Tip #1690: Lights are Getting Smaller – And That’s Great!

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1690: Lights are Getting Smaller – And That’s Great!

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Advances in technology offer new options and expanded usage.

Aputure MC-4 Kit (Image credit: Julia Swain)

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This article, written by Julia Swain, first appeared in TVTech.com. This is a summary.

There are so many reasons why the use of larger lighting sources is preferred a lot of the time on set. The ability to cut, soften and shape a larger source tends to be much easier than a smaller one. Output is not lost as quickly as from a smaller source and these bigger lights can be used to cover a large surface area and create ambience. I have written on the versatility of smaller sources before, but technology is advancing so quickly that new options have since become available and the ways to use them have expanded.

Popular small lights that have held up include ARRI’s AX5 smaller fresnels and the Dedolight. Small tungsten units such as these for uplights or as extensions of practicals that already exist in the frame are so useful.

Other small units are panels such as Aputure’s MC-4, which can act as a replacement for a bulb in some instances. Like the AX5, the battery-powered MC-4 can be controlled via an app.

Using a large source is great but it becomes a bit of a “grip jungle”—so many stands and flags and diffusion have to surround a large source in order to focus it on a subject. Sometimes it is appropriate to downsize your key, and in my experience it’s usually when you don’t have much space.

If you have your subject close to walls or other elements in space that light would spill onto, key with something smaller.

A popular lighting approach right now is one that is minimal. Smaller units play into more specificity. When we think minimal, it’s just a couple large sources doing all the work for a space. The use of smaller lights lends itself to adding interest in the frame and creating separation.


The author provides practical examples from her lighting experience, which makes the entire article worth reading.

Here’s link.

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1 reply
  1. Brian Galford
    Brian Galford says:

    This article you linked to makes me think again about lighting an actor. Small lights work very well for MS and CU shots, for sure. They may not have as much “throw” as large lights, but they’re good for backlights, 3/4 angle kickers, enhancing the look of a room light, filling the shadows under eyes, or just simulating the ambience in a home/office.


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