Improvements In Efficiencies And Performance Help Lights Shine For Better Video Production

This has been a year in which we all—reporters, producers and station engineers—had to learn the basics of good lighting, particularly the three-point setup pioneered by famed lighting inventor Ross Lowell for in-home studios. However, lighting fixtures and kits in general got lighter and easier to use, even for large studio and ENG applications as well.

But who would have guessed that the now ubiquitous consumer-grade “Ring Light”, which is typically made from a single circular fluorescent bulb or several connected small LED lights that form the shape of a circle, would become the de-facto standard for convenient (and effective) home studio lighting?

Home studios aside, however, there were new product introductions in larger-sized studio lighting as well, including HMI lights that use mercury vapor and metal halide to create a high output of light with energy efficiency. The light provided from HMI’s is very similar to that of natural sunlight (6000K), making them daylight balanced. These lights, used most often on film sets and in major TV production studios, cost a lot up front but can save on power costs in the long run. On the downside, they require bulky ballasts and are not fully dimmable.

Fluorescent lights use gas to create a glow, which is amplified by a layer of phosphor coating. These lights are very energy efficient and can have a range of color temperatures from 2700K to 6500K. Fluorescent lighting is compact and generates little heat, making them easy to work with. Consumer-grade fluorescent lighting can create problems with flicker and color rendition, but fluorescent lighting made specifically for video doesn’t usually suffer from the same issues. Professional fluorescent lights have special ways to negate the flicker and poor color quality inherent in home-use fluorescents, but they are considerably more expensive.

Quasar Science offers LED tube fixtures of varying sizes for film and TV production, including the new RR Double Rainbow Linear LED Lights.

Quasar Science offers LED tube fixtures of varying sizes for film and TV production, including the new RR Double Rainbow Linear LED Lights.

Light emitting diode (LED) units are energy efficient but are known to produce limited output, but can provide variable light across the RGB spectrum and often feature bi-color functionality to allow easy switching between daylight and Tungsten color temperatures. LEDs are a fast-growing part of the landscape and are increasingly being used in Fresnel light fixtures as well as panels. LEDs have an extremely long lifespan, allow for full dimming and are very rugged and safe units compared to the other bulbs. They can be more expensive, but prices are coming down every year.

The fact that LEDs produce stable output at specific color wavelengths is a good thing. For one thing, it means that you can use these lights as either primary or supplemental sources because they're made to match references. It also helps that you can accomplish a lot without using color gels since you have access to a wider range of colored lighting. You may still find gels helpful when you'd rather not remember precise color settings, but with digitally controlled LEDs, you can just load them up on the fly.

Color Temperature
Color temperature is another important factor to look at when choosing lighting fixtures, which is a measure of the color quality of a light measured in degrees Kelvin. If you were shooting inside a house lit by Tungsten lights rated at 3,200 kelvin and balanced it accordingly, the light inside will appear white, while the daylight beaming through the windows will appear blue. Inversely, if you were to white balance inside that room for the light coming in through the window, those Tungsten light sources would appear orange.

Most of the time, the goal is to unify the color temperature of all of your light sources, either through the use of gels or simply by choosing light sources that all output at the same color temperature.

As you consider buying a fixture, consider what color temperature best suits the type of work you do. You might need lights that are balanced for indoors 3200K, outdoors (5600K) or maybe ones that offer variable control and can provide a wide range of color temperatures. The answer will depend on where you will spend the most time shooting and what other lights you may already have in your kit.

Brightline has upgraded its L1.2 and L1.4 LED SeriesONE studio lights with variable color temperature and improved color rendering.

Brightline has upgraded its L1.2 and L1.4 LED SeriesONE studio lights with variable color temperature and improved color rendering.

“LED instruments with features like variable color temperature, PoE (power over Ethernet), and wireless control are generating the most interest [currently],” said Kathy Katz, Partner at lighting provider Brightline. “Smart app control is growing in popularity as well, as demand for lighting for remote applications has increased.”

Brightline (in Bridgeville, Penn.) offers a range of devices, from the portable ZELo desktop studio light to long-throw, grid-mounted applications. It also offers six-inch track installation units and 2x2-foot ceiling tile replacements. Producing fewer models with more features like variable color temperature helps to maximize efficiencies while minimizing cost impact, said Katz.

For TV production, Brightline has upgraded its L1.2 and L1.4 LED SeriesONE studio light fixtures with variable color temperature, improved color rendering, and optional wireless DMX/RDM control. They are lightweight and feature noiseless operation, making them ideal for broadcast studios. The company is also a distributor of Lupo’s Dayled 1000 and 2000 Dual Color PRO LED Fresnels, which can be used in the studio or on location.

Another lighting company, Quasar Science (based in Los Angeles), was acquired by the Vitec Group in April of this year. The company offers LED fixtures of varying sizes for film and TV production, including the new RR Double Rainbow Linear LED Lights.

“Due to general 'Ephemeralization' [the ability of technological advancement to do more with less], design and ergonomic efficiencies continue to get better as components get smaller and smaller,” said Steven Strong, Managing Director at Quasar Science. “As a company that helped popularized LED tube lights, we realized long ago how useful the low-profile form factor could be in the lighting arena. “We continue to refine [our products] by packing in as much technology as possible.”

The slim form factor of the RR Double Rainbow light helps it work seamlessly in tight spaces in the studio where low ceiling height or elbow room is at a premium. The fixture also includes data networking capabilities that allow it to work well with wired and wireless control protocols (such as DMX and W-DMX as well as sACN and ArtNet) over a console or an app.

Ikan offers DMX-controlled fixtures used in studios and TV stations and battery-powered versions for on-location video production.

Ikan offers DMX-controlled fixtures used in studios and TV stations and battery-powered versions for on-location video production.

Ikan Corp. offers its Lyra Series of soft LED panel lights that are in high demand due to their ease of setup. There are DMX-controlled versions that are used in studios and TV stations; and battery-powered versions for on-location video production. Fixture sizes range from ½’ x 1’ to 1’ x 4’. The company also sells a 1’x2’ soft RGBW version that supports both batteries and DMX control.

“Our goal is to maximize the light's output, so fitting in a couple extra LEDs is our priority,” said Kevin Lu, product manager at Ikan Corp. “However, as technology advances, we do expect LED lights to get more compact and more efficient.”

Going forward, Brightline’s Katz said to watch for simplified, more app-based front-end control, as well as efficient power trends with the growth of PoE and other low-voltage lighting.

“With cameras and headphones becoming ubiquitous in home offices, I expect we’ll see more videoconferencing software offering lighting adjustments, plus potentially more integrated lighting components for communication devices like PCs and monitors,” she said.

In the end, understanding your needs and how they fit into the current marketplace makes it easier to get the right fixtures for the job at hand. Becoming familiar with the range of lights available will help you choose the right tool for the project ahead.

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