I own 2 big LED panels, 3 small LED panels, one ring light, and several light bulbs.
At the beginning of my Youtube channel I didn’t care much about lighting. I thought camera is the only thing that matters. If the camera has good low-light performance (big sensor), I won’t need much extra lighting. Well, I was wrong. I shoot videos mostly indoors where extra lighting is needed to reduce noise in the image. Also, with different lighting setups you can make the subject look 3-dimensional and emphasize details. Now, 5 years later, I think lighting is as important or even more important thing than the camera you use.
The first light I bought was Ledgo LG-B160C. This little LED panel cost 100 EUR. Later I bought two more of the same lights, one of which broke and I threw it away. I use these often as fill lights, close to the subject.
I like the concept of this light. The size is perfect for a small light. The square shape means it stays upright on its side if needed. It can output 1180 lumens, which is ok amount. Intensity and color temperature can be adjusted with two knobs that control 3200K and 5400K LEDs. Figuring out the actual temperature is a bit of a guesswork – I don’t have a measurement device, do I’ll just use my eyes see if it’s right. The biggest complaint is for the physical quality. The blue knobs come off very easily (and then drop under the table and you spend time looking for them). The DC-power input socket malfunctions sometimes and you need to wiggle the plug. One of the lights stopped working completely, probably because of the DC-input socket.
Yongnuo YN-160 III
Another small light I bought at the beginning was Yongnuo YN-160 III. It cost 57 EUR.
This one has reflective barndoors, which I suppose should be used to direct/block light somehow, but I’ve regarded them as pretty useless. Output power is 1536 lumens. Color temperature can be adjusted between 3200K-5500K. On paper this is a little bit better than the Ledgo LG-B160C, but I don’t like the buttons. There is one turn knob and four digital buttons to adjust power and temperature, needlessly complicated. When you turn off the device, the intensity and color settings are lost, I think, or you need to press the set-button to restore them. Anyway, a little bit clumsy to work with. Therefore I rarely use it.
I have two big Ledgo LG-E268C LED panel that are my main light sources. I bought them 250 EUR a piece.
The physical quality looks and feels good. The panels are lightweight (1 kg) which helps in handling them. The buttons are easy to use, one knob for adjusting intensity and another for adjusting color temperature. Color temperature can be adjusted between 3200-5600K and you can see the current Kelvin value in a small display at the back. Illumination is 2165 lumens. Both of the panels have worked for four years without problems. I can’t see any complaints.
GoDox LR120 is the only ring light I have. I bought it for creating softer shadows compared to my other small lights. It cost 60 EUR.
The light feels very cheap, e.g. the bottom angle adjustment screw in completely made from plastic. Adjusting intensity and color are done with two buttons that you need to press multiple times to get to the wanted setting – not very usable. But it does the job, creates soft shadows and provides colors between 3000-6000K. Despite the drawbacks, I use it often.
At one point I wanted a big powerful light. I bought Godox SL-60W studio light with 165 EUR. It was a big disappointment.
The light outputs 4500 lumens at a fixed 5600K color temperature. Otherwise good, but there is a noisy fan that is always spinning. I want to capture quiet Lego clicking sounds, so the fan noise it often too loud. Because of that, I’ve used the light only once in my videos.
For providing light without expensive LED panels, I’ve bought light bulbs. I found cheap home LED light bulbs from a Finnish hardware store Motonet. They provide 2000 lumen at 4000K and they don’t flicker in slow motion. A bag of two cost only 7 EUR. I bought 6 bulbs. To power the bulbs I use Falcon Eyes LH-27SU lamp holder that mounts on spigot light stands, and it also has an umbrella holder. It cost 20 EUR. Finally, I’ve attached a DiCUNO 2-in-1 E27 splitter adapter to power two bulbs on a single lamp holder.
I’m very pleased with these bulbs. They are cheap and they provide a lot of light. One bulb illuminates as much as one of my big LED panels (Ledgo LG-E268C). Also, the bulbs are small compared to LED panels, which is a benefit sometimes. They warm up in use, but not so much as to burn your hand if you touch it.
As these LED bulbs are not intended for photography, their CRI is less than 80. In comparison, my main LED panels (Ledgo LG-E268C) have CRI over 95. There is a difference in color quality between CRI 95 and 80, but it is not very easy to see in my opinion. I have shot videos with nothing but the low CRI bulbs, and the result is good enough for my little Lego builds. The biggest difference I’ve seen is the slight greenish tint on the bulbs. Usually it is small enough to not matter, but in my Lego engines video I got frustrated that the gray engines had a different tint on different sides, so I added a green paper stripe on one of the small LED panels to even out the difference.
I have two umbrella diffusers: Falcon Eyes UR-32T and Falcon Eyes UR-48T. Diameter for these is 70 cm and 100 cm and they cost 20 EUR and 25 EUR. Besides those I have a white shower curtain that I’ve used as a big diffuser.
I have also an A4 paper sheet to soften one of my Ledgo LG-B160C lights. I need it often as Lego plastic is shiny and causes unwanted reflections that a diffuser like this helps to minimize a little bit. In the image below you see a green paper stripe attached on the panel to add a green tint that will match the color of my LED bulbs.
I have 2 pieces of Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand. These telescopic light stands extend up to 160 cm height. They cost me 45 EUR a piece. They have worked well, no complaints.
Besides those I have a bunch of mini stands for LED lights, cameras and microphones. I have 5 gorillapods/monkeypods that are always good versatile stands. Manfrotto PIXI is very sturdy little tripod with a terrific ball socket on top. Benro BK15 is another one I use often, as it can be adjusted heightwise between 50…100 cm, although it is quite flimsy and falls easily. I have 3 pieces of K&M 232BK stands that are heavy and sturdy. Black Eye Filming Handle Tripod is not very good IMO, as you need to turn the rod to adjust height, and your camera will spin also.
Light bulb flickering tests
I have tested a bunch of home light bulbs to see if they flicker in 1000 FPS slow motion videos. The bulbs were bought from normal hardware stores in Finland. Here are the results:
- Incandescent Osram 60W – FLICKERS A LOT
- Fluorescent Philips TL-D G13 18W 2700K 1350lm – FLICKERS A LOT
- Fluorescent IKEA es0807g11 E27 11W 2700K 550lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
- Fluorescent Osram Duluxstar E27 14W 2700K 750lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
- LED ENERGY+ GU10 4.9W 2700K 345lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
- LED Motonet suurteholamppu E27 47W 3000K 4000lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
- LED Pirkka E27 9.4W 2700K 806lm – NO FLICKER
- LED Airam E27 20W 4000K 2452lm – NO FLICKER
- LED Motonet E27 20W 4000K 2000lm – NO FLICKER
Looks like LED light bulbs are better than fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs. Among LED bulbs, some flicker a little and some not at all. I couldn’t find any public information that will tell you which LED bulb flickers. The only way to know is to test it. I guess it depends on the AC/DC converter inside the LED bulb.
What is a good lighting setup?
I’ve done over 60 videos with many lighting setups, but still today, every time I start a new video, I’m struggling with the lighting. It feels like doing it for the first time. In other things like editing, camera usage and audio quality I’ve learned how to do them better over the years, but not lighting.
Usually I will just move the lights around, look at the camera image, move again, and stop when the camera image looks good. It takes a lot of trial and error.
Although I haven’t been able to form any clear principles, something vague I have noticed. If all the light comes from the direction of the camera (e.g. a ring light around the camera), usually the image looks flat, not good. Or if it is completely backlighted, it isn’t good. What is usually good is a key light at an angle, to paint different sides of a Lego brick with different shades. That makes the subject look multidimensional. Also, soft light is usually better than hard light. And with Lego wheels specifically, a very sharp angle is usually best as it will create shadows on the wheel’s surface and bring out all the details.
Here is an example of different lighting setups. You can form your own opinion what is good.
One problem with lighting Lego builds is reflections. Lego plastic is shiny and it will reflect the light sources. Reflections will change the color of the Lego parts to white and distract the viewer. To fix it, you can move the light position, camera position, or put the subject to a different orientation. Sometimes I’ve used a black A4 paper to block lighting from certain direction to fix a reflection.
But reflections are not always a bad thing. Here is an example, a black Lego build on a dark background. The only way I could emphasize it, so that the viewer sees the details, was to hold the piece at a certain angle to fill the entire piece with a shiny reflection.
Lighting setups in my videos
This setup I used in my early videos. Two big Ledgo LG-E268C panels lighting from top left and top right. A small Ledgo LG-B160C light is moved around, usually placed between my hands while I build things to illuminate from low front direction.
The longest 1:1 gear train. Two Ledgo LG-E268C panels are at the sides to illuminate the subject from almost perpendicular angle. They also bounce off light from the ceiling to soften shadows. As you see from shadows on the hand, a key light is on the right side. A ring light is behind the camera to add more light from the front direction.
Filming a Lego car climbing slopes. Two big Ledgo LG-E268C panels, one small Ledgo LG-B160C light and a ring light.
Making a Lego car cross gaps. Four 2000 lm bulbs illuminate from above. A ring light is near the camera at the table level. Outside the image on the right side there is a single bulb at the table level. One aim with this setup was to limit shadows from the car on the white table.
Spinning a Lego wheel fast. A key light is done with two 2000 lm bulbs with an umbrella diffuser and an A4 paper in the middle to further soften (and dimm out) the light. A fill light is Godox ring light. The small Ledgo light acts as a sidelight or backlight and it’s purpose is to illuminate the edge of the wheel.
Submarine 4.0 in a water container. Here the problem was to illuminate the inside of the container. I added two 2000 lumen light bulbs right above to container, passing light through the water surface. One little fill light was added to the front. It needed to be at certain angle on the side to remove any reflections from the container.
This is my latest video. Two light stands with umbrella diffusers and a double 2000 lumen LED light bulb. The light comes from both sides, almost perpendicular to the subject. The front side of the subject is in shadow, which adds a nice 3-dimensional quality on it, which can be seen well on the grey gear rack at the front of the build. A lot of light is bounced off from the ceiling and walls to soften shadows. The bounced light from the wall makes a reflection on the table, painting the table with a light tint, which nicely differentiates it from the dark Lego machine.
Here is my building table currently. Two bulbs, two big panels, one small panel, and a ring light.