Video Calling 2: Commercial Lighting Solutions

Polycom HDX-4000 CompositeI have seen the light…and you can, too! As I described previously, I’ve been making use of a lot more video calling in my working life. Even beyond that fact, some have said that I’m occasionally in the dark.

After some attempts to use locally existing lighting, both natural and artificial, I determined that I need some lighting that’s specifically for my use of video. My first instinct was to ask a question of my followers on Twitter, since some of those are active in the realm of video conferencing and calling.

I also reached out to some people in the broadcast space, including photographers and lighting directors. I took the answers provided and added a little of my own online research.

There has a risen a question of why my workspace is as dark as it happens to be at times? Early in my career I was an online editor. At that point I spent most of my working life in dimly lit rooms working on the final assembly of commercials and longer video programs. The forest green color on my office walls is in fact borrowed from the design one of my favorite editing suites.

Given two sets of terrace doors and a skylight, my office can be very bright. The availability of that natural light varies by time of day, and also by time of year. What is required is more consistent lighting that I can control.

My investigation turned up a few commercial product offerings worthy of consideration, as well as some DIY options. While I certainly need to address the location where I keep the HDX-4500, I may also need to address the location at my desk. Thus I potentially have the opportunity, if not the justification, to explore two different solutions.

As was my past habit with SIP desk phones, I would buy something and give it a try. If it doesn’t meet my needs I can always resell it and try something else.

Commercial Option #1: Brightlines

Dave Giguere of AVI-SPL is in a similar situation to my own. He recommended me to Brightlines, an established maker of studio and conference lighting. They have a series of lighting products aimed at video conference installations.  Further, their I-Series products are LED-based lighting that target smaller room and desktop video applications.

i-Series-shown-with-VESA-plate11

There are two sizes of I-Series lights that might be suitable for use with my HDX-4500; a 16” model and a 22” model. There are additional models that range as large as 48” wide, but these were beyond the scope of my requirements.

When used with a normal computer monitor either model can be mounted to the back of the monitor using a VESA mounting plate with a short gooseneck. Since the HDX-4500 does not have standard VESA mounting holes I would need the optional long gooseneck, which can be fitted to a heavy metal base or a clamp to hold the edge of the table.

The I/S-16 and I/S-22 models are rated for 15 and 20 watts respectively. Each comes with an inline dimmer control, which seems like a good idea.

Brightlines I/S-22 model retails for $299. The optional long gooseneck mount and table clamp costs another $50.

Commercial Option #2: Videssence

Videssence, also a long established vendor of lighting for the entertainment industry, has a product offering that targets desktop applications. They call this the View Me Light. I stumbled across the View Me Light while browsing the lighting offered by NYC superstore B&H Photo Video. One the major broadcast trade publishers also noted when the company spun the product off to a more consumer focused web site.

view-me-lights

The View Me lights are 3.4 watts each at 3000K with CRI of 85. CRI is a measure of how accurately a light renders color. With a theoretical maximum of 100, a rating of 85 means that the View Me Lights are a very neutral light source, which will not cast an unwanted shade on your image.

The View Me Lights come in two different mounting forms; a bracket that is velcro’d to the top of a monitor or a telescoping desk stand with a heavy base. They can be purchased singly or in pairs. They also offer a pair with both mounting methods.

Their web site has a cute, interactive demo allowing you to turn the lights off/on and switch between sets to see the impact on the image presented on the faux monitor. It also has some good general advice on lighting for webcasting, which is equally applicable to video calling/conferencing.

View Me Light kits range from $115 to $260, depending upon your choice of single vs double lamp, and mounting type.

Commercial Option #3: Glowzi ChatLight

There was a third commercial option that I discovered, the Chat Light from Glowzi. Glowzi is a start-up created by a pair of gentlemen for the express purpose of making & selling their patented Chat Light products. There’s a nice YouTube video that shows what they intend to deliver.

Chat Lights are offered in two configurations, for use with an iPad or with a laptop/traditional monitor. They claim to be USB powered. Best of all they are inexpensive. The iPad version is offered for $20 and the laptop variant just $25.

ChatLights

The major down side to the Chat Light is that they are not yet available. If they were shipping I would surely order one just on the basis of the price. I’ll certainly watch for their availability, since the Chat Lights are priced below any kind of DIY approach that I might want to try for my desktop monitor.

Update – In response to an inquiry left via their web site Ian Shiell of Glowzi reports that Chat Lights are expected to become available by early September.

Next

I decided that I’d try one of the available commercial options and perhaps try to DIY a second approach on my own. The Brightlines I/S-22 was the most attractive of the commercial products. I like the fact that it is more wattage than the View Me lights, but comes with a dimmer so it can be turned up/down as necessary.

Since there was no Brightlines dealer near me I contacted the manufacturer and placed an order directly. In so doing I managed a bit of a discount, but the light and mount still came in close to $300. That’s not exactly inexpensive, but given the considerable cost of the HDX-4500 it seems like a suitable pairing.

The next post in this series will examine the Brightlines I/S-22, including some sample video with and without the additional lighting.