Hi, and thanks for joining me and checking out how I made me LED dimmable studio light!
So I’m still dying from flu, but while I’m still not well enough to be in front of the camera, I thought I’d fight through the sweats and gushing nostrils and throw together a quick ‘how to’ for something I needed.
Currently, I have a 3 point lighting system that I’m slowly moving across to much smaller products for a smaller footprint in the studio – ideally, with all lights being on boom arms attached to the desk I record from. Not being able to afford whizzy expensive lights, I figured I’d make my own and see how they perform!
While what you’re about to read does a stand up job at 100%, anything under that and it flickers on camera due to the controller being a PWM, while it’s not noticeable to the naked eye, on camera you get the lines moving up the screen slowly. This is something I will overcome once I’ve found a different controller for my purpose. Using it at 100% is OK for me though as I can just move the light further away if it’s too bright. I will update this article once I’ve found a better controller though.
So, here’s what I’ve made! (all images are clickable to go full screen)
And here’s the rather lengthy how-to…
Here’s what I started with after a little Amazon spree – I’ll put links below –
- 12V Power Supply
- Remote controller with in-line attachment
- 5m spool of non-waterproof LEDs (single bright white colour)
- A deep photoframe
- Some random wire I had knocking about
- Some ‘twin and earth’ wire I also had knocking about
So here’s the steps I went though…
- check to make sure that the power supply and in-line connector works with the remote controller
2) Disassemble the photo frame
3) Mark out a centre line in the ‘back’ of the frame, this will allow even placement of the strips
3) Measure and draw a boarder around the outside so I know I have a ‘safe’ working space once the back has gone into the frame
4) I had calculated that I would be able to have 7 strips on each side of the centre line, so I measured how long to cut each strip, ensuring that I could ‘stagger’ the LEDs so as not to have LED stripes when illuminated. When cutting, you must cut ONLY at the solder points in the strips as in the picture…
5) Once cut to length, I laid out the strips on the top half of the board just to make sure I’d not forgotten how to count (measure twice cut once and all that)
6) Happy and somewhat surprised I’d not ballsed up already, I took off the sticky backing cover and stuck them all down, ensuring the ‘staggered’ pattern I’d previously mentioned. I
7) At this point you can connect up positive to positive, negative to negative in a daisy chain and get it to work, I chose not to do this because I figured with 14 strips, and two solder points each end making 56 dollops of solder, I would absolutely end up with losing current and so having some dimmer than others. To combat this, I used a positive wire up one side, and a negative up the other. For this I measured a rough length of ‘Twin and Earth’ (the kinda stuff that wires up your cooker), split it down, and used the two thicker wires
I did have a slight issue with my snips…
But got another pair, then used a small knife to split what I wanted leaving the un-shrouded wire free
8) I then used some Epoxy to hold them in place either side of my LEDs. While the epoxy was drying, I also popped a dab of the flux pen and then solder onto each of the contacts I wanted to solder to later.
9) Thick single core copper wire can be a sod to solder to so I did give it a little roughen up with a scotchbright pad
10) I then cut out the 28 wires I would need to hook it all up, used a flux pen on all connections, and got my soldering pants on. I lightly tinned the end of the wire and soldered them to the LEDs – positives on the left, negatives on the right
11) The more time consuming part of fluxing and soldering each wire to their respective positive and negative then happened. When bending a couple of the wires, I did end up pulling a couple off, so they needed just a little go over with the soldering iron. However at this point, I realised that the LED did originally have the connector for a 12v DC plug attached to them which I’d cut off, this I figured would make life a bit easier so I split and separated the wires, and made a small hole under the LED strips to pass it through.
12) After soldering the positive to the positive runner on the left, and the negative to the negative runner on the right, I popped a little more epoxy on just to make it a little stronger (this pic is after the solder, but before the epoxy at the ‘entry’ point and half way along each wire
13) Check the work under the full understanding that I must have made a cock-up somewhere, and bugger me, it worked!
14) I did find a small 1/4 – 20 UNC thread adapter that I popped into the frame to allow it to be screwed on top of a ball-joint camera mount, and then put the back into the frame and job done!
And there you have it, one tripod/boom mountable LED with remote on/off and dimming – although the latter does mean that there is some flicker when viewed through a camera. As for how long it took, maybe an hour – but I think the write up has taken just as long to be honest! I will update this once I have a different controller.
Shopping list for the parts I used, and please be aware, I was buying for cheapness, so the CRI of the lights wasn’t a purchasing factor. I also went for bright white, and I’m confident there will be better LED strips available, but as mentioned, I did this for a test and for cheapness!
- Twin and earth I already had at home
- Thin wire, also already had
- LED strips £6.95 from Amazon ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00HSF65MC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 12V DC power supply £7.99 from Amazon ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B019RO949C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- Controllers (2 pack although obviously only used one) from Amazon £5.49 ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01K9WLB1A/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- Photo Frame £8.99 Amazon ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N5VRNIX/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s02?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 1/4 – 20 thread was part of a pack I’d bought previously for another project ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01CTMQ1PY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- Soldering iron, solder, flux pen, already owned
So all in all, this little setup cost me £35 more or less, and I have more LEDs, another controller, and more 1/4 – 20’s to make another light for only the cost of another enclosure and powerpack – although, I could potentially wire another set into the same setup but that would mean not having independent brightness control.
I hope this was useful for someone, but for me now, I’m back off to my sick bed!
I promise I’ll get some video content up very soon!!!!
Dean, the Vaping Biker