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Traditionally Film and TV studios used tungsten lights to light their studios. 30 years ago, this was the only option and the norm; the down side was that these lights consumed huge amounts of electricity and generated immense heat which in turn necessitated the use of air condition units which, in turn, consumed even more electricity.

The whole system was inefficient and extremely costly. These studios also needed to dedicate a room just to accommodate dimming systems which were very costly to procure and run.

Around 20 years ago a German gaffer working in LA took a very problematic light source – the fluorescent bulb – and with a lot of dedication redeveloped it to work in the film and TV lighting fixture and thus Kino Flo was born. Anyone working in the film industry at the time will remember this as being one of the technical revolutions that, alongside increasingly faster film stocks, fundamentally changed how moving images were created.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Kino Flo fixtures started to be widely used in TV studios around the world. They produce a beautiful soft controllable source of light that made talent look great – and on top of that they were a revolution in terms of space, rig ability, heat and energy consumption. Producers were also happy at the reduced running costs, not to mention the greatly reduced need for air con and quicker more efficient rigging demands. Also, the dimmer's rooms became redundant thus freeing up much needed space.

As fluorescent technology advanced much more sophisticated fixtures were developed, which not only produced beautiful soft light but also projected punch light, thus providing studios with a complete compliment of fluorescent lights for every need.

As you can see from the example below Fluorescent fixtures can be used as key lights, fill lights and back lights. They are also ideal for lighting cycloramas and green screens. Also with cameras being so sensitive these days having base ISO of 800+, the need for powerful lights is negated.

For special effect shots specially spiked green and blue tubes also revolutionised post production times as the background screens became more accurate and spectrally cleaner.

In the last few years the advent of LED has taken the market by storm and people are using LED for everything. However LED does have its limitations. Up until recently, most LEDs had incomplete spectrum of light, especially in the R9 range which is coincidentally the best range for skin tones. Therefore most LEDs would reproduce muted and dull skin tones which is not ideal in any scenario.

Even today there are a lot of fixtures that do not have good R9 and R13 results. The last thing you want to do is kit out your studio in LEDs and then find out that you can't get good skin tones with what you've got.

My advice when kiting out your studios is to do your research well. One piece of advice is to stick with the well-known brands. Kino Flo have their Celeb range and now lightweight and versatile freestyle fixtures. Kino Flo's new FreeStyle 31 & 21 LED unleashes your creative side by using a newly designed quick-release system to remove the LED panel from the plastic housing. The smaller form factor and lightweight LED panel combined with four corner bumpers add further rigging versatility ideal for studios, small or big. The LED panel also includes an additional mating plate so it can still be mounted on a stand.

Kino Flo's new FreeStyle 31 & 21 LEDs include three menu options; one white and two-colour menus. Those who prefer to work with white light can use the "white menu" that gives the user access to Dimming, Kelvin and Green/Magenta control channels. Kelvin range is from 2700K tungsten to 6500K daylight.

In the colour menu, the Kelvin range travels from 2500K tungsten to 9900K daylight, and Kino Flo has set up a fourth channel called Gel. The Gel channel includes Kino Flo pre-sets such as blue and green screen, sodium vapor, mercury vapor and over 100 well-known lighting gels. In addition, there is also a fifth channel called Hue Angle and sixth channel, Saturation. These two channels behave similar to a traditional colour wheel, where you have white light in the centre, and the Hue angle determines the colour along a 360-degree range, and Saturation determines how much colour is applied. The second colour menu provides individual red, green, blue (RGB) control. The RGB menu is a great way to work with apps with predetermined RGB pre-sets or colour wheels.

Kino Flo's new FreeStyle LEDs also come with standard DMX and wireless DMX (Lumen Radio). With all these options it makes the FreeStyle the ideal studio light. If a larger source is required, The Celeb 850 LED DMX joins Kino Flo's family line of LED soft lights. One of the largest LEDs in the industry, the Celeb 850, measures 45" x 26" (114cm x 66cm). Light output is 111FC at 10ft (1251 LUX at 3M). This fixture also has all the colour capabilities of the FreeStyle.

This article also features in the November edition of Broadcast Film & Video.


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