By Christine Bunish
What’s hot in lighting today is largely about what’s cool. Energy-efficient LEDs have made major inroads in film and video production, especially as LED fixtures become more versatile. But that’s not to say development of tungsten and daylight luminaires is at a standstill. Cinematographers and lighting designers typically seek a blend of fixtures for the best results, and they have more options than ever to choose from.
Mole-Richardson Shines in Two Arenas
Hollywood’s venerable Mole-Richardson Company (www.mole.com) is pursuing two tracks these days, continuing its role as a big lamp provider offering large tungsten PARs and Fresnels, as well as introducing its first LED products. “We’re producing everything from half-amp, efficient LED sources to the biggest fixtures that draw approximately 200 amps,” says Paul Royalty, director of sales. “Talk about a frenzied engineering department!”
The manufacturer is making its debut in the LED arena with the MoleLED 12-Pack, a soft light available in tungsten and daylight, which “looks and acts like the traditional tungsten soft lights we’ve been making since the ’50s,” Royalty says. “What’s different from everybody else’s LEDs is that we’ve worked with OSRAM to develop a remote phosphor LED that really mirrors the spectral sensitivity of film. We ran five film tests over a 12-month period with the A.S.C. and Kodak until we got to the point where they couldn’t discern the difference in light quality for film between a regular tungsten fixture and our LED.”
Mole-Richardson 5K Tungsten PAR
The MoleLED 12-Pack, which is now shipping, has garnered kudos from “those who pay attention to color and light quality. The reaction has been phenomenal. They’re so thankful that we put in the amount of work we did to get it right. We’re not trying to force people into using only our LEDs now. But we’re showing how they can be integrated into existing packages with no worry about color shifts.”
Coming in the fourth quarter is the MoleLED Single. It boasts the same attributes as the 12-Pack, but is available in a package of three individual LED circuit boards with a controller. “That allows it to work like a car kit with DMX or wireless DMX control,” explains Royalty. “It can run off of batteries for more than three hours.”
He expects the MoleLED Single to do “exceptionally well,” thanks to its versatility and compact form factor. “You can use it anywhere you need to tuck a light – by a computer monitor, behind a desk, up in the corner of a room.”
|Mole-Richardson Tungsten PAR|
On the big light front, Mole-Richardson received “a tremendous amount of requests post-IBC” for its 24K Daylite HMI Fresnel, the latest in big HMI lamp technology. “We’ve been doing big fixtures better than anyone for the last 80 years, so it’s in our wheelhouse,” notes Royalty. A pair of 24K Daylites has been used in the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, for the run of the production as the shoot has traveled from the UK to Pittsburgh to LA.
Although “a lot of companies are not focusing on tungsten R&D,” Royalty says, Mole-Richardson has chosen to take a different approach. The company has worked with GE to develop three separate lamps, he said, the new HX 2K; the HX 5K, which has been “growing exponentially” year to year; and the year-old HX 12K 208V.
“The lamps are designed to work axially or horizontally,” Royalty explains. “Traditional filaments in the 5K and 12K range don’t like to operate in that position. When you put them in a PAR fixture they give the technician or cinematographer 97-percent reflective efficiency. So with our most popular 5K tungsten PAR it’s like getting the light output of a traditional 10K Fresnel – you get almost twice the efficiency and you can shape the beam with PAR lenses. You get the power and versatility of a PAR, but in 3200K tungsten without big, thick Fresnel glass.” The 2K tungsten PAR, which can be plugged into a wall outlet or Edison circuit, delivers the equivalent light of a 5K Fresnel.
Looking ahead, Royalty expects Mole-Richardson to continue pursuing these two paths. “Over the next 12 months, you will see more on the LED side – spotlights and Fresnel types,” he says. At the same time, “we’re listening to market demands for bigger fixtures. We’ll introduce a dedicated 24K tungsten Fresnel. We have had success with 24K HMIs and will implement those design characteristics with the tungsten fixture to dissipate the heat and get better performance out of the lamp.”
Litepanels Expands Product Options
During the last few years, there’s been “a definite shift toward LED lighting in the film and ENG/EFP markets,” says Chris Marchitelli, vice president/global marketing at LED pioneer Litepanels (www.litepanels.com), a Vitec Group brand. LEDs generate less heat than other fixtures, are easy to move with battery and AC power sources, and produce a soft, pleasing light, he notes. Little wonder they are turning up in CNBC’s new London studios, the White House press briefing room and the announce booth for Super Bowl XLV.
|Litepanels Croma, an on-camera LED fixture.|
But some prospective users still have been apprehensive about using LEDs that are mostly balanced toward daylight. “Now we’re able to produce more tungsten-balanced lights, and we’ve seen the adoption rate pick up,” Marchitelli reports. “We’re seeing broadcast look at LED studio lighting. They’re able to save money cooling the studio and on the actual power draw. In some case studies, people swapping tungsten fixtures for LEDs see their ROI in less than three years.”
Offering talent comfort, ease of use, high-quality light and environmentally friendly operation, LEDs appear to the best thing since night baseball. But Marchitelli says, “The challenge we have is educating the marketplace. Many people managing studios rarely think of lighting as a place to save money. Their lighting grid has been there for years, and they are not aware how inefficient it is.”
Customers have more Litepanels products to choose from than ever before. The company launched a four-inch version of its DMX-controllable Sola LED Fresnel, which is daylight balanced, at IBC; tungsten-balanced fixtures are in the works.
Hilio also debuted at IBC. A high-powered light, it’s comparable to fixtures with a 1000W output and is capable of throwing illumination over 20-25 feet. “Although compact and lightweight in profile, Hilio is a wide, soft flood light than can be used like an HMI,” Marchitelli points out. “We finally have an LED able to compete with sunlight. Until recently, there was no LED with enough punch to produce that kind of strong throw.”
Another IBC launch was Croma, an on-camera LED fixture that offers dial-in variable color temperature control. The compact Croma can be mounted atop a camera or on small stands and is daylight- and tungsten-balanced. “It’s perfect for the HDSLR market, for outdoors or indoors,” says Marchitelli. “It’s able to match the ambient room color and give an even, soft, balanced light.”
|Litepanels Croma, an on-camera LED fixture.
He promises more new products for NAB 2012. “We were the first to come out with professional LED lights and are working hard to retain that leadership role,” he says. “We’re the only LED company able to offer such a wide breadth of product lines and provide customers with so many options.”
Marchitelli notes that Litepanels is “still a small, U.S.-based brand. Everything is designed and built here. There are a lot of overseas companies making lower-quality knockoffs – we’re constantly fighting that. Sometimes people buy inexpensive lights and find that the color temperature isn’t quite right and they don’t last long. It’s a real case of you get what you pay for. As the LED lighting frontrunner, it is our job to point out that Litepanels’ improved quality of light, versatility and reduced carbon-footprint benefits are also smart business.”
ARRI Gains Efficiencies Across Product Lines
At ARRI (www.arri.com), the goal is to deliver lighting fixtures that are more efficient than the previous generation of its products or those offered by its competitors. “Improved efficiency is all about electrical efficiency: how green you can be by reducing the amount of electrical consumption and any negative aspects to manufacturing or the by-products of using the lights,” says John Gresch, vice president/lighting products for ARRI Inc. in Burbank. “Our core group of customers is filmmakers who have developed certain styles and looks over the years. How do you make a more efficient light that doesn’t compromise what they’re looking for? That’s where the challenge is.”
About four years ago, ARRI redesigned the majority of its tungsten-based Fresnels using more energy-efficient True Blue lamp housing technology; True Blue for its HMI Fresnels followed.
Around the same time, the company launched a new HMI optical system with ARRIMAX (MAX) technology, starting with the largest S.E. HMI bulb: the 18K. The ARRIMAX 18/12, dubbed the most powerful HMI on the planet, netted ARRI a scientific Academy Award. MAX technology has since been applied to other size fixtures. The 1800W M18 is “the brightest HMI light you can plug into a 20A 120-volt outlet,” says Gresch. “It’s been extremely popular.” Coming in January is the 4K M40.
Last year, the 750W ARRILITE 750 Plus combined MAX technology with an HPL lamp in a tungsten unit that consumes 25 percent less power than the old 1000W fixture and produces 20 percent more light. The ARRILITE 2000 also has been redesigned with the MAX technology.
ARRI also has embraced the fluorescent market with its Studio Cool line and the LED arena with its Caster series. “People often mix fluorescent, tungsten and now LEDs,” notes Gresch. “We’re careful to point out that one technology doesn’t necessarily replace another on the artistic side.”
ARRI’s LoCaster location-based LED and remote-controlled BroadCaster feature an internal mixing chamber for a homogenous, diffused light free of multiple shadows and with no “squint factor” for talent. They also boast adjustable color temperature, adjustable plus minus green and adjustable intensity, the latter without changing color temperature. The popular lights are used individually, in two-light kits or in larger arrays, says Gresch, and are deployed by NFL Sports and NBC.
The flagship L-Series line of LED Fresnels made its debut at NAB 2011. “The L-Series ties everything together,” says Gresch. “They use an internal mixing chamber and come in a choice of tungsten-balanced (L7-T), daylight-balanced (L7-D, available beginning next year) and color- controllable, which has been getting the most attention.” The L-7C color controllable unit features a unique function mode. “You can shift from Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) to the hue and saturation mode where you can call up any color in hue and dial in the amount of saturation. It’s very exciting!”
The fixture has the same form factor as a 1000W tungsten Fresnel and can be used as a substitute for that luminaire, while gaining three to four times more electrical efficiency. Its optical system is quite focusable – only a single shadow is produced and the light can be cut with a barn door. It has on-board dimming control and a light engine whose life approaches 50,000 hours.
ARRI LoCaster BroadCaster
The L-7C is expected to ship by the end of the year. “A number of studios want to use this technology,” notes Gresch. “We’ve rolled them out to the HFF film school in Munich and have quite a few orders in the states; we’re demo’ing [sic] them at the A.S.C. now.”
Gresch thinks the industry may be entering “an awkward phase” with pressure from management for productions to go green, translating to buying and using increasing numbers of LEDs. “The bosses say ‘you’d better buy LEDs,’ while those on the creative team say they can’t go all-LED because it would compromise artistic integrity. So it’s important to develop [efficiencies] based around tungsten and HMI-based products for proper film rendition even on today’s digital media.
“Yes, LEDs are going to become even more versatile, but you need to keep a reality check on things.”