CineTips 001 – Poor Man’s Nova

For many cinematographers and gaffers, the Aputure Nova P300C is one of the best lights that they will have ever used. With an impressively high light output, full RGBWW light capability, the ability to be controlled by the Sidus link app, and the reasonable price of 2725 SGD or 1699 USD, it is extremely hard to find another light that can match its capability at the same price point. 

Despite its relatively low cost, the P300C is still a lot of money for many of us. A much cheaper alternative would be the Aputure AL-MC LED Light. This light is like a mini version of the P300C with its own internal battery and it comes in a convenient 4-Light Travel Kit with a charging case.

At a cost of 698 SGD or 499 USD, the 4-Light Travel Kit is significantly cheaper than a single P300C. However, the light output of an individual MC is extremely limited. Therefore, I decided to combine all 4 MCs in the travel kit to create a low-budget alternative to the P300C which I call the Poor Man’s Nova

The Aputure MC has a pair of magnets attached to its rear which allows it to stick to any magnetic surface such as the tray shown above. And using the Aputure Sidus Link App on my phone, I can link them together so that they operate as a single unit

How to construct the Poor Man’s Nova

Constructing the Poor Man’s Nova is relatively easy. You will need the following items:

  • Metal Tray (the tray must be made of a magnetic material such as stainless steel or the MCs will not stick onto it)
  • L Bracket (holes must be able to fit a ¼” screw
  • Nuts and Bolts (able to fit through the L Bracket)
  • Double-sided Spigot
  • ¼” Nut

Using the L-Bracket as a guide, mark the spots on the tray where the bolts will be attached using a sharpie or a permanent marker. Ideally, the L-Bracket should be attached at the bottom of the tray in the middle. Using a drill with a metal drill bit, drill the appropriately sized holes in the tray. Attach the L-Bracket to the tray using the nuts and bolts and attach the spigot to the L-Bracket at the bottom using the ¼” nut.

The spigot will allow you to attach the fixture directly to a gobo head of a C-stand. If you are attaching it light stand, you will need to use a swivel umbrella holder to attach it as shown above

Usage of this fixture

Now, let’s talk about some of the uses of this fixture. Can this contraption replace an Aputure Nova P300C? Absolutely not. I would definitely not be using this as my primary key light. The intensity of this light is nowhere near the intensity of a P300C. It would take an estimated 12 to 16 MCs in order to match the intensity of the P300C. 

Another thing to consider is the battery life. The Aputure MC has a battery life of 2 hours if you’re using it on full brightness which is probably not enough to last for a full shooting day if you’re using this as one of your primary lights. Now, you can power the MCs using USB power, but you’re going to have 4 USB cables coming out of the fixture which may be a little bit of a mess. You will also need to use USB chargers and cables that can support PD charging or 3A at 18W. Otherwise, you will not be able to use the fixture at full power, or some of the MCs might just shut off.

So with all these disadvantages, what would I be using this fixture for? For me, this is primarily an effects light. I can use this light in conjunction with the effects in the Aputure Sidus Link app to create party lights for example. And with 4 MCs instead of only 1, the effect is a lot stronger. 

Because this fixture is so lightweight, I can easily place this light overhead on a C-stand or boom it overhead on a C-Boom. The P300C is a lot heavier and will require more robust lighting support such as a combo stand, junior boom arm, or menace arm. With the MCs’ internal battery, I don’t have to worry about running any power cables to it, as long as I do not use the light at maximum intensity continuously.

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