Litepanels’ Caliber LED lights are a great option for shooters who have to light small scenes such as interviews, webcasts or product shots.
What’s to like? Plenty, including:
- The lights use a 2″ fresnel lens, which makes for a pleasing pool of light that, depending on the circumstances, you can use as a direct key light without shooting through diffusion.
- That fresnel lens also gives you far better shaping ability than a typical LED panel, which hoses light all over the place. You can focus the Caliber from 15 degrees spot to 73 degrees flood, and its little barn doors can cut the light reasonably well.
- The Calibers are very small and lightweight at 1.3 lbs per head, with small little power supplies not much bigger than an iPhone charger.
- The lights are also bright for their size (equivalent to a 150w tungsten bulb), and dimmable from 1 to 100% for good control without throwing off their native daylight color temperature.
- The Calibers can also run on battery power – 20% less power with six AAs, lasting just under an hour — which can helps if you’re in a hurry or away from wall sockets.
- Finally, Litepanels sells three Calibers in a 13 lb, ready-to-go kit that includes stands, clip-on tungsten gels and a compact soft case that you can easily carry over your shoulder and onto an plane.
I had a chance to play with the 3-light Caliber kit, with an eye towards using them for lighting quick, mobile interviews that still need to look good. I found that the kit definitely gave good options for lighting a variety of small scenes in different ways. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios I put together in my basement, using my longtime, trusty sidekick, Gertrude.
¼-20 mounting on the bottom and Ball mount lets you position the light in a variety of positions
All packed up, the Caliber kit weighs 13 lbs, and is easy to manage on your shoulder.
And one thing to note: I used only the items included in the Caliber kit. The kit includes three small desktop stands for mounting light heads on a table or shelf, and one traditional lightweight stand that reaches 7 feet tall. So I only mounted one of my Calibers high on the traditional stand, and kept the other lights on the ground or a rolling cart. The kit doesn’t include diffusion or bounce devices, so even though I typically use these to soften light, I went without (with pretty good results, actually).
OPTION 1 – Key light and Edge Light
I set up my key light a couple feet above Gertrude’s eye line, at a traditional 45 degree angle, dimmed to around 80% and using the barn doors to flag spill light off the black background.
To give some separation from the background, I added an edge light on Gertrude’s shadow side, set up on a rolling cart I had nearby, and then dimmed it down to about 40%.
I had a third light available, and might have turned it into a traditional hair light high behind Gertrude, but didn’t have anywhere to prop the light up in my sparse basement, so I just stuck with two lights.
OPTION 2 – Add a Background Light
Next, I decided to use that idle third Caliber for a background light, positioning it directly under the table that was supporting Gertrude, and dimming it down considerably. I also focused the Caliber a bit towards its Spot settings to narrow the light beam a bit.
In this case, the third light is just putting a pool of light on a flat paper background, but the results would have been much more interesting on a real-world background, creating nice highlights and shadows across a 3D surface.
OPTION 3 – One Key Light, Two Background Lights
I really enjoy lighting backgrounds, and often use a few lights to do it, along with barn doors to cut each light beam. So I tried the same approach here, demonstrating the flexibility that the Caliber’s fresnel lens and barn doors give you for shaping each light. You can’t cut light like this with open-faced LED lights.
I also moved my keylight position from 45 degrees to right over my camera, to fill in all of Gertrude’s shadows and give more of a high key look. As a direct, undifussed light source, the Caliber looks surprisingly good. Of course, no living subject’s skin is likely to be as smooth and featureless as Gertrude’s, but still, the Caliber can produce a pleasing look, and you can always use diffusion to soften it.
OPTION 4 – Light a Green Screen
There’s always a client who wants a green screen shot, and the Calibers can definitely handle this as long as you’re not trying to light too big of a screen.
In this case, I moved my keylight back to its tradition high, 45-degree position, but used my two other lights in flood mode on the green background. I didn’t spend much time trying to perfectly even out the brightness of the screen, because any modern NLE keyer can work with small variations you see here.
Overall, the 3-light Caliber kit gives you plenty of flexibility for small-scale shoots. You can get very good results just by sticking with the kit (as I did), but you can always add a few modest upgrades to kick things up a notch or two, such a second tall light stand, a little diffusion to shoot or bounce through, and possibly a 4th Caliber for more elaborate scenes.