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Modern Video Lighting Offers Savings

Improving efficiency and flexibility

Anita Gallagher, City of Tacoma management analyst and host of the “Tacoma Report,” prepares for the show’s production.

Ah, the good old fashioned tungsten incandescent lighting grid: Not only does it provide bright illumination for broadcast production, but the emitted heat is enough to roast marshmallows! Granted, the electricity bills can be budget-killers, but where else can you experience this joy of camping within a TV studio?

Sadly for camping aficionados, today’s government video producer is firmly focused on reducing costs. This is why many government studios are moving to energy-efficient lighting, such as fluorescent and LED lighting. In doing so, these studios are achieving significant savings, without sacrificing the visual quality of their productions.


TV Tacoma is a government access channel that serves both the City of Tacoma, Wash., and nearby Pierce County. In a bid to reduce its energy bills, TV Tacoma recently decided to replace its power-eating incandescent overhead lights with energy-efficient fluorescent and LED fixtures. Systems integrator Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS) was hired to do the job, which took place over four days in February 2014.

ABS wasn’t just hired to replace the old system: It had to make it better.

To achieve this goal, ABS installed nearly 70 Brightline daylight balanced (5600K) SeriesOne fluorescent and Lupolux LED Fresnel lights, plus a new ETC Element lighting console for configuring and saving various lighting plans for easy recall later. Despite adding enough lighting to illuminate six sets―double the old lighting grid’s capacity―plus adding a new green screen wall for chromakey productions, the Brightline lighting grid actually consumes less than 25 percent of the power drawn by the old incandescent system.

The reason: Fluorescent and LED lights use much less power than tungsten incandescent bulbs to produce the same lighting levels, which saves on power bills. These new lights also run cool, compared to the blazing heat of tungsten lights. This cool operation reduces the demand on the studio’s HVAC system, resulting in even lower electricity costs―not to mention more comfort for the on-camera talent.

At the same time, the additional lighting capacity offered by TV Tacoma’s new grid allows this station to do more than it could before.

“It definitely makes our studio space more versatile, allowing programs to include a performance area in addition to the traditional interview area,” said Jeff Lueders, the City of Tacoma’s cable communications and franchise services manager. “The new lighting scheme also helps prepare our facility for the transition to HD production, which should be completed within the next nine months.”


Located in the heart of Washington, DC, the USDA’s Creative Media and Broadcast Center (CMBC) is a full service multimedia production facility serving both this department and pay-for-hire clients from other government departments and agencies.

“We have a fully digital HD 8,000-plus square foot studio,” said Anthony Bouldin, branch chief of the USDA’s Multimedia Department. “We support TV and radio production, plus webinars and other streamed events. For instance, we produce a monthly news program for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

The CMBC’s facility, which opened in this location about 50 years ago, was recently updated to stay abreast of technology trends. This included updating the studio’s two lighting grids and floor lighting, replacing much of its tungsten lighting with fluorescent light sources.

Like Tacoma’s Lueders, Anthony Bouldin is a big fan of these energy-efficient lighting sources. “Fluorescent fixtures offer a softer light, have a longer lifespan than tungsten, and they can be controlled in terms of their brightness,” Bouldin said. “Fluorescent panels are also kinder to people on camera: They don’t bring out skin imperfections the way that tungsten can.”

MORE INFO Brightloine:

Frezzi Energy Systems:

Kino Flo:


The CMBC’s LED lighting is currently limited to its conference room, although the department is considering adding LEDs to its studio as well.

“Like fluorescent, LED lights use far less power than incandescent bulbs and run cooler,” said Bouldin. “This saves us money in both direct and indirect energy consumption, including air conditioning.”


When it comes to video lighting, it is clear that fluorescent and LED are the new options of choice. However, this doesn’t mean that video producers should simply replace what they’ve got with equivalent new technology.

Instead, changing lighting is a good opportunity to reassess a studio’s current and future lighting needs; especially if the facility was built decades ago in the broadcast-only era before streaming and webinars arose.

When determining a studio’s lighting needs, a production manager needs to ascertain what kind of programming is being done there now, and what kind may be added in years to come; rather than what has been done in the past.

Next, “you have to make sure not to overdo it,” Bouldin said. “Get the lights you need for background, foreground and keying―and chromakey too, if you need it―but don’t go all out. You don’t want to end up with a grid full of unused lights.”

Also, be sure to think about the needs of your ENG crews, assuming you have cameras that go outside the studio. There are LED lights that sip battery power while delivering proper illumination. The key is to ensure that all your video is consistent in quality and color balance, no matter where it was shot.


Chosen for the lighting grid overhaul for the City of Tacoma, Brightline makes a range of fluorescent and LED lights for video production. These include the SeriesOne family of fluorescent fixtures, which are available with one, two or four lamps contained within a single unit. SeriesOne lights can be dimmed to just three percent of their full output and are available in color temperatures from 3200K (incandescent) to 5600K (daylight).

Brightline’s Lupolux LED Fresnel spotlights can deliver brightness equal to a 500-Watt tungsten spot, using just 50 Watts of power! These units can be dimmed down to nothing, and are available in 3200K (incandescent) and 5600K (daylight) color temperatures.

Frezzi Skylight

Frezzi Energy Systems has come up with some highly useful, ultra-portable LED lighting solutions. One of these is the Frezzi Skylight: It is a single point LED lamp powered by broadcast batteries that puts out the same light as a 650 watt tungsten lamp while using only 75 watts of power, said Kevin Crawford, the company’s vice president of engineering.

“The Skylight is compact, lightweight, and easy to take on a shoot, yet performs just as well as the bulky tungsten spots of old,” Crawford said.

Also from Frezzi is the company’s Eylight, which is designed to mount on top of handheld ENG cameras and DSLRs.

“The move to smaller cameras has put many shooters in a bind: They either tote older lights with standard batteries with them, or try to get by with inadequate lights powered by a pair of AA batteries,” Crawford said. “The Eylight solves this problem by having its own internal replaceable battery―with a two hour runtime―in a form factor that is small and light enough to work comfortably on small hand-held video and DSLR cameras. But the output is sure better: We’re talking 75 Watts of illumination, which is 100 foot-candles at five feet.”

In an interesting twist, the Eylight can be fitted with either a six LED-lamp or a tungsten lamp. The user gets to decide.

Kino Flo Celeb 400Q

Kino Flo Lighting Systems makes fluorescent and LED lighting fixtures for the video production industry. The company’s emphasis is on new and efficient products; for instance, its new Celeb 400Q DMX LED is one of the largest LED soft lights available in the market today, measuring 30 inches x 26 inches. It comes with dial-in white light from 2700K to 5500K, and presets with programmable settings and full range dimming without flicker or color shift.

Even newer lighting sources are on the horizon, according to Scott C. Stueckle, Kino Flo’s sales manager.

“Some of the cutting-edge technologies such as plasma, nano technology and quatum dot lighting, will move in alongside and work shoulder-to-shoulder with established lighting tools,” Stueckle said.

Zylight also makes LED lights for video production. One of the company’s most striking products is the F8 LED Fresnel. The F8 does everything a conventional Fresnel does, but in a package that is only about 4 inches thick. Zylight won several industry awards and lots of attention for the concept behind the F8.

Tom Guilmette and his Zylight F8 after a night on Mt. Washington, N.H.

“Rather than move the lamp inside the instrument to go from spot to flood, the LED lamp is fixed and we move the lens instead through a patented mechanism,” said Joe Arnao, Zylight’s president. “This lets us make the F8 much thinner than conventional Fresnels.”

The F8 uses 90 Watts of power and can be powered by a 14.4V battery, yet can out-illuminate a 650-Watt tungsten Fresnel.

Something different: Zylight’s IS3c LED large-panel light not only delivers a wide range of brightness, colors and color temperatures, but can be configured using DMX through industry standard XLR connectors, or remotely via a built-in ZyLink wireless link.

These are just some of the modern, energy-efficient lighting options available to video producers today. It is time to retire your tungstens, cut your power bills―and toast your marshmallows elsewhere.