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posted by - Friday, 04 June 2010

by Mitch Gross

Even with the fast pace of technical innovation seen in many areas of the motion picture industry, there still exists an underlying craftwork apprenticeship system that favors traditional methods and tools imparted over generations. This has been particularly true in the realm of lighting, where technological progress has been relatively slow and conservative. Many professionals still prefer to light exclusively with traditional tungsten fixtures, thanks to the quality and control of light they provide. Recent developments in LED technology, however, are beginning to change this.

Litepanels Mini

It was less than a decade ago that Litepanels introduced the first LED fixtures for the production industry. An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is a solid-state electrical instrument that glows when a current is passed through it. LEDs have been around for decades, but generally of relatively low brilliance and a very narrow color spectrum. The first Litepanel fixtures used daylight-balanced LED emitters with small reflectors built into each emitter and placed side-by-side in rows. These arrays of LEDs were available in small bricks for on-camera use, as well as in large doughnut assemblies for use as lens ring lights. LED lights feature very high power-to-lumen efficiency and low heat. The fixtures themselves are generally lightweight, small and can be run off battery power, making them attractive for various applications. Over the last decade, many manufactures including Litepanels have offered various versions of these types of LED array panels, and they have become the fixture of choice for certain segments of the production industry. But the general design of these lights has not changed much, limiting their possible uses. An array of emitters generally spits out lots of light in a general direction, with little to no control, quick drop off in brightness and multiple shadows. Diffusing the fixtures to eliminate the multiple shadows results in even quicker drop off and less control.


After this initial arrival of LED lights, we are now beginning to see some real advances in the design of these fixtures. Many of the limitations of the original arrays are being addressed in these new models.

The Creamsource by Outsight is an array of LED emitters, but these emitters are extremely high power. The brightness is enhanced further by lens cones surrounding each individual emitter, efficiently directing the light. The Creamsource, available in both spot and flood modes, is a low power fixture bright enough to rival an HMI lamp. The Creamsource outputs enough light to be used as fill in daytime exteriors, punched through a window as a source for daytime interiors, or pushed through diffusion as an interior fill, and yet it is still small enough to be mounted on a camera dolly and thin enough not to get in the way.


The Ianiro IANILED54 takes a similar lens-wrapped-around-each-emitter concept and adds further innovation. The fixture is actually a group of three concentric rings that can be detached from one another to create three individual units or used in conjunction to form a more powerful unit. The addition of some amber LEDs in each panel allows for manual adjustment of the color temperature. Whether operated individually or in a combined unit, the IANILED54 can be run off battery power for added versatility. For even more options, the lenses are interchangeable between spot, medium and flood versions.


Dedolighthas taken the LED and married it to the company’s patented dual-condenser lens technology. The result is the Ledzilla, a petite, bright on-camera light with the incredibly control for which Dedo tungsten and HMI fixtures are renown. Adjustable beam size with even brightness across the field and precise flagging control are some of the hallmarks of Dedo lights.

Sola Light

Finally, Litepanels has not rested on its laurels. Their original and much imitated LED arrays were followed by smaller and less expensive versions, which were also frequently imitated. The Litepanel 1×1 is a one-foot square panel of LEDs, which has grown into a large variety of models, with adjustable mixes of color temperature and beam spread. At NAB 2010, Litepanels introduced a radically new LED fixture design, which is in part a return to the traditional lamps of old. Their new Sola lights use Fresnel lenses to control beam spread, allowing the fixtures to be used in the same manner as traditional tungsten and HMI sources. Gone are the issues of beam control, fast fall off and multiple shadows.

Perhaps everything old is new again.

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