In the world of daylight balanced HMI lighting, few companies compete with K5600 Lighting. With their arsenal of lights—ranging from a 200 Watt unit up to an 18 kW job, there won't be much you can't illuminate. The great thing about HMIs is that their output is almost five times that of a comparable tungsten source, but with much less power consumption.
The Joker Bug 800 Lighting Kit K5600's Joker-Bug 800 comes with an 800 Watt SE HMI head and lamp, weatherproof ballast, barn door, four Fresnel lenses, and a sturdy carrying case. The whole package weighs in at slightly less than 40 pounds, but this one light alone will do more than you might expect.
As with all HMI lights, it takes a few moments to achieve its full illumination. Although the Joker Bug 800 can be used without lenses, the pure output of the lamp is extremely bright, usually requiring some type of diffusion. At a distance of three feet (extremely close for a light of this magnitude), its flooded output is over 20,000 foot-candles. Moved to 20 feet, its flooded output is a more reasonable (and readable) 600 foot-candles. The punch of this light has never been an issue.
The support (C-Stand is recommended) is the only thing not included in the kit. What really amazes me about the Joker-Bug 800 is that its output is the same as a 4K fixture (4,000 watts) but the power draw is only 12.5 amps.
The four included lenses help diffuse the sun-like output and make the Joker Bug a brilliant backlight or bounced source. The 800 Watt lamp is rated at only 600 hours and the 25-foot cable allows a greater range of placement.
I used the 800 Watt HMI for three distinct shoots, outdoors and indoors, supplementing the sun as well as being the only source of illumination on several night scenes. The most difficult part is transporting the light to the location. Although the case has wheels, the handle on the top is awkward to hold and transport. Once there and the ballast is plugged into an AC outlet, within a few minutes you have a very controllable key source.
Wanting the "Hollywood Blockbuster" look to my projects, I used the Joker-Bug as a backlight source with reflectors and bounce cards as the fill and key illumination. Attaching a homemade cardboard Venetian Blind cookie to a gobo arm, I achieved moonlight streaming through an imaginary window.
Because of the immense power of this HMI, anything in close proximity will quickly heat up and burn. During one of our outdoor shoots, we strapped an umbrella over the lamp unit to protect it from a light drizzle. Although the ballast is weatherproof, the molten surface of the lamp would quickly crack if pelted with cold rain.
I can't recall ever using only one light to illuminate a scene. Deep in the bowels of a boiler room, the Joker Bug was extended to a height of 12 feet and with the Super Wide lens attached, gave us an F4 in a 60x40-foot room. The white walls acted as the fill source and we achieved the strong, directional illumination we were after.
Viewing the final films at a local theatre, the images on the 30-foot screen left a lasting impression because of the lighting. More than 50 people asked about the lighting—it was that amazing with only one light.
We lit a wedding scene in our chapel by bouncing the HMI off the 30-foot cathedral ceiling and lowering the camera's color temperature to achieve the warm glow.
The only negatives about the Joker-Bug 800— and this is stretching it—is the long cool down period and its price. The unit does take quite a while to cool down once it has been used for several hours. Gloves are mandatory to keep the flesh on your fingers. Our review kit, complete with lens and external cable, listed in the $10,000 range, with the lamp alone costing more than $400. But putting everything in perspective, this one unit can be your only artificial sun, or diffused to fit any situation.
This one light may just be the only light needed on your shoot. With the power to illuminate a large area; the punch to backlight almost anyone or anything; and if diffused, gentle enough for glamour work. Rarely do you get this kind of versatility in a light. If your budget allows for only one light and you have both large and small venues to illuminate—this could be your best choice.
Chuck Gloman is chair and associate professor of the TV/film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.