NEW YORK—As a lighting designer specializing in television news sets, I draw upon parallel careers as cinematographer of narrative films and commercials with a deep past in broadcast television to create the appropriate look for talent and sets following client mandates and budget.
I recently completed a studio for WOIO-TV19, the Gray Television-owned CBS affiliate serving Cleveland. Set design firm Broadcast Design International commissioned me to design and specify a totally new LED lighting rig. They provided 3D CAD model and renderings while WOIO Chief Engineer Bob Kroeger supplied infrastructure details and a stellar crew for the hang and focus. WOIO selected my production company, Block Light Shoot, to provide the fixture and control package.
LIGHTING THE SPACE
The set consists of a four-presenter desk, five-seat talk show area with 12-foot video wall, two-touchscreen stand-up venues and a 12-foot video weather wall in lieu of a chroma-key. Several set elements change color affording show and time-of-day branding opportunities. Six robotic cameras capture it all with presenters moving between areas live on camera—that’s a lot in a 45x45-foot space.
That person in the medium close-up is selling trust so the lighting must be flattering and forgiving, not flat and boring. Presenters with various flesh tones appear close together and in different combinations at different times of day. My solution is a surrounding base light with a soft key light to pick out each face at the desk. In-desk lighting is cosmetically flattering and creates a sparkle in the eye, the “eye catch.” A sharp backlight separates people from the background. It’s fashion photography in a theatrical setting … done live.
My primary fixture solution is by BB&S Lighting, whose passive-cooled (no fans) remote phosphor (last forever) fixtures are the perfect answer. These quality units with 98 TLCI come in various shapes and sizes with smooth flicker-free dimming. Pipeline fixtures utilize linear “pipes,” allowing them to be built in convenient configurations. Their low profile fits well into low grid height studios. I used 3-foot and 4-foot 4-Banks for base lighting and to carry presenter movement.
The Area 48 11x14-inch rectangular fixture makes the perfect soft key. Pipeline Reflect comes in a range of sizes. I used 2x2-foot banks recessed into slots in the set to provide a separation light on presenters standing 1 foot in front of the 10-foot high weather wall. The 1-foot Reflect, (aka “the wedge”) hides in the desk as the all-important chin light. Its flattering cosmetic lighting is magic.
BB&S lights are amazingly accurate and consistent. It is a must that fixtures last five years without drift or color change. I recently visited a station we installed over four years ago and there was absolutely no color shift—they read the exact same color on the meter.
BB&S fixtures are the heart of the design but modern lighting control consoles can be complex and require unique programming skills—no point and click here. I always wanted to ditch the sliders and buttons for a tablet-like interface easily understood and programmed.
I brought my dilemma to Cleveland-based VLS and their star programmer, Allan Mitsche. Using their CoPilot system, he created a custom touchscreen interface on ETCnomad software that meets control needs and is easily learned by studio staff. It seamlessly interfaces with Ross Overdrive triggering individual settings for all sitting positions and show-specific color branding.
Installation took less than a week and the feedback has been great. The news director appreciates the adjustability and the talent loves the way they look.
Nicholas Hutak is a two-time Emmy Award-winning lighting designer with 130 broadcast news studios on four continents to his credit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 732-291-3910 or www.newssetlight.com.
For more information, contact BB&S Lighting at 310-491-6250 or visit www.bbslighting.com.
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