How to make your own DIY LED tube lights for video
We’ve all seen Eric Pare’s DIY light tubes for light painting, but these ones from Adam Rahn at DroiMedia are a little bit different. These ones are designed for video. They’re to emulate lights like the Quasar Science and CAME-TV tubes. These DIY options are relatively inexpensive, easy to build and allow you to customise them to your own shooting needs.
For the build, you’ll need…
- High CRI (90+) LED strips
- Frosted acrylic tube
- Wooden dowel rods
- 12v DC adapter
- 2 end caps per tube
According to Adam’s experience using 1/2″ dowels, a 5-metre strip of the LEDs should be just enough to wrap around a dowel to make a 3ft tube. And, of course, you don’t have to go with high CRI white ones. If you’re hoping to make something more for effects lighting rather than daylight lighting, you could go with something like an RGB LED strip that you can set to whatever colour you like. Just remember to check the voltage and buy a power supply that’s the right voltage and can handle the current.
Adam bought 3ft tubes, and cut them down to 18″ long, then he cut the dowels to match. A small pilot hole is drilled in each end of the dowel. This allows it to be screwed into the end caps to ensure it stays central once placed inside the acrylic tube. If you can’t find frosted acrylic tubes, you can also try clear tubes and line the inside with some kind of diffusion material.
Two pieces of wire are taped down along the entire length of the dowel. This is to overcome the issue of voltage drop. LED strips aren’t perfect and will actually lose voltage as the power goes from one end of the strip to the other. The longer the strip, the more power it loses. These two pieces of wire allow voltage to be applied at both ends of the strip to ensure all LEDs are lit evenly.
The LED strip is then stuck on top of this and wrapped around the dowel from one end to the other. Be sure when you get to the end that you actually cut along one of the designated cut lines on the strip itself, otherwise it’s not going to work. Solder the two wires to the end of the strip you just cut, and then attach the wires at the other end of dowel and LED strip to your power input jack.
After this, it’s a case of just screwing drilling some holes in the two end caps. You need a small one in the centre of each for the screw, and one of the caps needs a larger one for the power jack. Finally, just screw one end of the dowel into one of the end caps, slide it into the tube and then screw the other end cap on to hold everything together.
Once you’ve had a go at making one of these lights, why not have a go at making a bank of them with a dimmer?
A fun project, although you’ll probably want to shop around for the best prices on all the components or it may end up being just as expensive as the commercial solutions. They do look rather good, though, and you are able to tailor these exactly to your needs.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.