks for the feedback, Brent!

    -MJ

  4. 4 Conrad Chu

    I have a slightly older ePhoto light (non-dimmable). I use a Lee Moroccan Frost (http://www.filmtools.com/leegelsheet716.html) to balance it with my other tungsten lights. The orange CTO-looking filter in the video certainly will not give you anything close to 3200K

  5. 5 Howard Newstate

    I can vouch for the Delta 50 dollar bag deal. Generally they are happy with just showing a business card IF they even ask at all. Once I did have to pull up a production schedule to prove my status.

    With regards to the LED’s are the footprints of these ePhotos the same as the Litepanel 1x1s? I ask because I do carry as kit lights 1x1s, so if I can throw these into the same cases as my existing lights it would make it easy to mix and match (for considerably less!).

    Howard

  6. 6 Matthew Jeppsen

    Thanks for the input on the Delta bag pricing, @Howard. The size of my CN600 LEDs are 12″ x 12″, BUT with the size of the yokes on each side, plus the stand adapter on the bottom, it comes to 15″ x 15″.

    If I need to squeeze them into my Pelican 1750 case along with short Manfrotto Nano stands, I unscrew the yokes to remove the side hardware. They then fit snugly into there, 2x lights + a few stands and the Road Rags kit. It’s tight, but flyable as a single sub-50lb case.

    -MJ

  7. 7 Evan King

    These videos are great! How come you guys don’t put things like these on vimeo?

  8. 8 Matthew Jeppsen

    @Evan King, Vimeo’s standard video guidelines restrict commercial/ad-supported video content. Their Pro account allows commercial content, but it’s of course a paid service. Meanwhile, we already have a fantastic multi-platform video hosting solution with Sorenson 360, so we don’t feel the need to migrate to Vimeo.

    -MJ

  9. 9 Matthew Jeppsen

    I guess the question to ask is, is our Sorenson 360 video hosting/embed options restricting or limiting your ability to access the content?

    -MJ

  10. 10 Evan King

    No it doesn’t restrict my ability at all, I just figured it would be an easy way to get even more eyes on your videos.