Fastest draw in the West (as far as softboxes are concerned)

 

Seriously, how many softboxes have you used that you can throw at the light to mount it? That’s our new Model 129, sized to fit those rectangular panels a little smaller than a 1×1, such as the Aputure LS1 pictured here.

What do I love about the Model 129?  One cool thing is that it comes with a second diffusion layer, so you can go a little heavier or a bit lighter on the diff, depending on your lighting situation.

It’s our biggest softbox so far, but its not actually a much larger volume of air than our Model 1×1, since only the perimeter of the model 129 is inflated.

Just like our other softboxes, the Model 129 is affordable at 65$, flight-kit friendly because they fold and pack any which way, and they make the light look much better on people.

 

They’re available at Amazon, B&H, and here at our site.

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

Relationship between Diffusion, Softening and Distance

I came across this interesting article by Ed Moore and Stephen Murphy, where they tested a lot of different lighting diffusion materials. I recommend checking it out: Here is the stills version and thevideo version.

Some selects from that post:

Half soft frost diffusion

Half soft frost diffusion

Half soft frost, one of my favorite diffusions because it’s most efficient, getting you the most softening for the least loss of output available. Not surprisingly,  that’s what I use as the front face in Airbox Inflatable Softboxes.

Half Grid

half grid cloth diffusion, aka “light grid”

Light grid cloth is another favorite of mine when I’ve got brighter sources to work with.

Diffusion and Distance from Subject

It’s an interesting study but what I didn’t see them mention is the distance from the diffusion material to the subject.  That is hugely important to the effect.  A leko right next to a tennis ball will wrap more than a 10K through and 8x diffusion frame at a great distance.  You want the source soft?  Then sit that diffusion frame just on the very edge of frame, as close to the subject as you can get it. You want it a touch harder?  Back the frame up a bit towards the light. The apparent softness is largely about the size of the source relative to the subject.

Here’s a quickie test I did in my office on the topic using some of my daughter’s dolls, a Litepanels Astra EP (generously on loan from Litepanels), and an Airbox Model 1×1 softbox. The photos go from nearer to farther.

diffdist 1

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 11″

diffdist 2

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 32″

diffdist 3

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 52″

diffdist 4

Airbox Model 1×1 w/ 250 in front sleeve at 75″

Notice the drop shadows.When the 16″x16″ source is just out of frame, there is no visible drop shadow on the girl doll’s face from her left hand, and barely any visible on the male baby’s face from the girl doll’s right hand.

Here’s a sketchup to illustrate the concept:source distance comp

This is why you never can get as soft by putting diffusion directly on the face of your light as you can when using a softbox or frame that’s a distance in front of the unit.
Tom Guiney
Airboxlights.com

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.

 

Airbox LED softboxes on: Mirrorless better than DSLR for video?

Is mirrorless the new deal for DSLRs and lower-budget smaller-scale video shooting?  Or I guess I should say “DSLM”.  That’s the new term I heard at the WPPI trade show in Las Vegas last week. It was most often mentioned cheek-to-jowl with the term “hybrid” photography, which was also new to me. Mirrorless and hybrid are a trend, which you can see with the field dominating Canon releasing its EOS-M to jump into the fray.

Will Crockett feels strongly this way.  his aurdience is primarily photographers who are transitioning over towards video, since their clients are asking them to.  Some of mine are asking me the reverse:
“did you shoot any stills when you were shooting that part?” And my answer’s always, uh, no, because I was shooting video. I didn’t shoot any stills.  Maybe that’s a lack of planning on my part, that maybe I SHOULD shoot stills along the way when I’m shooting video. So shooting “hybrid” is apparently more and more of the new deal for all of us.

I pressed him on a few of the points in his video.
1.Why’s he think it’s so much easier to shoot video with mirrorless like a gh2 or gh3 than with the old favorite the 5d?
response:  a) autofocus actually works on mirrorless cameras for video, but autofocus in unavailable in video to DSLRs other than the Sony a99.  b)mirrorless is natively 16:9, making post a little easier. c)more video options like 720 or interlaced available in mirrorless and Sony alphas  d)better overall low light performance in mirrorless.  Performance in his words being a combination of being able to autofocus, judge AWB, and produce good image quality above ISO 2000.

2. Autofocus for video:  I said I still find the autofocus on my GH2 not sufficiently reliable for video work. Sometimes it can follow a moving subject, sometimes it just completely blows it and makes the background really sharp.
Response: Agreed, but still better than you can’t ever use it at all.

3.Lots of lenses available:  My impression is yes, you can use lots of lenses on a micro 4/3 mount, technically the most of any format, but in reality, a lot comes down to the quality of the adapters, and a lot of the affordable ones are crap. The lack of iris control on my Canon EF mount lenses when on a m43 mount, not to mention the sloppy wobbly connection between the lens and the camera, makes those lenses basically unusable on m43. There is that cool 550$ smart adapter from redrock micro, but that’s pretty spendy. Not to mention the 2x crop factor of the M43 sensor, where your nice wide 24mm EF mount is all of a sudden basically a normal perspective lens.
Response: agreed.  He tries to avoid using adapters except for his Leica glass. Using native lenses is far preferable in most cases.

One thing that can be handy about mirrorless is they’re much smaller and usually less expensive for both bodies and glass than pro DSLRs.  Now that Lumix has put out a series of top-quality lenses for M43 format, it feels like a real alternative. When I first got my GH2, there was no fast “normal” zoom available, the equivalent of the Canon L 24-70 2.8. It caused me some heartburn.  Thankfully, now there are the Lumix G X series lenses, which are awesome.  And small! And not that pricey! Only about 1200$ each.

Small camera? Small can be very good sometimes.
When you’re just using it as a SLR-style camera, or traveling, that’s cool.  I find once I kit it out with all my crap for video, like my d-focus cage, rods, monitor, full-size tripod, and mini slider, it’s far from small. Sure is nice to rig up on something.

Here’s when little is a big advantage. Check this out:

13I don’t think you could do that with a chunky SLR with a big lens on it.  well, maybe, but it wouldn’t be as fast and it would be harder to do and bounce around more and maybe not work.

Conclusion:
While it’s not the only way to shoot video, and all of our favorite DSLRs are still leading the field, I think the day isn’t that far away when it will just seem like the more logical choice to shoot video with sleek little DSLMs packed with pro video features than with “big” DSLRs. They’re just more video-friendly.  I’m not going to get into the partisan fight about which camera looks better, but there are a lot of just plain practical concerns that make mirrorless attractive. HD live feed to your monitor, for one, so you can keep stuff in focus once you start rolling.

When you’re shooting small like this, you’ll want your lighting kit to be pretty compact too. What better way than totally collapsible almost weightless softboxes for your LED panels? Check us out.
yours
Tom Guiney
Airboxlights.com
Inflatable softboxes for LED Panels

 

Expansion @airboxlights twitter feed of lighting tips, tricks, and opinions

 I’m Tom Guiney, a gaffer, electrician and DP for fourteen years in New York City, and the owner/inventor of Airboxlights.com, your source for ultralight inflatable softboxes/diffusers for Litepanels.

This blog is intended as a co-blog to my twitter feed @airboxlights, where I put lighting tidbits up a few times a week,  sharing my lighting work experience in the world of commercials, on-air promos, reality shows, corporate videos, movies, tv shows, and music videos.
Expansion on recent tweet:
tidbit: Underused light- molebeam beam projector. Powerful defined tungsten beam. Hard model key? window light? like a tungst xenon.

Here’s a link: http://www.mole.com/lighting/beams/tun_beam/tung_beam.html

Have you used them?  They are awesome!  They put out a powerful super-refined beam with very distinct edges.  Useful in some of the same ways a leko is, except for when you need more than 750 watts, the maximum size HPL lamp.  Molebeams come in 2k, 5k, 10k, and 20k.

A molebeam is great when you need something like a shaft of light effect, but you’re in a tungsten lighting situation.  A bit like a xenon, but without a lot of the obvious problems of xenons, like unreliability, the hole in the middle of the beam (on older ones), and being unable to unplug them in a hurry for fear of exploding bulbs.

Also very useful to bounce into a board that’s rigged up and behind the subject. If it’s too much hassle/time/logistical difficulty to actually rig a backlight, you can generally rig up a piece of silver/white beadboard there, with tape if nothing else, and then hit it with a leko or a molebeam, since they  don’t really spill the way a fresnel does and won’t require any gripping to keep spill off of the front of your subject.

Also useful just as tungsten source to use as a bounce source for key/fill/wherever, not rigged; it’s still a 2k/5k/10k/20k.

Useful for creating crisply-defined shadows as well. 

You can always soften a very hard source, but you can’t harden a mushy source.  Try casting a crisp shadow with a kino, tell me how that goes.

yours
Tom Guiney, gaffer and DP
Airboxlights.com inflatable LED diffusers for Litepanels
twitter lighting tips @airboxlights