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Common Lighting Equipment Terminology

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/7/2013

Some lighting equipment have interesting nicknames. Learn what to call video equipment used in lighting for film and video.

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    Film Lighting Terms

    The gaffers department, and the lighting department in general on a film production set, maybe be one of the most jargon laden areas of the entire film and digital video industry. There are so many different strategies and equipment pieces used in common film and video lighting that it takes a clear understanding of the terminology to be able to work there. Here is some of the most prevalent terminology used for lighting equipment on film and digital video productions by grips, directors of photography, and gaffers.

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    Specific Lights

    The power of lights are measured in wattage. This wattage of lighting equipment runs in the hundreds to thousands, for larger lights. If a light is listed as a "300" then it is a 300 watt light, and not very powerful. "K" means thousand, so if something is listed as a "5K" then it is a pretty powerful five thousand watt light. Even in this set up there will be some alternative phrases for these specific lights.

    A 2K spotlight is often called a Deuce or a Junior, while a regular 2K will be called a Blonde. A Redhead is similar to a blonde, but typically only has 800 to 1000 watts. If you are using an MHI that is 400 watts you may here it called a Joker, and a Bug Light for a 200 watt HMI. If you have a 100 watt incandescent spotlight you may call it an Inky Dinky.

    There are several specific lights that come in with their own technical video equipment nickname. A Basher is a specific small light that may be either 500 or 250 watts. There is a very big carbon arc spotlight that is around four feet across that is correctly called the Brute. A Kino light that has a four inch by four foot surface space will be called a Fat Man. Likewise, a two inch by four foot Kino is a Thin Man.

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    Barn Doors

    For almost all portable lights that you bring into an environment, and studio lights that will be built in to your sound stage, they will have Barn Doors. Barn Doors are metal sheets that are used to close of against the light or limit the amount of light coming out. They look like barn doors in a sense, so the name is fitting.

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    Even the smallest things have their own slang word on a video or film production. A clothespin that is used for clamping down lights its call a CP-47. These CP-47s will be used often for connecting attachments to lights, like gels and colored items. If you reverse the spring you can call the CP-47 a CP-74.

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    A Cookie is something that you may use a lot when you want to break up the light source that you are using. The Cookie, which is a clever shortening of cucaloris, is an object that has a number of creatively positioned holes in it. This could be a silk screen, a wooden surface, or anything else that is used to promote a pattern on to the surface that you are pointing it at.

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    Special Video Lighting

    Often times you need special film lighting equipment for specific types of situations in your story space. A Light Gag is when you use an off screen lighting technique to create an effect on the set, such as the image of car lights passing by. A Gumball is when you use a police light or mimic the police light with other lights. A Practical is simply a light that is actually in the frame of the shot. The Practical would be a light that would likely appear in the story space, such as a lamp. The Practical does not usually give any significant light, though you would make it look as though the light in the situation is coming from the Practical.