Flashpoint CoolVee 7 is an inexpensive fluorescent softlight that includes a reflector and softbox, providing a lot of bang for the buck. Seven energy-efficient 32-Watt spiral fluorescent lamps illuminate in controllable groups to bathe your talent in soft, daylight-balanced light.
Flashpoint’s CoolVee 7 in use in the author’s studio
One of the great benefits of fluorescent lighting is that it pulls very little power and doesn’t heat up the studio like incandescent fixtures. For years TV operations have used fluorescents to light their news sets to keep their anchors cool as they deliver the news. Flashpoint’s CoolVee 7 gets its name from the seven different fluorescent lamps it uses to provide an output comparable to 760 Watts of incandescent lighting. The lamps used provide a 5500-degree K color temperature and four switches on the back of the housing allow you to select the number of lamps you want activated. The unit’s pebble-finished reflector focuses the lamp’s illumination outward to provide a soft, cool, almost shadow-less light on the subject. If further softening is desired, a softbox with detachable white diffusion can be used to knock down the output for totally shadow-free illumination.
The lamp weighs in at slightly more than three pounds and features a 13-inch diameter housing that’s lightweight, making it easy to transport from location to location. The lamps are equipped with Edison screw bases (just like your incandescent lamps at home) and are inexpensive to replace, costing less than five dollars each. However, you really won’t be replacing these lamps that often. When all seven of the 32-Watt bulbs are activated, the fixture draws about a third of the power required by an incandescent unit providing the same light output. That means you can leave this light on for an extended period of time, save a lot of electricity and still have the same output of an incandescent unit without the heat buildup.
One of this lamp’s best features is its low price, and when you do need to replace a bulb, the fluorescent lamps are equally inexpensive.
Whenever a new light arrives at our university, I have to compete with our students to use the product. Somehow, instinctively, they know when a new product arrives. I did get to assemble the CoolVee 7; however, this required little more than screwing in fluorescent lamps in their sockets.
Three of the rocker switches control two lamps and the fourth one activates just the center lamp. Having just one or two lamps switched on didn’t seem to offer that much light, and one of the problems with fluorescent fixtures is that the light falloff is very rapid. (Fluorescent lighting is meant to be used close to the talent—something you would not normally do with most lights.)
In setting up the CoolVee 7 in the studio, I noticed that the fluorescent lamps were warm to the touch after being illuminated for a few minutes; however, the amount of heat given off would not be that uncomfortable to talent. For the first setup, I used the CoolVee 7 “open-faced” (without the softbox attached). The illumination was soft, but still appeared slightly harsh. I found the addition of the softbox with the white diffusion provided a much more flattering light. Just as with larger lighting units, the CoolVee7 can be converted into a softer light with the use of a softbox.
I tended to keep the CoolVee 7 very close to the talent due to the rapid falloff, but that’s the purpose of fluorescent lighting. I really don’t believe units like this should be called upon to illuminate vast areas; there are other instruments designed for that purpose. A fluorescent fixture such as this is best used up close and personal.
After testing it in the studio, we took the fixture on location to produce a short video, and when shooting the lead female’s close-up I once again elected to use the CoolVee 7 with the softbox. I still got the eye sparkle I was after, but without the harshness resulting when it’s used “open faced.” I suppose the best way to describe this “harshness” is similar to the look you get when sitting by an illuminated make-up mirror.
The biggest issue I had with the Cool-Vee 7 was in trying to attach or keep the softbox attached to the reflector. Eight metal rods are used for attaching and they slide through loops in the side of the softbox, with their silver-capped ends resting along the edge of the softbox and the opposite ends sliding into a 16-inch diameter hole in the reflector. I found that sliding the metal rod ends into the reflector to enable the softbox to remain open was somewhat frustrating. While I prefer the softer look that the softbox and its diffusion provided, keeping the pins in the holes was not easy to accomplish. However, given the price and functionality of the unit, this isn’t a deal breaker.
This is an inexpensive fluorescent lighting system that will add a sparkle to your talent’s eyes without the heat buildup or power appetite associated with incandescent fixtures. I’m sure there’s a place in your lighting kit for one or more of these instruments.
Chuck Gloman is an associate professor and chair of the TV/film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wherever a portable source of soft, daylight balanced light is requred. Portable, widely controllable source that includes a softbox and replacement lamps costing less than $5.00.
Lamp controllability, energy efficient, uses inexpensive long-life fluorescent lamps
CoolVee 7 Fluorescent Light with Softbox, $150 (street price)
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