I'm trying to get an idea of the brightness of halogen lights before I go and buy any. I'm going to be producing a music video and for some indoor scenes I'll need lighting. I'm on a small budget unfortunately so hiring hundreds of dollars of lighting is not on the agenda.

I was planning on getting some cheap work lights of 250W or 500W but I've heard people say that 500W lights are actually very bright and get rather hot.

If I was looking for an exposure at 1/50th of 1/100th (for 50fps shots) at f/2.8-4 at around ISO 100 or 160, will a 500W light be too bright? I obviously want the ISO to be as low as possible since I'm working with an APS-C DSLR, not a dedicated cinema camera.

I do have an ND4 filter on hand. The only remaining issue would be controlling the light from the work lights.

2 Answers 2


If anyone was curious, I managed to pick up a 400W halogen work light (supposedly delivering equivalent to 500W) and the exposure within a few metres (3-4) was spot on. I also bought a 250W halogen that I would probably use more as a fill light as it's a stop or so darker.

At f/2.8, ISO 100-320, 1/100th at 50 frames per second, the exposure on the histogram was pretty well on the money.

And the light cost me all of $20. I filmed it at 3000K (approximate temperature of halogens) using the CINEMA pf2 profile on my Canon EOS 60D. The profile produced an almost completed colour grade.


In my kit, I've got a BUNCH of halogen worklights. Maybe 2500W altogether & most of the time, they're way to bright. However, with a very basic knowledge of electronics, you can build a dimmer switch. http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2010/02/build-dimmer-switch-for-725.html is a good site that explains/shows how. Working with electricity is dangerous...make sure you feel comfortable with it. The link above is for a cheap dimmer, but for safety's sake, I usually get a 1000W dimmer similar to this: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/LUTRON-AthenaTM-Dimmer-3X755 - Not the cheapest, but then I managed to find a 12-pack of 'em on eBay for about $15.00 each a couple years back. You may have good luck with that. I also tend to overdo it on the cable as well...using 10 gauge where 12 gauge is just fine, etc. Safety, safety, safety. That solves your "too bright" issue.

Get yourself a roll of blackwrap, too...instant barndoors. :)

Good luck!

  • Yeah, while you can inevitably build barn doors to control spill, you still face the issue that they're one brightness and that brightness is well.. bright! A dimmer is a fantastic idea. How do you find the colour when they're dimmed? Does it change the frequency at all? Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 22:39
  • Excellent point that I completely forgot about. Yes, the color temp will get warmer as you dim. I've never run into a circumstance where I've gotten too warm for video's white balance setting, but if shooting film, I have a lot of CTB in my kit (color-to-blue gel) at varying densities. That'll help cool the color down. Of course, that cuts the light, too, so you need to get brighter, which leads to the need for less CTB and then you have more light...it's a balancing act. Color temp meters help find that sweet spot.
    – dwwilson66
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 0:06
  • 1
    Wow cool. Blackrap would save a lot of hacksawing, bolts and hammering hinges to resistance! Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 0:23
  • And blackwrap is smaller than a case full of barndoors, can be shaped into snoots or manipulated into complex angles and shapes to follow contours on the set, punched into a cookie, or ripped into strips as a makeshift finger. Best. Invention. Ever. It's safed my a** many times when I ran into something unexpected on location.
    – dwwilson66
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 17:34

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