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Old lights, false economy

How many times have we seen lamps deteriorated by use, working as in their best days? A frequent vice in our region in the forced resurrection of old equipment.

Often, in the production environment, you hear a filmmaker say something like: —... well, today we came out with three hundred and an extra kilo, just in case.

It is also possible for a production manager, when "designing" the light package for a mobile unit, to say: —... and let us carry three kilos, one of two kilos; no, better two. And let's complete eight or ten kilos with the six hundred that are left out there, the ones we bought in '82... and the filters, those that are half burned, still serve...

This summary treatment of lighting design reveals a serious problem of attitude towards the handling of light in our productions.

The tendency to describe equipment simply by its current consumption makes evident the minimal importance that is assigned to the special characteristics of each lamp or accessory.

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Design and service life

Some producers tend to believe that the most important thing about a lamp is the bulb, and concentrate the maintenance effort of their equipment on sustaining some integrity in the electrical part.

As it is relatively easy to repair the wiring, it is clear that the life of a lamp can be extended almost indefinitely. And, in fact, this happens with an unusual frequency.

Some producers proudly present their packages of lights, formed by a set of old battered lamps, patched with pieces of wire or rivets of aluminum, poorly placed ...

You even see equipment that certainly consumes the current indicated in the bulb, but that for years stopped responding to the original specifications of the manufacturer and can become dangerous for the technical personnel who operate them.

Treating light equipment in this way indicates that the design effort by which each piece of equipment is different from the others is unknown. By limiting the performance of the lamps, the creative options are also limited, because when heat sinks, lenses and flags disappear, all the equipment is reduced to its common denominator: generating beams of hard light.

New needs

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The light packages were configured – in many cases – according to the needs that existed many years ago, and since the need to renew them was not evident, their usefulness was never questioned.

For example, in many markets the standard in small lights is the old and reliable six-hundred-watt hard lamp. Certainly, twelve or fifteen years ago, a tube chamber needed at least two or three such lamps to be able to do reporting work.

But it is not usually asked if a modern CCD camera really needs the same amount of light. Or whether the image would benefit from combining the hard lamps with a diffused light source, or from using a focusable lamp.

While Latin American producers continue to periodically repair their lamps, manufacturers have focused on offering new products that, in many cases, are more efficient, allow better control of light and respond more effectively to the needs of the latest billing video equipment.

Why use a six-hundred-watt light in cases where two out of two hundred could do the job better? Why continue to concentrate light using flags when you could use an optical system that provides greater precision and dissipates heat better?

To ignore new designs is to fall into false economies. It is possible that a review of the new options offered by the market in terms of lights will yield positive results immediately.

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New developments

In the last five or six years, most manufacturers have completely revamped the design of conventional lighting equipment. At the same time, users are beginning to enjoy a significant price drop in fluorescent light equipment, thanks to changes in the production scale of lamps and accessories based on this technology.*

Conventional incandescent lights. New materials have been introduced that make it possible to manufacture lighter and more reliable lamps; finishing systems that contribute to heat dissipation and mechanical systems optimized to offer lamps with more stable and accurate performance in any application.

Study lamps. They have evolved to become equipment of lower weight and energy consumption, which allows to make assemblies less cumbersome than with the bulky traditional equipment, while enabling significant savings in air conditioning costs and in the adequacy of studies.

Small lamps for ENG applications. A strong trend has developed to generate new products based on alternative light generation technologies. The inefficient sun-gun of ten years ago has been replaced by a new generation of low-voltage PAR lights, or by miniaturized HMI equipment, which operates with conventional batteries to offer longer operating time thanks to its reduced electricity expenditure.

Other equipment. Taking advantage of the increased sensitivity and excellent colorimetry of modern cameras, many low-wattage products have been developed that perfectly serve applications in the field of electronic cinematography, advertising production and special effects work.

Accessories. Some manufacturers have developed novel systems to revive the lighting techniques of the past. Supports for wefts, gobos and filters with textures that allow to give a new touch to everyday work have reappeared.

And novelties have also been presented: the formulation of gelatin filters has evolved to improve their performance and increase their shelf life. Graphics systems have been developed that allow designing the lighting of a set on a personal computer with the necessary precision to combine real images with the graphic backgrounds of virtual scenography systems.

The new dimmers and automated systems allow perfect control of the light in the studios. The selection of color filters for specific applications has also become a matter of software.

New products for light and color measurement have appeared in the field. The heavy clamps and other supports of a few years ago have become lightweight and inexpensive accessories...

In short, the market has been filled with valuable options in terms of lighting, and will it be valid, then, to continue repairing our old lamps?

(*) Watch TV&Video, "Cold light, an alternative".. Volume 4, Issue 1, January-February 1998. 41-42.

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