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Alien Bees - How much power??

Michael Price , Jul 27, 2004; 02:29 p.m.

I am considering is going with Alien Bees products. I mostly would be shooting at home (18' x 22') but would want once in a while to be able to rent a studio. At most I would probably never shoot more than 2 people full length. , but I am worried that I won't have enough power for the studio rental stuff. I was thinking of 2 AB800's (320ws) for main and fill and 2 more for background and hair. Do you think that this would be enough in a in the above location and a modest sized studio? The main would fire through a soft box/diffusion panel and the fill bounced into a silver or white umbrella. I would use barn doors and grids to control the hair and background lights. What do you think? Thanks in advance for your help...Mike


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Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Jul 27, 2004; 02:45 p.m.


The amount of power you need is dependant on the f-stop you want to use which is then dependent on the format (size) of film and amount of depth of field desired.

I have a question about Alien Bees. If an Alien Bee 800 is 320ws then where does the number 800 come from ?

Michael Price , Jul 27, 2004; 03:15 p.m.

I will be shooting at f5.6 - f8 most of the time I would think. I use a DSLR from Canon at ISO 100.

As for the 800 it a marketing speak for something called effective watt seconds. The actual light is 320ws or 14,000 lumenseconds.

Joe R , Jul 27, 2004; 03:16 p.m.

AB800s should have plenty of power. Some folks complain that for shooting with the light very close to the subject they have even too much power, but I disagree. You can upgrade ABs to the next model up for the price difference between models and a small fee.

Regarding the power ratings, the AB800s are 320ws, but put out 800ws (effective) with the standard reflector. More info here: http://alienbees.com/glossary.htm#effective%20wattseconds

Background lighting will probably eat up 2 of your lights (at least on white). Great company & great product.

Michael Price , Jul 27, 2004; 03:40 p.m.

As a general rule of thumb, what percentage of the main power should you plan for when lighting a background.

I realize that high key or other situations may change this.

If I have 320ws for main and fill, would a 160ws be good for background and another 160ws for hair?

Ellis Vener , Jul 27, 2004; 05:01 p.m.

"effective watt second" claims are, quite literally, meaningless.

...but put out 800ws (effective) with the standard reflector.

Which is completely meaningless, Claiming an effective watt second rating is like the joke in the movie "This is Spinal Tap" where the guitarist has an 11" position on the volume knob on his amplifier because "it's one louder than 10, man."

It is meaningless because you don't know which light they are comparing themselves to. Is it Norman/ Balcar/ Profoto/ Photogenic/ Novatron/ Speedotron Blackline/ Speedotron Brownline/ Broncolor/ Elinchrom/ Comet/ Dynalite/ Sunstrobo/ Lumadyne/ Godard/ something that isn't made anymore? and when was the comparison made.

Photogenic is the company that coined the marking term "effective watt-seconds" but they never made it clear if they were comparing their lights to older units they had made or to another brand.

Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Jul 27, 2004; 05:08 p.m.

Speaking of "Spinal Tap".... effective watt-seconds is like thinking you're going to get a replica of Stonehenge that's 20 ft. tall only to find out later that it's 20 inches tall.

Rock and Roll !

Chris M., Central Florida, USA -- , Jul 27, 2004; 06:38 p.m.

In answer to your question, yes, the AB800 units will provide enough power for almost any application similar to what you are describing. Depending on the light modifier you are using (silver or white umbrella, softbox, etc), you will need to experiment to see what f-stop setting will work (a decent flash meter will tell you with a minimum of effort). I'm using a softbox for my main light, a large white umbrella for fill, and two addtional B800 units for background and hair lights. F5.6 for groups is no problem, I often shoot at f11 or f16. These lights are plenty powerful and can be used in large as well as small studios. You'll do fine. Go shoot and have fun.

As to what ratio you need to use for background and hair lights, again, much depends on the light modifiers you'll be using, background reflectance, etc. You've got a good starting point. Bottom line, start by taking sample images using the main and fill light along with either the background OR hairlight. Look at the results and judge from there. If you've got your background and hair light placed properly (i.e., no spill from the hairlight onto the background), you can work with each light independently to figure out what works best. You may even find that your subject's hair and clothing texture/color may influence you to adjust your hair light output. Either way, now that you've got the kit, experiment with a model (spouse, etc). If you're shooting digital, you can have lots of fun making instant adjustments.

I'm no expert, but I'm learning rapidly, and the results are paying off.

.[. Z , Jul 27, 2004; 09:00 p.m.

If an Alien Bee 800 is 320ws then where does the number 800 come from ?

The company's Marketing Department. Or, more specifically, out of the department's ass.

Michael Price , Jul 27, 2004; 09:09 p.m.

To be fair to the Paul C Buff Company

They do not claim that effective watt seconds are a good measurement at all. In fact they claim that lumenseconds are a much more accurate measurement.

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