Worktank’s Director of Content Solutions Evan Sadler reviews two lighting systems for the in-office studio that will brighten up your video conferencing and virtual broadcasts.
Both the Godox ES45 and Elgato Key Light are designed for quick setup and easy integration with your desk, but there are a few key differences you should consider before you buy.
Your Camera is Not the Enemy
A common misconception among video presenters is that the camera is to blame for dark video output and shadowy figures on screen. The reality is that even the most high-end professional cameras and web cams require proper lighting. So, before you replace your camera, try using three-point light. If you’re still dissatisfied, then look at other camera options.
Three-Point Lighting for Video & Virtual Broadcasts
Think of three-point lighting as a tripod. Every leg is essential to maintaining balance, and the same applies to how you set up your lights.
- Key Light, typically set in front of you, handles about 75% of the lift and lights your face in front of the camera.
- Fill Light is a secondary light meant to light the rest of the space that is visible on camera.
- Rim Light, either placed above or behind you, divides the light to bring separation and definition, which is especially helpful when you work with a web cam that lacks the kind of lens that shows depth-of-field.
As we discussed in Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio, the most transformative dynamic of your in-office studio is light, both natural and artificial. Because we work through the day across all seasons, it’s hard to rely solely on natural light from your office window, but it can provide you with one source of three-point light, depending on how you position your desk, window, and camera.
For example, in my west-facing home studio, the window is to my left and the natural light paints the side of my face evenly. However, if I didn’t add supplemental artificial light, my face would be half-lit and look out of balance to the viewer.
In recent months, my home studio lighting has evolved from a huge pro light, c-stand and soft box – that occupied an untenably large footprint in my office – to a simple flat panel LED two-light setup that takes up only a square inch of desk space with a small c-clamp. Each LED light, positioned about three feet apart, illuminates my face (key light). The natural light from my studio window acts as a fill light, and I use a LED floor lamp and a tiny Aputure MC LED light threaded to a light stand as rim lights behind me to add depth and definition.
Best Lighting Gear for Video & Virtual Broadcasts
When looking for lighting that would clamp to my desk, there were, surprisingly, only a few options. So, it was easy to narrow my review to just two suppliers, Elgato and Godox.
Elgato Key Light & Key Light Air for Video & Virtual Broadcasts
Elgato, which is reinventing the home studio with its Stream Deck controller and products aimed at game play recording, offers the appropriately named Key Light and Key Light Air. I purchased two Key Light Airs, about $130 each, and a Stream Deck controller for $150, so that I could activate the lights with a single button push.
Setting up the lights is simple and the footprint of the small base fits cleanly on my desk. The stem is adjustable so you can raise or lower the LED panel, and it includes a nifty ridge on the stem to keep wires out of sight. The lights are controlled wirelessly via Bluetooth and both light temperature and intensity can be adjusted via the Elgato app, downloaded to your PC.
The upside to the Elgato ecosystem is everything connects via Stream Deck and you can control just about every input imaginable – audio, camera, OBS, graphics – with the hub. However, if you’ve already set up hardware to control your camera (like a USB video converter) or audio (like an audio board), and you’re not tied into other Elgato peripherals (like their camera or headset), and you’re not managing cues (like graphics and multi-camera switching), using the Stream Deck to simply manage your lights will feel overbaked.
The Elgato Key Light Air lets you control both color temperature and brightness, but I found handling settings via Stream Deck too cumbersome. Instead, I used the Elgato Camera Hub app on my PC, and made adjustments in the app menu, which takes more clicks than should be required. Beyond that, the biggest issue for me was that the Bluetooth connectivity was unreliable, and the one button push to activate the Key Light Air sometimes failed me just before the start of a video conference or virtual broadcast.
Godox E-sport LED Light ES45 Kit for Video & Virtual Broadcasts
The Godox E-sport LED Light ES45 Kit includes a 14x9x2” light panel that outputs soft light for around $140 each. The lights are also wirelessly controlled, but not with Bluetooth. Instead, Godox uses a dedicated 2.4 GHz remote control that cleverly magnet-mounts and charges on the back of the light panel, and is easily removed and sits on your desk when in use. The controller holds a charge for weeks and, with two lights, I can switch while one is charging.
Unlike the Elgato system, the Godox controller uses separate physical dials to control light temperature and intensity. I love the tactile switch, and the ability to easily decrease or increase lighting while in a meeting, and without digging through a sub-menu or even taking my eye off the camera lens or screen.
I also like that the Godox lights attach to my desk with a c-clamp, not a pedestal. This allows me to set the lights anywhere along the rim of my desk, rather than sacrificing valuable desk space. Like the Elgato, the Godox has an adjustable stem to raise or lower the LED panel, but the Godox also has a swivel head that allows you to adjust the light 360 degrees.
Go with Godox
While the LED light quality of the Elgato and Godox is very similar – you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference on camera – my preference is Godox. Sure, Elgato has some unique integration features and a nifty ridge to hide the wire behind the stem, but overall, the build and flexibility of the Godox is stronger than the Elgato.
The Best Virtual Broadcasts Start with Worktank
Worktank helps businesses connect virtually with their clients, customers, and teams – wherever they may be. We specialize in live, virtual, and hybrid event production and video streaming services for company town halls and all-hands meetings, executive presentations, c-suite communications, and more.
Our team of content creators and producers are experts at incorporating scaled audience engagement tools, video and motion titles, and graphics to build dynamic TV-show-quality broadcasts that keep your audience engaged from start to finish.