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|| News Item: Posted 2009-04-23

VJ for PJs: Get Control Of Your Hot Lights
Myung J. Chun offers tips to unleash your inner Scorsese.

By Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles Times

Photo by
You're shooting a video assignment and you have to light the subject. You crack out the hot lights, setting up the softbox for your main with background and hairlights.

It looks beautiful!

Sort of.

The ratios are off.

You move the main light back, but now the shadows are too harsh or there's no room to move the lights. You don't have a large enough sheet of neutral density gel to cut down on the light. So how do you control the output of the lights?

Go down to your local mom-and-pop or favorite mega-super, hardware store and pick up a few lamp dimmers. Lowe's ( and Home Depot ( have 300W models for about $11. These are good for controlling hairlights and background lights or even dimming a subject's house lamp if it's in the shot.

I use these with 250W Lowel ViP Pro-lights. Do not use dimmers with fluorescent bulbs unless it's a dimming compatible bulb.

My main light, a 500W Lowel ViP V-light, is attached to a 1000W Leviton rotary dial light dimmer from Filmtools ( for about $115.

A word of caution: It's important that the dimmer wattage rating is equal to or greater than the wattage rating of the bulb or you risk melting the dimmer and causing a fire.

Photographers have always used lighting ratios when shooting portraits with strobes, so why not with our video hot lights?

Armed with these fairly inexpensive dimmers, you can now unleash your inner Scorsese.

(Myung J. Chun is a staff videographer at the Los Angeles Times. You can see sample of his work on his member page: and his space at He is also the "video guru" for all of the Sports Shooter educational programs.)

Related Links:
Myung's member page

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