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Monday, April 18, 2011

NAB Trend #2 : Tungsten Lighting Is Dead


One trip around the middle hall would of made this one jump out at you: there were very few tungsten fixtures out there. There were lots of fluorescent fixtures to be sure, but LED's where out in force. Many LED lights where taking on the form of conventional tungsten lights. The big guys are of course Arri.  Their new LT-7 series lights that are more like HMI's in case size and shape are 220W of LED power that lets them put out 1000W of conventional light. If you work on location, you know juggling power loads on wall outlets can be a pain. Now consider that 9 ARRI L7 Fresnels can be run off a single 20 A, 110 V outlet, as opposed to only two 1000 W or three 650 W tungsten fresnels.
There's more, these lights have computers in them ! The light engine is fully upgradeable, ensuring that the fixtures can take advantage of technology advances as and when they happen. The firmware is upgradeable through the USB port on the rear of each unit, accommodating future control protocols such as ACN and incorporating other system enhancements that may become available in due course. Updating firmware on a light is just weird.
Last but not least there is the color temp adjustable version going from 2700K to 10,000K. 
This is great, this is amazing, and so is the price. The LT-7C adjustable light I heard was MSRP of $2900! I mean lets get real, I have no doubt that  they are putting something into these lights, and those high power LED's and cooling them isn't simple or cheap, but thats expensive. You can pick up 1200W HMI's in the same ball park. 

Enter Lights From China

The other big part of this trend is that there where a number of Chinese companies selling LED lights. However, many of the MSRP's weren't that cheap, and I'd call them down right expensive. They weren't leaving a penny on the table at NAB, but on ebay thats another story. I'd suggest shopping there and buying direct where the prices are reasonable. I know if you have never bought stuff directly from China it might seem a little scary, but I've bought a number of production items from lights to lenses without a problem except shipping times can sometimes be really slow. Be careful on how they ship things because I've had anything from 2 days to an average of 2 weeks to 2 months in one case.  
Now while I was at NAB, I was doing  some shooting and had just bought 2 120 battery powered LED lights. The manufacturer of the lights was there and I had a good conversation with them. They are seriously interested in listening to customer feedback and improving their products way faster then the old lighting brand companies are. While I was there they had an updated version of the light I had just bought which had an external DC power connections added. I had just bought old stock !  They suggested I contact the guy I'd bought them from to see if they could hook me up with an adapter.
The big name light companies have not had any reason to really do anything differently for the last 20 or 30 years. Sure there are electronic ballasts over magnetic : a mixed blessing of much lighter weight versus lower reliability and higher startup current. A couple years back tungsten PAR lights came about, but really things have been pretty static for movie lights. Kino's are old school now !
With all these new companies competing, its a new game out there. Arri seems to be seriously working at it, but as to the other guys, who knows, we'll see.  Its good to see competition once again in lighting gear. LED lights are great power and heat savers for location work in real places not wired for movie making. If you don't own any yet, I think you will soon.