Industry Insights: Lighting equipment experts reflect on past year

By NewscastStudio

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Lighting is one of the key elements of presentation, adding dimensionality to design and making talent stand out. 

In this installment of our Industry Insights roundtable, our experts from the field of lighting gear share their thoughts on trends, the new broadcast landscape and what customers are asking for this year. 

Stay tuned for part two later this week with thoughts on new and upcoming product features.

How did 2020 change your outlook or roadmap?

“While 2020 brought an ongoing shift to more virtual informational trainings and videos, the significance of B2B collaborations increased, with partners sharing information across industry sectors. As a result, we developed lighting solutions for the professional working remotely and apps for lighting control. We’re grateful to our clients and partners who continued to find innovative ways to stay connected and advance products and projects throughout the challenges,” said Kathy Katz, a partner at Brightline.

“Our perspective has opened up a great deal. 2020 certainly broke down and refined the way we look at things and the actions we take to achieve our goals. We have become much more attentive and vigilant,” answered Steven Strong, the CEO of Quasar Science.

“We continue to see a growing focus on remote production and lighting is an essential part of that. 2020 hasn’t changed our roadmap but it has accelerated our drive towards improving remote control solutions that allow adjustment of lighting in real-time,” said Michael Herbert, a product manager for Litepanels.

“ETC was already on a path to developing great new lighting fixtures and technologies for broadcast when the pandemic hit. Without a doubt, the pandemic had an impact but we have already seen adoption of our newest fixtures in broadcast environments. We have observed that streaming services have been very busy creating new content,” said Luke Delwiche, marketing manager at ETC.

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“From our perspective, we feel that 2020 accelerated the adoption of trends such as remote production, remote control of lighting, and mixed reality studios. We are seeing significant investments being made in studio infrastructure and, along with that, increased demand for camera and lighting equipment. In terms of our roadmap, we are fortunate that our products have these requirements built-in, so we were able to accommodate these in-demand workflows such as web control and direct remote control of our camera and lighting systems,” said John Gresch, SVP of sales and marketing at ARRI.

“High-quality, live streaming, key lighting solutions are being requested by anyone holding live events. From corporate presentations, church services to live music artist performances, we have seen an increase in demand for flexible lighting solutions that are easily controllable and scalable,” explained Eric Loader, sales and marketing director for Elation Professional.

“The declining market has taken us closer to our clients, having the time to educate each other in technical matters as well as market matters. Of course, we are pleased that [the Danish] government has been able to help lift the economic burden of the market stagnation,” said Peter Plesner, founder and CEO of BB&S Lighting.

What are common concerns or questions you’re hearing from customers today?

“Certainly supply chain and potential delivery delays have been a concern. Other than that, our customers have been excited to begin re-opening and start tracking their new projects again,” Katz responded.

“‘Are you still there?’ It has been great to see the support customers have for the health of the industry and our brand, they’ve kept us alive so we fight hard to be there for them. Everyone wants a robust and diverse economy that they can count on so it’s fundamental we’re here to support the investment they’ve made in our products,” Strong said.

“We’re receiving more enquiries about wireless communication to lights. Even though a studio setup is not likely to be fully wireless, customers are increasingly interested in lighting parts of the set wirelessly for flexibility. Wireless control allows them to create certain scenes or looks that would be too time-consuming or complex with wired fixtures, and enables lights to be quickly repurposed for other locations such as temporary remote studios,” Herbert said.

“We have overwhelming feedback from customers that they are not satisfied with the result of the many cheap LED fixtures on the market today. The camera shows every single blemish in the beam and their poor color rendering is simply not acceptable. Automated lighting (moving lights) are becoming a more common part of the broadcast workflow, and again – customers demand high quality. Silent operation is also crucial,” noted Delwiche.

“The most common question from our customers is the availability of products. We’ve had a substantial increase in demand, and customers are all trying to have us fulfill their orders faster to meet their production needs. At the same time, many companies are experiencing supply chain issues, which has may have contributed to the consolidation of lighting equipment providers and what gear is available. At ARRI, our manufacturing team has done a great job at sourcing and splitting shifts to minimize the impact of the pandemic, and as a result, we have been able to step up into the gap. We’ve seen our market share grow dramatically,” Gresch said.

“Ease of operation and high color rendering are key for our customers. How you control the lighting system easily and quickly is also a priority. Elation is positioned well with our Obsidian controls division,” said Loader.

“The most immediate concern from clients is that projects are postponed again and again either because they cannot get access to the building where things need installation or because budgets are held tight. But things are getting better every day,” Plesner told us.

What is the single most overlooked piece of purchasing new lighting equipment?

“It’s probably a light meter, which assists with setting proper light level ratios. More sophisticated meters help with color temperature as well,” said Katz.

“Ergonomics. A lot is changing in lighting technology but our hands and eyes, what we can lift? none of that is changing anytime soon. Physically interacting with the gear should be intuitive and enjoyable,” Strong suggested.

“Lighting directors and designers are usually hugely skilled in their trade, so the biggest issue is usually not what’s been overlooked in the purchase but how the production’s ambitions have grown since the original design! Lights that offer a lot of options, for example with the inclusion of RGB or higher output, help to alleviate this risk,” said Herbert.

“The ARRI Orbiter,” Gresch said.

“Control,” Loader indicated.

“BB&S makes workhorse equipment that will keep on going, working daily in TV studios, film studios, concert halls etc. all over the globe. Often clients look for a small tech feature in equipment like, ‘I can run my 3 lights over my phone’ rather than looking at the quality of light produced from the unit. We have to remember that good lighting has to be consistent again and again and a shadow has to be defined—not a plural of 1000 small LEDs,” said Plesner.

Participants

Kathy Katz, Brightline
Michael Herbert, Litepanels
Steve Strong, Quasar Science
Luke Delwiche, ETC
John Gresch, ARRI
Eric Loader, Elation Professional
Peter Plesner, BB&S Lighting

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