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Lowel's Rifa: One Versatile Light

by Charles Robert

TAMPA, FLA. I've seen a lot of technology come and go, but one of the constants that I still use when I'm out in the field shooting commercials has remained the same: Lowel lights. When I started out doing commercials as a production assistant, I had to lug around a heavy, fully loaded Lowel Omni kit. I used the Omnis in a traditional three-point lighting setup and they would cast harsh shadows if you didn't diffuse or bounce their output. For interviews or in-studio talent, I would add an amber gel to the backlight Omni to add a touch of color to the light falling on the subject's hair and shoulders. I began using Rifas when I joined WMOR-TV.

Charles Robert Although the Lowel Rifa kit lacks some the accessories that the Omnis have, it's perfect for about 90 percent of what I shoot these days. The Rifas are very easy to set up, and in the field it all comes down to setup time. I still keep the Omni instruments, but now they're used almost exclusively for throwing patterns on a room or studio wall, or for adding additional background light to scene that's too dark.


Sometimes I have the luxury of working with a skilled crew and sometimes I don't. That's when I become a one-man band, doing my own setup and lighting operations. When I'm lucky to have a crew set up gear, we try to minimize our footprint at the client's location so that we don't interfere with their business. Our hosted movie sponsorship production setup consists of two cameras with field prompters and Lowel Rifa lights.

The lights in our Rifa Triple Soft kit come in three sizes and provide many advantages. First, they're lightweight and easy for new production assistants given only a minimum of instruction to set up and tear down. Second, the Rifas throw out a nice soft light, and that's worked wonders on many occasions where I've done beauty shots of food at restaurants. Third, the Rifas are very durable in the field. However, just like everyone else, we do have an accident every once in a while, but I keep spare parts and am always able to repair things myself.


The Rifas are really versatile when you use your imagination in a lighting setup. On one shoot, we tried to figure out the best way to do a handheld talent shoot in a crowded kitchen with the camera following the talent. Of course, during the pre-production planning meetings no one mentioned doing this type of shot, so we hadn't planned for it. Fortunately I had a top light post in my camera bag and I took the smallest Rifa (LC44) and mounted it on top of the camcorder. With a production assistant handling the power cord, we were able to pull off our shot and make everyone look good.

Once again, the Rifa fixtures saved the day. They're really an important part of my lighting kit.

Charles Robert has been working in broadcast television since 1986 and has been with WMOR-TV since 2004. He may be contacted at

For additional information contact Lowel-Light Mfg. Inc. at 800-334-3426 or visit