Hey guys,

I want to upgrade my lights but confused about whether to buy LED lights or photography lights with a softbox. From what I can tell, the softbox lights use fluorescent lights which I think are bad for stop motion animation as they flicker? Can someone please guide me on which one to buy. Here are some links on the 2 options of light kits I confused about.

https://www.amazon.com/Julius-Studio-Lighting-Photography-JSAG344V2...

vs

https://www.amazon.com/LimoStudio-Dimmable-Temperature-Continuous-A...

Thank you!

Note: those links are not the ones I am specifically buying but they are just for reference.

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Fluorescent lights flicker very rapidly.  I once shot a live action miniature effect at 48 frames per second on my Bolex, and the constant flicker was horrible.  But for animation I take longer exposures, at least a half second and usually 1 to 2 seconds, and that smoothes the flicker out.  The same ceiling lights I stupidly left on for the 48fps shot were often used as ambient light for my stop motion, and it caused no problem for the animation. The lights goes on and off hundreds of times in that period, and it averages out.    But I generally use the fluoros for a very soft ambient light, so the shadows don't go too black.

I mostly still use my old halogen lights for my main lighting, but they are pretty much obsolete now.  What i see most in the disco lighting stores now are LED lights.

Your first link, a soft box.  This kind of wide light source makes the shadows soft with blurry edges.  Can be flattering.  Smoothes out textures, whereas a hard side light brings up the scales and wrinkles more.  A DOP I know uses bounce cards - reflecting the hard light from DedoLights off a big white card or cloth - for the same soft effect.   He hardly ever pointed a light directly at the puppet, on 2 different films I worked on, and one was dark and gothic and the other set in a swimming pool on a sunny day.  So I think he knows something!   I could actually do with something like that soft box, to shoot stopmo monsters for a filmmaker who has shot all his live action plates with cloudy skies so the light is soft with no clear direction.  I was using my fluorescent tube room lights for that, but they are playing up and not staying even, they brighten and darken over time.  Had to point my other lights at the ceiling instead.  These could plug in through my power conditioner, which evens out the voltage, like my other lights.

  Your second link looks like the same sort of wide based soft light, but with lots of LEDs.  Probably the preferred option.  Lower power use and probably more stable.

For my own films I usually want a harder key light, which requires a bright light from a smaller diameter source.  Especially for the look of an outdoor setting with the sun in a clear sky, you want one main source as the sun, with sharper shadows. Or for a film noir type lighting.  It might look more like this one, that I saw on one of the pages you linked to:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JQJY334/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&...

(I don't know that particular light.)  

I do use a Product Lighting kit I got cheap at a charity shop, which consists of 3 compact fluorescent lights with round reflectors on stands, and a white tent/box, the idea is to put the product inside the tent and the tent diffuses the light so it is evenly lit all over.  I don't use them that way, but they work ok as normal lights without the tent.  There is no flicker with my long exposures.  They are a cool white, so I use them mostly for fill light on the shadier side, or pointing up at the ceiling to bounce light down, with a warmer stronger halogen for the sun.  They aren't big square boxes so they are not as soft as those lights.  So even though LEDs are all the go now, and to save power our government is replacing the fluoros which previously replaced the incandescents for ordinary home lighting,  fluoro lights are still usable.

I also use 6v 30 watt halogen pinspots, which throw a very tight narrow beam of light, for backlighting and edge lighting a puppet without splashing light all over the set.  There is an LED that sort of does that, but the one I got from eBay(for under $20) has a very purple-blueish light.  Ok for moonlight, not so good otherwise. Discos use the pinspots to throw beams of light through the smoke, and to bounce off the mirror ball to make little dots of light spin around the room, so there must be a modern LED equivalent with a better light colour.  

Thanks for the detailed reply. I appreciate it! I am probably going for led lights in the future but will delay my decision for a while. In the meantime, I am going to buy a few bulbs from IKEA and use them for my films. I am considering either warm white 2700 kelvin bulbs or 4000k cool white bulbs (both are 1000 LMS). Do you know what would be a better option for stop-motion films?

StopmoNick said:

Fluorescent lights flicker very rapidly.  I once shot a live action miniature effect at 48 frames per second on my Bolex, and the constant flicker was horrible.  But for animation I take longer exposures, at least a half second and usually 1 to 2 seconds, and that smoothes the flicker out.  The same ceiling lights I stupidly left on for the 48fps shot were often used as ambient light for my stop motion, and it caused no problem for the animation. The lights goes on and off hundreds of times in that period, and it averages out.    But I generally use the fluoros for a very soft ambient light, so the shadows don't go too black.

I mostly still use my old halogen lights for my main lighting, but they are pretty much obsolete now.  What i see most in the disco lighting stores now are LED lights.

Your first link, a soft box.  This kind of wide light source makes the shadows soft with blurry edges.  Can be flattering.  Smoothes out textures, whereas a hard side light brings up the scales and wrinkles more.  A DOP I know uses bounce cards - reflecting the hard light from DedoLights off a big white card or cloth - for the same soft effect.   He hardly ever pointed a light directly at the puppet, on 2 different films I worked on, and one was dark and gothic and the other set in a swimming pool on a sunny day.  So I think he knows something!   I could actually do with something like that soft box, to shoot stopmo monsters for a filmmaker who has shot all his live action plates with cloudy skies so the light is soft with no clear direction.  I was using my fluorescent tube room lights for that, but they are playing up and not staying even, they brighten and darken over time.  Had to point my other lights at the ceiling instead.  These could plug in through my power conditioner, which evens out the voltage, like my other lights.

  Your second link looks like the same sort of wide based soft light, but with lots of LEDs.  Probably the preferred option.  Lower power use and probably more stable.

For my own films I usually want a harder key light, which requires a bright light from a smaller diameter source.  Especially for the look of an outdoor setting with the sun in a clear sky, you want one main source as the sun, with sharper shadows. Or for a film noir type lighting.  It might look more like this one, that I saw on one of the pages you linked to:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JQJY334/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&...

(I don't know that particular light.)  

I do use a Product Lighting kit I got cheap at a charity shop, which consists of 3 compact fluorescent lights with round reflectors on stands, and a white tent/box, the idea is to put the product inside the tent and the tent diffuses the light so it is evenly lit all over.  I don't use them that way, but they work ok as normal lights without the tent.  There is no flicker with my long exposures.  They are a cool white, so I use them mostly for fill light on the shadier side, or pointing up at the ceiling to bounce light down, with a warmer stronger halogen for the sun.  They aren't big square boxes so they are not as soft as those lights.  So even though LEDs are all the go now, and to save power our government is replacing the fluoros which previously replaced the incandescents for ordinary home lighting,  fluoro lights are still usable.

I also use 6v 30 watt halogen pinspots, which throw a very tight narrow beam of light, for backlighting and edge lighting a puppet without splashing light all over the set.  There is an LED that sort of does that, but the one I got from eBay(for under $20) has a very purple-blueish light.  Ok for moonlight, not so good otherwise. Discos use the pinspots to throw beams of light through the smoke, and to bounce off the mirror ball to make little dots of light spin around the room, so there must be a modern LED equivalent with a better light colour.  

The LED lights are good, but a little word of warning. If you dim them a long way down, they can become less stable and introduce flicker. At high brightness levels they usually will not. Especially if you use long exposure times.

I am using a mix of LED panels, spots and bulbs I have sourced. If you are buying LED bulbs, check for high CRI - colour rendition index. This means the light has no off colours and looks closest to real light. Real light e.g. daylight is 100 CRI, so bulbs at 95 CRI are very good indeed. Anything above about 85 is good. Many basic LED bulbs are lower, so it is worth paying for the better quality. I bought some online and they are excellent. I have installed some in PAR 16 cans for spotlights.

The other thing to note about LEDs is that they are often highly directional, i.e. like spotlights. So check the angle of light that you want from them.

There are now some small LED panels that can change colour for effects, and friends speak highly of them too. You can even buy 95 CRI LED strips on eBay, and this is what I have used to make my panels, with a PWM 10kHz dimmer, using warm white on one channel, cold white and ice blue on the others so I can vary the colour temperature.

Hope this helps!

Thanks, Yeah that is my plan for now. A mix of led bulbs on lamps and making my own panels with led strips. Thanks!

Simon Tytherleigh said:

The LED lights are good, but a little word of warning. If you dim them a long way down, they can become less stable and introduce flicker. At high brightness levels they usually will not. Especially if you use long exposure times.

I am using a mix of LED panels, spots and bulbs I have sourced. If you are buying LED bulbs, check for high CRI - colour rendition index. This means the light has no off colours and looks closest to real light. Real light e.g. daylight is 100 CRI, so bulbs at 95 CRI are very good indeed. Anything above about 85 is good. Many basic LED bulbs are lower, so it is worth paying for the better quality. I bought some online and they are excellent. I have installed some in PAR 16 cans for spotlights.

The other thing to note about LEDs is that they are often highly directional, i.e. like spotlights. So check the angle of light that you want from them.

There are now some small LED panels that can change colour for effects, and friends speak highly of them too. You can even buy 95 CRI LED strips on eBay, and this is what I have used to make my panels, with a PWM 10kHz dimmer, using warm white on one channel, cold white and ice blue on the others so I can vary the colour temperature.

Hope this helps!

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