BBS’s Area 48 EZ LED phosphor panel lighting instrument
LAS VEGAS — LED technology has revolutionized our industry with cooler, lighter, brighter, softer and more efficient lighting than is feasible with traditional sources. However, not all LED instruments are created equal. The majority owe much of their special luminosity to phosphors coating their diode structures.
A new variety, however—remote phosphor technology fixtures—provides a brighter, more efficient light source, with a color temperature that depends on the phosphor panel selected, and without the loss of one to two ƒ stops due to filters.
BBS Lighting has pioneered the development of interchangeable phosphor panels. These move the phosphor away from the LED to provide greater efficiency, more light, better color fidelity and cooler operation.
The BBS Area 48 demonstrates the great potential of this unique LED technology for professional lighting applications. The light head itself is built around 48 high-capacity LEDs. There’s an interchangeable phosphor panel that’s excited by the LED array and provides the actual illumination.
With suitable phosphor panels, the Area 48 can provide color temperatures ranging from 2700–6500K. (Panels are available for 2700K, 4300K, and 6500K; there’s also a green phosphor for chromakey green screen applications).
The light’s housing is constructed with a sturdy textured black metal alloy. It’s rectangular, measuring approximately 11 x 14 x 4.5-inches. Onboard barn doors are available to limit light dispersion at angles of up to 160 degrees. At full capacity, the unit’s light output is equivalent to that obtained from a 1 kW soft incandescent instrument.
There’s an onboard digital dimmer that provides flicker-free dimming from zero to 100 percent in one-degree increments. It also includes an internal DMX 512 interface for remote control in studio applications.
Due to the cooler LED/phosphor panel technology (along with some wide metal fins on the back to help with heat dispersion), the Area 48 has no need for a cooling fan and operates silently.
The housing includes an angled yoke, which enables the fixture to be tilted up or down within a 180-degree arc for optimum versatility. The instrument may be powered by a 160-watt AC power supply (adapter) or from 14.6 V Pro DC camera batteries. It is equipped with an Anton/Bauer Gold Mount, but can also use V-lock batteries by adding an adapter.
At 100 percent output the Area 48 draws around 160 watts, so a 100 Watthour battery should power it at nearly full output for around 45 minutes and for more than an hour when it’s dimmed to 50–60 percent of capacity.
According to a BBS data sheet, the Area 48 provides an impressive 4147 Lux at 1 meter, 1037 Lux at 2 meters, and 96 Lux at six meters. Other screens may be added to the softbox to diffuse and shape the light. Also, one or even two pairs of Area 48 lights can be strapped together with special brackets to create an even beefier soft light with an output equivalent to that from a 4 kW tungsten fixture.
The Area 48 I reviewed arrived with the barn doors onboard and the mounting yoke pre-attached. A number one on the LCD screen indicated that the illumination level was at one percent (in manual model the level is boosted or lowered in discrete one percent increments). Each one percent increment corresponds roughly to 10 watts of illumination from an incandescent source. Hence, boosting output by 20 percent is equivalent to adding a 200-watt incandescent light. Taking it to 100 percent is the equivalent of switching on 1000 watts of incandescent lighting.
With that in mind, I ran a series of simple tests with the light in fairly close quarters and at levels varying between 30 and 70 percent. I worked in a variety of situations, intermixing its output with ambient daylight illumination and placing the Area 48 between three and 21 feet from the subject.
It quickly became apparent that the Area 48 was much easier to work with than many other lights I’d used. This was partly due to its soft light, which creates less of a challenge when eliminating shadows. This meant that I could move it around fairly freely without always worrying about casting new shadows. And as it runs so cool, pushing it close to the subject wasn’t a problem either. Thus, I was able to concentrate on getting the best illumination and “look” vs. dealing with all the tradeoffs involved with other lighting instruments.
In general, I found that lighting scenes in a typical home interior was much easier and faster than with an equivalent incandescent light—especially where supplying power to a lighting instrument is a concern. The maximum current drawn by the Area 48 doesn’t come anywhere near to tripping breakers on a home lighting circuit and there’s always the option for slapping on a 100-watt camera battery.
While a pair of Area 48’s might be ideal, I was able to light most typical “tight” scenes with only one Area 48 as the fill, and a different fixture for key lighting. Although the camera I used didn’t gauge and display color temperature, I can confirm that whenever I had ample light on the subject—even when it was very dark—the colors in the electronic viewfinder corresponded very closely to what I was seeing with my own eyes, thus informally confirming the fixture’s published color rendering index (CRI) of 95 with the 5600K phosphor panel.
I quickly learned that a single Area 48— even when used with a “soft box” to boost its output—will not adequately illuminate a really large dark space. Nevertheless, I did manage to grab some grainy (18 dB gain) cutaways of subjects located 70 or so feet away.
Footage shot at a closer range—where there was at least some ambient lighting— had better color fidelity and contrast, especially when using a camera with an ISO less than 600.
I was able to grab enough decently lit shots in less than two hours to create an interesting montage of a nocturnal night light exhibition. The color in the closer shots was actually remarkable, considering how dark the scene looked. I was even more impressed with the absence of harsh shadows, especially on faces and with the amount of “black stretch.”
And even though AC outlets were scarce and overloaded, I never had to worry about running short of juice.
The Area 48 smashes two key barriers associated with most Pro LED lights—limited output and less-than-perfect color rendering quality. Working with Area 48 was much like having the lighting capacity of a very large incandescent soft light, but without the heat and power issues. It also provided amazing mobility and setup speed.
This instrument blows away all other LED lights I’ve worked with so far. Once I got used to its few quirks, it rewarded me with low-stress operation and provided smoothly lit video with faithful color rendering— even when it was the primary light source in otherwise very dark settings. Adding just one Area 48 to a medium- capacity LED lighting kit can quickly transform it into an all-purpose kit ready for far greater challenges than just tightly controlled daylight interviews.
Carl Mrozek operates Eagle Eye Media, and specializes in wildlife and outdoor subjects. His work regularly appears on the Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel, CBS, PBS and other networks. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENG, TV and film studios, and location shooting
High efficiency, soft lighting, interchangeable phosphor panels for different color temperatures, operation with AC and DC power sources
Basic kit with one phosphor panel, barn doors, yoke and power supply, $2,295; options include a softbox with diffusion, $330; 40-degree grid; Gold/V-Mount battery plate, $235