I give the new Lowel Blender 3 Light LED Kit a good inspection and ponder the possibilities of it being a single option portable lighting source for on-location video production/interviews. This kit offers extreme portability, dial-in color temp control and flexibility for more interview situations. For today's quick "run-'n-gun" productions, having limited time, space and setup requires a lot of flexibility - especially when you're shooting solo and your subject is on a tight schedule.
Overview of the Kit
I do a lot of on-location interview shooting and am always met with challenges of lighting my subjects and enough of their surroundings to establish the location setting. I typically try to get as much available light/natural light as possible and drag a couple lights along in case I need to fill some shadows or just add a hair/rim light for "pop". But often times, you have no idea what you'll be faced with until you get to the location, only to discover that someone's office has no windows or you're having to deal with flickering fluorescent overhead lights. Dragging all my larger studio lights, gells & scrim, stands, sandbags, etc. requires a lot more effort that just tossing a small bag in the car with my cameras, tripods and audio gear!
When I first received the review kit from Lowel, I couldn't believe how small the bag was that contained the whole kit. It's roughly about 2' long and weighs less than 20 lbs.
The kit contains the following list of items:
3 Lowel Blender LED Lights (BLN-10) with AC power adapters and diffusers
3 Lowel Light Stands (UN-33)
1 Slim Litebag (LB-24)
The Lowel Blender LED Lights are really heavy-duty with quality construction and appear to be made to leave on for extended periods of time with a cooling fanned aluminum heat sink backplate. The case is metal and has an adjustable stand mount with the option to also mount an umbrella/flag.
I was happy to see there's a separate power on/off switch as I often set my dimmable/adjustable lights to the values I need and will normally unplug them to save my setup/settings on fixtures that only dial-on/adjust. Or alternatively, using a pice of tape with a mark on for each light but that can get tacky (literally) especially when they've been on for awhile!
There are two sets of staggered LEDs in a honeycomb patterin in each Blender LED light that are controlled separately by dimmers on the back of the light housing. In the top segment are the cooler Daylight 5000K LEDs and the bottom half are the warmer Tungsten 3000K LEDs. They can be used separately or combined to dial in exatly the color temp you need to match or to create a look or an effect you're trying to achive.
In the above examples, I used the "poor man's light meter" and recorded the white balance of each setting off a white card through my Sony EX3.
The unit ships with a clear ploycarbonate lens cover and room to slide in a diffuser - which there are three sets of diffusers that ship with this kit and can be added individually or replace the clear lens and insert two diffusers in place.
Shooting with the Lowel Blender 3 Light Kit
In this example, I used what is often a very difficult set to light. Which includes tight quarters, dark/reflective surfaces and still mange to keep from blowing out skin tones and hair. With no other avilable light, I used the three Blender LED lights to give me a wide hair/overhead light (which also needed to light up much of hte piano keyboard), and higher key light over the top of the piano and then filled with the 3rd light. I also used different diffusers for each light and it's intended purpose. I've noted the amount of each LED panel and the diffuser I used in the image below:
After getting a pleasing and even color balance on my subject and setting the white balance on the camera I was able to use the in-camera Zebra to define any hot spots and make adjustments, without needing to drag out and hook up an additional HD monitor.
The finished result looks great - here's a still frame from the video captured on the Sony EX3:
The Bottom Line
I'm indeed impressed with not only the build quality of the Lowel Blender LED lights and the flexibility and portability of the mighty little lights. I look forward to testing them further with other accessories such as umbrellas, flags, gels and scrims as well as portable setups with battery power for shooting outdoors or in locations with no avilable power.
According to the Lowel website, there are various power accessories and options as well as grips, stands and mounts of all types - plus umbrellas and gel frames.
While this is obviously a quality kit that could potentially provide you years of lighting, it is a bit on the pricey side. The Lowel Blender 3 Light Kit (BLN-9340LB) lists for US $2050. from the Lowel website - which is a deal when you consider that to purchase a single Blender light kit will run you over $850. Compared to other lighting manufacturers out there, the Lowel Blender does raise the bar in quality construction.
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com