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Designing Tomorrow’s TV Studio From the Ground Up With ARRI Lighting

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James Downey turned to ARRI lighting technologies when designing a new TV studio for Sportsnet in Toronto. (Image credit: Rogers Communications)

TORONTO—Recent advancements in lighting technology have changed the production world for the better—but it’s not just because of the convenience, efficiency and control afforded by LED. As with every great idea, LED technology requires implementation that adapts the breakthrough for use as a day-to-day tool.

One recent assignment that brought this home to me was when I had the opportunity to design the lighting for a brand-new state-of-the-art television studio for Rogers Communications in Toronto. 

From the Ground Up
The studio was designed from the ground up to house a range of sports coverage led by the venerable “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts. The design of the facility needed to be flexible for a range of applications so that the latest lighting and camera tools could combine with visual reality set extensions, augmented reality and 3D capabilities, resulting in dynamic, immersive content and a great viewing experience.

Of course, there’s a ton of brand-new lighting technology involved, along with numerous video walls, and there’s LED lighting in the desks and in the walls. “The Cove” is a 50-foot floor-to-ceiling LED wall, one of a number of video walls used for a wide array of applications—stats, players, sponsorship, etc. With 13 cameras working at times, I needed dependable LED lighting for the sets and talent. ARRI lighting tools played a crucial role, especially the ARRI L-Series and SkyPanel instruments. 

There’s a kind of magic, happy spot between lighting, video and internal LED lights where the cameras like to be. You need to find the “sweet spot,” and my lights can’t be a hindrance to that. 

That’s what’s great about ARRI lighting—I can set it to 4700 degrees Kelvin, and with a little bit of plus green or minus green, I can find that magical combination—the lights can be dependably matched to exactly where we need to be.

The Color of Sports
Color is especially important when dealing with dozens of big-money sports teams that very carefully manage their branding. The studio includes a lighting board with presets that can light the sets with any one of 60-plus colors that represent one of 30-some hockey teams or 30 professional baseball teams. That effect can be adjusted with LED accentuation that backlights the talent from the in-set sources. Rather than a single look that remains steady for the duration of the show, different looks can be drawn up for different shows—or even within the same show. 

Environmental stewardship is important to Rogers. Replacing a fixture with something that uses 60% less electricity and produces 60% less heat that must be cooled down later translates to a massive amount of savings. It’s also nice for the talent to feel more comfortable. It’s a win-win. 

ARRI’s long experience and deep understanding of real-world concerns make their LED fixtures superior—dependable, versatile, easy to use. I put ARRI lighting into studios, because if I have the option, that’s what I rent. I want to give the client what I would want because I never want them to have to call me about a problem.

I feel comfortable knowing the weight of the ARRI team is behind me—the product is just built right. I’ve always loved what ARRI lighting products show the camera: We all see the beautiful richness that comes from the SkyPanel—whether it’s crisp daylight or warm tungsten—and there’s no compromise. l

Lighting director James Downey has worked on lighting design and implementation of more than two dozen studios for Rogers Communications and on such productions as the Super Bowl, the Genie and Gemini Awards, and the William and Kate Royal Wedding. He can be reached by email at fullertonproductions@me.com.

For more information visit www.arri.com.

James Downey

James Downey is Lighting Director for Fullerton Productions.