What’s the difference between an Airbox softbox and a Chimera softbox?

I was talking to a prospective dealer,  he asked me,  “but seriously, what do I tell my customers?  They’ll ask me, ‘why buy this Airbox and not a Chimera?'”

Chimera softboxes are great products, I own several of them, but an Airbox is a different thing than a Chimera, each with their own advantages.
Both of them are:
•great ways to diffuse and soften an LED light source.
•black on the outsides and silver on the insides
•effective at making a bigger, softer source without creating a lot of unintended spill to the sides and back.
•can use both lighter and heavier grades of diffusion in front of the light
Here’s where Airboxes are different from similar Chimera products:
•An Airbox is more economical than a Chimera.
chimera vs airbox price

•An Airbox is more adaptable and convenient in how you pack it and how it mounts to the light, and it works with lots of different light fixtures:

You can pack an Airbox up any which way since it has no rigid parts.  You can put it into the size of space you have available for it, rather than needing it’s own container. You can even leave deflate the Airbox and leave it mounted to the light when you put the light back into the bag or case. A Chimera has a mounting ring/square and springy steel rods that are necessary for it to mount to the light and to create its shape.

An Airbox packs up like this:

Airbox-Model-1x1-softbox-folded-into-a-rectangle

Airbox Model 1×1 softbox folded into a rectangle

or like this:

Airbox-Model-1x1-Kit-w/eggcrate-grid-folded-flat-like-a-sandwich

Airbox Model 1×1 Kit w/eggcrate grid, folded flat like a sandwich

or like this

Airbox-Model-1x1-kit-and-Litepanels-1x1-in-a-bag-together

Airbox Model 1×1 kit and Litepanels 1×1 in a bag together

•An Airbox is brand agnostic in its fit, so can be used with more different fixtures than a Chimera.

Since Airboxes mount to the light with straps and velcro rather than a speedring/slide, you can put them on not just on any brand of appropriately-sized panel, but also on non-panel sources you may come across. Our Airbox Model 1×1 fits on not just the old Litepanels 1x1s, but also the new Astras, which has slightly different dimensions, and also any other brand of 1×1 panel, such as Flolight, Dracast, Came-TV, Dedolight, Visual Buddha, Limelight, and many others.

The flexibility goes beyond just panels- here are some examples of Airbox softboxes on some non-panel sources:

Airbox m126 on BBS pipeline

Airbox Model 126 on BBS Pipeline linear remote phosphor light

Airbox M126 on BBS pipeline 2 Resized

Airbox Model 126 on BBS Pipeline remote phosphor- back

1x1-on-flex-2

Airbox Model 1×1 on Westcott Flexlight LED- profile view

1x1-on-flex-1

Airbox Model 1×1 on Westcott Flexlight – rear view

Airbox Model 1x1 softbox folded around West Flexlite LED fixture

Airbox Model 1×1 folded up with a Westcott Flexlite

 

Some of my customers look at Airbox diffusers as a minimalist quick and easy solution, something to just keep with their LED panels so they’ve always got a quick way to soften, direct and control your panels. Me, I almost never use LED lights raw, except as a bounce or maybe a backlight. I always put some diffusion in front of them, either as a softbox or else as a diffusion frame on a stand.

yours

Tom Guiney

Airbox Lights

Images of people lit by LED panels with Airbox Inflatable Softboxes on them

People ask me, so why an  Airbox? What’s it do?  This post is long overdue, some work samples of shooting I’ve done using just LED panels and Airboxes. It is notable that much of the time I light with my panels and Airboxes, I do use an extra layer of diffusion in the front pocket when I don’t need all the output and I do want it a bit softer. Good thing precut gel + diffusion kits are available to fit our softboxes then!

 

woman-lit-by-arbx-only-2

Lighting used: 2 1×1 Litepanels with Airbox Model 1×1 Softboxes with extra sheet of diffusion in front sleeve and eggcrates), Switronix TorchLED with Airbox Macro, Dracast 160 with Airbox Macro kit with eggcrate

BTS of above image

BTS of above image

Lighting used: Flolight 512 with Airbox Model 126 with 250 in front sleeve, background lit with kinos

Lighting used: Flolight 512 with Airbox Model 126 with 250 in front sleeve, background lit with kinos

girl-elbow-shadow-detail-2

Lighting used: Dracast 1000 LED panel with an Airbox Model 1×1 softbox on it, with additional layer of diffusion in front sleeve. Blue backlight is a Flolight microbeam 512 with an Airbox Model 126 on it.

BTS of the previous closeup.  With Art Adams

BTS of the previous closeup. With Art Adams

Shot with two 1x1 Panels  with Airbox Model 1x1 as a key, Flolight 512 with Airbox Model 126  softbox as backlight

two 1×1 Panels with Model 1×1 softboxes as a key, Airbox Macro/dracast 160 LED as backlight, bounced Flolight 512 fill

LED panel comparison: color charts, vectorscopes, light loss

People ask me all the time, “what LED panels do you recommend?” “What’s the color like on that panel?”and “”Does putting an Airbox Softbox on the light affect the color?”, so I decided to do some testing, as scientifically as possible.  What you’re looking at is footage shot of the DSC labs OneShot chart, where each of the color patches is carefully calibrated to match up to the six points on a vectorscope, as well as four skin tone patches that line up with the “skin tone” line on a scope.  A perfect light source and a perfect camera would land each of the dots right on the vectorscope targets. You can observe which way a light is biased by seeing in which direction the six points tend. Distance from the center indicates saturation.  For example, the top target on a scope is the red reference, and if you see the top point on the star significantly to the left of the target, you know that the light source skews towards yellow. One the source that’s used in this sample chart, you can see how desaturated the green point is, indicating an overall magenta cast.

Here is a sample vectorscope with the targets labeled clearly, if vectorscopes aren’t something you look at often.

59

The video below is made from the powerpoint I put together of the results.  A video of stills in a powerpoint of vector scopes and color charts?  That’s some exciting viewing! No, but seriously, it’s data that actually tells you something.   If you want to click back and forth to examine those vectorscopes closely, you can download the powerpoint.

•Tungsten source for a control group
•Litepanels Astra, set daylight
•Litepanels Astra, set tungsten
•Dracast 1000 daylight
•Litepanels D-Flood c. 2007 manufacture
•Flolight Microbeam 512

 

 

I plan to add some budget panels to the testing mix as soon as I’m able so we can see how much difference there really is between the cheaper panels and the pricier ones, but this is what we’ve got for now. Also, when I do more testing, I’ll strive to be more precise with the exposure.

My take on the test results:

1) I’m surprised that the leko doesn’t look better. The skin tone looks good, but on the scope, the yellow still looks a little desaturated and skewed towards red, and the magenta skews towards red as well.  That’s not too surprising since it’s somewhat aged bulb and probably burns a little warmer than it ought. It’s possible that a little glare on the surface of the chart threw things off.

2)The Litepanels D-Flood, the original that people refer to as a “Litepanel”,  still works but is pretty outmoded now.  You can see that it’s two stops less bright than the more modern panels.  The color also is a little iffy on the scopes- pretty much all six colors skew one way or another. It looks liek an overall magenta cast- see how the green point is short(desaturated) and is slid way up towards yellow and red.

3)Astra Daylight- most of the points look pretty close to on, except the green again.  Were they making sure to avoid the famous green cast of LEDs and overcompensated towards magenta? My skin tone looks pretty good though.  I’d happily use that on a shoot. I couldn’t perceive any material difference when I put the Airbox on the light. Interesting was that the Astra set to daylight was almost, but not quite as bright as the single-color Dracast panel. One-color panels are always brighter than their bicolor cousins because all the LEDs are devoted to the one tone, rather than having half of the emitters dedicated to each side of the spectrum.

4)Dracast 1000- This was the brightest panel I tested. Also worth noting is that this panel runs a little warm on a standard color meter, around 5000 K.  White balancing the camera to the source made this not very apparent, but it’s something to know about.  On the scopes the blue and cyan points are pulling towards each other, and the yellow is definitely skewed towards red.  I find the yellow square on the chart a little icky looking. The skin tone? Not bad, looks a little pink to me. However, on the scope, the magenta point seems pretty spot on, it’s just that its complement in green that is off-target.

5)Litepanels Astra, set to tungsten. The scopes seem to be more on-target here than in the other lights, except for that yellow point which is skewing to the orange and the red which is oversaturating a little. For a tungsten LED, it’s quite good.  Those traditionally have been the worst-looking LEDs, but they seem to have gotten it right with this one. The skin tone isn’t perfect, it does bring out the reds a little more than I like.

6)In general, there didn’t seem to be much noticeable color shift when I added the Airbox Softboxes to the lights.  FYI! 15% off all Airbox products, Nov 27-Dec 2, Black Friday-Buy Stuff Monday sale. Airbox Inflatable softboxes are a tool to adjust the quality, not the color, so it’s nice to be able to say that they are neutral in color.

7) The Flolight Microbeam 512-  looks like the exposure was a bit off here, but nonetheless, the red looks a little orangey and the blue is kicked towards green. I’ve used that light lots of times on shoots though and I haven’t heard any complaints.

Those are just some impressions, please make you own decisions from the data about which lights have the best color.  I am not a colorist, just a lighting guy trying to get some objective data on these lights. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone more expert than I!

if you’re still curious, here is more information on vectorscopes and the DSC OneShot.

 

More lighting and camera gear 2014: FS7, Sourcemaker blanket, Twintube Dolly, Gruvgear Muver

New lighting and camera equipment from 2014 that bears mention:

Sony’s Fs7 has been one of the most ballyhooed releases this year. I recently got the chance to do some testing Adam Wilt and Art Adams. Adam Wilt wrote some thorough articles about it which are worth reading. I’m looking forward to reading Arts writeup when its done, but here’s my really quick .02 – like the smarty handgrip. All those controls you can operate without taking your eye of the eyepiece! I was also very impressed with the dynamic range. S-log 3, we were actually short of hard pressed to create an indoor situation that exceeded what camera could still resolve. Granted,  our biggest light was an 800 joker, but it was still impressive that the camera could still see detail on the t/45 white curtains where the beam of light was hitting them as well as in the unlit T/1 patch of dark wood in the foreground, about eleven stops apart.  We’ll wait and see the actual test results though once Art has done the edit.
60Sony FS7, test shoot w/Art Adams and Airbox Lights
Sourcemaker inflatable 4×4 soft source with eggcrate:
How cool is this?  It’s like a 4×4 diffusion frame with a light behind it, except there’s no light behind it! Seems ideal for tight spaces.  I do think you need a pump or helium tank to blow it up; I think you’d turn blue and faint, trying to inflate this by mouth. These are the same people who make the large helium filled balloons you see on big night exterior sets.
61

Sourcemaker LED Blanket
62
The back and the front of their LED blanket stretched on a 4×4 frame with a diffuser balloon and eggcrate on it.Solid grip twin tube dolly:  this is like an improved version of the ever-popular Dana Dolly, with some significant improvements. Most notable feature is the track: The track breaks down and fits in one case, assembles with no seams between pieces so your frame doesn’t bump when dolly goes over it, and the track is extremely stiff- it doesn’t bow(“smile”) under the weight like the speedrail track of a dana dolly does. The dolly carriage grabs onto the track rather than sitting on top, so the carriage and camera won’t fall off and can be underslung easily. Very nice stuff, but pretty pricey- about 3x as much as a dana dolly setup, in the neighborhood of 4k.

6465
See also Rigwheels; they’re another cpmpetitor in the field of portable dollies.  Also a good system, less expensive than the twintube, but more than a dana dolly.
Bagolite:
Its a giant inflatable tube that mounts to the front of a medium/large HMI par like a 4k or 6k par.  It makes a giant glowing sausage that you only have to support at one end. It definitely was eyecatching.  I could see that being useful in some situations. If you needed to arm out a large bright soft source and weren’t able to support the far end because the stand would be in frame perhaps?  On their website they show it being used to light a car, which makes sense since it’s would make one long continuous reflection on the curved finish of the car. The massive size of the source is probably the most important feature; to get a single soft source that big could take some significant effort using traditional tools. Still, I’m not holding my breath to see this all the time.
67
Plastic apple boxes: So simple! A lot f the best new gear is just that, super simple.  These apple boxes won’t start to splinter and come apart on you, probably won’t show the wear as much as traditional wooden ones.  I was told they were priced approximately the same as normal apples. Plus, you can get them appropriately colored for chroma key work in green, blue, or red. at filmtools.com
******* MISSING PHOTO  *******
Who thought that regular old carts had room for improvement! This is an LA company who make these carts that can be configured lots of different ways, as you see in the video. They originally were making stuff for musicians and bands et al., but bands and shoot technicians have a lot in common. Folds up very small for portability, sets up quickly in loads of different ways. We have a customer group in common: video shooters for whom compactness and portability is essential. I got the chance to use one on a job yesterday, and it was awesome!  Really sturdy and adaptable, but importantly, that center wheels lets it turn on a dime. Red Scorpion LED Maxibrutes: Daylight-balanced large LED heads with output that can compete with a 4k par, but on a single 20 amp circuit! To get that kind of output, they’re set up with arrays of emitters, much like the familiar Maxibrutes, 9-lights fays, and Dinos. Each LED emitter is set into an MR-16-style parabolic refractor, directing all of the light forward.  Some of their smaller units are compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes. They’re a small startup started by a working gaffer, just like Airbox, but watch out for these lights! That kind of output with such minimal power draw could be a really big deal in days to come.
68Red Scorpion LED maxibrute
69Red Scorpion LED
Other tidbits- Recently discovered that more excellent lights have proven to be compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes- the BBS area 48 and the Cineo LS and Cineo Maverick! See the full list of lights compatible with Airbox Inflatable softboxes here.

Micro Grip and Lighting Kit

Sometimes I get this notion like I’ve got all the answers on something, an of course that means I don’t. I got my eyes opened a bit on how small you can go with gear and still be very effecive. This is particularly relevant when you’re working by yourself or with a very small crew. I gaffed a Chrome spot for a dp named Norman Bonney, and he had a whole kit of totally miniaturized gear, optimized for fitting in one vehicle and for taking on airplanes.
Kit was
1 case: 4 LEDs, 2 1×1 panels and two 6″ x1′ panels
4 skinny little 18/3 “stingers”
A bag of slender aluminum stands, of a degree of sturdiness that I had previously dismissed as Mickey-mouse student film stuff. Some stands were 3/8″ studs at the top, some were standard 5/8″ studs.
Portable fold-up flag kit
Collapsible 4×6 westcott scrimjim frames and a duffel bag full of soft goods.
Instead of heavy duveteen, he carried lightweight ripstop nylon
And the grip kit: instead of heavy steel 2 1/2″ steel gobo heads, these tiny little 1 1/2″ grip heads. So this is what your “C-stand” looks like:

11

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tiny stand, a tiny head, and a tiny cardi. Slender, but big enough to handle this lightweight collapsible 4x frame on an interior set:

12

And all the bags and cases were 49 lbs or less and less than 62″ long, making it all air-travel ready.
I dig it!  I shoot a bunch of little jobs where it’s basically just me, and if everything fit in bags and cases and didn’t weight all that much, that would be just fine with me.
Handy items in my kit as far as extreme portability are the inflatable softboxes I make to go with my LED lights.  They just squish down on top of the lights in the case and add barely any weight or bulk since they’re inflatable. Also handy are these cheesy “Impact” brand light stands that I got a while ago and then regretted because they seemed so flimsy.  They’ve proved really reliable, even if they are lightweight. They work.  When I’m not bringing “any” lights, I bring my two 1×1 panels in their laptop bags and these two lightweight stands and my little briefcase of small LED units and Airbox softboxes.
Trivium: “Impact” is one of B&H’s house brands of gear, along with Pearstone and probably a few others.