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Coronation Street: Lighting For Drama

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Churning out 3 hours of original drama to an average viewership of 8 million people each and every week, ITV's Coronation Street is an undeniable production powerhouse.

In 2017, with ITV bosses implementing an innovative 6 episode-a-week distribution strategy, production set about the design and build of two new studios.

The responsibility for lighting the new sets fell on the shoulders of Chris Chisnall, Head of Lighting for Coronation Street. Having first dipped his toes in the new-age world of LED in 2013, Chris was certain LED would be the way to go this time around, too.

Even in the short four-year period since his first LED installation, Chris remarked how the variety of LED fixtures available on the market has grown. "There is now a bewildering array of LED fittings available from many manufacturers. A lot of them are good, very good – but there are just as many that, for whatever reason, don't measure up."

Back in 2013, Chris elected to install Desisti LED fresnels – fixtures that adopt a traditional lamp shape and form. With the wider selection of fixtures available, Mr Chisnall opted to test panel-style LED fixtures.

Even in preliminary testing, before a specific manufacturer or model of panel-style light had been identified, Chris was already impressed with the output and flexibility that LED panels could offer. "The soft shadow edge transfer provides a beautifully realistic look for drama and the variable white versions preclude the need for colour temperature gels."

Chris and his team were already in the process of testing VELVET-Light panel fixtures, with a view to replacing their fluorescent stock for exterior location shoots. Chris commented how "VELVETs were quickly establishing themselves as the 'go-to' kit for this shooting environment" adding "They are fast and easy to rig, battery powered if required, with a great IP rating. Build quality is superb, they feel 'right', robust, and this gives you confidence in them – you know they're not going to let you down."

With a pre-existing familiarity of VELVET-Light LED panels, Chris decided to outfit the Platt Family Set for a multi-camera trial with actors and Fischer booms in a rehearse/record scenario – ultimately comparing the result to their usual tungsten setup.

"Being a three-camera, three-wall set – the lighting plot follows a traditional back three-quarter key setup, with soft frontal floor fill and blued-up 2.5K softs through the windows. To do this in LED I used VELVET 1 Studios in place of the 'pups' with 50 degree DopChoice SnapGrids to contain the spill. For the frontal softs, I used two VELVET 2x2s into softboxes and through the windows I put VELVET 2 Powers. The result was nothing short of amazing."

Chris immediately noticed the natural light output of the VELVET 1 Studios, adding "the larger surface area of the 1x1s compared to the much harder 'pups' was far more forgiving on facial features with a lovely gradual shadow edge transfer."

The VELVET 2x2s "worked perfectly as frontal soft lights, giving a gentle ambient lift." In addition, "being evenly lit edge-to-edge meant the softboxes were being utilised to their full effect."

Lastly, the VELVET 2 Powers, with their concentrated 30-degree beam angle "replicated sunlight perfectly, having more than enough energy to punch through the windows making realistic 'gobo' effects in the set."

From a technical point of view, Mr Chisnall commented on the quality of light – scoring a TLCI of 95 – adding "this is very important in drama work where representation of skin tone is paramount."

Chris and his team also appreciated the ability to adjust colour temperature - between 2700°K and 6500°K – on the fly. With their previous tungsten fixtures, this adjustment required a change of gels – pausing the rehearsal or recording in the process.

VELVET-Light LED panel fixtures exceeded Mr Chisnall's expectations, proving their suitability for both location and studio work, with a plethora of fixtures now lighting the sets that will deliver entertainment to viewers for years to come.

To learn more, please contact your usual dealer or Octica direct for more information.

t: +44 (0) 1784 450 506 | e: | w:

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

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