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 1×1 softbox folded into a rectangle

or like this:


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

or like this


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


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


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.


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

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!



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


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.


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.


New gizmos from NAB? How about the stuff we already have.

NAB 2014 is right around the corner, and no doubt it’ll be chock full of all kinds of whizz-bang stuff that will make us all think, “I must have that thingy!  It’ll make my career skyrocket!”
The tools won’t make your career.  Sorry. What I reckon would be more worth all of our while is trying to figure out more cool stuff to do with what we already have.
Here’s an experiment I did with my trusty old  Panasonic GH2, a very small mirrorless camera that shoot great video.  The newer GH3 is no doubt a bit better, and the GH4 looks like it’ll rise above the crowd, but I don’t think that will remove the utility of the old GH2.

If you’re going to NAB, please stop by the Airbox Lights booth and see what inflatable softboxes can do for plain old LED panels. See the new Model 1×1 and Model 126!  Make ugly into beautiful! Games! Prizes! Gear! All your questions answered!

Tom Guiney
Airbox Lights & Conviction Films, Inc.


Off-topic, mostly nothing to do with video lighting or gear or LED panels or LED softboxes

This isn’t about my usual topics, like cool video lighting gear or LED softboxes.

What’s the right thing to do, when you’re loading up your car with equipment for the day’s shoot on a dark rainy morning, when all of a sudden you find someone pointing a gun at your chest? It’s a funny feeling, surreal as much as anything else.  Like it doesn’t make sense. Just finishing loading all the Jokers and Kinos and LED panels and and stands and everything else, and then you see someone walk up your driveway. You wonder who this stranger is, what they want, whether they need help with something, and then you see the silver shiny barrel of a handgun pointed at you. You might shout, you might run, you might freak out. You would certainly be late for work. You might shout once, but find that it sort of strangles in your throat, because you’re not sure what this stranger is like,  this stranger with the bandanna over their face up to their eyes and the wool cap pulled down low over their forehead, the stranger with black-gloved hands aiming a gun at you, might get upset about you raising a hue and cry and shoot you down outside your daughter’s bedroom window. It’s an awkward thing, having a gun on you at 6:42 AM in the rain.

You might just hand over your wallet; what’s worth getting shot for?  But how do you know what state the person is in, whether they’re really in the mood to kill someone, or whether there are even bullets in the gun.

You might be pretty grateful that they just took your wallet and the 4$ that were inside, and didn’t tell you to open up the vehicle and take something very expensive. OR even your phone, which would cost you a bunch to replace but he could only get a few bucks for an iphone 4s with a cracked screen.

So what do you do?  You hand it over, even though you’re thinking what a pain it will be to cancel all the cards and get a new ID. Do you buy a gun?  Mace? Taser? Keep a baseball bat in your car? What good would that do, really? When there’s someone on your, threatening you, are you going to have the presence of mind or the cojones to pull out a bat and attack them?   Install a bunch of outdoor lighting perhaps. Security cameras?  If you’re not safe at home, then where?

The stranger was very professional, very fast, in and out.  He came in very fast, everything about him was covered up, no way for me to identify him. Other than that he was black, adult, maybe in his 30s, 5’10”, 180-200 lbs.  If you can be this good a robber, why not do something useful?

The good news is that I got an email that the first batch of Airbox 1×1 Inflatable softboxes for LED panels are in the air on the way here. And I got another email that B&H is interested in selling them. And I wasn’t hurt, nor did anything bad happen to my family, in bed just a few feet away from where this guy threatened me.

I think he was mad that there was only 4$ in my wallet. But once his back turned on me, I split.  I didn’t stick around to find out how he felt about his take.

I love Oakland, but that sucks.  In my own driveway in my own house. What are you gonna do.  Get over it and move on. And install some motion-sensor lights and things like that. Very soon. Not a nice feeling to not feel safe at home.