WGN-TV Lights New Studios With ARRI

CHICAGO—WGN-TV produces many hours of live news every day, and its creative director, Jeff Wilson, asked me, Beth Fowler, to light their new BDI news set in Studio 2. My challenge was to create lighting and a lighting interface that would work for all their news shows, with different announcers’ hair and skin tones and different directors’ camera angles, without having dedicated lighting staff.

I like to give the announcers a fair amount of modeling with a hard key, with pleasantly soft but directional fill lights, which makes the ARRI Sky- Panel S120-C a perfect fill. It’s a lovely fixture—a big soft source which operators can instantly adjust when new announcers sit down between shows. With 14 SkyPanels in Studio 2, we’re getting the most soft, natural feel from we’ve ever had from LEDs, with a high CRI and the ability to match the spectrum of our other LED fixtures.

Lighting Designers Beth Fowler and Jim Sippel recently upgraded Studios 1 & 2 at WGN-TV with ARRI LED SkyPanels.

Lighting Designers Beth Fowler and Jim Sippel recently upgraded Studios 1 & 2 at WGN-TV with ARRI LED SkyPanels.

Grand Stage, a Chicago-based lighting distributor, designed and installed the power and DMX distribution, and was our fixture supplier. My wonderful programmer, Travis Shupe, gave me everything I needed in a touchscreen interface using the ETC Ion console. WGN staff stagehand Rick Nosek and his crew worked with us to hang and focus the new lighting.

I use Sky Panels in a lot of live broadcast applications: in daylight, on an ENG set, in a broadcast booth or a stadium, we can match the world perfectly, with a high CRI and a lovely soft source. I love living in the future!


I (Jim Sippel) was approached to do the lighting for WGN-TV’s Studio 1, with an eye to updating to future-proof the fixtures with LED technology. Studio 1 was a multipurpose studio for local programming, from news to music. My challenge was to design lighting that allows them to quickly change the studio in any format that’s needed. The first phase was to design the studio with new LED lighting to light the music act. That’s where the ARRI SkyPanel S120-Cs were used to help add a color base light to set the mood. In Phase 2, I added lighting for other kinds of programming.

The ARRI SkyPanel S120-C fixtures are also currently being used on the news set, giving a lot of coverage on a three-wall side. For news applications or any kind of base light application effect, the SkyPanel S120-C is larger but helps provide a softer light, because it’s spreading the light out over a larger service area. The S120-Cs also help supplement the S60-Cs on stands, and it’s very easy for me to dial the S120-C in to match the studio’s tungsten lighting. Because it’s a variable white, I can actually match it to the color temperature in the fixtures of the room, and not have to provide any external color correction to it. One of the things I like about the S120-Cs is that they can be utilized for everything from background elements, base light elements or color saturation elements for the band.

Now, the studio has a toolbox in which the S120-Cs provide maximum flexibility for all the programming done there. WGN brings me in occasionally to do lighting for special programming in this studio, and now I know I’ll have the versatility I need for any kind of programming.

Beth Fowler is an Emmy Award-winning freelance lighting director, having worked for ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN and Fox. Jim Sippel is an Emmy Award-winning lighting designer and has been in the business for almost 30 years. He can be reached atjimsippel@gmail.com.

For more information, visitwww.arri.com/lightingor call 845-353-1400.