Designed for portability for the independent videographer shooting interviews, quick setup talking head studio shots or even portable green screen, Fiilex P-series LED lights provide a wide range of flexibility to match ambient lighting or provide enough light to give a decent single-subject studio shot on their own. With their proprietary Dense Matrix cluster LED design, and full-spectrum color tuning in a quality built fixture, I test a kit with two P360 lights and two P180E lights with all their accessories in different scenarios and see how they compare to standard multi-element LED lighting.
What Makes the Fiilex LED Lighting System Different?
Technology. And years of experience.
Seriously, when I was contacted by Fiilex (pronounced FEE-lex, like the cat) to review their P Series lights I was slightly intrigued by a newcomer to the market but also a bit hesitant to jump on yet another lighting review right now. After all, I’ve been pretty happy with the Lowel Blenders and the various LED panel lights I’ve used for portable systems to date. What would this manufacturer have to offer that’s so different? It just so happens that their corporate HQ is only 15 minutes from where I live here in the North East SF Bay Area – right near a favorite spot I like to fly my quadcopters, so I thought I’d at least go meet with them and see what it’s all about.
I soon discovered after meeting with them about their long 27-year history of fiber optic and photonic development under their parent company, DiCon – that Fiilex made their public debut for the brand a little over a year ago but the development of the Dense Matrix LED took years in the making. Fiilex is not only manufactured in-house but the entire design, development, engineering, production, manufacturing, distribution and marketing is all handled internally through Fiilex. They have control of each product’s design and development every step of the way and since they create their own LED technology instead of taking off the shelf components as all the competition does these days, they have a quality product that is unmatched.
Since I totally geek out on technology and well-engineered products, I ended up spending the entire afternoon at Fiilex and getting a tour of their facility where much of their R&D is done. What makes the Fiilex P-series lights unique is their Dense Matrix LED. According to their website, The compact placement of LEDs results in a powerful array that is no bigger than the size of a dime and is easily adaptable to a variety of applications. Integrating patented high-brightness LEDs into the unique chip-mixing pattern, Dense Matrix LED produces a bright and color tunable specular light source with superior CRI and smoothly mixed spectrums. By grouping a number of high power LED chips together, Dense Matrix LED emits intense specular light. Using the Dense Matrix LED, the P360 has the ability to smoothly tune the spectrum of light, producing any color temperature of white light with high CRI.
So what this means is compact size, high-output and a quality of light that is easily shaped with a variety of brilliantly designed and well engineered accessories. Even the cooling fans were acoustically dampened in their design to minimize any interference with on-set mics picking them up – even when you have several of them running.
The Fiilex P360 incorporates a 90-watt platform that makes the unit one of the highest powered LED continuous light sources for its size (4″ x 4.7″) and weight (1.6lbs). With DiCon’s patented Dense Matrix LED, the array places 50 diodes into a space smaller than a dime, with a glass optic in front of the array to emulate a single point light source.
I found that two of these lights can either completely light my foreground subject with the accessories as I will show on the next page, or by themselves to fully light a portable green screen for a single character torso shot. With the right materials, you may not need more than about 70% power from these two lights to achieve a good background light.
When shooting interviews and on-location with available light, you can quickly adjust the color temperature of the ambient light and get a solid match even if you’ve already white-balanced your camera to the scene. While the P Series lights come with an AC power supply, you can operate them off a 12v battery pack system or a cigarette lighter adapter in your vehicle.
- Dimming (0%, 10 -100%)
- Tunable CCT (3000 – 5600K)
- Full Spectrum Light Quality – No Spikes
- Single Point Dense Matrix LED Light Source
- High CRI (>90) at any Color Temperature
- Flicker Free at any Frame Rate
- Lightweight, Compact, Easy for Travel
- Low Power Consumption and Cool to Touch
- Compatible with Broadcast Batteries
- 2 Year Warranty
- Size (without Barndoor) 4″ (Diameter) x 4.7″ (Length)
- Weight (Include Yoke) 1.6 lb / 0.74 kg
- LED Dense Matrix LED
- Thermal Design Advanced Vapor Cooling System
- CCT 3000K to 5600 K Continuous Tuning
- CRI >90 to 95
- Power Consumption 90W Max.
- Input 12 to 28 V DC
- AC Adaptor 100-240V AC, 50 / 60Hz (In) / 24V DC , 90W max. (Out)
- Operating Temperature 0 – 40° C / 32° – 104°F
What I was really impressed with was the full-spectrum color tuning. Unlike typical LED panel lights where the color temp is adjusted by increasing/decreasing the output to dual-colored LEDs – thus varying the amount of light output and affecting your exposure controls and light setup, the P Series lights can vary the color temperature at the dense cluster LED behind the single lens, so the light output doesn’t ramp up or down, nor do you get the dreaded “multiple shadow shift” (see the shadow comparisons on Page 2).
Below is the extreme range of color variance of the P Series lights (3000k – 5600k) shotagainst a white Cyc wall with no ambient lighting in the studio.
The P180E is a 40-Watt Color Tunable LED platform that is built to cater to the versatile world of ENG lighting application within the news gathering and broadcast communities. Equipped with an on/off camera mounting option, the P180E can also simply and effectively be used as an accent light to liven up a scene or light an interview. Thanks to Fiilex’s recognizably unique technology, all of this can be packed within a mere 1.2 lbs and smaller than a can of soda.
I found these little dynamos great in a variety of uses – whether giving me a great hair light or providing a soft keylight for low-light shooting or an effect for shooting against a green screen. There would be times where just a P180E would be enough light for on-camera run-n-gun reporting/interviewing, or on-location for fill light.
And they’re even weather resistant! Check out this amazing video from the Fiilex website testing this light in action:
With some easy-to-attach accessories, there’s literally nowhere the P180E can’t go. Shown below from top to bottom: Barn Doors, Fresnel Light and Dome Diffuser with the extension. I’ll cover more on these accessories on the following page.
The Fiilex P Series Light Kit and Accessories
The folks at Fiilex put together a nice kit for me to test along with some additional accessories so I could try a couple different lighting scenarios using only their P Series lights. The kit included two P360 lights with barn doors and stands, plus two P180E lights with barn doors and another stand. This all fits neatly inside a tough Gator-style rolling case that also holds the power supplies and accessories. One of the P180E lights also had a cold-shoe mount for quick ENG mounting to your camcorder or cage. I used it on my boom stand to use as a hair light.
*UPDATE: Fiilex now offers this exact same kit on their product web site listed as the Fiilex K411 Lighting Kit (2x-P360, 2x-P180E)
Fiilex was very clever in designing their accessories as well, since they ALL fit the various sized lights they make. With exception of the Speedring and the separate barn doors, all the lenses and diffusers are magnetic and attach in the center of each fixture just over the LED lens. The various accessories that I tested for the P Series lights were the Fresnel Lens, Dome Diffuser, Speedring, Softbox, Gel Holder Extension, Dome Diffuser Extension, Cold Show Mount, Umbrella Holder Bracket.
So lets see how these accessories worked together in various shooting scenarios…
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I used a combination of accessories to create specific lighting styles and textures and was quite pleased at the results.
Starting with the design of the Barn Doors that come with each Fiilex light, I was impressed at the design and build quality of these all-metal doors with solid hardware and a sturdy fit and finish. This seems on-par with Fiilex’ build quality overall in all their products as I worked with them for a couple of weeks now. Even with the Dome Diffusers, they can provide glare control from the camera lens and will still shape the light significantly. This is most notable when there’s no other accessories attached to the lights or with just the Fresnel lens attached.
The Dome Diffuser both with and without the extension (shown side by side above) creates a brilliant diffused and wide area light. I used this for both lighting the background behind my subject on a Cyc wall and at close range on the green screen tests.
The Fresnel Lens give a beautiful focus spotlight on the background while focusing an intense light on the subject. I also found that the extension that comes as part of the Gel Adapter ring, allows you to magnetically attach the Fresnel Lens and gives an even tighter focused light. The falloff on the sides of the spotlight are beautiful and can only be achieved with optics such as these. All of these accessories work on either the P360 or the P180E lights.
The collapsible Softbox and Speedring for the P360, setup is a snap. The Speedring attaches to the same tabs that hold on the barn doors, so obviously those need to be removed first.
The Softbox pops-out and you can insert and attach dual baffles to give a very subtle and soft fill light on your subject or to create soft environment in your scene.
This example shows the P360 at full power as the solitary light source to demonstrate the pattern of light and the softness of the shadow on the wall behind the subject.
Using a combination of these accessories in the studio with no ambient light available, I was able to get a nicely balanced lighting for a single subject.
Light and Shadow Comparisons
To demonstrate how each light accessory on the P360 affects shadows and to compare with two other popular LED light manufacturers. Especially notice the multiple shadows thrown by the Lowel Blender (with only the clear lens cover attached) and the pinched shadow created by the Flashpoint 500 LED panel. These tests are of solo lights with no other lighting or ambient light available:
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Portable Green Screen Tests
Of course, being the author of The Green Screen Handbook, I naturally want to test any light kit I get to see how it might handle a portable setup on location in a client’s office, garage, hotel room or back stage at an event. While the backdrops can be fairly portable, the lights tend to be much more cumbersome to manage, especially when traveling and in tight quarters.
Since I’ve got access to two different kinds of green screen material, I was able to run two separate tests and the Fiilex kit that I had was flexible and adaptable to different lighting conditions.
First I set up with a typical generic “pop-up” green screen backdrop. Since the color range of these materials are several stops duller and more toward the blue range with a touch of red in them, you have to blast them with much more light and more toward the warm side to compensate. In this case, I sued the two P360s with the Dome Diffusers on fairly close to the screen (approximately 2′ back and off to the sides). I then used one of the P180Es as a hair light on a boom and the other as my key light at a distance. Since I was going to composite this image into a city night background, I didn’t need a lot of light, but had I wanted something much brighter, I would have required two additional P360s to light my subject as well as the one P180E as a hair light (5 lights total).
To check lighting evenness on the green screen background, you have to measure the light either with a scope attached to your camera feed or use a tool like the Greenscreener App on an iPad, as I have here, using the iOgrapher Mobile Media Case to hold it in position to get a reading:
This shows me that I’ve got a clean, useable lighting area around the subject’s head and shoulders and could get a good key is there was minimal movement. The P360s were at about 90% power with the Dome Diffusers – any brighter and we would start to get hot spots near the center and uneven falloff around the edges. This test was shot with a Canon 60D with an 18-135mm zoom lens and capturing video at 1080p/30.
My next test setup utilized the Composite Components Digital Green material that I stretch to a portable frame made of PVC tubing. This is my go-to portable green screen setup when I’m shooting individual subjects and on-camera talent. Since it’s considerably brighter and a truer green than your typical generic pop-up and cloth background materials, we can move the lights farther away from the background and take off the Dome Diffusers and get a much broader surface area lit.
Here I have the P360s moved away from the screen backdrop about 6′ and off to the sides a couple feet each direction and were at approximately 80% power. I used the barn doors to keep the light from spilling onto my subject – something that’s difficult to do with wider panel LEDs or even fluorescent lighting fixtures.
Using the Greenscreener App again on the iPad, I can see that my coverage is great, even at the highest quality range.
Another tool I use to check not only the evenness of the green screen lighting but to make sure my green is in the proper level and exposure is the CineMeter App by my colleague and fellow ProVideo Coalition writer, Adam Wilt, which runs on the iPhone. This means I always have my meter with me!
You can see by this screenshot that my green screen levels are right where I want them – with the green right above 70 and good definition between the green channel and the blue/red:
This test shot utilized the two P360s for the screen, one P180E for the hairlight and one P180E for my keylight with the Dome Diffuser. This was shot on a Sony EX3 with the Fujinon zoom shooting 1080p/30.
I’ve found the Fiilex P Series LED lights to not only be a good portable solution for on-location shooting, but I’d have no problem adding several to my studio for regular production shoots. Their size-to-light output ratio is far superior to larger panel lights and there’s much more flexibility, especially with the various interchangeable accessories. The design is brilliant and the build quality is supherb. These defintiely have the “look and feel” of a quality light and with the projected lifespan of these lights, and the 2-year manufacturer’s warranty, you’ll no doubt get a return on your investment in little time.
I also look forward to testing their new, larger Q500 lights in the near future and will be posting an updated review at that time. Also look for my Green Scree Workflows full-day workshop at NAB in April this year as I will be taking this kit with me to do live demos of the shot examples shown in this article.
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