Lighting Designer Todd Heater often is called upon to light 100 setups in a day when he’s working on music videos such as the most recent Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Rolling Stones videos, where the musicians’ time is gold. So when he tested the BBS Lighting Area 48 remote phosphor LED lighting fixtures, it was a real-world trial run.
“Not only is the color rendering of the Area 48 spot-on, but it’s powerful, lightweight, compact, and can run off a battery,” said Heater. “Say you’re filming in the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and your generator’s far away, you just put it on a battery pack and go. Up until recently, battery powered lights were like oversized flashlights, but this is a real lighting tool.”
Heater also demoed the Area 48 lights on car commercials. “When we go out on the road with cars, we usually tow a car behind a generator truck and light it up that way. But with these lights, we’re able to mount battery packs right on the fixture and film it without having to put a generator power source on it.”
Area 48 fixtures are available with V-lock or Gold Mount (AB) battery plates, and can also be powered with a 4 pin xlr 160W external power supply.
When asked about the photometrics of the Area 48's he’s tested, Heater said: “The color match to daylight was as close to daylight as I’ve seen on the market, and probably better than all the other LEDs that I’ve seen out there. I have a more artistic approach to lighting than a technical one, but to my eye and to the camera, the color is right on the money”
One thing that Heater said he tries to avoid is mixing light sources. “When you mix light sources, there’s a strange phenomenon that happens. You can always tell that there’s difference. Even though a camera or a color temperature meter cannot, the eye can. So when I’m doing lighting I prefer to work with only one kind of source.
“But working with this particular light and HMI at the same time, the difference was practically unnoticeable, which is great. HMIs are big, hot, heavy, non-dimmable lights, and I can substitute the Area 48 where I need a small, compact, and very powerful light.”
The power of the light coming from Area 48 fixtures is a function of the remote phosphor technology employed. Since the phosphor coatings are not put on the LED bulbs themselves but on a phosphor panel placed in front of the LEDs, the same amount of light is generated no matter what the color balance of the particular phosphor panel being used: daylight, tungsten, or any of the other panels (2700K, 3200K, 4300K, 5600K, 6500K, and Chroma Green) available as accessories for Area 48's.
Heater much prefers the phosphor panel approach to changing color temperature. “When you try to blend tungsten and daylight bulbs, it takes away lighting power because you have half and half. With this light there’s a daylight balance that puts out the same amount of light as a tungsten balance, and the same for the other color temperatures available.”
In addition to the difference of weight, size and power draw, Heater also noted the lack of dimmability with HMI lighting fixtures. “The Area 48 is a very resourceful working tool on a set, because you can dim them down without changing color temperature. Now we can work at really, really low levels while remaining locked on in terms of color temperature.”
Todd Heater is a Los Angeles-based lighting designer.