LED solutions with Russell Steen
Joyce Meyer Ministries created a new weekly show called ENJOYING EVERYDAY ANSWERS. The producers wanted a standing set designed as a loft apartment/coffee shop, to be built in a studio space with floor-to-ceiling windows on three walls. Those windows, which have a green tint, determined the amount of light we needed inside.
I hoped to go with LED lights to avoid having to redesign the existing electrical distribution, but I was skeptical about the quality of light most LED fixtures put out. Attending the LDI show in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to look at ARRI's new line of color-changing LED instruments. They were exactly what I wanted for this project.
We purchased eight L5-C, four L7-C and four L10-C LED Fresnels, as well as four SkyPanel S60-C soft lights. I control these with an ETCnomad Puck 512 (Eos) using a touchscreen monitor.
The first show in our new studio looked great and I enjoyed being able to finesse the lighting from a touchscreen. No more ladder dragging and wire scrim drops in front of a waiting cast and crew. No more burning flesh and hot scrim juggling. No more gelling lights to compensate for color shifts when dimming, only to need more light than the gelled fixture puts out. I am not going to miss these things. Welcome to choosing the exact amount of perfect light. When senior producer/director John Pipes arrived, I had the whole set lit proportionally at about 60%. I could go up or down, in miniscule increments, on any light -- with no color shift.
The ARRI SkyPanel S60-C is a dream come true: a bright, soft, controllable, color-accurate light source in a flat panel.
I am not a color temperature purist. I have worked for those who obsessed over color temperature and have added plus green, minus green, ¼ CTO and ¼ CTB gels to hundreds of fixtures over the years. Boy, are those guys going to be happy. The new ARRI LED heads can all be set to exactly 4,031 K if you are so inclined. That said, I have always hated the unnatural spread forced by the three color temperature choices we were forced to embrace: 5,600 K, 3,200 K and 2,700 K. Now I can light the entire set, a group of lights, or any single light from 10,000 K to 2,800 K. This is a long way from how it used to be, when every light was gelled to get that moonlight, sunrise, industrial or street-light look. More importantly, I can now adjust to taste the warm-to-cool ratio of light motivated by a window and lights motivated by a ceiling fixture, practical, fire or whatever. To compensate for the green-tinted windows in our studio I simply added green to the ARRI LEDs. What a nightmare this used to present.
How quickly the new tools have been incorporated into my lighting choices. I am a color spectrum purist. Until recently almost all of the LED lights quite simply stunk at reproducing accurate and predictable color. Bright, yes; right, no. Color, yes; control, no. There is no control over spectrum that is not there. I am not a live event guy. I am most successful when the lighting I do goes unnoticed by the viewer. The new LED lighting instrument's ability to produce highly saturated hues did not excite me because I know the cameras we use do not handle that glorious color at all like human eyes do. In my world the camera-to-edit-to-screen process is all that matters. I already light a show with a bunch of, shall we say, "legacy" LED lights built into the set. I have to use a monitor to adjust them because the color and intensity as they appear by eye is not even close to how they end up on screen.
In my view the ARRI tuneable LEDs stand out from the crowd. Not only do the L-Series C-type lights pass the, "Who cares about the specs, how does it look?" test, they rock the specs and nail the color charts. They are also mechanically well-designed: the tilt brake, sliding balance adjustment, zoom/flood range, optics and on-board controls are all nicely done.
The ARRI SkyPanel S60-C is a dream come true: a bright, soft, controllable, color-accurate light source in a flat panel that uses only around 450 W. Combining the SkyPanel with a 60-degree honeycomb grid is particularly useful for us.
The six 20 A circuits available were more than enough for the ARRI L-Series and SkyPanel lights in our studio. The advantages of these fixtures cannot be overstated: minimal power requirement, color accurate-daylight or tungsten light, no additional air conditioning, no waiting for lights to cool, more color options, more control, great design, brilliant optics, and built to last.
Unused space in corporations, churches, or even the spare rooms in homes can become mini studios with lighting control that rivals actual studios. On one end of our facility there is a sound stage with over 200 tungsten fixtures hanging from a 20' grid that require dimmer racks, use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat. I'm replacing bulbs and using wire scrims and gels to control the lights. The hot lampheads can't be touched without gloves and occasionally fry their connectors. On the other end of the building there are 20 ARRI C-LED fixtures bright enough to battle sunshine with intensity and color control built in.
I chose the stand mount version of all the lights we purchased, even though they require extra hardware and are a bit more hassle to rig up in a grid. I coil the entire power cable to the side and hang the lights so they can come down easily because it makes them more versatile; being able to add the 20 ARRI LED fixtures to our lighting package when we go out and shoot on location increases their value exponentially. I can also use them on the ads we produce and on our design department's photo shoots.
I work for a non-profit ministry funded by voluntary donors, so spending more than necessary or buying for status is not an option; thankfully, Joyce Meyer Ministries values having the right tools to maintain high production standards.