Last October, DP Harry Frith was reportedly trying to shoot interview footage outside in the middle of a monsoon. He was on location in Belize for an episode of a HGTV real estate series, which usually shoots outside and relies on natural light and silks for diffusion.
With bad weather on the horizon, the production had to move under shelters. Normally, the lack of lighting gear would have been a serious problem. For this episode, however, Frith had packed two new lights, the Zylight F8-200 LED Fresnel and Aladdin BI-FLEX 2 flexible LED panel.
“Luckily, we had these lights, which were perfect to illuminate the characters,” Frith said. “Basically, the lights were a life saver. The network said the show never looked better, and that’s because of the lighting.”
The production crew usually shoots each episode in about three days. Locations can be remote, requiring transportation with small boats and light aircraft, as well as travel on foot through mountains, jungles, and other terrain.
As a result, equipment is kept to a minimum and the series is shot using a compact Sony XDCAM camcorder. “The lighter the gear the better,” Frith added. “We have to move quickly to keep ahead of the weather and get back home safely.”
Before the shoot, Frith tested the new lights on two shoots in more controlled environments. He said the BI-FLEX 2 was “fantastic” when used to light an interview in a very small office, while both lights were used instead a full lighting kit on the set of a commercial shoot in Los Angeles.
Despite the successful tests, Frith was doubtful about the BI-FLEX 2, a 1×2 flexible LED panel, surviving the trip. “It’s so thin, I thought it was going to break,” he said. “But this wafer-thin light survived the pounding it got going to Belize.”
On location, once the monsoon had passed, Frith used a softbox and diffusor with the BI-FLEX 2 as a key light in some setups with the daylight-balanced F8-200 as a back light. For one particular shot, the BI-FLEX 2 was used to key a light-skinned woman, while the F8-200 was the key for a much darker man sitting next to her. “They have enough punch, even in the daylight, to kick up the look,” Frith said. “It gives it that ‘bright sparkle’ look that you want for this kind of show.”
The F8-200 travels well, runs on AC power or battery, and does not require the user to pack spare bulbs. “It’s perfect for locations. The light is very light and very robust,” he said. “There are so many things you don’t have to worry about. It’s the kind of light I’ve been looking for forever.”
Known as the “Flat Fresnel,” the lightweight F8-200 collapses to less than five inches thick for easy transport and storage. Brighter than a 400-watt HMI, it features a SCHOTT glass lens for traditional beam shaping, as well as an adjustable beam spread and spot/flood operations. Aladdin‘s family of BI-FLEX panels is available in three sizes up to 200 watts. All lights are dimmable, offer adjustable color temperature, allow a variety of mounting options, and deliver up to 98 CRI.