Producer and Green Production Consultant Fabian Linder gives us some insights into lighting tests at the German broadcaster SWR: LED lights had a bad reputation for years because they couldn’t hold an accurate color temperature. Now, we are generations ahead and most of the LED lighting now available has a very high CRI (Color Render- ing Index). Even more important, it has a high TLCI (Television Lighting Consistency Index), which is much more accurate for skin-tones. So why aren’t we using truck- loads of LED lights?
The German public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) in Baden-Baden evaluated a lot of tracking data from various departments in their fiction/drama division under the auspices of Green Inhouse initiative. Broadcast techniques often mean longer runs, but in terms of green shooting, the SWR, which is the second largest ARD broadcaster, put all its cards on the table.
We tested several products from different suppliers to learn about the options available to us. The new kid on the block was the Lightstar LUXED-9, a multifunction space light with nine LED lamps mounted on a frame. It closely resembles the classic Dino-Light. The best way to use it is to put it outside a window to boost the sunlight. And you can use an armada of them in the background to create this ’90s music video look. We used it on Tatort mainly either to extend or to replace direct sunlight, and we were happy with the results. With 1620 Watts, it can replace 2.5K – 4K Watt HMIs. It’s one of the most powerful LED film lights around. The lamp is inexpensive, which makes it attractive for anyone who wants more bang for the buck.
Compared to classic LED-panels, like the ARRI Skypanel 360 or the DMG Lumiére, this lamp is a real bargain; provided that bicolor is enough and no lighting effects are necessary. There are drawbacks, however: The biggest one is its IP code; you can only use IP20 during dry weather or indoors, but it does come with a rain guard. And its size and weight should not be underestimated: Weighing in at 49 kilograms with a 130cm x 50cm x 130cm case, it’s not really lightweight, and takes up a lot of space in a truck.
But we didn’t rely solely on new products. We actually started rethinking the whole lighting pro- cess. The other answer to more light is more cameras with sen- sors that can capture a low dynamic range. For our long-running series Die Fallers, we conducted tests on several different cameras from our in-house camera pool. By using the Sony F5 – released in 2013 – we were able to get rid of a couple of big HMI lamps that we used to use for interior-exterior transitions. This is because of the high dynamic range of the camera.
Another big chunk of the daily workload in the lighting department is Kaffee oder Tee? – a daily program also produced by SWR. The gardening tips, and sometimes even the entire show, are staged just outside the studio in Baden-Baden. The studio’s outside area used to be lit by a tower of six HMIs. A decade later, the lighting department re-evaluated the light- ing scheme during a replacement cycle, and it decided to use show lights instead, which are regularly seen on big stages: The Ayrton Wildsun. This high-powered LED moving head, used in place of HMIs, has a lot of advantages. It’s flexible, fully dimmable, and maneuverable. It saves energy and it gives us totally new light- ing set-ups for the show.
Photos:@ Fabian Linder, Dieter Streck/SWR