I try to head to the NAB Show in Las Vegas every year, and this year was probably one of the best experiences I have had. There was a lot of cinematography talk, along with plenty of new lighting units to get to know. I wanted to share a few that stood out to me and how I have or would put them to use. You will notice all of these are LEDs, which goes to show how they are really taking over lighting technology on set. All of these are efficient and have beautiful results.
DIRECTIONALITY & MOBILITY
If you are familiar with Aputure’s 120d, you know how wonderful a single-source LED can be. The new 300d is three times more intense than the 120d, and, as I always say, if you can start lighting with bigger sources, it is much easier to cut and soften than it would be starting with something smaller and running out of output.
What is really attractive about this series in Aputure’s arsenal is the directionality of the beam and ability to control the beam’s angle. The 300d isn’t physically that much larger, but packs in a much bigger punch with its intensity.
What I consider one of the biggest advantages this light has over other LEDs of this intensity, is its mobility. Other lights with large outputs can be cumbersome and slow on set. The 300d is easy to move around, which will ultimately make your setups faster.
I have not had the chance to get my hands on the 300d for a shoot, but I know I would use it for either a key, a hard back and even outside windows to give daylight direction like I have done with clunkier HMI lights. I have had to do this with the Aputure LS1, but the 300d would be even better suited because of its narrow beam—a huge plus for an LED.
SkyPanel_Firmware 3.0 Source Matching
SET AN EFFECT
The SkyPanel from ARRI has been a favorite amongst LED units that is beautifully soft and versatile. This year, the 3.0 version of its firmware was released, and introduces an array of great features, including the ability to set an effect.
With the new firmware, you can set your SkyPanel to simulate a variety of effects such as a cop car, fireworks, paparazzi and lightning. This allows you to pass on having to come up with practical ways to create effects by panning lights or changing the frequency of your units by hand. You can also select from 46 preprogrammed sources like cool fluorescents or candles to match your SkyPanel to the sources around you in the environment or the other sources you are using to light a scene.
These capabilities, along with the ability to dial in RGBW values at your fingertips, have everyone realizing that tools such as gels are becoming obsolete for some units. It is becoming easier and faster to accomplish lighting effects and obtain the colors and frequencies we desire.
Obviously, it’s great to have the SkyPanel serving as an effect light or any function for that matter on set. There have been many projects now where SkyPanels are my main lights. Not only can you change so many things about what they are outputting now, but they make beautiful soft keys.
One company that has really gotten everyone’s attention this year is Digital Sputnik. I did not just want to learn more about the company’s new lights. I wanted to learn about their technology in general.
The DS family of lights is very versatile and can be stacked in different configurations, and although each unit is made up of multiple LEDs, they create a narrow beam unlike a panel would.
The newest edition released this year for Digital Sputnik was the Voyager series. These lights are tubes that can be fully submerged in water, and come in 4-foot and 2-foot units. They come with built-in batteries so there is no cabling to have to deal with while on location. You can dial in a few different things with Digital Sputnik’s application on your smartphone, getting specific with the hue, saturation, intensity and temperature. I have not used these yet, but am extremely eager to see what they do, especially underwater.
These are just some of the units that caught my attention this year and are helping lead the way in lighting technology. What is really great about all of them is the color accuracy, versatility and ability to control them wirelessly. It’s very exciting to be able to embrace new technology every year, but it also can be overwhelming. It’s truly about getting your hands on what you are interested in and taking them out on a shoot yourselves.
Julia Swain is a cinematographer based in California, whose narrative films include “Killing Animals,” “Jilted” and “Cassidy Red.” She continues to shoot on a variety of formats, seeking to create compelling visuals for every story and brand. She can be contacted through TV Technology.