PicturePhone Direct: Light'em Up!

Often taken for granted by the audience, proper video lighting is critical to establishing a good image. If you don't have the right lighting, and you're using standard overhead office fluorescent lights for video work, your on-air talent could look like a raccoon in a cave. Those straight-down ceiling lights cause dark shadows to form under the talent's eyes, producing the dreaded ãraccoon eyesä effect. Of course, without the proper lighting, your talent could look even worse.

For proper image capture, video lighting needs to be:

* The right color temperature.
* The right intensity.
* Diffuse or "soft."
* Coming from either the correct angle and direction or non- directional.
* Motion and flicker free.
* Cool...as in not hot.

What's the best way to get all your lighting ducks in a row? After an extensive review of the latest bulb options, we decided to build our video lights using the latest CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) technology. These neat little fluorescent bulbs fit the requirements for both analog and digital video lighting like a glove. Although initially designed for videoconferencing, the PicturePhone Hi-Lites (formerly Navitar Hi-Lites) also shine in such small production environments as remote news bureaus, interior ENG and EFP shoots, and small studio interview program interconnects.

Our PicturePhone Hi-Lites are engineered with one goal: to provide the most effective lighting for small video production facilities, presentation environments, and videoconferencing-equipped conference rooms. CFL bulb technology is what allows us to meet that goal.

PicturePhone Hi-Lites run cold, at less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so there's no sweat. They are dimmable, and regardless of the participant's complexion or background, the lights can be adjusted to provide optimum light intensity (between 40- to 60-foot candles). The CFL bulbs come in several color temperature ranges and the bulbs we selected for our Hi-Lites emit a perfect color temperature range for video work...about 3200 degrees Kelvin. Matching the color temperature and intensity to the camera provides a high CRI (color rendition index). This means the camera will have the proper light to accurately portray the various colors that it sees.

Another key feature of CFL bulbs is that they are very small, especially with regard to their power requirements and output capabilities. This allowed us to design them into several fixtures. We currently offer three versions of our PicturePhone Hi-Lites: a mono-point model that can be either tripod-mounted or suspended from a standard ceiling grid, a track model, and a new recessed 2-foot x 2-foot ceiling fixture for more permanent installations.

Although CFL bulbs are economically priced, CFL ballasts are still fairly expensive. However, they are available in high frequency dimmable versions, which are perfect for video work. High frequency CFL ballasts run flicker free. The ballasts we incorporate into our PicturePhone Hi-Lites operate at a frequency that is too high for a video camera to see, so there is no motion flicker at the camera sensor. No flicker means clear, sharp videos and digital stills. For videoconferencing and other codec users, the flicker free nature of these lights allows a codec to work more efficiently, as no additional compression is needed because of the apparent motion the camera sees (flicker).

The mono-point model contains three CFL bulbs and can be powered using a standard instrument cord. A very low power requirement (110V/ 39W) means your generator or voltage inverter can easily power banks of the bulbs at the farthest remote location. The unit is dimmable using a handheld IR remote and pumps out huge amounts of light for its small size. This is the technology for quick set-ups and tear-downs at live events and live news locations.

Who needs these things? Any company or individual who uses a video camera to record, broadcast, or conference and cares what the image looks like when itâs seen live or played back.

Does incorporating the latest CFL technology into your video work really make your videos look better? You bet. Think about a primetime network newscaster and the banks of lights surrounding him. Why do you think all those lights are there?

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