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Compact Fluorescent Lights for Video Production

If you are looking to buy lights for making videos,  you might want to consider using compact fluorescent lights.

copact flo light bulb

Compact Fluorescent lights (compact flo as they are nicknamed) are becoming popular as the new “green” way to light your home and you can find the bulbs almost everywhere now.  Their actual “greenness” has been debated, but they have many wonderful features outside of that.

Compact flo are also being used in video production and they have several distinct advantages over traditional video lights.

Traditional video lights are usually tungsten halogen.  They get HOTTER than a firecracker.  You can easily burn your fingers on them.  I even burned a hole in the wall once when I bounced the light just a little too close.  Oops.

Compact Fluorescent lights on the other hand, do not get hot.  That feature, in and of itself, makes me want to buy some.  Sitting under tungsten halogen lights is so hot as to be dreadfully uncomfortable.  They heat up the entire room FAST.  That leads to having to crank up the air conditioner, which you really can’t do while shooting video if it is not a noisy one.   Most a/cs are noisy so it stays off so you get better sound and everyone just roasts.  No fun!

Compact flo lights also use less electricity.  That’s one of the biggest things that make them a “green alternative.”   Compact fluorescent light bulbs crank out an amazing amount of light for the wattage used compared to other kinds of light bulbs.

The light given off by compact fluorescent is nice, soft and diffused.  Every compact flo light bulb I have ever seen is already diffused for you by the addition of white paint to the inside of the glass.  That does not mean you never need to add supplemental diffusion but right out of the box you have some nice diffusion.

Because they stay so cool, I have even used plain old printer paper as diffusion paper.  You can not do that with a tungsten hallogen light since you would probably start a fire.

The company Videssence is one of the leading providers of compact fluorescent light fixtures for TV and video production.  They sell both standard ceiling mount lights and portable fixtures.  They also have recessed fixtures for video conferencing rooms. (That is not an affiliate link.)

All-in-all, I think compact fluorescent lights are a fantastic addition to the world of video production equipment.  I bet that guy whose wall I burned a hole in would agree.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips

Lorraine Grula


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Lorraine Grula

Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. HI.
    Glad to hear it. Compact florescent bulbs are great in the home. I have them all over my house.
    The bulbs last longer, they stay cool and they use less electricity. Compact florescent bulbs have so many advantages over incandescent or tungsten hallogen. I’ve heard of the tungsten light bulbs getting so hot they catch people curtains on fire.

  2. Hi Michelle.
    I agree with you. I love compact florescent bulb. I have them all over my house. They have a lot of advantages.
    Thanks for reading Video Production Tips.


  3. The CFL bulbs are becoming more common/standard Michelle. I work for Home Depot and the sales reports I see show these bulbs moving out of the store more every month!

  4. Hi,
    I have always wanted to explore the possibility to use compact florescent bulb for my video production by DIY some video lighting. But I am not sure what are the color temperature and power rating for these bulbs if you can advise?

  5. Hi Jensen.
    Good to hear from you. Standard florescent bulbs are greenish on the color/white balance scale. They give a distinct green tint if your camera is not white balanced right. Compact florescent on the other hand is color balanced the same as daylight, so it is blue. Around 5400 degrees kelvin. At least every compact florescent bulb I have ever seen is blue which surprised the holy heck out of me at first. Most compact florescent bulbs give out more power per watt than other sources of light, significantly more than standard incandescent.
    I hope this helps you.

  6. Heres my take on these ‘green’ bulbs. They cost 5 to 10 times incandescent. Of initial 9 bought, 3 failed in less than 3 months. One 8Watt CFL was measured taking 85watts! 2 ran so hot they scorched the holder. They do not fit the table lamps. They cannot be used with my 5 dimmer switches. I have incandescents bought with the house 29 years ago, and still working. The mercury in the CFL’s are a serious pollution, and an expensive cleanup on breakage. THERE IS NO WAY THESE ARE GREEN ALTERNATIVES.

  7. Hi Andy
    I appreciate your comment. Here is my “take” on it. First, this post is not about the “greenness” of Compact Fluorescent, although that is briefly mentioned. It’s about how they work with video production. They do have many advantages. Incandescent bulbs have never been common in video making, so the true comparison is with tungsten halogen which was the standard for years.

    I also simply do not believe some of your assertions. Or if they are true, they are the exception and not the rule. I have had lots of experience with these bulbs and never seen one fail as you describe. Never seen one overheat as you describe. When I switched my household over to CF instead of incandescent, my electric bill went down substantially. It is true that they can not be used with dimmers and I learned that the hard way, but that is such a minor flaw as to be basically no big deal. Regular fluorescent can not be used with dimmers either. Does that make them worthless? I have several CF bulbs in standard table lamps, they fit just fine. As for incandescent bulbs lasting 29 years? Now THAT is impossible for me to believe.

    If I had to take a wild guess, I would say you are not a person interested in learning about video production, but you are someone who has an agenda who is using my blog to perpetuate falsehoods in order to satisfy your agenda. If I am wrong, I apologize, but I would bet the farm that I am right. Perhaps you work for a company that has a vested interest in keeping their market share of incandescent bulbs.

    The most GREEN alternative is good old fashioned sunlight. Open up the window shade and let the sun shine in. LEDs are also quite energy conserving. IMHO, a lot of things are touted as “green” and it is more of a marketing ploy than a scientifically based assertion. BUT, CFs DO take less electricity. MUCH less. That is a scientific fact whether you believe it or not. Incandescent bulbs have rightly been called heat-producing gadgets that throw off a little bit of light. Incandescent bulbs waste tons of energy in the form of excess heat. But as I already stated, incandescents were never common in video production. Tungsten halogen was the standard and they too give off enormous amounts of heat. The bulbs do not last long at all. They break easily. They are DREADFULLY expensive. As much as $80-$100 for a run-of-the-mill bulb.

    So although I always appreciate and welcome all ideas on the subject of video making, I will not allow my blog to be used to further falsehoods that do not even really relate to the subject matter at hand. Good day sir.

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