Pipe Lighting developed a new inflatable LED lighting system that may change the face of lighting cinema. As a director of photography, I’m obsessed with emulating specific light quality. In fact, I’m constantly in search of light that produces an amazingly soft quality that wraps nicely, along with how easily it can be controlled so it doesn’t fly all over the place. However, I also prefer something that’s lightweight.
These reasons are why I created my (now legendary) batten lights. At first, my colleagues couldn’t understand my obsession with them. Especially since they looked like I built them in my garage – which I did.
Not only do I personally try to innovate the landscape of cinematography, but I also celebrate those companies and products that help us elevate our craft. That’s why the company Pipe Lighting and its innovations in LED lighting technology drew my interest.
Here’s my complete review of Pipe Lighting and how their lighting products transformed how I light.
PIPE LIGHTING SETUP
Pipe Lighting developed an inflatable light that you inflate in a matter of seconds. It comes with its own little compressor and works just like you would blow up an air mattress. Although, what you are inflating is a diffusion that is very much like magic cloth. It just requires one person to inflate the light.
Here’s what’s inside each unit:
- Lamp head
- Color temperature and brightness controller
- Mount system (baby pin plate)
- Power cable
- Lamp head cable extension
- Full side-skirt
- Air pump
- Transportation bag
- Soft grid (*supplied separately)
I like how Pipe Lighting lights have 100 feet of head extension to give you plenty of room to work with. Additionally, they have DMX so you can channel to your dimmer board, they range from 2600 Kelvin to 5700 Kelvin, and have a beautiful source.
What I also like about these lights is how they include a skirt that you can attach with Velcro. They also extend and you can coat them with bleach muslin, or make your own skirt with ultrabounce – so, it’s black on the outside and white on the inside. Plus, it also has an egg crate that Velcros to it in case you want to contain that light even more.
Pipe Lighting’s sources don’t have hotspots. By comparison, you can feel the heat even with the thickest diffusion on each one of the SkyPanels in the softbox. Since Pipe Lighting lights have a bed of LEDs in them, they fill the space and shape of your desired Pipe Lighting size.
PIPE LIGHTING SIZES
- PIPE 2 (65 x 35 x 20)
- PIPE 4 (135 x 35 x 20)
- PIPE 8 (260 x 36 x 20)
- PIPEWIDE 44 (125 x 125 x 20)
- PIPEWIDE 63 (180 x 90 x 20)
- PIPEWIDE 84 (240 x 120 x 20)
What Pipe Lighting has done is place a bed of LEDs in their product. In the PIPEWIDE 84 (a 4×8 source), for example, it has an output of two ARRI SkyPanels. It’s double-diffused inside and weighs around five pounds and emits soft light without additional diffusers. Plus, it comes with an aluminum frame infrastructure so that you can easily mount it. However, you don’t need to use it.
Pipe Lighting lights are waterproof and are operative in any weather condition. You can control the light with CRMX/wireless DMX and it includes a professional CRI index.
Pipe Lighting units give you the flexibility to move the camera and serve as a quick and effective top light. That said, you don’t need to use them only for top light. I’ve actually begun to use these units as sources for lots of different scenarios.
Typically when pushing a source through a diffusion, you’ll get a hotspot (unless you’re working with magic cloth). But the Pipe Lighting light quality is so beautiful and wraps so nicely that it makes the reflection of the eye gorgeous. It provides a consistent band of white reflection that looks beautiful in the eyes.
It’s also great to actually fly directly over the camera slightly above eyeline for a beauty look. Then, you could shape it with flags if need be. I feel like the 4×4 is the perfect unit for this. I chose the 4×8 unit because of its versatility in dining room and kitchen scenes (i.e. the kitchen table where we captured multiple coverage).
HOW I COULD HAVE BENEFITED FROM PIPE LIGHTING
On the film A Casa Tutti Bene (There’s No Place Like Home), we built a very large softbox for the dining room scenes. This enabled us to shoot two or three cameras simultaneously from any direction.
The film’s director Gabriele Muccino wanted to shoot six to seven pages of dialogue that day. This was before I discovered Pipe Lighting. We used SkyPanels, Celeb 30s, and Select 30s in the softbox. So, we constructed a 5×20 softbox that was suspended over the table with 19 actors beneath it.
Learn more about how I lit A Casa Tutti Bene as well as about blocking, lighting, and composition.
We were on a very tight budget so could only afford three SkyPanels. Imagine if we had the option of Pipe Lighting back then? We could have produced just as beautiful light as we did but for a fraction of the cost. I would have used three or four Pipe Lighting units without the need for a massive grid.
PIPE LIGHTING: LIGHTWEIGHT AND EASY TO RIG
Pipe Lighting lights are highly versatile and simple to use. For instance, you can rig them with a gobo head and a c-stand. They don’t require steel pipe, junior pipe clamps, and a massive grid to support them. Instead, you can fly them from scissor clips.
When you’re in search of light quality and quantity, you must also consider weight. Ultimately, you want beautiful quality that can also be easily rigged and suspended in ceilings, drop ceilings, etc. Pipe Lighting provides incredible quality without the extensive rigging, piping, and grid in order to suspend it.
Each unit comes with its own travel bag that makes it compact and manageable to pack and store.
The advantages are considerable.
- Ultimate power-to-weight ratio
- Soft light without any additional diffusers
- Waterproof and functional under any weather condition
- Each unit is compact and supplied with its own travel bag
- CRMX/wireless DMX control
- Professional CRI-Index
- Noiseless passive cooling
Here’s an interview DIYPhotography did with Pipe Lighting CEO Eduard Bochanov at IBC 2022.
PIPE LIGHTING SUPPORTS CINEMATIC STORYTELLING
Back when I first started, the state of cinematography was more conventional. But today, more cinematographers are pursuing complicated camera maneuvers like oners and immersive camera angles that place you in the headspace of the characters you’re watching.
To get what you want, it takes man-hours and money. Let’s take Holidate, for example. We were rigging three S60 SkyPanels on stage. I asked the grip department to construct 4×8 foam core structures with an inch-square rail. They built the three frames that are required with one at:
- The top
- For the diffusion
- The bottom for the skirt
There are two rails and they basically build a rectangle box and then they coat it with Ultrabounce. And then we add our three SkyPanels.
In another scenario, we had a set that had six of the 4×8 softboxes in the foyer, the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen.
Guess what? Now, those can all be replaced by Pipe Lighting. It only takes one electrician to inflate them and a grip to rig them. They don’t have to get one-inch square stock, make all these frames, buy all the ultrabounce material, build them all, rig them all, etc. So, now, you’re saving work days while getting a light quality that feels superior to the SkyPanels in the softbox.
When it’s all said and done, you are battling the budget with labor. That’s because the gear is somewhat cheap compared to what it takes to employ the technicians to make it happen (like my grip friends). So, you must find specific lights that not only deliver the same quality as described above but also saves you time.
HOLIDATE LIGHTING SCENARIO
On Holidate, it was my mission to break the mold of the stereotypical Rom-Com. Classically, romantic comedies are shot with an over-over and a 50/50. Then, you would pick up another situation with the same scenario.
However, on Holidate, I wanted to immerse the audience with a more dramatic camera movement. So, when Sloane (Emma Roberts) entered the house, we followed her in and wrapped around her, then went profile, bringing her into the kitchen and setting the whole scene.
What I found is the 2×8 and the 1×6 Pipe Lighting units work the best in foyers. If you settle with a Chimera pancake or a small, little top source, the actors will have skull eyes when they enter.
A foyer is typically six feet wide (or like a smaller hallway), so the aforementioned sizes work best. Then, you can skirt it so all the light that is projecting out away from the door fills their eyes so they like nice and don’t experience shadows in their eyes.
LOVE HARD LIGHTING SCENARIO
On Love Hard, I also could have utilized Pipe Lighting to support our immersive camera work. That way, we could move throughout Natalie’s (Nina Dobrev) apartment, go down the hall into her bathroom and bedroom, and rotate around her in the living room.
There were many times when Natalie is at the dining room table when a conversation ensues. So, we would move around the table with a dolly all 180 degrees while they made gingerbread houses. This required top light and Pipe Lighting would have made it simple and, most importantly, supplied an amazing soft source of light.
WHY USE PIPE LIGHTING?
From its beautiful light quality to its affordability and versatility, Pipe Lighting is the future. I have always championed the tools that are not only the future but are available to the masses. Just look at my work with the DSLR Revolution.
Whether you’re a Do-It-All filmmaker or someone like me filming feature films, Pipe Lighting technology is what you want in your kit.
- Amazing Light Quality
- Very affordable
- Requires fewer technicians and labor
- Saves lots of time
- Allows you to film multiple cameras with ease
You will save a ton of time rigging while still getting the same output of industry-standard lights. And the great thing about having more output is you have the power to always dim it down. So, the bottom line is that I’m going to be incorporating more Pipe Lighting lights into my lighting arsenal. It’s a slam dunk for saving time, money, and labor.
-Review by Shane Hurlbut, ASC