The art of making lighting work: Part 2

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TV lighting and studio consultant Angus M Clarke sheds some light on the South

African and African lighting design industries, and touches on what we’re doing

right and what we lack.

South Africa leads the way by far when it comes to updating its TV studio lighting

technology to stay abreast of the times.

Yet despite recommendations offered to many TV studios across the continent,

as a consultant, I find many stations’ management staff do not appreciate what

good lighting can do for their on-air look. They tend to view all lighting fixtures as

“a unit into which power is applied at one end and light comes out at the other,

so can be used anywhere’.

This is particularly true of the ubiquitous par-can which is used in every possible

lighting situation.

This cannot be farther from the truth, as we have a range of about 30 differing

light sources that can be used to perform different functions in the TV
environment today. What many people fail to comprehend is that a professional

light’s complexity and specialisation is synonymous with their cost over a wide

range.

The range of lights

From Fresnel spotlights of differing sizes to soft lights; from the range of open

faced lights known as Blondes and Redheads through dedicated Cyclorama
lights to flood lights; from static to moving-head effects lights; from Tungsten to

HMI to HID to Fluorescent to LED sources – the range is extremely vast.
Every single lighting unit has been designed to fulfil a specific application and, if

used incorrectly, can cause untold problems and have weird on-air
consequences. Often the psychology of using the wrong light source in an
inappropriate position can have the opposite effect of what was intended by the

story writer.

Managing people and projects

In my operational history as a consultant to the industry, the bane of my life has

often been the phone call I receive from a disgruntled church pastor complaining

that he just had his whole church video, audio and lighting overhauled to try and

improve its quality and now that he has state-of-the-art equipment installed, he

cannot understand why the pictures are not looking good.

Usually just one quick question is all I need to get to the bottom of the problem:

“Is the pastor walking in and out of light when moving around on the stage
area?’ The response is usually affirmative. My response will be: “I suppose the

stage is also very hot?’ which is greeted with a: “How did you know that?’
Usually the “consultants’ who advised on the project, are sales people who only

wish to move product, and actually do not offer the best advice on how to
achieve the goals of the church. They sell the pastor the most amazing stories of

how all the equipment is high tech, expensive and essential to the success of

the environment. They then put in the best possible audio and TV equipment

and even convince the client to use an expensive dimmer set and control console

to control the lights.

With very little budget over and realising that they have not included proper TV

lights for the project, they resort to supplying “coffee cans’ containing hi-power

globes (sometimes known as par-cans) as an excuse for “TV lights’.

The par 64 light and can was NEVER intended as a “people’ light, as it had all the

wrong light characteristics required from a TV light source, yet across Africa (SA

included) these inefficient light units are used extensively as they are very
cheap. This cheapness is proved by its poor quality of light output, as it has a

very hot centre and a drastic light fall-off of the centre line. In addition, their

power utilisation is the most inefficient of any light source known. These lights

are often used as coloured dressing lights, but owing to the vast amount of heat

generated, the colour filters do not last.

Check out next month’s issue for part three of Clarke’s feature.

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