lowel v-light, bar light, dp, omni, tota-brella, umbrella, lighting, light, video, film, arri, barn door, french flag, canon, nikon, HD, DSLR, DV, HDV, film maker, director of photography
The Lowel V-lights are probably the most overlooked light in Lowel's catalogue. Especially with tungsten lights in general being skipped in favor of expensive florescent and LED kits, a lot of Lowel's kits can be had used for a song now.
The V-lights are like the famous Lowel Bar lights except less durable, but smaller and lighter. A two-light kit with stands, umbrellas and tota-frames all travel in a small hard shoulder case that comes with it. The case is like the popular large DP case material that indie film makers know so well. Big-budget guys probably haven't ever used or seen Lowel stuff, but to us bottom-dwellers Lowel lights are our hammer and nails. They get the job done and they last forever.
Tungsten lighting in general is being ditched for that too-bright LED style. Just watch the latest shows this evening. Most of them you can tell are using LED or florescent and to me a lot of them look like CRAP! Do you really want your actors to look like a light is on right beside their face all the time in EVERY shot?
Okay, enough ranting. This review is about the V-light. They're called as such because their design includes a simple two-leaf barn door that when folded out looks like a V. The barn doors tuck away when packed up, making the light a slim rectangle shape. One of these lights will fit in your jacket pocket.
The power cord is consumer grade...the lowest quality I've seen in any Lowel light. With care they'll last but they are super thin. If I had more time and was industrious I'd replace them myself with higher grade cordage. I think Lowel gave these V-lights these cords to keep them light and packable. The cords are without a ground wire, great for using them in older locations.
The power switch is on the light itself. You have the option to turn it on or off. The V-light works great with a dimmer, even with 500 watt bulbs. I believe 500 watt is the max for the V-light, but check with www.lowel.com to be sure. They may work with 750 watt bulbs, but don't quote me.
Lighting with the V-Light
Light control is fairly manageable with the V-light. They use the same Tota-frame as Lowel bar lights. The frame accepts all gels and diffusion and its distance to the light can be adjusted.
The Tota-brella may also come with your V-light kit. One issue is that you can't use the Tota-brella and Tota-frame at the same time. The V-light only has one umbrella hole. What I do is put the umbrella in the hole and then clamp the Tota-frame to the frame of the V-light with a heavy duty spring clamp. This setup works great.
Because the V-light only has an upper and lower barn door, light spills from the sides. I use cinefoil to create barn doors on the sides. You can also adjust the V-light so it sits in a vertical or horizontal position, but either way you'll need cinefoil or flags to control light spill.
I've found that for interviews, white diffusion umbrellas create softer light than the Tota-brellas. But that depends on the distance of the light to the subject. I like to position the lights fairly close, so I think this is why the shoot-through white umbrellas work better in that case. If you want maximum output but soft, the Tota-brellas are better in that case.
Color temperature is tungsten, 3200k, and it's warm. Be sure to set your camera's white balance to match and you'll get neutral color. If your camera's WB is set incorrectly you'll get either too warm or too cool colors.Don't worry, if you much this up you can always change color in post. It's best to get it right in the first place though, as some video codecs don't hold up well to heavy color tweaks.
The V-light kit should come with a small selection of gels for color correction. I've found that the daylight color correction gel doesn't work well if the light is too close to the subject. For ambien lighting it's okay, but you're better off shooting with no color correction on your V-lights if they are lighting your subject (this is most important for skin tones - just shoot it tungsten and tweak your white balance to match and let your background color figure itself out - I'd much rather the talent look good than the background, but that's just me).
Buying the V-Light
Like other Lowel lights, the V-light can be found at deep discounts in used condition. If you're working for a company with a budget, just order the kit new to ensure you'll have all the accesories and everything in new working condition. If you're like me and want a cheap professional light kit and you're paying with your personal dough, then look on ebay or your local craigslist page to find Lowel lights. I found my V-light kit for $116 shipped. It's usually $579 new. It was missing the Tota-Frame so I had to spend an extra $20. But still that's like a 80% savings on the new price. Most other Lowel lights will be equally as discounted.
There are some Lowel lights that have a bit of a collectible quality. The 650w fresnel is one of those. If you find one, snatch it up, as they are just as good as the Arri equivalent for much less.
Lowel Tota - very good light and very similar to the V-light but bigger and more durable.
Lowel Omni and DP - Spotlight style lights that work similar to fresnels but lower quality build and barnd oors on these suck.
Arri - Best in the industry but expensive. I have the 150w fresnels and they are worth every cent. I also have the LED locaster kit and have been unimpressed with the low output.
As Arri - Chinese Arri copies that are supposed to be good. I may pick up a 650w fresnel to review.