Convert a Kino 4Bank to a powerful Quasar Science 6Bank LED!

Like many video production companies, our lighting kit is continually changing and evolving. We used to travel with 2 – Kino Flo Diva 400 kits. A few years back, in an effort to travel lighter, we purchased 2 of the Westcott 1 x 2ft Bi-Color Flex Lights. Both of these light kits fit inside a single DIVA 400 travel case.

You can see this Case is a little bigger than the typical DIVA 400 case as it allows for a tripod.

I really love the Flex Lights. They are versatile and produce beautiful light.  We generally frame our two flex lights into either a 1 x 4ft or 2 x 2ft frame when using as a key light. The below final shot for the “Times have Changed”- Mattress Warehouse commercial was key lit with a 1 x 4 ft dual-flex light. We pushed this light through a Westcott 4 x 8ft Scrim Jim frame with diffusion.

A few cool benefits of the flex lights are; they can be rolled into paper china balls, used inside the Westcott’s Flex Drum, taped on walls, fit into tight car or other spaces, and can be framed into larger banks of lighting. However, reliability and durability have not been its strongest features. We have had a dimmer fail, a power supply fail, and one of the power plug connection points on the dimmer, cracked off the unit. These issues have made us nervous about failures and we now carry extra lights as backup, which is unfortunate, as our reason to buy these lights was to bring out less cases. Westcott has been nice on the phone, and it looks as if they have made solid improvements on strength and durability with their newer Flex Cine versions. They also now offer a lifetime warranty on the new Flex Cine lights.

Setting up our 2 flex lights into a 1 x 4ft frame, takes more time than pulling a 4bank kino and placing it on a light stand. With that said, if you need to change the color temperature or dim the lighting during the shoot, you start to make up the lost time.  I should mention, build time is assuming the person setting up the Westcott already knows what they are doing, if they don’t, it will add to the time of setting up. After a couple years of this, I started thinking about new options for a day to day keylight.

We have a Kino Tegra, which is a Kino 4ft x 4Bank light that has a dimmer and a ballast built into the fixture.  If you want to know more about the Tegra, here is a link with Shane Hurlbut showing off the Light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBca6MfFXh0We also have a Kino 4ft x 4Bank FotoFlo, and mainly use these two lights for green screen shoots.

I had been working with a local Gaffer and he had a couple of the Quasar Science 2ft Q-Led Crossfade lights on set. After looking at the lights, it really got me thinking about the 4ft Crossfades. I enjoy building and making things and the idea of converting my Kino Tegra into a 6-Bank LED light, sounded like fun.  It is possible to buy 4 – 4ft Q-LED X crossfade tubes and simply place them into the existing light mounts on the Kino 4Bank fixtures. This should give you about 1 stop more light power than using the fluorescent bulbs. If you would like a 6-Bank LED light, you will need to pull out the old mounts, and install an option like the Quasar Q-Blocks.

Maybe, you don’t need a light that has this much power, but the cool thing is each light has an internal ballast, so each light can be taken from the fixture on its own and used as a single 4ft light.

Tegra to Quegra conversion:

We could have converted our Kino 4ft x 4Bank Foto-Flo, but decided to convert the Tegra, because the Tegra was designed with a metal plate to support the added weight of the ballast on the fixture. This makes it a little sturdier than the Foto-Flo, but does not mean a Foto-Flo or a 4Bank select can’t support the weight of the extra LED tubes.

I apologize for forgetting to photograph the removal and gutting of the Tegra, but it was pretty straight forward, with removing a bunch of screws. It would be even simpler to convert a Foto-Flo or 4Bank Select, since neither of these lights have a ballast built onto the fixture.

Remeber, if you just want to use a 4Bank Q-LED you don’t need to do the conversion. If you do it this way, you would be able to bounce back and forth from the fluorescent system to the LED system. Another thing you can do to save money is skip the purchase of the cluster power adapter and just use a power tap to bring each of the Q-LED power cables together on one cable/dimmer.  It is not neat or clean, but it may be worth it to you, to save a couple hundred dollars. You will want an external dimmer either way.

Fluorescent tubes put out light in a 360-degree radius, so the kino flo systems come with a reflector to push the rear facing light forward. This actually makes the light more even and softens the source. The Quasar tubes are only pushing light out from the front half of the tubes, so the reflector will not be doing much when used with Quasar tubes.

 

Once you have gutted your old fixture, you will need to install 2 Q-Blocks per tube. You will also need to purchase the screws and nuts to fit the Q-Blocks to your system. I went to our local Home Depot for the screws, nuts, and washers. I purchased #10 x ¾ inch screws with #10 nuts and large washers. You can see the outline of the washers under the gaff tape in the below photo.

I used medium spring clamps to tightly hold each Q-Block together as I drilled holes and attached the screws. I also used Thread Lock to keep things from coming undone over time.

The Tegra has a piece of plastic that allows you to attached the honey comb grid via Velcro. You will need to trimmed that plastic in order to fit 6 tubes into the Tegra. I used a dremel to cut the plastic, and added screw hooks to attached the honey comb grid using rubber bands. (See photo

I ran the Quasar Science Cluster Power Adapter cable through the existing center hole on the fixture. I prefer the balance of having the cable come out of the center back of the fixture versus off the end of the fixture. I taped the inside of hole to cover the sharp edges and protect the cable from wear and tear.

The conversion was pretty straight forward. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, and I’ll do my best to help.

The 6-Bank Quegra is a powerful light, with the benefit of being able to remove each tube from the fixture, and use them individually without an external balast.  The cluster power adapter does not need all of its plugs to be attached to a tube to light up the attached tubes, so if you buy a 6 plug cluster power adapter it will work fine with only 4 tubes pluged into it.

If you want to use the Kino Bat Wings with the 6 tubes, you will need to trim off the bat wing area of the plastic… see photo below… I used scissors to trim off and round the edges.

We were able to take this Quegra kit, with one extra Q-LED tube and light an entire green screen set. We used 1 Q-LED on each side to light the green screen, 1 Q-LED above talent, and 4 in the fixture to key light our talent. Since that shoot, I have added an 8thQ-LED Crossfade to the same case. I have also purchase 2 – double tube holders and Rosco Calcolor 4430 Green. Why?In the past I had lit my green screen interviews with Kino green tubes. I really missed how nicely those green tubes lit the green screen, so moving forward I intend to use 2 Q-LEDs on each side of the Green Screen and add the Rosco Calcolor 4430 green.

 

I want to take a moment to talk about the 3 lighting options mentioned above.

From left to right, we have the Kino Foto-Flo light with 5500K tubes, the 6-Bank Q-LED X Crossfade “Quegra” dialed to 5600K, and the 2 – Westcott 1 x 2 ft bi-color flex lights mounted in a 1 x 4ft frame and dialed to 5600k. The FotoFlo was given proper time to warm up.

I measure the light outputs from 7 feet away, using a light meter set to 23.98 @ 180 angle and an ISO of 400. I also struck the other lights while measuring the specified fixtures. The Kino 4Bank measured F 4.0, the Quegra 6-Bank measured F 6.3, and the Westcott Bicolor Flex light measured at F 5.6. I also measure the Quegra with just the center 4 tubes lit up, and got a reading of F 5.6 on my meter. So, the Quegra with 4 Q-LED lights and the Westcott Bi-Color Flex light both have the same output at a full stop brighter than the Kino 4Bank. The 6-Bank Quegra does not give you a huge boost in light over the 4-Bank Quegra, but a 1/3 stop plus additional tubes in our kid, makes it worth it to me.

Above is an image of the same lights using the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ with an adjust false color view.

The hottest areas of the Kino Foto-Flo fall in the 29-37 IRE range.

The hottest areas of the Quegra fall in the 64-71 IRE.

The hottest areas of the Westcott Bi Color Flex Light fall around 96-103+ IRE.

What I am seeing in the false colors is that the Kino 4 bank has the most even lighting at its source and would provide the softest light of the group, given no added diffusion. The larger areas of pink show that the 6-Bank Quegra is not as even at source, but it is still a nice even soft source.  The Westcott is the least even of the group with a lot of points of very bright light, at the source. I have used the Westcott many times as a beautiful key light, but would personally never consider using this light, without adding diffusion.

Quick Conclusion:

I have always liked the 1 x 4ft shape of the Kino 4Bank system, and the Quasar Kino conversion is a great option to move into the future with this kind of system. The Quasar conversion allows you to have a lot of additional light fixtures on set and this is a great convenience. It also provides one very powerful soft light, that gives you fairly quick adjustability of light temperature. For me, it does not entirely replace the Flex lights, but I may go ahead and convert my Foto-Flo to a “Quat-o-flo”.  😉

Pros & Cons of each fixture:

Kino Flo 4Bank Options-(Tegra, 4Bank Select, Foto-Flo)

Pros:

Softest Light from Fixture

Easy and Quick to pull from case and set up

Cons:

Big case with only one light

Fragile tubes with Mercury hazard

Must carry tubes for Daylight & Tungsten

Limited Color Temperature options

Takes time to switch out the tubes for Daylight & Tungsten.

Tubes need time to warm up

Only TEGRA model is dimmable

Quegra – 6Bank Q-LED X Crossfade light

Pros:

Powerful Large Fixture with Soft Light

Each of the 6 tube has an internal ballast, so you can easily remove each tube and use it as a light

Pulling a light from the Cluster adapter does not interfere with lighting of other attached lights

Color temperature adjustable from 2000k – 6000k

Fully Dimmable with many available low cost dimmers on the market

Color is excellent

Easy to pull out of case, set up, and go

Cons:

Big Case, but multiple lights

Changing color temperature requires operator to strike light and adjust each dial separately for each tube. I personally need a flash light and reading glasses to read the temperature control dial. You could pain the dial hash mark white. Not too big an issue, but not as easy as the Flex light, when adjusting color temp.

Westcott 2 – 1 x 2ft BiColor Flex Lights in a 1 x 4ft frame

Pros:

Powerful large fixture

2 – Lights in kit

Very versatile usages from these lights – Love using it in a 24 inch paper china ball!

Color temperature adjustable from 2800k – 6000k

Fully Dimmable

Color is excellent

Easy adjustment of color temperature

Cons:

Old version has what we consider reliability and durability issues (New versions looks greatly improved.)

Large case, feels cluttered with parts.

Time needed to assemble into this configuration. For us this is not a pull & play, but rather build & play situation.

Not a quick and easy light to set up for a first time user

If you have any improvement thoughts, ideas, or questions, please feel free to reach out to me!

Peace and Health!

Chris @ PulseCinema

About me: I am a Director of Photography working on film and video production in Washington DC, Baltimore, Maryland, Virginia and beyond. I do also Direct but really enjoy collaborating with other Directors and am very happy to simply make images!

Chris McGuinness is the Chief Attendant at PulseCinema. PulseCinema is a full service Maryland Video Production company serving Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, and beyond.