Industry Feed

Lighting redesign at KBTC Tacoma optimizes existing infrastructure while replacing legacy fixtures with Brightline soft lights

Contributed Content / Press Release

Known for its Museum of Glass, blue collar roots, and location on the banks of the Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington is a picturesque city a with deep artistic and working-class background. It’s also a town with a thriving PBS station — KBTC-TV. Operating as a public television station through Bate’s Technical College, KBTC reaches a vast audience of 4.3 million from southwest Washington through southern British Columbia.

With the multiple-award-winning “Northwest Now” (a weekly public affairs program) and fundraising events shot in their Tacoma studio, the station needed an update to its on-set incandescent and fluorescent lighting. KBTC has a main and a secondary set plus two areas for stand-up coverage. Noted Lighting Director Bruce Aleksander was called in to develop an improved lighting design for the facility that efficiently used the existing electrical distribution system while replacing its 1970’s era dimming system.

Aleksander’s lighting design made the most of KBTC’s current assets with only cost-effective upgrades. “Every dollar that was spent on this project can be seen on the set and guests,” he explains. “By making the most of the existing electrical infrastructure we saved a lot of time and money. Once I examined the existing distribution, I picked the easiest path to achieve the station’s goals.

“The goal is to provide beautiful lighting that will present the station’s hosts and guests in the best lighting possible. Once I understand what the client needs, then I can envision the look that will best suit those needs. After that, I can work out what equipment will be needed to create the look I envisioned.”

A Kliegl lighting/dimming system was repurposed, adding the ability to route non-dimming power to new solid-state soft lights from Brightline Lighting. The station replaced existing fixtures with two dozen Brightline L1.2 and L1.4 studio soft lights and one dozen Lupo DayLED 1000 and 2000 Fresnels. The legacy dimmers and control system were replaced with an ETC lighting console and DMX-512 lighting control protocol. Plug adapters were easily added to utilize the existing electrical distribution system.

“Brightline fixtures are simply the best ‘soft’ lights in the industry,” continues Aleksander. “And the ability to use available accessories for a control of a soft light makes this a unique system.”

The Brightline soft light’s adjustable color temperature enabled the design team to light at 4400K (Kelvin) — a more neutral color temperature well suited for rendering skin tones.1 That color temperature is also close to the native color temperature of KBTC’s existing video displays on set, ensuring a consistent look and allowing the station to keep more of their legacy equipment.

Another cost savings in Aleksander’s redesign is the subsequent power reduction. The new LED fixtures use 1/5 th the power of what the previous incandescent lights used. “This is not only a direct savings of energy it takes to light the set, but also a major reduction in the energy it takes to cool the studio,” Kathy Katz, co-founding partner of Brightline, explains. “Many studios find that the energy savings alone provide a return on investment in as little as two and a half years. As is the case with LEDs vs. incandescents, there are no lamps to change over the lifetime of the fixtures. At a time when we’re looking to reduce our CO2 emissions, this represents a significant contribution toward addressing climate change.”


Steve Newsom, Director of Engineering, KBTC, is thankful for Aleksander and Brightline’s thoughtful approach to lighting design. “We couldn’t be happier with the end result. With this redesign, not only is the video quality of our productions vastly improved but we’re doing it in a way that worked within our budget and will ultimately reduce our operating costs. It’s a win-win for everyone at KBTC.”

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