03.30.2009 04:40 PM
The Litepanels MiniPlus LED fixture
Carston Bell
LOS ANGELES
Angel City Air is a full service helicopter company specializing in aerial production and ENG operations for several local television affiliates. During a recent helicopter upgrade project that I was overseeing, the client requested installation of some talent lighting fixtures in one of our television news helicopters. Since aircraft do not really present a friendly environment for bulky, hot and power-thirsty tungsten lights, this created some interesting product selection challenges. The lighting fixture used in this application would need to illuminate the talent from a relatively short distance, meaning it would have to be soft, yet bright, to avoid harsh results.

GOING EASY ON THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

As the capabilities of modern news helicopters evolve, the additional equipment has placed an increased demand on the aircraft's electrical system. HD cameras, monitors, recorders and routing gear don't leave much excess electrical capacity. Selecting a light with high efficiency and low power draw was a top priority. Additionally, due to the lack of space in the helicopter, the unit needed to be relatively small and run cool to the touch.

I was previously aware of the Litepanels LED units and they a seemed a good choice for this application. We tried both their Micro and the Mini, before deciding on the MiniPlus flood. This fixture puts out plenty of light, and runs on varying voltages, and draws less than one amp. It's also small and lightweight. The light produced is very even and avoids the harsh quality of some other helicopter lighting solutions I've seen.

As our clients require talent to be on camera at different times of the day, the ability to dim the Litepanels fixture with minimal color temperature change was a big plus. When shooting at dusk or in darkness, the only light on the talent comes from the MiniPlus, so we run it at the minimum illumination necessary for the camera to produce a good image with the iris wide open. During the day, outside light filtering through the aircraft's oddly shaped windows can create shadows, and these are erased by increasing the light level. Dimming is easily accessible, allowing talent to set their own light level by using the HD monitor.

The MiniPlus fixture is readily available at film/video supply stores and local rental houses, so any failure could be quickly remedied. However, I don't really expect to be replacing a failed light anytime soon. Our Litepanels units have had a flawless record.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Litepanels products. They lend themselves very nicely to our somewhat specialized aviation-oriented requirements. Through past experiences, I have dealt with products that were not well suited to the rigors of the helicopter environment. Litepanels, however, seem to be a perfect match. The products have shown themselves to be just as adaptable and reliable in an aviation environment as they are in a comfortable studio setting.

Carston Bell has been a director of aerial photography for more than a decade, is a helicopter pilot and designs custom helicopter video installations for Los Angeles' Angel City Air. He may be contacted at carston@angelcityair.com.

For additional information, contact Litepanels at 818-752-7009 or visit www.litepanels.com.



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