This Videographer Used LEDs in Times Square, and the Results Are Stunning

Shooting out on location in a busy environment like New York City can be extremely difficult. When dealing with police, public safety, traffic, and pedestrians, it can often be near impossible to create the look you want without sacrificing your lighting. The way videographer David Geffin tackled these issues in his latest project, "Let's Dance," is pretty brilliant.

David Geffin is an amazing videographer and photographer who used to write for Fstoppers back in the day. In fact, to this day he still has one of the most popular Fstoppers articles ever, and he is also the talent behind one of my favorite personal concepts ever, The Angus Young Halloween Costume. Needless to say, Dave has created some incredibly inspiring work over the years.

When I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, a fashion/dance video stopped me in my tracks, and I thought: "wow, this is really interesting lighting, and that looks like Peter Hurley's rooftop!" Of course, the video was produced by Dave Geffin, and the lighting setup I found so interesting was created using lights I actually own: the Westcott 1x2' Flex Bi-Color Leds. I actually own the older non-bi-color version of these lights, and Lee and I have used them extensively for creating our YouTube content (check out our review here).

Unlike our older versions of these lights, the new Flex Cine Travel Kit allows you to mount powerful 26v Lithium-Ion batteries to the ballasts for powerful LED lighting on the go. Obviously, having a battery option reduces the need for loud and heavy generators, but more importantly, in a shooting environment like Times Square, these lights keep you mobile and free of long wires.

As you can see in the behind the scenes video below (shot by Chuy Guiterrez), Dave and his crew were able to run around uptown Manhattan easily, presumably without the use of permits, and film professional video without all the hassle that usually comes with lighting something of this caliber. I also spy a pretty interesting use of one of our favorite bluetooth speakers, the Aomais Sport II, that we are using for a future project here at Fstoppers.

When I reached out to Dave about the shoot, he expressed how complicated the concept was to pull off:

On a shoot that was specifically focused on being out on location in one of the busiest areas of one of the busiest cities in the world, incorporating dancing and choreographed camera and lighting movement, we ended up through pure bad luck shooting on literally the hottest day of the year. It was 108 degrees with very high humidity, and to say it was not the easiest of shoots was something of an understatement.

I've used many of our own LED lights out on location, but I've never thought of using the Flex lights powered with the lithium batteries as a dynamic, moving light source. Because these lights are relatively large, but still lightweight, they produce a very flattering, soft light source that is a bit more forgiving than your typical, bare-bulb, harsh light source. Dave explained his approach to lighting this shoot, and I'm a bit ashamed I didn't think of it first:

I wanted a mobile lighting situation that was highly adaptable and had a clean commercial look, which so many clients now want to bring on location. Because of the changing ambient lighting, I needed something that also gave me the ability to vary color temperature depending on the look I was going for in a given scene.

It's always fun to find this sort of content spontaneously and then realize it was created by a good friend of yours. David Geffin has some great video and stills work, and I'm always happy when our paths cross in New York. Some of the other talent involved in this video were Britney Young and Alex Nahorniak-Svenski, who you can see helping with lighting. The dancers were Jennifer Daniels, Meki Saldana, and Marsha Larose

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28 Comments

Ryan Stone's picture

Great example video of what a highly portable constant fill light can bring to video production but this whole piece reads like a pt. 2 of an advertising obligation.

I've seen more subtle "unbiased" reviews on Amazon.com.

Patrick Hall's picture

This isn't even a review. I just wanted to share a cool video and bts my buddy Dave posted on Facebook.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

Funny how triggered people get about anything these days. I'm guessing they're Sony/Android users. Those people get bent on just about anything. lol

Dominic Martin's picture

It looks really unnatural to me. the motion and lighting just seem off, like it was shot on greenscreen.

Andrew Pollock's picture

Completely agree, especially after the sun goes down...horrible aftereffect.

Patrick Hall's picture

It's so strange that everyone is saying how unnatural it looks when it's actually naturally shot that way with no CGI. I think it might have to do with the large depth of field as opposed to shooting wide open and blurring the background. In the end, it's a popular look that many companies desire and if you can achieve it without having to use AE or other software, that's a huge time saver.

Zach Ashcraft's picture

The deep depth of field is definitely throwing me off too. It does look almost like a green-screen to me. The light is certainly nice though, just a bit jarring to see in motion for some reason

Luke Adams's picture

Yes, the deep depth of field, but also the shiny, bright studio look on the actors contrasted by the softer, natural light of the background. That is usually a dead giveaway of a green screen - the lighting doesn't match/make sense.

Tim Gallo's picture

I think it also has something to do with color correction, you can see that on some shots they intentionally make background darker... but yeah, too strong LED has this shot it on green back effect... but same with strobes if you not use them correctly. I prefer LED slightly stronger than background.

here is my example of using LED on the late night streets. using cheap LPL-s. small and bigger ones.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/74671097/Tokyo-Women-Diaries-part-I

I don't have a big problem with the "green screen look" as it was a choice by David. Maybe the lighting is too flat , too even which enhanced the GS look. But that too is up to David. But I do think that you need taller human light stands :)
To be honest do you really want to see a lot more of the tourists in the background of TS at night?

Agreed, it's the difference between a cinematographer and a photographer.
But if unnatural is what you're going for, fine.

Jeremy Lusk's picture

FYI, it's "Times Square."

Sincerely, a guy from NYC :)

Patrick Hall's picture

Had it right in the article but missed it in the title...doh!

Bert McLendon's picture

Love it! Dave is awesome!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

The BTS is amazing for seeing how easily the lights are manipulated and moved about. Nice.
As for the ACDC costume, how did I miss that along the way????!!!!

Patrick Hall's picture

It was released on our Youtube Channel only and I don't think I posted it on the site itself. All the more reason to sub to the FS Youtube Channel!

Luke Adams's picture

I often run into people during my wedding shoots who question why I'm not using a flash for most of my shots (I certainly do when it calls for it). Because in these people minds, they somehow picked up the belief that using a flash = better pictures. I feel this belief also permeates the photographer community though as well - that in order to reach the level of highest picture quality, you need to use an external light source. You know, dial down the ambient, and replace it with your expensive light. Yeah, it's a unique look. It certainly works nice for some photos. But using artificial light does not automatically make your pictures better - even if done 100% correctly (don't tell Trevor Dayley that though). Perhaps in this video, they were going with the glossy, studio skin look meets natural looking NYC background. But I don't like it. I don't think it makes it look better. I much prefer the few seconds in the video where the model(s) looks almost as natural as their background. To each his own I guess, but if you can make a great looking photo using natural light that you think is the best choice for the scene, don't let someone try to tell you you're scared of light, or you're still an amateur if you're not adding flash to the image.

Wonder Woman's picture

"and the Results Are Stunning"

Please...

Please show us your photos and videos, I'd love to see something better than this.

Wonder Woman's picture

I was commenting on the phrase, not the content.

Fernando Faixa Andrade's picture

I may be a fool (and I don't care if I am), but I like the lighting in the bts better than the video itself.

Ken Flanagan's picture

Wicked awesome stuff. Those lights are baller, and kudos the cinematographer.

This is fascinating. I think it looks great but it does have a "fake" look it which comes from the 45/45 degree lighting. I would love to see this outside with one light to the side and the other over the top of the camera. Maybe the darker shadow on one side of the face could make it appear more "real".

Raymond Craig's picture

You nailed it. The angle of light was making it look like a composite that didn't match the bg. Couldn't quite put my finger on it at first til I saw the bts. I will say I totally use flex lights hooked to battery when I can't get a full kit out on location, especially for a nice fill light when fighting the sun. I think the shots in times square it's not quite as jarring cause you have light coming from all angles there but it definitely stands out on the rooftop scenes where you expect only one source (sun or moonlight).

Patrick Hall's picture

The thing is, at least in a place like Times Square, all the lighting there looks fake. Having a side light or overhead light in a dark city or a bright city with billboards everywhere wouldn't make it look more realistic IMO. It def has a fashion look to it which can be a viable lighting solution depending on your client.

Jean Dia's picture

I definitely have to share my behind the scenes soon but I did something similar but it was around January. I was shooting in the cold so there was lesser people than the summer. I utilized the Aputure Light c300d for a fashion editorial video (not a fashion film). The cops gave us no problems because we didn't block the area there was no equipment on the floor. Here is the example video on my instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/p/BvWvfvNAg0b/?utm_source=ig_web_options_share... )The lighting definitely allows you to separate the subject from everything in the background. It's just a key light at a cheaper production rate . Feel free to leave a comment or feedback. Here is the link to video on my Vimeo if you want it to watch it in a higher resolution. https://vimeo.com/325137389.
Also here is its images. When shooting editorial, time is the biggest factor so you see both the photographer and myself shooting the model at times. Lucky guy. I wish stoppers wrote about me for this one lol. Great work.

Adam T's picture

I don't blame the lights but the use. The tone and angle of them makes me think this is a screen composite.

I thought the video looked unnatural