When I reviewed Flolight’s Bladelight earlier this year, I found it to be a refreshing take on the traditional square LED panel with which I’ve long become jaded. The new form factor opened up some refreshing possibilities. And now things get even more interesting. Flolight also sells a green LED variant which has piqued my interest immensely. The housing and everything is the same as I’ve already commented on, but the green LEDs open up a whole new world of green screening possibility. I asked nicely for one to review.
Using green lights on green screens is fairly common practice. The most exciting prospect for me, however, comes not from lighting a green screen more green, but from making a white wall green! This has, historically, never been an enjoyable experience, though I’m sure a lot of us have tried it. With tungsten halogen lights you gel your light green, and often get uneven saturation in the light output, hot-spotting, spill, burned out gels, and a major issue where the brighter the light gets the less saturated the green becomes. Like I say, I don’t think the benefits outweighed the drawbacks for halogen lights. Green kinos, maybe, but if you don’t have the luxury of having dedicated green Kinos already mounted then changing the bulbs in your fixtures is often equally unenjoyable, and in a smaller size studio like mine the kino footprint has always been a little unwieldy. I was very curious to see how these little Bladelights would work as I’ve not yet tested a high quality green LED of serious output power in this way. I have a rolling green screen mounted to the ceiling of my studio (see pic below) but using it often requires letting it hang to remove/reduce creases or, at worst, steaming it for a wrinkle free background. With just two of these Bladelights mounted vertically on either side of a 15′ white wall, I was able to get a very even and instantly crease-free glowing green backdrop by just flipping a switch. What’s more, the stackable nature of the Bladelights means I could easily slide this one next to the daylight Bladelight and just swap the power cord to go between daylight and green! Suffice it to say I am very very pleased. I now have a solution to very quick and very clean keying.
Now, it must be said that the obvious caveat is that this will only work for tighter shots since a full body shot would require too much green light around the talent to cover where their feet touch the floor. Better to stick with standard lights on a green cyc for full body. My point here, however, is that there is often a huge need for an even, wrinkle free green field on a quick shot with minimal setup time. Turning on a light is about as quick as it gets.
I at first wondered if the abundance of green light would increase my problems with spill. I’m happy to report that I haven’t found it to be a problem more so than with traditional lighting of a green screen. The same solid advice of keeping the subject as far in front of the screen as possible applies. That said, lighting for green screen is tricky because you want the background as separated as possible, but don’t want to affect the edges of your subject. While you could theoretically pump the light on the background up to get more luma definition, the excessive lightwrap and spill will really weaken your edges. General practice usually puts green screen backdrop lighting at around 60 IRE, but some experience on the keying side and a good monitor complete with waveform and a display large enough to see your edges will be your best bet. On that note, lets look at the green channel specifically since that’s the channel which usually holds the most detail and will be the biggest motivating factor in driving the quality of our key. All keying software varies in its approach, but it’s essentially comparing the R, G and B channels against each other so it’s valid for us to do the same. I was curious to see how much of a difference I could get with and without the lights on an already-green screen. See the image below for the difference between the green screen with and without the green Bladelights. The red channel displays an enormous amount of, very key-able, contrast. Like I say, having used them for some time now, I can say definitively that my main use-case scenario will be using the green lights on a white wall, but my experimenting also shows improvement when lighting a traditional green screen with the green Bladelights.
The way I’ve chosen to mount my green Bladelights does an enormous disservice to them. For convenience more than anything, I’ve hung them vertically from the ceiling at a height that just allows for someone my size to walk beneath them. This puts them will above the ideal half-way point that would provide for more even lighting. I’ll put two images below that emphasize the brightness disparity between the top and bottom of the key. Compare the green at the bottom of the first image to the top of the second and you’ll quickly see what I mean. A bit of experimentation on just how to angle the lights to their falloff reduces this helps a lot, but I include this extreme example to show how an unusually fast setup (you can see how little effort I made to clean up the studio) with less than a second of setup time (however long it takes for me to hit the key combination that turns on the green Bladelights) can still yield a very key-able result.
A bit of repositioning yields a more even field vertically. You can “roll” the camera 90 degrees and use a waveform to check just how even you are, but the frame below, while still not perfect, responded very well in post. Like I say, for two small lights I am more than happy with this result. For those looking for a more even spread of light, I believe FloLight also sells a cyc light which would incorporate all the above-mentioned green light goodness with increased simplicity.
I have now used these on multiple shoots, from traditional commercial work to near spur-of-the-moment Facebook live and YouTube videos. For a smaller studio like mine, inevitably wearing many hats and often times required to work quickly on a variety of projects, these things are miraculous. For YouTubers who don’t have the space for a studio but do have a white wall life just got a whole lot easier. The green Bladelights impress me every time I turn them on. And in post, pulling a very simple key only perpetuates my bliss. Until light field technology comes of age I have found green screen heaven and look forward to using these on many a shoot to come.