Let's take a step outside of the office and learn how to light different scenes with a small, mobile lighting setup to take a room from this to this.
The inspiration behind this particular lighting kit is speed, mobility, and ease of use. This is a small, lightweight kit that I can carry with me and set it up quickly. This kit won't be able to overpower the sun in bright environments, but for locations like this, it can give you great results quickly. Also, if you have larger lights these can be a great compliment to your larger lighting setups as well.
I also wanted this lightweight kit to work off of small batteries for shorter shoots or wall power for longer sessions if needed. And since I'm making this kit with speed in mind, I wanted this setup to not require any modifiers, like softboxes. I just want to set the lights up and go.
That is where I stumbled down the tube light rabbit hole and I discovered the Falcon Eyes IRISA lights. There are tons of tube lights out there, but surprisingly there's only a small number of tube lights that can be controlled through a normal phone app. The higher-end tube lights require an external router to set up the wireless connection and cost almost 3 times what these IRISA lights cost. Since speed was important for this setup, I wanted an affordable option that could also use a phone app to set up to control all of my lights. This is great since I can control the brightness, color temperature, any RGB values of multiple lights at once from the same app without getting up from my seat.
I love the fact that these lights are controllable from the same app, but I'm not a huge fan of the interface of the app. And the app itself works well, the lights connect quickly but the interface is really clunky. That being said, I'd rather have a functional app that looks like an engineer designed it, than a beautiful app that doesn't work.
I like tube lights for their versatility, but since we're not using any modifiers here, they output hard light. Hard light isn't the most flattering when using them as a key light to film people. Softlight gives diffused light that doesn't create harsh shadows, hiding imperfections and smoothing out textures. Hard light has distinct shadows that show imperfections and people generally don’t want that while they're on camera.
I like using hard light for the back or fill light, but it's a little too aggressive as a key light when shooting talking head videos. So what really attracted me to this setup was that Falcon Eyes also has a soft LED light that can be used with the same app that the IRISA lights are used with. This Falcon Eyes MC-180C is also a battery or wall-powered RGB light. So it fits in with these tube lights pretty well.
Going over the lighting setup, we have three lights, one IRISA 1, one IRISA 2, and an MC-180C. I purchased the IRISA 1 myself for $149 and I reached out to Falcon Eyes to see if they would send me the IRISA 2 and MC-180 to test out. If you're interested in my method and ethics of reviewing products, check out this link below. The IRISA 2 costs $299 and the MC-180C costs $180. We’re going to need 3 light stands. These light stands I have are pretty affordable, they aren't anything heavy-duty since our light kit was built will speed and weight in mind. Sometimes, you can get away with leaning these light tubes up against a wall and you don’t need to use a stand at all.
We also have a 5 in 1 reflector, if you don’t want to purchase 3 lights, you can get around this to a point by using a reflector - we’ll go over that more later.
Digging into our lighting setup, with 3 lights we can do a lot of different lighting setups. The most obvious setup with three lights is the traditional 3-point lighting setup so let's dive into that one and then learn a few small modifications we can make to spice up the shot a little.
The first step is to turn off all of our overhead lights and turn on any practical lights we have in our scene. I’m in my kitchen, so I have lights above me and behind me, but I’m going to keep the smaller sconce lights on since they won't overpower the lighting here and I think they add a little depth to the shot.
I’ll also adjust the curtains to fix how much light is spilling into the scene. This sounds a little backward, but we're going to want to expose our camera for the background before we turn our lights on.
Now that our background is set, let's start with the Key light. We want a nice soft light since this is going to be our main light, so the MC-180C is going to go at a 45 to 90-degree angle from the camera. The further we put this light, the more of a shadow it’s going to cast on the opposite side of the subject. We're putting our key light as close as we can to our frame to get the softest light we can onto the subject. One downside of this light is that it's pretty small, so if you're doing wide shots, you’ll have to turn the intensity of this light-up pretty heavy. For these medium-talking headshots, this light does the job.
One thing to note here is that since we're prioritizing a small, lightweight kit, we're not using a softbox. Our light is going to spill onto everything in front of it. Depending on how you want your lighting to look this could be good or bad but it's something to be aware of. If you have a reflector, you can use it to direct or bounce the light.
Next, we'll use our IRISA 2 as the fill light, and that will be in front of us, on the opposite side of our key light. The fill light goes on the opposite side of our key light to fill in the shadows the key creates. Make sure not to have the fill light too intense, so we don't overpower our soft light. We only need this bright enough to fill in the shadows. Overpowering the fill light will make our subject look very flat. The IRISA 2 is nice because it's so large, it's capable of giving us light over a large area and since we can dim the light we can evenly distribute the low level of light.
A thing to watch out for while using tube lights is the reflections they give off.. If you put it right next to your subject there can be some strange light bars happening in the eyes or anything reflective. If this is happening to you, moving the light vertically or adjusting the angle can help eliminate that.
If you're filming someone who is not a fan of hard light, diffusing or bouncing this light off of a wall, reflector or white foam core will soften the light up and make it much softer for your talent, while also taking care of any weird reflections you might have.
Our final light in this setup is going to be our smaller IRISA 1, and I saved this smaller light for our rim light so we can hide this one easier than the larger lights. Either just out of frame or even behind the subject to give them some really nice separation from the background. This is typically positioned on the opposite side of the key light that can add depth to your shot by separating your subject from the background.
And this is three-point lighting. If you want a different look than 3 point lighting, we can easily modify this lighting setup by simply removing the fill light and moving the fill to another part of the scene. If our subject is starting to blend into the scene somewhere, we can move this light to help separate the subject by shining the light onto the background.
Using a key and backlight is one of my personal favorite lighting setups, but it is slightly more stylized by giving you more shadows. It just depends on what your shoot calls for.
If you only have two lights and still need a fill light though, you can use the reflector to bounce some of our light from the key back onto our subject to fill in those shadows. Using a white bounce is especially handy if you’re using an RGB value since the bounce will be bouncing the exact same color that our key is giving us.
Since our lights are RGB, and we can control everything from our DeSal Lite app, we can even change the colors of our lights to get some different looks as well. I usually like to keep my key light white while having more creative freedom with the fill and backlights. There are a lot of possibilities there, so experiment with your set and lights to get some really unique looks.
I’ve liked this setup for its speed, weight, and ease of use, but here are a few quick thoughts after using this setup.
I wish the mc-180c was larger, for a fill light it is pretty small, but I'm not aware of a larger RGB version of this light. It’s tough to say I’d like this to be a larger light since I also want to keep this kit as small as possible. Since this light is so small, it can be limiting as to how you can use it. I’m making this setup with medium-talking headshots and very quick product photography in mind, so this works for me. There are larger bi-color soft LED lights, but they don’t use the DeSal Lite app.
Another great addition would be some kind of magic arm to move the tube lights at an angle instead of keeping them just vertical on the light stands. These lights are flat on the end, so you could just lean them up against something to angle them, but if you want to angle them on a light stand, you're going to need a strong magic arm. And you'll need at least two magic arms to hold them from each end. The light stands are working fine for me, but if you’re in a really small area where you can’t put up light stands, magic arms could be a great tool here.
I love the fact that the IRISA 2 has a removable battery, so if I ever need to replace the battery, I could just unscrew the cap and swap them out. The IRISA 1 does not have a removable battery and is an internal battery. The IRISA 1 charges with a USB-C port, while the IRISA 2 charges with a wall charger and you have to remove the battery to charge. So you can't charge and use the battery at the same time here, but for longer shots, you can plug it into the wall outlet and use it forever.
I like the concept of the removable battery, but it's unfortunate that you have to remove the battery to charge it. And it doesn't use the USBC like the IRISA 1 uses. I hope the next version keeps the removable battery design, but allows you to charge with USBC and keep the battery in while charging.
After using this setup, I’ve loved the fact that I can easily pick everything up and move to a new location to film. I still have the studio setup that I can sit in to quickly make videos, but sometimes it’s nice to have access to a small kit that I can take with me anywhere to film a new video when the inspiration strikes. And I can also use these lights in addition to my larger lights if I need to. What do you guys think of this setup?
I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.
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