Sunday, May 13, 2018

LED Ribbon Lantern Light Rig

This messy desk is my build and repair shop. Hanging next to the desk is my newest light; a LED ribbon lantern light rig.



Not an original idea.  I think these have been around as long as LED ribbon.  Usually, it is something hastily thrown together by the best boy.  I wanted to make something more substantial; a light that is bi-color, bright, durable, and easy to setup.  Always with any electric I bring to set, I want it to work well, and look professional.


There are many advantages to an LED lantern light with the light-weight, low power draw, and the ability to adjust color temperature. 

I probably over-engineered this a little.  The light was made with 32 feet of bi-color ribbon wrapped around 2 large cans riveted together.  (A friend I asked to weld these together.  He informed me that this type of metal is not suitable for welding.)

The light is 200 watts total.  Inside is an electronic fan for cooling.  The bottom has a spring-loaded base which fits a 20-inch paper lantern.  The top has a baby pin for rigging the light.


I need some new electronics to operate the light.  I built a case for a 350 watt LED power supply, 24 volts DC.  The PWM dimmer is 2-channel operating at 21 kHz with a maximum of 500 watts per channel.

These dimmers came with cool looking LED readouts that go from 0 to 100 percent.

2-Channel PWM dimmer on top.  350 watt DC power supply on bottom.

The dimmer works great with a 100 percent duty cycle.  The LEDs still glow with no flicker at 1 percent.

Inside the PWM dimmer

I am a little disappointment that the dimmers are slightly steppy.  (Steppy-ness is when the dimming does not appear smooth; discrete steps in brightness can be seen.)

I'm not knowledgeable enough about DC electronics to know if this is a factor of the high Hertz rate, or the higher wattage, or just a characteristic of this brand of dimmer.  Becasue of the steppy-ness, this dimmer would probably not be suitable for on-camera dimming.

The cooling fan is probably unnecessary.  When building the light, I was concerned that it could overheat.  I tested the light for 30 minutes.  It did not get excessively hot.  I think the metal cans with the open ends are excellent heat sinks for the LED ribbon.  Also, the fan is nosier than I expected.  I would expect sound would complain about it.  I did make it easy to disconnect the fan for this reason.




The finished light is great.  I hope to get a lot of use out of it.  It is bright, operates well, and fits into a paper lantern perfectly.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Coop Light Table Top

An unusual specialty light I own is an old Mole Richardson 6K coop light; Type 20133.  These old lights, forerunners of spacelights, were used to light large spaces.  It is big, awkward, and awesome.

I specifically bought this light for use as a table top light.  It excels as a soft top light, and I love the look of tungsten light.  Also, there are not many lights you can just aim straight down.

The output is easily adjustable by changing the wattage of the lamps.  I love the look of  DKZ 1K halogens with their large frosted globes, but for table top this is generally too much light.  I'm more likely to use 500 watt ECTs and go through a thick diffusion.



Originally, this would have been lamped with silver-bowl lamps.  This must have made for a super soft source.  Unfortunately, I have never had a chance to use these type of lamps.  I suspect it would be hard to even find these globes anymore.  Many of the old mogul photo lamps are no longer manufactured.  They can only be found as NOS. 

I was recently booked for a table top shoot and was planning to use the coop light.  I decided this was a good time to refurbish the light before the shoot.

The light had gnarly asbestos leads.  This is problematic because the asbestos is constantly being disturbed anytime the light is moved.

I removed the leads and I removed all the internal wiring at the same time.  It was all asbestos wiring.

I replaced the wiring with high-temp, high-tech silicone wire with high-temp steel terminals.  It probably wasn't necessary, but I ran the wiring through high-temp fiberglass sleeves.  I also wrapped some areas with silicone tape to protect from high heat.
There is a cover for the wiring with has been removed in this picture.

The original wiring had all the sockets wired together into one circuit.  I changed this to 6 separate lines coming out of the light so I can control which lamps are on.

I repainted the inside, cleaned the aluminum exterior, and it now looks good as new.  I can't wait to use it again.
 
Ready to go for the next shoot!

Monday, March 19, 2018

White Glove Gaffer

For years, I have joked about wanting to be a white glove gaffer.

Chance, my best boy on the last movie, presented me with these:




It is a hilarious gift.  And I love the wooden case.

I'm now officially a white glove gaffer!

For those who don't know, on larger jobs, the gaffer is often a white glove gaffer:  in general, he doesn't load or un-load gear, he doesn't run cable, and he doesn't set lights.

It's not entirely a joke.  I would be perfectly content to be a white glove gaffer.

I've had people tell me, I wouldn't be happy being a white glove gaffer.  I don't think so.  I think I would be thrilled to be the white glove gaffer.

I'll have to keep this box on every set cart for now on.



Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Future Of Lighting


Last year I added 12 Astera AX1 Pixel tubes to my kit.  I usually just call them "Asteras" though Astera makes other lights, too.

The AX1s are definitely a specialty light, but at the same time, I find myself using them almost on every job anymore.  They are quick and easy to rig; a big time saver.  A perfect light to keep close to set.


The Asteras are RGBW with a high CRI, have built in wireless, built in batteries, fully dimmable, easy to rig, and even weather resistant with a IP 65 rating.

The Asteras can be control via a smart lighting board, or a tablet with a transmitter.  The software for the tablet is remarkable for complex effect that can be achieved that would otherwise require a board operator with something like a Grand MA board.


Basic use of the software can be learned in a couple hours.  More complex use of the software takes time.  I am still learning new features of the software which I have been using, and learning, since last summer 2017.


There are many uses for the Asteras.  I’ve used the tubes to quickly add some white light when needed.  Of course, the tubes are great for party colors.  One of the coolest features, and what makes them pixel tubes; light patterns can move along the tubes.  Even more interesting, tubes can be lined-up in a row and a pattern can travel the length of the tubes.  I’ve used this moving effect for: fire-light, television light, police lights on a process trailer, and moving street lights on a process trailer.

A couple videos of me playing with the Astera tubes:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxcknL3klPdsOHQ0V2dJRzE0aWc

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxcknL3klPdsS2JYT09pWHN1ZUE

Astera’s AX1 promotional video:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJBZIDoNf1w

The future of lighting will be more and more lights like these; wireless and easy to quickly set up.


Next, I am hoping to find a good RGBW wireless fresnel . . . 



PS:  The grips on Extremely Wicked came up with these:


It is a clever use of an Astera clamp bolted onto a pony clamp.  They made these for me in #1, #2, and #3 sizes.  They are great for quickly rigging the Astera tubes.

They work with Quasar tubes, too.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

LED Video Wall Backgounds



I’m surprised that I haven’t worked with a LED video wall in a couple years.  I first worked with these gaffing the mini-series; NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed.  The LED walls worked amazingly well as backgrounds.  I thought I would soon be seeing these routinely, but for whatever reasons, it hasn’t happened.


This picture, from the set of American Speed, is the Dayton Raceway owner's box from around 1970:

Like looking out a real window




The background for the set is a large LED wall, maybe around 30 by 40 feet.  In this test background, the clouds are moving and cars are moving around the track.  I am focusing lights.  The skylight coming in the room is from 4-M40s with blue and diffusion.  The overhead lights in the room are 10-8' Kino Flo Double Mega fixtures.  Two pairs of these are just off-set hidden by a teaser.

When construction finished this set, including real glass windows, the illusion of actually being at a real place, looking out real windows was amazing.  It seemed like you were at the track.

Another test background with Dayton Raceway at night



The grips did a fantastic rigging job.  The LED wall was built on an I-beam trolley.  The wall could be moved between 2 sets to speed up shooting.  I would guess it only took about 5 minutes to move the wall.


We also used LED walls instead of a process trailer.  This worked so well, I’m not really sure why anybody would want to shoot on a process trailer.  I’m guessing we shot 2 weeks worth of process trailer work in 2 long days.

We shot dozens of cars on this set



There was major rigging involved with this.  Large LED walls were hung on both sides of the car, behind the car, and over the car.


Again, the illusion of looking at a moving car was amazing.

A wide view of the car set



There is considerable pre-planning that must go into using the LED walls for it to be successful.  The size and placement is important.  The backgrounds need to be carefully planned and shot.


LED walls made my gaffing world easy.  Powering the walls is simple.  They have a relatively small power draw.  The wall techs have complete control over the brightness of the background.  And more amazingly, if I need more light just in one area, the techs can just make that area brighter.  And even more amazing, they can add a block of light to create an addition light source.  The source can be in a constant position, or move with the background image.


The only draw backs that I know of right now are possible moirĂ© and flicker.  We were on the lookout for these, but it was never a problem on our shoot.  Also, shots were limited to tighter shots.


For me as a gaffer, shooting outdoor locations is often a great compromise with lighting made difficult by the physical placement of lights, the availability of power, changing lighting conditions by the time of day, and often the biggest challenge, the weather.  I would much rather shoot in a studio where I have complete control over the lighting.


I’m guessing LED walls will become more and more the best way to shoot many things that previously would have been shot on-location.