Introduction: Powerful Video Light Under $100

Picture of Powerful Video Light Under $100

I'm not satisfied with the LED video lights out there in term of cost versus light output. I bought various LED video light but none live to expectation. So the only alternative is to build one myself. One that can run at 12V by battery belt or AA batteries. Here's what the final product looks like.

Step 1:

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The project takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
Before I start the steps, following is the list of material and tools:
1. On-camera ball-mount :
2. LED (MR16) light:
3. Electrical switch:
4. Gaffer tape:
5. Project box: in my case, I use an iPod Touch box.
6. Two plastic zip ties
7. Power source: cig adapter for 12v or 8-AA battery box ( .
8. Tools: high temperature hot-melt glue gun; solder iron; clear electrical tape; drill wt circular cutting bit; drill bit; any spare box

Step 2:

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For starter, scope around the house and find my wife's iPod Touch box more fititng for this project. I tried the iPhone box, but looks too fat. On to the build.

Step 3:

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I have to make sure that there is sufficient clearance for mounting 3 LED bulbs. They will be protruding from the box for better heat dissipation, while providing a minimalist and industrial look.

Step 4:

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Using 1-1/2" circular cutter, I make three cuts on the box. The holes fit exactly where the first ring notch on the light bulb which can stay put by itself.

Step 5:

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Before permanently mount the bulbs, I masked the box with black gaffer tape for aesthetic. I wrapped the electrical wires around the bulb terminals; my portable solder iron useless for this one. Then I pour hot glue (high temperature) on the bulbs and the terminals to cover all exposed wires. At the same time, cover the exposed shoe mount with electrical tape. Two bottom bulbs are wired parallel, separate from top bulb.

Step 6:

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Here's what it looks like for the first half of the project. I used hot glue in this case, because the light bulbs doesn't get hot enough to melt the glue. For higher wattage bulb, I will have to go with aluminum box and silicon instead.
Onto the second half.

Step 7:

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From the bottom half of the box, I drill 3 holes (only 2 in this pictures) for the two switches and power lead. And cut a clearance on the edge for the shoe mount of the cover box.

Step 8:

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I mounted two dip switches; soldered the terminal clips. The 12v cigarette cord is salvaged from a dead Apex portable DVD player; it's held together by plastic zip ties from both ends. I decided on the battery clips for ease of service. The outside is covered with gaffer tape. Aesthetic counts.

Step 9:

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This is what the final product looks like. It takes me about 2.5 hours from start to finish. The top light is independent of the bottom lights. Instead of dimmer, I can choose the blend between 1, 2, or 3 bulbs. I made this so that I can use it with my battery belt which can last more than 6 hours. It will last about 2 on 8-AA batteries. This is cheaper and much brighter than the LitePanels Micro. 
Next step, build the barndoors and gel holder el cheapo. 

Step 10:

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Here's what the light can do by itself, no other lighting source, with all 3 light bulbs on. This is shot at 15 feet up from the ground.

Step 11: Version 2.0

Picture of Version 2.0

12/20/2009. This is version 2.0 with four LEDs in a row. The box used is a heavy plastic jewelry (necklace) case.


maxwelltub (author)2010-03-24

I have been having trouble getting these lights from the website, they said they were in stock but still have not shipped out. Any ideas of other places to get these bulbs?

alphatrio (author)maxwelltub2010-03-24

I have similar delay. It tooks 3.5 weeks because of back order. So far I've searched everywhere and could not find this specific bulb. It's worth the wait though. With this bulb, you do not need light diffuser at all. This translate to no loss of light. With other LED ligh bulb, putting a diffuser gel in front of it cuts down at least 25% light. Just hang in there.
If you need help with further instructions, let me know.

maxwelltub (author)alphatrio2010-04-17

ok so i got these lights, and your right, they are awesome. I do have a few questions. I am new to the high powered leds, and I am confused to why these lights to not require a driver circuit? Maybe they do for optimum efficiency. I also  noticed that the polarity doesn't seem to matter. you can which the leads and the light still works? My design will allow for the lights to be mounted atop the camera but also allow for them to break apart and be mounted individually around the subject with clamps. i will send pictures when i am happy with the finished project. thanks for the inspiration. 

alphatrio (author)maxwelltub2010-04-18

These LED bulbs already contain the necessary circuitry in the base. It was designed for 12-14V DC. If you're a curious individual, you can saw off the base and change out the circuitry. They also is polarity independent. Sorry, I didn't go into the details of the bulb from the original post-- trying not to overwhelm most regular readers. The posting was for everyone to follow with little knowledge of electronic. I've also made light bank of these bulbs running from a sealed lead acid battery and a 12V remote switch. I'm glad you've adapted them to good use and enjoy doing so :)

maxwelltub (author)alphatrio2010-04-19

cool, stuff. great instructable

chainedflesh (author)2009-12-21

interesting setup, and it looks like it could be great.  I Know LED's can get warm after a while.  What is the heat output on it? 

Also do you have a system set up to diffuse the light to cut any harsh shadows or to save the eyes of the people in front of the camera?

I think your method could be adapted to make a light bank that doesn't use collimators as well... which could be useful in some circumstances.

Great instructable. :)

alphatrio (author)chainedflesh2009-12-22

Thanks. This is my first tryout with this light. I bought a 20W LED but the heat is too much even after 30 seconds. Active cooling requires a fan which will add some unwanted noise.
These LED bulbs is warm to the touch after an hour, but not enough to burn. I busted my Radio Shack plastic project box and didn't have time to buy another one. This box is what I can find at 2 o'clock in the morning when the light hits me :)
Yeah. The next step is to build barndoors and a gel holder so that I can change color temperature and and diffuser. I have the material, just need the time to do it.

chainedflesh (author)2009-12-21

One more thing... maybe one could find a housing that is sturdier than a cardboard box.  A cookie tin is sturdier, but the obvious drawback is it is made of metal.  But there could be some hardy plastic boxes out there that could stand up to any heat output and regular abuse.

Once again great instructable.  Easy to understand and easy to build.

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