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Working On Movie Sets with ALZO LED Lights

April 23, 2015 4 min read

Review of ALZO 3000 LED Lights by Brian McCann, Gaffer/Grip for BLUE LINE movie production

Brian McCann

Prior to working on the movie Blue Line, I had only worked with LED light panels such as the brand Lite Panels and the cheaper ones you can buy on Amazon or Ebay. These are useful for certain situations but do not in my opinion replace a traditional “film set” light such as a 1k Fresnel or 650. I’ve also worked with the Arri L-7 C, which has some cool color options but a lot of drawbacks in my opinion, such as being way too bulky, overall bad design, and not being a particularly powerful unit. Going into the production, I was skeptical about using the ALZO LED lights alongside the tried and true tools that have been around for several decades.
On the first day of shooting Blue Line, I decided to give the ALZO LED lights a shot and was pleasantly surprised. The first scene was a day interior. We used a 1.2 HMI bounced into a 4X4 as the main light. It was a very large kitchen with action happening in several spots and shooting with two cameras. We used an ALZO 3200 LED to highlight an actress as she landed on her mark at the counter. On the ALZO 3200 LED we had the Fresnel barndoor attachment and a layer of opal on the barn doors. I was impressed that the ALZO LED could compete with the 1.2 HMI when pointed directly at the subject and not bounced. The ALZO 3200 LED was closer to the subject than the HMI, but not by very much. We also used another ALZO 3200 LED light aimed as a back light in the same scene.
Overall I was pleased with ALZO LED Lights on day one because they offered several practical advantages over the alternatives. I really like the way tungsten renders skin tones, but it can be a pain adding CTB gels. Working with CTB you have to worry about cutting output and getting rid of tungsten spill from the sides of the light. If you want to adjust the barn doors, you have to remove the gel and put it back on. If you want to dim the light, you have to deal with the color shift, then go back and figure out what CTB you need to compensate. With the ALZO LED lights I didn’t have to worry about any of this. They all matched up with the HMIs and I had the ability to dim right on the unit. I like being able to adjust the barn door freely without having to worry about gels getting in the way. If we had decided to go an alternate route and supplement the HMI with Kino Flos, we would have had to settle for a different look. I enjoyed the hardness that the ALZO LED lights could give us. With a Kino you don’t have that option. Another thing that made the ALZO LED lights better in this case was the ability to cut them with the barn doors. When shooting with two cameras, you often have to rig lights in unusual places or settle for a less than beautiful shot for the sake of more coverage. We only wanted the hair light to fall in a specific spot because if it went too high it hit one actor in a way that made the lighting on his face flat. The advantage of using a specular source such as the ALZO LED lights is that it can be cut precisely at the source. You can’t do this with a Kino, and the only other daylight source that offers this would be an HMI.

On the second day, we had a situation where the ALZO LED lights were uniquely equipped to pull off what we wanted. We were shooting in a basement, and the DP wanted a sunlight streaming in look from a small window. The window was just below ground level, and on the outside there was a sort of gutter made from half of a metal culvert turned vertically to make a nook for the window. The nook was just big enough to undersling a joker 1200 and fit it inside. However, the Joker couldn’t be put there safely without burning the side of the house. The ALZO 3300 LED was small enough to fit in the space and produces very little heat, so we went with that instead of the HMI.
We had a day at a convenience store where the owner did not want us to use his power outlets. Our generator was a Honda 2000. Normally this would not be enough power to light a daylight interior, but with the ALZO LED lights we had more than enough from this little generator to power 4 or more ALZO LED lights.
When I was introduced to the ALZO LED lights, I was worried about the fan noise. Over the course of the movie production the sound guy never complained about it. The low noise ALZO 3200, we just used like any of the other lights and never really needed its low noise capability since they were all sufficiently quiet. On a side note, we took to calling the ALZO 3200 Low Noise “the borg” since it looks nothing like a light and a lot like the spaceship of the borg from Star Trek.

As far as the car mount goes I don’t know if I can comment much about it since I don’t have much car mount experience to compare it to. The price seems pretty good for what it is. I only rigged it once myself and thought it worked fine. The time I used it the camera was rigged next to the wheel getting a super low shot. The car mount was versatile enough to be rigged in any position on the car where it could stick. I like that the suction cups can have a baby pin mounted to them. This way you could mount them anywhere and use arms and gobo heads to design your own rig. When I rigged the car mount low, I used an arm coming off a clamp on the door for added stability.

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