There are many good reasons for DoPs and gaffers to use LEDs: energy efficiency, durability, flexibility, and speed as well as the resulting compositional possibilities. “Modern LED lights make it possible to switch quickly between different color temperatures”, explains Mike Zimmermann, Managing Director of Lichthaus Berlin. “Lighting cues can be quickly changed from daylight to incandescent.” Shooting with traditional tungsten lights would have made it necessary to use different lighting units and to change gels on set. LEDs also have advantages for outdoor locations because smaller, less environmentally harmful generators are sufficient. “Modern generators are equipped with soot particle filters”, says Zimmermann. “And they don‘t have to run at full power because LEDs don’t require much energy.”
LEDs are particularly favored by studios. Since 2014, when the German broadcaster NDR replaced the twenty-year-old fluorescent lamps in its large studio, it has been using an LED-based backlighting system to provide homogenous studio lighting. LedCyc6 was developed by the Cologne-based company Lightequip in cooperation with the Austrian manufacturer LDDE. “Thanks LDDE, we’re able to achieve energy savings of up to 50 %”, says Jörg Droschinski, Head of Lighting Engineering at NDR. ZDF also equipped its large Broadcast Studio 1 as well as its Capital City Studio in Berlin with LEDs. Background lighting is produced by LedCyc9 panels which provide 30 % more luminosity, while Arri’s Sky Panels S60-C are used for horizon lightening.
The U.S. series The Terror, about the Royal Navy crew that vanished while searching for the Northwest Passage in the Arctic in 1847, was fully equipped with LEDs by Arri. Set up in a studio in Budapest, the snow and ice landscape would have required much more refrigeration if tungsten lighting had been used. “We once relied on big lighting banks in the studio; now we use LEDs”, states Hubertus, Prince of Hohenzollern, Head of Lighting at Arri. LEDs operate well up to 4 KW. At around 5 KW, they hit a physical barrier because the lighting elements must be cooled in order to perform at that level. “Therefore, we set up a lot of small-area units. It will still take a while longer for us to replace the powerful HMI lights that we need for daylight effects.”
Rental houses, such as Arri Rental Deutschland GmbH in Munich or the Hamburg-based equipment supplier Electric Sun, are reporting a high demand for Arri SkyPanels. For the shooting of the Netflix series Marco Polo in Malaysia, Munich-based gaffer Mike Wächter
used 500 Sky Pan- els S60-C. So far, panel lighting from various manufactures has in each
case required different diffusion accessories.
Addressing this issue, Munich-based DoPChoice developed Snapbags, a multifunctional softbox system for gaffers that is economical as well sustainable throughout the supply chain. “Our Snapbags are made of stain- less steel and durably sewn reflective fabric”, emphasizes Stefan Karle, CEO and Founder of DoPChoice. “We’re using robust, water resistant materials that don’t wear out so quickly.”
Photos: © Lightequip/ Mike Wächter/Arri/ DoPChoice