First, it’s important that we talk about the types of lights that are most commonly used in the film industry: LEDs, fluorescent, tungsten, and HMIs.
Now, if you’re just starting out, you’ll probably find yourself using LEDs most often. LEDs have become very popular over the last few years because they’re lightweight, they don’t get hot and they don’t use a lot of electricity. This makes them really versatile and easy to use on set which is why even big productions are starting to switch to LEDs for a lot of their work.
LEDs come in all shapes and sizes so you can get spotlights, LED panels, and even tube lights that are all made from little LEDs. LEDs can often change colour temperature between daylight and tungsten and there are also LEDs out there that can change colour, allowing you to dial in any look that you want without having to use gels. The only down side to LEDs is that they are not typically as bright as other types of lights for the amount that you pay for them.
However, as they become more popular and the technology increases, the prices are coming down and the output is going up, making LEDs a more and more logical choice for most productions.
As you get a little more advanced into film making, you’ll find yourself starting to use other lights, like fluorescent lights.
Fluorescent lights are similar to LEDs in that they are lightweight, they don’t get hot, and they don’t use very much electricity. They come in daylight and tungsten colour temperatures and they’re also cheaper than LEDs. But the difference is that fluorescents usually only come as tube lights or regular light bulbs so they’re not as versatile in the type of light you can get from them and they don’t usually run off batteries which makes them less portable on set.
Another type of light you need to know is the tungsten light. These lights were the work horses of the film industry before LEDs came onto the scene. Tungsten lights are very bright, have a lot of power, and can create a very focused spotlight or be flooded to get a broader light. The biggest advantage of tungsten lights is that you get a lot of output for very little cost.
However the downside is that they get very hot and they use more electricity than LEDs or fluorescents so you have to be very careful because they can burn you easily and you can’t plug too many of them into one circuit or you’ll blow the circuit breaker.
The last type of light is the HMI and this is the brightest of all the lights. HMIs are used in situations where you need a lot of light as these powerhouses can pack a punch that even competes with the sun.
HMIs produce a beautiful daylight balanced light but they are really big and heavy, expensive, and they use a lot of electricity. So out of all these lights, HMIs are definitely the least versatile and easy to use but if you need an extremely bright source, this is the only way to go.
So there you have it; four common types of lights used in the film industry.
Like I mentioned each light has different purposes depending on what you’re shooting, so it’s a good idea to gain experience with all of these lights eventually so you really understand the pros and cons of each one. But if you’re just starting out, LEDs are a great place to start until you’re able to work you way up to shooting with other lights.