High quality LEDs have led to a new revolution in studio lighting, helping broadcasters to save energy, cut costs and reduce CO2 emissions, says Spencer Newbury, Applications Manager, Litepanels
he latest advanced, low-energy lighting technologies enhance picture quality and increase creative options, improving the efficiency of studio operations.
Traditional tungsten fixtures have dominated the broadcast lighting world for more than 50 years and many lighting directors and studio managers remain convinced that the historical investment in these lights has already been recouped.
However, one of the real shocks to studio owners and operators is just how much this older lighting actually costs them on an annual basis. In reality, the older lights pose a bigger financial burden to both the broadcaster and the environment in the form of hidden, on-going expenses and higher levels of energy use.
The biggest culprit of energy consumption in every studio production is by far the traditional lighting fixtures.
These lights draw and consume a tremendous amount of electrical power, most of which is wasted by turning directly into heat that can only be removed by using air conditioning to cool the surrounding space.
This is obviously both energy-sapping and expensive, and significantly increases the studio’s operating costs. Coupled with the expense of regular maintenance and replacement bulbs, the older lights are a much heavier financial millstone than LED lighting fixtures.
One of the obvious advantages of LED as a technology platform for lighting is its meagre power consumption, which can be as much as 80-90 per cent less than traditional tungsten fixtures.
Litepanels LED lights are also cool running so the requirement for air conditioning in a studio environment is dramatically reduced, helping to provide further energy and cost savings.
The maintenance requirements are almost non-existent as the lamp life of the higher quality LEDs last for tens of thousands of hours compared to a couple hundred hours for incandescent bulbs.
Also, LEDs contain none of the heavy metals found in fluorescent and HMI lighting products, making them truly environmentally friendly. This long life comes from proper management of thermal dynamics, as well as a constant current control, in many cases giving the equivalent of more than ten years of normal studio use.
However well-documented the financial and energy savings are, it is still debated in the broadcast industry whether the performance pros of the traditional lights outweigh the cost cons.
Although the long life of LEDs is attractive, the primary concern is focused on the quality and consistency of light. When lighting directors are deciding which products to use, they are driven by the need to create attractive images so LED fixtures need to produce a light that is both practical yet flattering. Unfortunately many of them fall short.
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Litepanels uses its unique patented light-emitting diode technology to produce the higher quality of light that is especially important for today’s world of high-sensitivity cameras and camera chips.
We have worked hard to provide the benefits of cost and energy savings to broadcasters without sacrificing the look of the lighting and the quality of the images.
Although LED technology has been around since the early 1900s its popularity has really only developed in the last decade. Litepanels first introduced LED lighting to the broadcast and motion picture industries about 12 years ago.
We became interested in LED because it was so energy efficient, but for a long time its major shortcoming was the inability to project light over large distances. Through a number of innovations we have been able to overcome that issue with some of our newest products, including the Hilio high output LED panel fixture and the Sola 12 and Inca 12 LED Fresnel fixtures.
Another obstacle to overcome was the inconsistent colour temperature of industrial LEDs. Historically, several of the products on the market were fairly unstable in terms of color temperature.
Manufacturers do have the ability to create LED lights which produce quality illumination. Our engineers have spent years perfecting the LEDs we use to produce an excellent full spectrum white light that creates pleasing skin tones and accurate colour rendition.
The broadcast and motion picture industries live and die by the images they create and the LED fixtures need to match that exacting requirement.
Litepanels now offers two lines of LED Fresnel fixtures, the daylight balanced Sola Series and the tungsten balanced Inca Series. They come in various sizes (12-inch, 6-inch and 4-inch lenses) and produce a slightly harder light source than the original flat panel LED fixtures, while providing much more control and adjustable focus.
The biggest advantage of these LED Fresnel lights is their versatility, which includes two channel DMX, one channel for intensity and the second channel to control the fixtures focus capabilities from the lighting console itself. They can now be used as key lights in a studio environment rather than just as fill lights.
Manufacturers can produce the quality illumination that matches, or even exceeds, the tungsten lights. The Inca Series fixtures produce a tungsten balanced illumination that is indistinguishable from the light produced by traditional incandescent fixtures.
This allows studios with existing tungsten fixtures to begin realising the cost-saving benefits of LED lighting by gradually replacing legacy fixtures without changing their entire lighting installation at once.
More and more broadcasters have started to foster and embrace LED lighting technologies and techniques in a bid to make their studios more cost-effective and sustainable. Some of the major broadcast studios have been given targets to reduce their energy consumption and are overhauling their lighting strategies.
High quality LED lighting fixtures offer proven operational and environmental savings, and can provide an average return on investment period of less than three years. Illumination in a studio can be enhanced, and broadcasters no longer need to compromise on the quality of output.
In terms of future industry trends, the technology is still developing and the market will soon see larger LED Fresnel fixtures which will replace the much bigger fixtures found in some studios and on movie sets.
Our goal is to ensure that all lighting needs can be fulfilled using the advantages of white light LED fixtures. There is definitely an appetite in the marketplace for energy saving fixtures with the ability to produce greater amounts of light that can be projected over longer distances.