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Product Review: uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit From F. J. Westcott Co.

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If you have ever had experience with the video world, especially with regard to television, you have probably heard of Green Screen. I know you have seen Green Screen in action if you have watched the local TV weather forecast or even some baseball games where the advertisement changes periodically in direct camera sight. These are both done using Green Screen technology.

How Green Screen works is that behind the object or person you place a green background, usually bright, that serves as the backdrop for your image. In reality, this backdrop can be any color, but green is the most commonly used.

Once you have your image taken, then in your image editor, you remove everything green from the image. Then you can replace it with the background of your choice. In the case of TV weather casts, they can put up the radar maps or the seven-day forecast.

uLite Digital Photo Lighting KitNow, with the help of the F. J. Westcott Co, you can do the same thing in your studio or at home as they have released their uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit which comes with everything you need to do green screen.

What does the uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit come with?

• (2) uLite Constant Lights
• (2) 20" Collapsible Soft Boxes
• (2) 7' Light Stands
• (2) 500-watt Photofloods
• (1) 9' x 10' wrinkle-resistant Green Screen
• (1) Educational DVD
• (1) Digital Backgrounds DVD
• (1) Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 7 Trial

Everything comes in one compact box that houses all the items neatly. When you are ready to use the product, you will need to find an area that is large enough to hang the 9' x 10' Green Screen and have at least 12 feet in depth. If you are a professional, it is ready to use on a background rack. If you are not, you will need to find something to hang the screen off of. They recommend removable wall hooks that you can find in any hardware store.

First you will put together the soft boxes which already have the lighting fixtures attached. These have firm ribs that you just pop a ring into place around the light fixture itself. While everything is very firm, you do want to make sure that the ring snaps into place since if it pops out, you could break your light bulb or cause other damage. Once that is done, you then just screw the bulb into the fixture like any other bulb. When the bulb is in place, there is an outer piece of fabric that goes over the front of the soft box to diffuse the light. It is just covers the box and attaches with Velcro to stay in place.

uLite Digital Photo Lighting KitThe light stands are collapsible tripods that can extend to seven feet in height. You need to spread the feet of the tripod so that they firmly connect on the ground and lock the adapter in place. Next you unscrew the adapter for the soft box attachment and place it on the head of the light stand and tighten it in place. Do the same for the second setup as you will need both lights.

When you hang the Green Screen you need to hang it high enough to cover what you are trying to photograph and yet leave enough to pull it tight on the floor weighing it down with books or sandbags. There is some give to the fabric so it will stretch a bit. If there are wrinkles, it will be much harder to get an extract out of it.

Once that is done you are ready to shoot. The uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit comes with training videos that show you exactly how to do all of what I said and adds additional tips on how to properly align the lights to not create shadows which can also cause extraction problems in post processing.

Then, once you have your shots, you take them to Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and remove the green and insert the new background that you want to use. In fact the kit comes with a DVD that contains a range of backgrounds for your use, or you can use your own layout. As part of the training video there are two videos that show you exactly how to extract a person from a Green Screen and insert and new background. This part of the video was put together by the people at National Association of Photoshop Professionals. They step you through the proper way to do this and make it look professionally done.

uLite Digital Photo Lighting KitFirst off, let me say that the uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit is really well thought out and well designed. It is very easy to set up and use. You get everything except the clips to hang your Green Screen. It would have been nice to have some included, but they are not very expensive to purchase.

There are actually two separate products Part #401 (the one I am reviewing) and Part #402 which is listed as the uLite Video Lighting Kit. These are effectively the same basic kits with different training videos, trial software, and different background DVDs, so if you are more into animation, the 402 kit would be better for you.

A couple things to keep in mind are that these bulbs are 500 Watts and can get very hot. They are not meant for children to play with and should be kept away from flammables. There is a fluorescent add-on you can buy which would run much cooler, but is a separate purchase which may be worth upgrading to if you use this a lot.

uLite Digital Photo Lighting KitThe Green Screen is a very well made fabric that, if taken care of, should last a long time. The light stands are also very solid for holding up the lights, and the light boxes are very sturdy as well. The cover for the light box does well in covering, but does not have as snug of a fit as I might like. Again, for a consumer product, this is not a problem.

If you are looking for a really good Green Screen lighting system at a reasonable price, the uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit looks to be the best on the market and offers you easy setup from right out of the box. It is targeted for the average consumer, but will work for the professional who wants to take advantage of this technology as well. I highly recommend the uLite Digital Photo Lighting Kit.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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