SAN FRANCISCO—The LED lighting revolution of the past dozen or so years has seen many studios and field production units replacing their halogen fixtures with LED models. Still, many facilities and rental houses have a not-too-old inventory of what they see as perfectly good lighting fixtures, except that they’re built for halogen bulbs.
Until recently, in order to take advantage of LED properties such as long life, low power draw and low heat generation, legacy halogen fixtures had to be rebuilt with LED light engines. Visionsmith, a nearly 30-year old professional lighting company for the broadcast industry, has introduced a simpler option: an LED light engine that plugs into a legacy Fresnel fixture’s halogen bulb socket. That LED assembly places the light emitting point source precisely where the replaced halogen bulb would place it, so the optical properties of the Fresnel perform identically throughout the entire focusing range of the fixture.
Visionsmith’s CEO Pete Smith recently discussed the company’s Relamp product with TV Technology correspondent Craig Johnston.
Pete SmithTV TECHNOLOGY: It seems like a real challenge to come up with a form-factor with the Relamp product to locate that point-source of light exactly where it was with the halogen bulbs you’re replacing.
PETE SMITH: Absolutely. We had to invent, completely from scratch, an all-new circuit, a totally new approach. With LED technology as it existed when we began, to drive a 300W LED for example, you were going to end up with a really big stack of electronic components that wouldn’t fit inside of a Fresnel. Every little part of it had to be not only replaced but integrated and miniaturized, and we ended with something that’s about one-fifth the size of anything else at this power level. And since most legacy halogen Fresnels have an inefficient ventilation system, we had to engineer a way to handle the heat. We spent five-and-a-half years of R&D on Relamp.
TVT: The Relamp bulbs don’t look anything like a halogen bulb.
SMITH: No, but they fit neatly inside the Fresnel’s housing, plug into the halogen bulb’s socket, and deliver the point source of light at precisely the right location within the fixture.
TVT: Visionsmith had an existing LED lighting fixture before you started on the Relamp product, did you not?
SMITH: The Hexolux came first. It’s sort of a ‘jack of all trades.’ It looks like it’s just an LED Fresnel, but it’s wildly more versatile than that. We’re doing a good business with Hexolux, but when we were reaching out to our customers, we discovered that what people really wanted was to keep the fixtures they already had, but with LED technology. They didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, or learn something new, or throw away their perfectly good stuff that they’re happy with. But they definitely want to get rid of the heat, they want to get rid of the power bill, stop replacing halogen lamps every 250 hours or so when their output fell off, and sometimes they wanted to relamp with daylight.
TVT: And the Relamp bulbs use the same AC power as the halogen bulbs they replace, though they use less energy, and they also can utilize the same dimming system.
SMITH: Our Relamp LED bulb modules will work on almost all common studio dimmers. All you have to do is take the halogen bulb out and stick the Relamp into the socket, and then you can still dim it. And when you’re dimming it, there’s no change in color. So if it’s 3,200 K, and you take it to half brightness, you don’t end up with a warm 2,500K like you would with a halogen bulb. The LED will stay at 3,200K all the way to zero.
TVT: What are your current Relamp products, and what’s upcoming?
SMITH: We’re shipping Relamps to replace halogen lamps in ARRI Fresnels and any other Fresnel that takes the same halogen bulbs. So the specific halogen bulbs we’re replacing are the FKW, which is for the 300 ARRI; the FRK, which is the 650; the EGT, which is the 1K; and the CYX which is the 2K. We supply those Relamps in either tungsten or daylight color balance. Our existing Relamp products fit ARRI, De Sisti, Mole Richardson and other common Fresnels. Currently we’re creating Relamps for less commonly used bulbs for other Fresnel fixtures. And then we’re looking at a Relamp for 5K fixtures.
TVT: You’re also selling new lenses for some of these legacy Fresnel fixtures.
SMITH: Our lenses are much more efficient because they use modern optics. I like to compare the additional light transmission from installing our new lenses to what it would be like going from a slow lens on a camera to a fast lens. It’s not a requirement when you’re switching from halogen bulbs to our Relamps, but you’ll get a lot more light output with an upgraded lens. We’ll be offering more and more lenses for different Fresnel light fixtures.