As everyone tries to save a buck in the current economic crunch, productions are making an effort to cut costs in film lighting while advancing technologically. “The way the whole industry is going now is, ‘How can you do it cheaper and faster?’” says Chief Lighting Technician Andy Ryan, whose credits include the blockbuster films Transformers, Wanted and this month’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
For Ryan, the new KODAK VISION3 stocks are the most exciting development. “[The stocks] are absolutely amazing,” he says. “Their new 5207 daylight and 5219 tungsten stocks just allow you to do so much with so little. You can paint some broad strokes with not a lot of light. And using fewer lights speeds ups the process and helps producers make their budget.”
Ryan makes no secret of the fact that he loves traditional lights ─ like Mole-Richardson. “To me, the light out of a tungsten bulb is just gorgeous,” he notes. “And one of the saddest days was when all the carbon arcs went away, and now we spend a lot of time on sets today trying to duplicate that look.” Despite being a traditionalist, Ryan is also a big fan of ARRI’s new ARRIMAX 18K. “These lights are totally amazing and you get a full spot more out of them than a traditional 18K,” he reports. “So last night, when I was lighting exteriors, instead of having two lights up in the Condor, I could just use one ARRIMAX 18K.”
Like many gaffers, Ryan sees a move towards LED but feels that there’s still a way to go. “They’re not always appropriate,” says Ryan, who is currently on location in New Orleans lighting a post-Civil War Western. “You could never use an LED light on this. But for the right project they work.” He recently lit Disney’s Hannah Montana: The Movie and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. “I got to see a lot of the LED gear in rock ’n’ roll, and for that it was absolutely great,” he notes.
The big Hollywood studios, including Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, Fox and Disney have all been exploring developments in LED lighting systems. Over at Paramount, VP Set Lighting and Grip Paul Birmingham notes that in terms of set lighting, the move towards LED lighting is a big trend because of energy savings, “although it's not quite there yet.” He reports that in soft lighting, Kino Flo systems are very popular, as are Litepanels and points out that the HMI is still a very popular light “when you're trying to get that daylight look.” He adds that prominent manufacturers, such as Mole-Richardson and ARRI also continue to be popular.
Lighting manufacturers, such as Anton Bauer, Chimera, B&M [Bardwell & McAlister] Lighting and Kino Flo, have all been busy developing new technologies. Saving energy and going green are key philosophies at B&M Lighting, according to President Ray Wolffe. “We want to lead the way, but we’re hoping that our competitors follow as the old way of doing things isn’t working anymore,” he says. B&M has recently unveiled their new Mac Tech 6 Space Light. “Our Tech line is all green products,” Wolffe notes. “We have our Mac Tech Tungsten line which uses the latest technology and reflectors, amplification rather than reflection, and we’re using new lens systems that let a lot more light through. So there’s all kinds of things we’re doing to maximize the minimum amount of power used.”
Wolffe says that B&M has been “inundated” with requests for their new systems. “We have a filter that goes on the larger Mac Tech fixtures –– the 12, 9, 6 convertible and Mac Tech 6 Space Light, which is a daylight conversion lens [that] eliminates the need for an HMI,” he explains. “It draws less power, it’s flicker-free and you don’t have to worry about electronic ballast. And they’re being used on movies and TV all the time now.” B&M is also introducing an eight-inch Junior fixture. “[The Junior] draws 750 watts and is 25-percent brighter than a standard 2K. And the light is pure,” says Wolffe. “So my whole plan now is to manufacture lights that outperform the old technology and also use less energy. You’ve got to build it better.”
Production Resource Group (PRG) is the world’s largest entertainment lighting company, with offices nationwide and around the globe –– PRG sends gear and crews out to light shows and monster rock tours in addition to film and TV productions. General Manager Brian Edwards reports that PRG’s R&D division in Dallas continues to innovate, and that the company has introduced two new products. “First, we have the Bad Boy, a moving 1,200-watt lamp with a huge 48,000-lumen output, and 196 of them are being used on the current U2 world tour,” he says. “They’re also being used on Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel and the new comedy Get Him to the Greek. Then we also have the 676 Console, the next generation of PRG’s Virtuoso control panel.”
Paul Kobelja, PRG account executive for motion pictures, says that the company is being “extremely pro-active” in LED lighting, while other rental companies have been typically reactive. “We’re really pushing LED technology for both movies and TV, and the new Star Trek film already used this technology we provided,” he notes.
Litepanels, makers of award-winning and energy-efficient LED production lighting, has just introduced several new products, including the 1x1 Bi-Focus, the first LED light fixture capable of variable spot and flood focusing. An alternative to energy-inefficient Fresnel lights, is the ultra-thin and portable Bi-Focus that offers a cool-to-the-touch, low-energy-draw solution that provides flexibility to vary the width of the light beam. Litepanels also unveiled the unique 1x1 Bi-Color, which provides a single fixture capable of generating a color temperature of 3200K or 5600K, or an infinite range of color temperatures in between. (The Bi-Color name comes from a design that incorporates 3200K and 5600K LEDs.) This allows a crew to carry one or set of lights to cover both tungsten and daylight ambient-light conditions. The company also offers the new 1x1 Low Profile LED lighting fixture ─ designed to mount flat against a ceiling or wall ─ and the MicroPro On-Camera light fixture that doubles the light output of Litepanel’s Micro.
Sachtler has recently introduced the Reporter 8LEDim. This new on-camera LED lighting fixture can be dimmed continuously from 100 to 30 percent to provide just the right amount of light for any shooting situation, particularly interviews and stand-ups. The robust camera light is equipped with innovative LED technology that not only offers an extremely long LED life, but also a significantly higher efficiency than comparable halogen or HMI lights.
LEDz announced the first production-type Brute30, an equivalent to a 400-watt HMI in terms of output. The eco-friendly 5500K LED Brute30 has two on-board dimmers for maximum intensity control. It’s an extremely bright lighting fixture that produces a wide, horizontal beam spread, perfect for larger productions and events. The Brute30, along with the entire LEDZ product range, is available through Hollywood Rentals at www.led-z.com.
ARRI Lighting has recently introduced the new M18. This innovative lamp head is a lens-less, open-face lighting fixture that combines the desired light distribution from the optics of a Par and a Fresnel fixture. The unique ARRIMAX reflector design creates diverging rays to produce a crisp shadow. Other brand-new ARRI products include the ARRISUN 18, a new line of TRUE BLUE DAYLIGHT lamp heads, and a trio of advanced, LED-based lighting products –– the PAX Panel, the Background Lighting Module (BLM) and the LED Caster Series. These lights have already been successfully used in studios and on locations in European markets.
David Taylor, the New York-based leader for performing arts at Arup, designs for clients ranging from the World Wrestling Enterprises (WWE) to international opera houses. “The trends we’re seeing in TV and broadcast are towards really integrating lighting into the environments, using LED and smaller lighting fixtures,” he reports. “So what previously would have been a studio environment is now achievable on a location or a built environment that is also a location.” Taylor cites WWE’s new series as an example. “We’ve been advising them on how to make their new production building, where they edit and do inserts, a character within the series by making specific choices for lighting, control and rigging that are cleverer and more discreet. And LED has really helped us with this, giving us much better color rendering and lower heat loads.”
Bardwell & McAlister