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‘No Light, No Picture,’ Says Lighting Producer

Photo/video professionals have a flood of lighting products to choose from

At its simplest, a camera is designed to capture images, but photographers know that it takes accurate light for that to happen with any degree of success.

“Ask any great photographer and they will tell you that their job is just to capture the light that has been cast upon their subject,” said Rich Pierceall, Cineo Lighting’s CEO. “I know it sounds really simple, but no light, no picture.”

The problem for photo/video professionals is they have a flood of lighting products to choose from as manufacturers vie to top each other with a multiplicity of innovations, according to Pierceall.

But despite the many advances in lighting technology, Pierceall acknowledges it was Thomas Edison who discovered most of the basics. “Edison took a wire and put it in a vacuum, energized it and it remarkably matched the light that came out of a candle,” Pierceall said. “That’s why they chose tungsten because it matched the light color of burning paraffin wax, that 2,700 degree (Fahrenheit) warm light that everyone looks great under.”

Just as there is no picture without adequate light, the same applies when breaking down the color spectrum for production lighting, according to Pierceall. A proper balance of colors is needed within the spectrum put out by the light for it to illuminate the subject that a photographer is trying to capture properly, he said.

The human eye has an amazing amount of processing behind it that will compensate for imperfect light conditions, Pierceall said. However, a camera’s sensor cannot process images the same as humans, so there have been advances in lighting technology that seek to help with the illumination of images. There are now fluorescent lights that match daylight or tungsten for brightness, while Xenon arc lamps, which reveal more of the blue within the spectrum, are also tuned to match daylight, according to Pierceall.

In addition, while LEDs have advanced over the past decade and gained favor among photographers and lighting professionals, they have fallen somewhat short in terms of producing the full spectrum needed by those professionals, Pierceall said.

“It is easier for a LED to be tuned to a specific color temperature, but unfortunately they do not have the broad spectrum (red, orange, yellow, blue, green, violet) in the right ratios to make the light look correct to a camera sensor,” he said. “LEDs are used more in television because that medium is more forgiving,” he added.

Nonetheless, Jeremy DeBoe, a sales manager for Barbizon Capitol Lighting, a provider of lighting and grip equipment for professional television studio and theatrical productions, says LEDs are becoming the dominant lighting equipment.

There is “big growth in LED products based on the efficiency and low heat and high light output of modern-day professional LED fixtures,” DeBoe said. The modern LED fixtures are putting out almost as much light as traditional tungsten fixtures that draw power from 15 to 20 percent of a tungsten fixture, he added. And that is producing savings in air-conditioning and electric bills. The use of LEDs will not “entirely replace some of the traditional forms that we have, but it is replacing the traditional forms in different uses,” DeBoe said.


Mindful of LED’s characteristics, manufacturers are focused on producing as realistic a source of light as possible, and Cineo Lighting has turned to a method developed in the 1940s known as “remote phosphor technology,” which it has incorporated into its TruColor HS series.

The remote phosphor technology was designed to improve the chances that an image would better reflect fluorescent lighting, according to Piercall. It uses mercury vapor to excite phosphorus, he said. That causes the mercury vapor to glow green and fire up the phosphorus. However, the light produced did not match tungsten or daylight, but was somewhere in between. Because of that, Cineo has “taken the fluorescent tube idea, but we put the phosphors on a piece of polycarbonate,” he said. “We put that on the front of the fixture, seal the edges and use blue LEDs to excite the phosphorus.”

The phosphorus is tuned to blue and all of the light that comes out is a product of the coating that is on the polycarbonate. The color temperature can be tuned to any desired degree — incandescent, daylight and all kinds of colors in between. “We can control the ratio of colors in the spectrum because it is all a chemical mix,” Pierceall said.

The TruColor HS features more than twice the output of a 2K incandescent soft light. It delivers an extended color-rendering index over 95, generates a 160-degree beam spread and uses less than 500 watts of AC power.


K 5600 Lighting Inc.’s Joker-Bug 1600Also offering high wattage at low power is K 5600 Lighting Inc.’s Joker-Bug 1600, which draws 15 amps of power, said Beth Nardin, K 5600’s East Coast sales manager. The Joker-Bug 1600 is the newest in K 5600’s line of Joker daylight fixtures. At 1600 watts, the Joker-Bug 1600’s output is comparable to that of a quartz fixture of more than 6,000 watts, according to the company.

The Joker-Bug 1600 is available in three configurations. They are the Joker 1600 Bug-Lite, which has no optics and is optimal for use in lightbanks and lanterns; the Joker 1600 Beamer, which includes an eight-inch specular reflector and a set of four traditional PAR 64 lenses; and the Joker 1600 ZOOM Beamer, which provides 15 to 65 degrees of evenlight output, according to K 5600.

The Joker-Bug line provides a lot of versatility for whatever the production situation is, Nardin said.


Kino Flo Lighting Systems’ Celeb 200 DMXThe Kino Flo Lighting Systems’ Celeb 200 DMX offers technical advances the company believes will help make it the ideal professional imaging tool. It features a dial-in variable color temperature control, full-range dimming and programmable 2700K to 5500K presets and custom settings.

The light levels do not change when selecting Kelvin settings; the Celeb’s 100 watts of soft light does not flicker or shift color temperature when dimmed, and the system is outfitted with DMX dimming, according to Kino Flo.


Aware that LED lamps use less power and produce very little heat, Litepanels designers have replaced the traditional glass lens in their Fresnel fixtures with acrylic.

Litepanels’ Inca 12“What you sometimes have with a traditional glass Fresnel lens is a dark spot in the middle and color around the fringes,” said Seth Emmons, Litepanels marketing content manager. “We are able to optimize acrylic and minimize fringing and reduce dark spots. It is an even beam all the way across.” That innovation is available in Litepanel’s Sola and Inca series of lights. The Sola reproduces daylight and the Inca creates tungsten-type radiance, according to Emmons.

Litepanels’ founders were gaffers for 30 years, so the company’s controlling philosophy is to make lighting products both intuitive and convenient enough that a case can be opened up, the lighting product removed and quickly set up so work can start immediately, Emmons said.

Litepanels’ Sola 12With Litepanel’s approach to its products in mind, Emmons recommends to those in the market for lighting products to not only consider a light’s output, but “its quality and intensity,” and its projected longevity. Emmons warns against fixtures that overdrive LEDs by increasing a fixture’s power capacity beyond what it is designed to handle. Such fixtures will begin to degrade rapidly, he said. “Even if it is rated for 50,000 hours, if you are pumping too much power into it, it may last only 20,000 (hours) or 10,000 (hours),” he said.

The other factor affecting longevity is the thermodynamics of the fixture and how it dissipates heat. Therefore, Litepanels conducts tests to determine the amount of power that is appropriate for each fixture and creates opportunities for appropriate airflow.

“Most people looking at our fixtures see an array of Swiss cheese holes throughout to allow air to flow across the LED board,” Emmons said. Both the Litepanels’ Inca 12 and the Sola 12 offer light output approaching a 2K incandescent tungsten Fresnel, yet they produce energy savings and extended LED life for an estimated three-year return on investment in typical studio situations because of “Cool to the Touch” technology outfitted in each, the company said. That technology has an integrated DMX module and Ethernet connectors for remote dimming and focus control.

Further, Litepanels’ 1×1 Bi-Color uses very low amperage, yet produces 400 watts of light, said Fred Horne, Litepanels’ product specialist. The Bi-Color pulls half-an-amp, yet it produces between 3200K and 5600K, he said. The Bi-Color is also DMX able in both the control of the dimming and color temperature. “It produces very low heat, so it can go into a production room and not add to the cost of air conditioning,” he said.

Horne also recommends the Croma for production. The Croma is a camera top light that is AC/DC, he said. It uses six AA batteries, for independent use, or it can plug into the camera’s battery pack. “It’s smaller, lighter and does the same thing as the Bi-Color and goes from daylight to tungsten, and can be used off-camera,” he said.


Lowel’s Prime Series LED 200Holder of dozens of lighting related patents, Lowel offers its Prime Series as another source of advances aimed at meeting the needs of lighting professionals and provide studio-quality lighting to productions of all types and sizes.

The Prime 200, 400 and 800 lighting systems offer dedicated daylight (5600K) and tungsten (3300K) models that require low power, are DMX dimmable and have silent cooling without a fan, according to Lowel. The systems are built for the studio but are designed to be rugged enough for travel.

Daylight Prime models have a small quantity of tungsten color LEDs, and tungsten models have a small quantity of daylight LEDs integrated into their arrays to enable color balancing, according to Lowel. Also, the two colors in each fixture can be given separate DMX addresses to enable minor adjustment of their relative setup levels for applications needing color proximity matching to other sources. The models have a 50,000 hour lamp life, the company said.


Photoflex Inc. makes lights and light manipulation tools for a number of markets including video, said Sean Woodward, a Photoflex product manager. “One of our key products is the Starlite 3200, which is the first lighting fixture designed specifically for use with (Photoflex’s) the SoftBox,” he said. What makes it unique is it features an omindirectional lamp that extends the bulb inside of a SoftBox, he said.

The StarLite fixture is outfitted with a metal swivel-stand mount and twist lock handle for precise positioning and balance of the fixture with any size of modifier, Photoflex said. Due to its unique heat dissipating design, the portion of the StarLite QL that is outside of the modifier remains cool. What that design offers is an efficient use of power, Woodward said. By extending a bulb that is omnidirectional, the user gets more power out of the light fixture, he said.


Videssence’s VIDNEL Series VN100Videssence is addressing the problem of focus control in a new way with its VIDNEL Series VN100, according to the company. Several LED dots are combined to make a single 100-watt LED chip for the VN100, which has a CRI of 95, according to Gary Thomas, Videssence national sales manager.

“We can actually make a true Fresnel,” Thomas said. “It has all the colors of the spectrum.” The fixture produces a strong directional beam of adjustable light with even coverage of 3200K color. A manual slide bar at the side of the fixture adjusts the beam and locks in place. Heat dissipation is designed with passive LED cooling to avoid the noise and failure of internal fans.

The Videssence design philosophy is to “devise new products that are similar to the old products customers are used to with the addition of new technology. We are not out to change the whole world,” said Thomas, who recommends that public access stations and others look into getting a grant from their local power company for buying energy efficient LED lighting.


It is clear that lighting manufacturers appreciate the professionals who buy their products, and their design efforts reflect that. When it comes to illuminating a broadcast or video production correctly, “half of it is the light and the other half is the guy who is setting up the lighting,” Cineo’s Pierceall said. “Great television lighting directors are worth every penny they are paid.”


Barbizon Capitol Lighting Inc.:

Cineo Lighting:

K 5600 Lighting Inc.:

Kino Flo Lighting Systems: