“Light’em Up!”

After the camera, the next most important set of tools for any cinematographer, are probably going to be lights.

Lights are the paint brushes with which we create an evironment, mood, or emotion.

Lighting fixtures come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Following is a brief overview of the primary types of fixtures.

Bare Bulb. 

These are probably the simplest form of lighting, consisting of just the bare lamp. But, due to their simplicity, they are often hard to control and thus are seldom used without modifiers (China Lantern with a bare edison bulb).

Bare Bulb Lights: Bare edison lamp (left); MOLE Molette (right)

Fresnels Lights. 

Fixtures equipped with a Fresnel lens – a lens composed of ring-shaped segments that are each a portion of a sphere that focuses light to a single point.

This unique lens design, makes these types of fixtures highly controllable. Thus are commonly used when “targeted” lighting is needed. 

Fresnel Lights: Fresnel light (left ); Profile of Fresnel Lens (center) vs. normal lens (right)

PAR (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) Lights.

Lights that incorporate a reflector mechanism to increase light output. PAR lights are probably the most varied type of fixture. Below are common types of PAR lights.

“Lensed” PAR’s. Some PARS are built with lenses or can be accessorized with lenses.

Popular examples are Parcan’s (fixed lens) and ARRI HMI PAR fixtures which can accomodate a wide variety of different lenses.

Open-Faced PAR’s. “Lens-less” fixtures. Since no light is lost through a lens, these fixtures generally have a higher output and spread then comparable fresnel fixtures but lose the controllability. Consequently, they are often employed as bounce lights or shot through diffusion.  

Common examples are “RED-HEADS” (800w incandescent) and “BLONDES” (1000 – 2000w incandescent).

A notable example are the ARRI M-Series of fixtures. These use a specially designed reflector that allows similar controlability to a fresnel light while retaining a higher output.

Ellipsodial PAR’s. This are PARS that employ an ellipsodial reflector. When paired with a lens, these lights are highly controllable as in the case of ETC Source 4 PAR’s.

Beam Projector PAR’s. Not as common as other types of PAR’s, these lights are lens-less fixtures that use a specialized, double reflector design, that organizes the light into nearly parallel beams. Often used to create “light rays” through windows or other openings.

Par Lights: Open-faced Par (left); ETC Source 4 Par (center); ARRI M18 HMI Par (right)

Soft/Panel Lights. 

These differ from bare, fresnel, and PAR fixtures in that they are “soft” sources. This achieved by either bouncing the light to create an in-direct source (like MOLE Softboxes that employ a scoop) or by employing a diffuser (like the ARRI Skypanel) that spreads out the light.

These fixtures are often used to light faces since the soft quality of the light is very complementary to the human face or when non-direct lighting is needed. 

LED Panels lights (like LitePanel Astra’s) cannot strictly be catogarized as “soft” lights since they are composed of an array of many tiny “hard” points of light. However, these are now being commonly used (often with a diffuser) in place of “true” softlights.


Soft Lights: LitePanels Astra (left); MOLE 750w Softbox (Center); ARRI SkyPanel S60 (right)

Bank Lights. 

These fixtures are similar to soft/panel lights in that they are soft sources. Strictly speaking, these are lights that are arranged in banks or groups.  They are often larger than soft/panel lights and provide a wider coverage.

Due to their wide spread, bank lights are often used to light backdrops, cyc walls, or as space lighting.

Panel Lights: MacTech LED Ladder Lights (left) & KINO FLO 4’/4bank Flourescent Head

Hope you enjoyed the short overview! In the future I hope to get into more detailed discussions of how to actually use these lights to creatively.

Post No.05



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