From Dream to reality


Johannesburg-based start-up lighting manufacturer Dream Lights have made quite a
name for themselves in recent months among the lighting experts in the industry.
One of the most interesting aspects of Dream Lights’ business model, as their
products get ready to ship, is that it places the LED versus fluorescent debate under
the spotlight.

Although the Dream Lights product line does include two LED (light-emitting diode)
models, the company has chosen to place its emphasis – for now – on the
production of fluorescents. This is an interesting choice considering that LED is
widely regarded to be the future. The decision stems in part from the preference
that Dream Lights’ TK Madini and Manqoba Shongwe have for fluorescents.

“We can’t deny that LED technology is the future,’ says Madini, “but it’s still not
proven. Fluorescents have been around for years, they’re proven. LEDs are still
going through the process of being tried and improved. What we’ve noticed with a
lot of LEDs at the moment, is that many manufacturers will compromise the basics
of lighting like colour temperature and colour rendering in order to hit a desirable
price point.

“LEDs with high colour rendering indexes (CRI) are extremely pricey so
manufacturers will skimp on that in order to lower the price, and they also don’t
have the punch that you may need on set. If you put a light meter right in front of
an entry to mid-level LED, you will get a high reading, but as you move away from
the light, there is a significant fall-off in terms of the amount of lumens you’re
getting. With fluorescents you can achieve the highest possible CRI at a much lower
price and you don’t get that fall-off.’

But of course, they could not base their business on their own preferences alone, so
they did their research and asked suppliers and users of lights a very pertinent
question: “if LEDs and fluorescents were equally mobile and equally efficient in
terms of power usage, which one would you choose?’

Much of the appeal of LEDs comes from the fact that they are generally more
compact and can be run off a battery directly attached to the units, making them
easily mobile and independent of whatever power sources may available on
location. Fluorescents, on the other hand, are generally bulkier and require mains
or a heavy battery pack attached by means of an XLR cable, requiring more lifting
and cable-bashing to move around on set. Madini and Shongwe found that many
lighting operatives and cameramen in the industry shared their love for the quality
of light rendered by fluorescents but would opt for LEDs at times because they were
easier to use. So, in creating their product line, Dream Lights set about closing this
“convenience gap’ between LEDs and fluorescents.

As a result of these efforts, all of Dream Lights’ fluorescents can be run off two 14.4
volt V-lock batteries or one 26 volt V-lock battery, which can be mounted directly
onto the backs of the lights, eliminating the need for cables. Of course they can still
run off mains power and have been fitted with relays to ensure that mains power
will kick out when running off batteries and vice versa. This is to avoid the circuitry
in the lights getting burnt out if a user has both batteries and mains hooked up.

While the response to the performance of the lights has been universally positive,
Madini and Shongwe received quite a bit of constructive criticism regarding the look
of the units. There was a general sense that while the lights functioned beautifully,
they could do with a redesign to make them a little “sexier’. Dream Lights called
upon a design company with no experience in light design to improve the look of
the lights.

“More than anything,’ says Madini, “we wanted to ensure that we didn’t end up with
something that looks like anything else on the market. It had to be as small and
lean as possible and still look like no other product out there. So we approached a
company that designs cases for servers and electricity substations – things that had
to serve a functional purpose but were still in plain sight and therefore had to be
aesthetically pleasing. We chose them rather than lighting designers because we
knew they would bring us the different look we were after.’

Dream Lights is now ready to take orders for their new-look lights. The product
range consists of four models of fluorescent lights – the Sweet Dream (single
lamp), the Double Barrel (two lamps), the Bright Spark (four lamps) and the Bigfoot
(eight lamps). On the LED side, they are marketing the LED Epic, with another
design currently in development.


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