The Joy of Tube Lights With the Lume Cube Tube Light Mini and XL

The Joy of Tube Lights With the Lume Cube Tube Light Mini and XL

Today, I’ll share two new additions to my lighting kit when keeping it small.

Perhaps it’s because I’m just wrapping up shooting a large scale film production, shot with a big camera, shot with even bigger lights. But I could really use something small in my life right now. Don’t get me wrong. What I shot was 100% worth the weight I had to carry to commit it to film in the way that I wanted. But, with principal photography in the rearview, my biceps are perfectly primed for a break.

A couple years ago, a basketball coach in the NBA had a problem. He had some of the most skilled players in the league. Only problem? None of them were particularly tall. This might not be an issue if you were coaching a chess team. But, in the NBA, height is kind of a big deal. But, rather than sit around and bemoan his predicament, he came up with a plan. While he couldn’t make his players any taller. What he could do was change his approach to make best use of their abilities. Pretty soon, his team started winning. And the term small ball was born.

What does this have to do with filmmaking? Well, simply put, we don’t always have all the resources we might like to take those ideas from our head and put them on film. Sometimes we lack the budget. Other times, we have plenty of budget, but the chosen location is decidedly lacking in square footage. Or, perhaps, our major problem isn’t the gear, it’s finding a way to power it when we are far away from home.

Even when I’m not still in a post shoot mental haze, I am always on the lookout for products that are both cost-effective, can be worthwhile additions to my kit and solve some of those problems listed above. It was in this frame of mind that I landed on Lume Cube’s line of tube lights, which includes the RGB Tube Light Mini and the RGB Tube Light XL.

Rapid developments in LED lighting technology have transformed the industry in recent years, allowing for smaller and lighter lighting fixtures to be used with newer cameras which are more and more sensitive to light. These LED lights come in all shapes and sizes, often replicating traditional form factors of existing lights used in film production. Tube lights bring the advantages of LED to a form factor much like those long traditional fluorescent tubes you probably have hanging overhead in your basement.  

The advantages of tube lights are many. For one, they are light and relatively easy to mount. Second, depending on your aesthetic, the lights can be a set design elements in and of themselves. Next time you are watching a film, TV show, or music video, play a little game and figure out how many tube lights you can spot actually in frame. While you are likely to want to hide a big HMI used to light a scene from the audience’s view, tube lights can often be used as accent lights that can appear on-screen. Because we are used to seeing fluorescent tubes as part of our normal life, we can see them on screen without them taking us out of the fantasy world of the film. Entire scenes can be lit with a few of these well-placed quasi-practicals, making them an extremely versatile lighting solution.

Lume Cube’s offerings in this space are the RGB Tube Light Mini and the XL. As you might expect, one is small, about one foot in length, while the other is longer at 4 feet. Neither is particularly heavy. The larger one is just over three pounds and one ounce. In traditional terms, the light ranges from 2,700 to 7,500 K. It can also display the full RGB spectrum. The larger unit puts out 2,000 lux at .5 meters. The smaller unit puts out 920 lux at the same distance.

Both units can run on battery power, which is incredibly important, as they will often find themselves placed in hard to reach places. At full power, the XL can run for 96 minutes, while the Mini can go 100% for 102 minutes.

For mounting the light, it comes with two female 1/4"-20s on each end, with two additional female 1/4"- 20s and one 5/8 in the center. The unit also comes with its own little detachable mini stand. Very useful if you need the unit to stand on its own in a pinch.

Both units are waterproof and shock resistant. I haven’t tried throwing mine on the ground yet to see if they’ll break. But, as someone who has dropped more than one Kino Flo tube in my life, the idea that they can withstand a bit of my clumsiness is appealing. They can be controlled either on-body or through the proprietary mobile app on your phone. Like many modern LED lights, in addition to traditional lighting, they also offer various effects packages which can be triggered when needed. Oh, and aside from keeping things bright, they can also serve as mobile charging devices with built-in powerbank capabilities.

So, yeah, lights have come a long way since I bought my first professional tungsten lighting package a few decades ago. And, best of all, the prices for these lights are becoming more and more affordable as time goes on. The XL comes in at $399.99 while the Mini costs just $149.99.

So, if you are in the mood for a bit of small ball like me, these might be a pair of lights you’d like to get into the game.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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1 Comment

That's a great price for the mini. I'm sure users will lean towards buying a couple of them.