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Studio Lighting Basics

Lesson 5 of 14

The Lighting Equipment Part 1

Tony Corbell

Studio Lighting Basics

Tony Corbell

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Lesson Info

5. The Lighting Equipment Part 1

Lesson Info

The Lighting Equipment Part 1

We have to have a discussion about about all this equipment and all the gear and all the options that you have available. First and foremost, I think we need to talk about the little bit about the lights. There's there's so many different styles and types of lights that are available, and it's a little confusing, especially if you're kind of new at this. You know? Do I buy led lights? Do I buy speed lights? Do I? Bye, mon Alights dough by generator Pack lights. Do I need a battery? Doing what I need? An answer is I don't know what you're gonna do because, as as I said earlier, everything sort of has a right to exist. All these different tools and things have a right to exist. And so I think that if you if you will thank you. Uh, if you think about it My first When I first started, I used from I set some Wedding is not a lot, but I did do weddings for the first, let's say, 10 years of my career, maybe years. The 1st 500 weddings I shot was with a vivid are 83 flash turned to Blue Auto...

matic and I shot everything at F eight and every exposure worked, and I'd have to think about it. That little cheap little speed light will light and power your little home studio. So it's not about the equipment. It's about the message and the I think about it as the knowledge behind the equipment. Uh, that's what's gonna make all the difference in the world, I think. And so So all the stuff we're gonna go through him. The model lights, generator, life battery, parent options, light shaping specifics, radio remote sandbags, grip equipment. All of that stuff matters, and all of it has a right to exist, and it all does different things, and it really does become a matter of taste and budget. And if you're going to do if you're gonna do two sessions a week with some friends, kids or are you gonna try to run a full fledged business out of there, that's a busy, busy place. That's a whole different vibe and a whole different list of requirements. So you do have to kind of know the direction that you wish to go. If you're going to just head shots or you gonna shoot full lengths if you're going, All that matters and it all factors into this. But you can start with speed line and get away with it. And we'll talk about that and set up and show you that, uh, that segment comes up tomorrow and we're gonna have a small studio set up in here tomorrow that will replicate a bedroom in your home, Just a small 12 by 12 little square room. And we're gonna do that tomorrow in here, uh, and talk about the challenges with that from from focusing lenses and not being able to back up to also light sources. What do we do with lights? You know, so we'll talk about that, Um e put backgrounds on this list because I do think backgrounds are a key element in this. They are the secondary subject in many of your portrait's. And I think the secondary subject there are seeing this Muslim polyester backgrounds crushable the lures. There's all sorts of different things. Most of my personal backgrounds are Are the polyester backgrounds. Uh, I get mine from the White House custom color WCC by. I've got 10 backgrounds from White House that they're They're 10 by eight and their wrinkle free fabrics, and it's fantastic and they weren't great because they've got so many different varieties. I'm not a guy that has the same background in four different colors. I'd rather get one that's great. And then using gels, I'll change the color to get the color that I want. But I But I want different size shapes and contours of the of the background itself. So so I'll use that as my guide. When I'm making a purchase on the background, I'll try to get a background that it has the flavor of what I want, but not so much. I'm not so much worried about the color. I'll take care of my own color. It cracks me up to get a background catalogue in the mail and here, 300 background colors of the same background. Just give me one and 300 gels. I could make it whatever killed our one for a lot less money, But it's something to really think about. Stan's bags grip equipment. Most portrait folks don't use C stands. For example, most portrait people just used light stands and heavy duty life standing will use the stands that came with their kits, and that's fine for many, many things. But I also see people all the time putting lights that are heavier than they should be on lighter weight stands. And they're kind of teetering a little bit. And especially if you ever take him outdoors in the wind, you get yourself in really real trouble. If one those falls on the child, and then we're gonna talk a little about the business later. And that's why you gotta have liability insurance. And that's why we gotta have another discussion about all that. So, uh, you gotta get covered. It's a business. It's gonna be covered. And the separation of your business financials from your home and personal financials. You got to separate this anyway. That's for another discussion. Later, Um, I started with generator lights. Now generator lights are sort of defined as I've got a central. I've got a central power pack that old lights lead into either one or two. Heads are. Some have three or four heads that'll plug into a central generator, and that light isn't distributed out to those heads. It's a It's a real clever design because it does give you the ability to have really, really lightweight heads. The drawback is I'm I'm limited to what the generator will let me do and distributing that power. And sometimes that's a little bit of a limiting factor. Sometimes you can't I want to drop that one head just 1/2 of a stop and I don't want affect anything else. And sometimes it takes a mathematician and a lot of head scratching to look at this power pack and try to figure how to do that. And sometimes you can't do that with the packs that you have. They're symmetrical or asymmetrical, and it's a little bit of a challenge. The good news about those are that power pack in those small heads have can can have up to massive power. And for commercial guys that are shooting tabletop work, that's what they're using. They they need the output of a 4000. What second on one head, for example, to shoot food at F 64 on a boat in camera. I mean, that's the kind of stuff that people still do. So you you do have to have that power, and you're not gonna get that model light, but you can get the generator. The good news about the generator is it's one extension cord. You just power that one generator and that'll tire all your heads, whereas with the model lights, every head has to have a power cord and then I'll have to plug in separately. So that means extension cords and wires all over your floor. And that's that's part of the trade off. But I have individual head control of 1/10 of a stop. I could go up to every head and I can power it up 1/3 down, 2/10 up, 4/ down 1/2. Whatever I need, I can power each head individually, and that's huge for me. It's a really, really, really important control. So for that reason, 10 years ago, I stopped using generator lights at all. I just don't use him. I just Onley use mono lights. I say that I will also tell you that I just picked up some new There's a new light on the market. This little e l B 400. You saw me use him at that little thing. We did this little e l B 400 from Ellen Chrome. It's a small, small little heads that weigh half a pound, their eight ounces and this little small generator that's also a battery pack. 425 watt seconds of output, which is very, very bright. And I'll talk about a more in depth in just a second and show him and we'll dig into him a little bit. But for the most part, the point here is there's a lot of different ways to get to the same result, which is we just want a portrait of this child or this engagement a couple or whatever it is, and understanding the controls of each of those elements is pretty important. I know people that don't know some of the capabilities of their speed lights. You know, most of you don't have a degree in mathematics, and you look at the back of the menu on some of the newer value speed lights, and you're like how I just want to sing the fire. How do I make it fire? You know? Oh, I just want to drop it 1/2 stop. How can I do that? Or why is it I'm stuck in Stroble Scott Pick and I can't make it stop. You know, whatever you know, you got a region. You gotta read the instruction manual, but you do need to take time to really learn your gear, and that's the biggest. That's a big challenge for a lot of people. But for me, the monitor life's work real well. New battery fire. We'll talk about that life shaping specifics. I use a lot of of medium to large sources in my work, and the reason is I can always if I needed one to be smaller. If I need a harder edge life, I can always back a light up. But I can't always make one bigger if I needed to be softer. So buying one medium soft box or a smaller soft box, you can only move it so close before it's in the frame and before you and your and and if it is and you're still not quite where you need to be, then you got an issue. Uh, and then sometimes you can You can take the box off and turn and bounce it into a white wall. Maybe, but then there's a set of tradeoffs for that every decision that you make with equipment, there's a tradeoff. You are giving up something, and that is one of the hardest things to understand. And photography is that in every decision, it's like it's like the sports guys. I was fortunate enough to work the Atlanta Olympics in 96 I was right next to a guy. Everything that he's all about, his freezing, the runner freezing, the runner freezing the runner he's gotta shoot wide open on. He needs, and he needs to be a 2000. He needs to be a and then it's minutes like the narrow depth of field and the focus is so critical. And if he was missing focus, it's like, Ah, but I can't not freeze the guy. But I gotta have the guy sharp and, well, won't you shoot off 11? We can't shoot up, let me cause I go down there. Now I'm shooting at a 2 54 5 100 instead of everything's a trade off. You know everything and with equipment is no different. So let's talk about, uh, let me start by talking about this little kid right over here. This is a little three head kits. This'll this'll little package right here has 3 watt second heads in it, and three light stands come with it. It comes with a small soft box that looks like this that sets up and tears down really quick, and it comes with two umbrellas and it comes with a radio remote and Hope gets under 1000 bucks. Three heads with all that other stuff. So that's a really valuable little tool. The two head version of that, I think, is like six or $700. Something's pretty reasonable, especially when my last speed light with $600 so all of a sudden three let a three head kit is not beyond the reach of most of you that we're gonna be doing this. It's really reasonable to think about, um, this is This is one of the heads, and their small little lightweight has all the strobes, the model Let's all work the same way, and so do the ones for the generators. They all have a separate modeling lamp. In a separate flash to the modeling lamps on Lee, job is to approximate to your eye what this thing is gonna look like when the flash of the strobe fire from the flash two fires all the flash tubes in the world all work the same way. They're basically neon. I mean their tubes with vacuum with xenon gas inside the tube. And there's always a metal lead that goes around. And when you hit the test button or when you plug in the same court or whatever it is that you're doing two fired, it basically is just completing the circuit. And that xenon gas just explodes. This little mini miniature explosions that are controlled. Hopefully bam, no, they're just like damn well, they're kind like this. Just like that, Yes, so that's it. But one of the things I like about these little heads, they're very expensive. This is only 100 watts because they come in 102 104 100. And I brought the lowest value ones here because I'm gonna show you how inexpensive and have this will still work and how even at a low output with today's modern cameras, you guys don't have to shoot it. I have so 100 anymore, right? How many of you are successfully shooting at 48 16. 3200. I s Oh, you bet. Great. So let's lower the value of these out. Put just a little bit of bumper. I s 02 400 maybe in the studio, and we get plenty of great exposure. Plenty of great depth. No problem at all. One of the clever things that that Ellen Chrome has done every surface that faces forward has that same look. The efficiency of their output is ridiculously clever and and even and bright. So So when you when you look at their, uh, the inside of their soft boxes, everything kind of looks like the same surface as the inside of that. Everything matches up and everything. Every front facing surface is efficient. There's no loss of efficiency. That means they're getting the most whomp that you can. Is that an official word? Does that translate in Crete? Yeah, so? So they're really But they're great little heads, and they're very, very lightweight. And, uh, the controls. Hey, John, come out here for just a second. Let me let me bring on this knucklehead. This is John. This is John Cornyn cello. He's a local photographer here in Seattle and John have been friends for for five years. You've all seen him on the show a lot. He loves to help out and be a part of what's going on here. And the first question I asked when they asked me to come on the show, I says, John available. You might check John's calendar because if he's not available now, I can't do it. That's why you moved from earlier in the month because because you were busy. But John's great because he's also a great collaborator. He's not just a photo assistant working pro, and he's a great collaborate. I'll say something. He'll go. That's not right. You needed. Oh, crap, You're right. John Wayne do that to each other. The old guy's way were joking. Before the between us, we have, what, 70 stop. At 70 years of experience, Kenny edit in with her as we go and Jim or producer were 125 years shooting experience. Five for me. So, yeah, you're the guy from the young guy. Can you look in that in the small pelican case looking thing and see if you can find one little transmitter the little transmitters. I'll actually camera bag, it's going in my roller bag just won't talk to him showing that that's a sky port. Remote the radio. One of the things that they've done real cleverly is they've built in the sky port remote receivers in all the heads of all the income products. So that little trans little radio it's it's not. It's not a line of sight. It's a radio, and it's now built in all their stuff. So from the remote, I can power the lycan flash the light. Uh, it just put it on top of my camera and I can paralyze up and down, and I can set which head I want to power up and down, and it's just real clever. So, yeah, it's just a real lightweight little guy like this, and it's just really clever. And it works with all their gear now, so and this comes with it, you don't have to buy extras not three or 400 or extra. It's it's all but in their question, Yeah, just really quickly. Are these model later model, like really? Yep, there are the heads and there's paraben para down modern land brightness, flash test everything. It's all right there. And we're gonna use these, uh, tomorrow on a shoot. So you're gonna like these. Can you? A Greek? Absolutely. Well, not to that one, but two. There's another front skin I have to put on their first because it's gonna be recessed. But the answer is yes. All all the boxes that I used, you can always have the recessed front that you can then put a grid on some that you can't. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The goods are pretty important for a lot of things. Especially especially for lights, that accent life from behind coming forward because it really does do two things. It means that the light on Lee goes where you want it. And it also means that it doesn't flare your limbs so it doesn't It doesn't cause any big issues. Yeah, but I think you're gonna be impressed with these little guys because they're just They're waiting nothing. And and they and they're capable of doing a lot, you know, I'll put his terrific. Yeah, but they don't think so. Small. It's really great with the sky port and these guys Now, I've just gotten where I have so many of these sky ports. One of the other accessories that they've come out with it comes with this kid. Also, is this little guy here? This is their call. This their deflector, The deflector. So all you do with that guy is if you can put a standard reflector head on this or any of the soft boxes, right? Or you can just take this little guy, put him in there and push him in, like right there. And it's just called a translucent diffuser. Dick Lecter. I can use that without putting anything on it. And I'm gonna get us much, much softer, like quality. And this comes in silver White, black gold. What a clever idea. Yes, ma'am. Can you just tell us again? People are asking. Tell us again what that is with the brand, the Brits, Ellen Chrome. And this is the model number on this is delight. One de hyphen L I t E one from Ellen Chrome. And I just think they're just ridiculously clever. And again they pack in that one little bag right there. Yeah, Mike, I think I probably know the answer to this already because it's Ellen Crume, but, um, consistency of color from highest powered and lost power. It'll Onley shift 70 degrees Kelvin at the most from highest list from high slopes. And Ellen Combs real serious about the color balance. Yeah, same with everyone there likes. Same thing. They're not even in those little tiny you bet. You bet. Okay, so that's a good starting place for us. That little light is again. It's just a real clever. I like what they've done to There's a There's a sure lock when you when you ban at any attachment onto their heads, it stops the thing. There's also another lock. Your insurance agent mean we made yourself boxes are not gonna fall off because when you put him on and they bail snap, then you push the lock down. So it's kind of kind of clever. Um, so then so those air those air lights that are inexpensive, small, lightweight, great to use and they can travel in your trunk Easy. Then the next one up that I use is this is the 2nd head. This is the B R X, and this has kind of become my workhorse beast and again. There's the lock. There's the snap, and it's the same look. You see the center of the silver in here exactly the same all the way across the product line. This is a little bit heavier, but it's not a lot heavier, but it is a full 500 watt seconds, and it is pretty bright and very, very fast. Recycle time. Very, very true color from full toe, all the way lowest and very fast. Flash duration. So each one of these models and I can't I can't quote you on all the different flashed rations, but all of them are very rare. Faster than most. And and don't come spirit of their electronics. Have they figured out a way to have some of their fastest flash duration at their highest power? Not the lowest power. Nobody else has figured that part out. You might have already covered this. Sorry I missed it. Are these battery power? Do you have to plug them in These Okay, we got batteries coming up, though, and then you're gonna love these old guys. But this is This is a pretty important workhorse for me. I've got my name on everything. I'm really anal about making sure that my name is honor and every head I've got a number that if I've got one, that's a problem. I always know which one it is. So just a small little thing. That same with cameras. All my cameras were numbered. So eyes know if I've got an issue with one camera body, I don't know which one it is. So, um, but again, on the back has got the same all the same setting, That's all that the model Light everything up and down. 1/10 1 10th 1/10 or whatever. Uh, and then you can also vary the modeling lamp, Of course, to be proportional are full or whatever. So there's no big surprise here. Also has a built in slave, you know, so we'll see that. But, uh, yeah, so far, so good. And all of them have that whole for the deflector, which is also the same place where you put the umbrella. So yeah, Okay, um, here are by the way, those little deflectors we talked about here are some. Here's some of the other ones that I that they send and this is this is an ad on Kit. This one didn't come in that little kit, but I bought all these extra because I can't. I'm just I'm just dina testable and do a ring around test and put up a chart and show you what they all look like. So I'm pretty impressed with that as a life shape or not Have to put anything on this head. That means our set up time is now about, 0 12 seconds, you know, So sometimes on locations, the hardest thing you've got to do is get it all in there and get it all set up. And for those of you that are working in your studios at home, you know how that goes. I mean, you have to, uh, if you don't have a room set aside as your studio, then it means you're in the living room or in the dining room or somewhere. And every time you finish the shoot, you gotta put it all down and pack it all away. And that's a discussion we're gonna have on Wednesday. We're gonna talk about that. How do you care? The caring and the caring and storing of all this stuff, You know, it's it's It is something that has to be thought through, you know, even on where you stored in your home. And what kind of shelves do you have been? How close are they to where you're going to use them? And is your back strong enough to keep carrying all of that stuff? Um, but there is There is so much to be discovered as you as you dig into this a little bit. What I have found, like I say, is that the monoliths are huge and the flashing your of the the the color temperature is a real big deal. I think it's a real big deal if you if you think about it in terms of, uh, the visible spectrum. If you go from, you know, what is it from X ray all the way? Thio, UV. The visible range of that we can see light is pretty small is down in here. And then when you get into what we see photographically, it's kind of down in here somewhere. So it's like that, you know, if they like color. Kelvin temperature is around 52 to 55 depending on who you talk to. 5250. 500 Kelvin 3200 being tongue stone defined as light produced by heat. Right. Uh, so so that's only a couple of 1000 degrees Kelvin. Difference on your cameras on your presets and your cameras, you always have all those different color settings. You got the little sun burst icon. Then you've got the little next to that is a little little flash. The, uh What was that? What? That The character that got the flash, That guy, his suit, That little zone A suit. That's exactly the same icon that's on our cameras now. It's good. Okay, so, uh, but then you got the but then you have the shade and the partly cloudy. Then you've got the tungsten. It looks like the little light bulb. No. One. It looks like the fluorescent tube. All of those presets are accurate. And I stopped doing custom. White balance is a long time ago because I can believe in and rely on trust on those icons. They're accurate. They don't shift, they don't change. I'd have to know what I'm looking at, but they're pretty accurate now. If you're not that great with color or for using a lot of different, like sources. Then you might want to get in the habit of using, you know, a color chart using this iconic color chart or the X right passport, whatever you want to use. But you need to put that in frame one. So you have. So you have a reference value. Yeah, There you go. So there is the reference value of the X right with the with the passport and that goes in frame one and then in your post production. Then you go in and adjust. You picked those color values and then sink at all to that. Sorry, and everything's just ducky. But these are very important to have for people that special and mixed mixed lighting conditions or when you're somewhere you really don't know what the light's gonna do. All the white balance is, I think, auto white balance. If you look up the white balance in the dictionary, it'll say Auto white balance is evil, so don't do it. Auto. Why Bounces is evil. It's In fact, it's so we were gonna call evil he bill. Yeah, it's not good, because it'll it's fine for 50 60% of time. but the other 30 or 40%. It'll just kill you and ruin you, and you won't have a clue how to fix it. So it's not good. I I tell people, don't use auto white balance, Really. It's just it's just not good for you. But, uh, all of these lights and most of the, you know, most of the higher in like lights that are in the world, which I consider Ellen Chrome right up there. Uh, there there daylight balanced the 52 to 50 52 to 55 depending on the manufacturer. But that's so close, that's that's very, very little variation. What you will see is that the reason for the little flash got to exist. That's kind of her speed lights. Not so much studio strokes, because the problem was that speed lights were always a little bit cooler than daylight, right? They were closer to 57 58 59 maybe 6000 Kelvin. And the reason was many of the manufacturers that made the early strobes when they would change and vary their flash output. Instead of changing the the energy in the capacitor, they would just change. They would just clip off the flash duration and they would make it quicker. So that means that the lower values of output the flash duration was so much quicker, except that it shifted colors because all three values of color RGB color values didn't get hit the same time. They all got hit a different value as the peak goes up for the exposure, then comes back down and falls off a small timeline of milliseconds. How fast this all happens. They weren't getting the full true range of color. So that's why that little lightning bolt was put on there in the first place. And so, if you like your pictures to be just a little bit warmer, then a lot of people then put in and set that value at flash and you'll see your pictures will be a tiny bit warmer 4 500 kelvin degrees warmer. It's a pretty nice way to work, especially if you feel that your pictures were looking a little bit cool to sit on the flash that'll warm your pictures up. Color temperature is something that we obviously had to become familiar with when we made the transition from film up until then most people, especially people working with color neg film if you were working. Negatives. If you're working portrait or shooting weddings, your lab. Your lab owned your color. And if you were shooting transparency film and you were shooting, uh, color slide film, your lab was processing out exactly what you were shooting and then your lab. You know, sometimes people do a snip test to look at that and say, OK, let's take a look in the 1st 3 frames. How's that look with exposures? A little under. Okay, great. So let's run everything and push it and offsetting Compensate for that. But your value of color in that you were in charge of so honestly When the transition came into digital, the commercial photographers had less of a problem making the transition than portrait photographer, and her body was slapped. The commercial guys were that much smarter. They're smarter than portrait guys know they aren't. They just had to be more disciplined. Portrait guys never had to be that disciplined because you could go over exposed three and 1/2 stops and your lab could still make a print that you could under expose two and 1/ stops and your life could still make a print. That's a six stop range. Try that today and digital. Sorry. Yeah. If you send that to your If you send that after trying to make a print that there's a six top variation somebody's gonna tell you along the path you oughta buy meter. So that's why I'm so stuck on on the importance of a light meter. But color temperature is is something that really has to be. You really gotta work through that. Make sure that that makes sense to you. Um, soft boxes in the studio. Of course we talked about those earlier. Depending on what you have. It doesn't really matter what brand you use, but I will tell you that placement of the soft boxes is pretty important. And I'll show you some things later on today with placement that I've sort of figured out some fun little, some fun, little ways that you can kind of fool the system a little bit to make your flashes a little bit more efficient in a soft box. But they all have that same for the most part, they all have that same silver inside just to make it all a lot more efficient, coming out and not losing too much. But anyway, they all have speed rings. And, you know, the speed rings for just about any brand are also available to fit just about any brand. So, you know. Yeah, that's great, John. That's good. This is the thistle guy is called. This is called the Deep Octa. This is this, is there, uh, it's knocked a bank just like all the other eight side of Dr Banks. A step. This is called the Deep Octa, because it's deeper than most what it by going deeper than that, it kind of I don't know how to define this other than saying it's sort of COLUMN MATES COLUMN Neitz COLUMN Mates, It makes a column out of the light. Yeah, thank you, Narrows Levine. Yeah, that's the ticket. It narrows the beam. That's what I meant to say, and it makes it more efficient the same size in a regular octa. This one is about 2/3 of a stop potter, because it's more narrow, beamed, but in most, uh, from here on up in all sizes, they also come with a center baffle that you can even further soften and more evenly illuminate what's coming forward out of the box. But again, the inside same stuff and we'll talk more about how these set up later. But what I like about thes is it's just a It's just a kind of a friction fit all the way around. And there's one Velcro flap on each side. See a little small strip right there, and that's the way all their boxes are. Every one of their sizes do the same thing, and it's just real quick and easy set up when you're ready to shoot. So, uh, this little guy is how I lit in the first segment. I showed that photograph of my friend Roth that we did at night, the kind of US bookie movie poster with fog and blue. This is how he lit. I lit his face with. Put this with this guy up high, coming straight down. Yeah, so kind of one of my becoming one of my favorite little tools. And this isn't comes in several sizes, too. I don't have everything here. Um, but this comes in different sizes. So, uh, but this is the Yeah, this is the deep octa. Thanks 27 inch, maybe, or something, but it's just called the Deep Doctor, and it's pretty clever, so it's become a real important tool to me.

Class Description

Lighting equipment doesn’t come cheap, so it is crucial you get your money’s worth. Learn how to make the most of your investments in Studio Lighting Basics with Tony Corbell.

Tony is a celebrated photographer, educator, and author. In this class, he’ll help you get more out of basic studio gear. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to use off-camera speedlights
  • The basics of studio lights including; mono lights and pack lights 
  • Combining studio lighting with natural light
  • The properties of light 
  • How to position lights for varied results and styles
You’ll learn practical ways to work with strobes and light shaping tools and get tips on creating the exact look you’re aiming for. Tony will also help you overcome any hesitations you have about purchasing and setting up your own lighting equipment.

If you want to get more looks out of your existing gear or want to know which gear you should invest in, don’t miss Studio Lighting Basics with Tony Corbell.


Catherine Stevens

Excellent class. Tony does a great job of highlighting different ways to work with light without being prescriptive. He's also a great speaker - very clear and easy to listen to. I would love it if this class came with a gear list and some basic guidance on the different lights as a starting point - I think the class does assume a certain amount of pre-existing lighting knowledge. Still worth every cent though!


I love watching Tony Corbell. He is such a wealth of knowledge. He is one of the Great Masters. Tony is an excellent teacher and he both freely and honestly shares his immense experience. It is truly a delight listen and watch to Tony teach.