After a brief stop for fresh air in Utah’s Bryce Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Zion National park, a bigger Expressway team than ever headed down the long dusty road to Las Vegas to tackle another year of the industry’s biggest trade show. NAB 2019 was harboring a wealth of new equipment to get our hands on and we dove right in. This year, the camera and lighting departments decided to divide and conquer.
All of the usual suspects were exhibiting at the show, as well as tens of copycat booths slinging their copies of popular lights. We tried to see it all in three days and I feel like we got a good sense of what is coming down the pipeline for the rest of the year.
The first booth we went to visit was one I had been anticipating for almost a year. K5600, the manufacturer of the beloved Joker HMI had been whispering about their new first dive into the world of LED lighting and they did not disappoint. While both of the lights were not on display, we got a quick look into what is slated to release this summer – the K5600 LED Joker and Alpha 300 LED. The Alpha 300 LED Fresnel was on display, but the Joker is still being prototyped. Our demo of the Alpha was brief but pleasant and I am looking forward to seeing how they handle the Joker version. Both fixtures are 300w color temperature tunable LED maintaining the full 300w output across the color range. The output of the Alpha was similar to a 400w HMI and the white light quality on both the daylight and tungsten end was beautiful and definitely rivaled that of a quartz and HMI. By far the best I’ve seen on the quartz end of the spectrum. The ballasts are constructed using a similar design to K5600’s other products with the welcomed addition of wireless DMX via LumenRadio. In addition, the LED fixtures will use many of the same accessories as their HMI’s. The header cable is identical, and the barn door, scrim, and lenses will be uniform to the 400w HMI. A small glimpse into this new line was extremely promising and we will be reporting back as soon as we can get some demo fixtures into the shop in Philadelphia.
In a lighting heavy show, it is always surprising to find a great new innovation in the grip department, but we found just that at Matthews Studio Equipment. The Rock n’ Roller Combo and Mombo Wheel is a basic, yet long overdue part that we’ll be bringing into the shop immediately. Simply put, the Rock n’ Roller wheels are slip on wheels that fit Mombo or Combo stands but sport a larger, flat-free wheel and improved locking mechanism making pushing a 12x or 20x frame across less-than-perfect surfaces a dream. One Matthew’s rep Martin Torner hit the nail on the head when he said something along the lines of, “thank god the grips no longer have to get 4 guys to move a 12x while we watch one electrician push a 9k across a field on a crank stand by themselves”.
Another bet that paid off was the official release of the DOP Choice LED tube snap grids. Other companies have been offering these for a while, but they are specific to each type of tube which means you need a different snap grid for your Astera tubes than your Quasars and in the rental house that was bound to create a ton of confusion.
Fortunately for all of us, the folks over at DOP choice have released 2’ and 4’ snap grids with a universal fit via straps that will cover almost all of the LED tubes on the market. Like DOP Choice’s other products, they are a rugged construction that I have confidence in sending out on every job despite the “Don’t be gentle, it’s a rental” mantra. We’ll be bringing these in immediately and are so glad to put an end to the constant cycle of covering your tubes in black paper tape to control the beam angle.
At this point in the show I was starting to wear down significantly. The awful food options in the convention center and 10 -15 miles per day of walking were weighing down on me. Just when I didn’t think there was anything good left to see, I was surprised with an awesome offering from Kino Flo – the Image L80. After snubbing their LED tubes last year I’ve started to come around to Kino Flo’s new offerings and a few things about the L80 really peaked my interest. First and most importantly, it is one of the first LED retrofits I have seen that really seems worth it. With an MSRP at $2,500, the L80 is an Image80 upfit that you can do at home and really breathes life into fixtures that you might have gathering dust, or provides a huge upgrade to your permanently installed fluorescent system. With full RGB control, the Image L80 was also debuting a new firmware upgrade being rolled out by Kino that presented a really awesome new feature that a few companies seem to be exploring but haven’t released yet.
The new Kino LED firmware, named True Match Firmware 4.0 will allow you to select the gamma and color space of the camera you are shooting on and it will automatically calibrate the LED chips not to emit any light outside of that spectrum. For those of you that are still listening, this means that you can say goodbye to your light clipping when it isn’t overexposed but is showing a color that doesn’t fit in the camera’s color space. This is huge and I’m looking forward to testing it on set as soon as possible. Not only will it improve the Image 80, but it also gives their LED tubes a leg up as companies like Quasar Science and Astera haven’t yet mentioned adding this to their firmware.
Speaking of companies who are starting to dabble in color space calibration for lighting (did you think I was not going to mention them at this point?), LiteGear had a strong, albeit frustrating for me, offering as usual. The official launch of their new RGB Litemat Spectrum series was impressive. We put in our pre-order immediately and are expecting them in the fall. The Spectrum offers the same white light output you’ve come to expect from the Litemat Plus, with the addition of full spectrum color that also increases your CCT range. Also new from Litegear is the official release of their new ballasts which include wireless DMX via lumen radio, a more user-friendly LCD interface, and some new control options that make litemats even more valuable if you thought that was possible. I’ll go into detail on the spectrum in a separate post but these things are awesome and you can bet you’ll start seeing them immediately on jobs once they become available.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, congratulations. You’ve reached the point in the blog where I am going to fire off some of the other noteworthy things, and if you want to talk about them some more feel free to come down to the shop and I’ll be happy to continue on about them endlessly.
First – The Hudson Spider has proven itself a worthy light despite my skepticism last year. The wacky hinges have held up well and their service department has only had to repair a few. They’ll also be releasing a smaller version later this year so stay tuned for that.
A few other awesome products to look out for are some mini 50WH v-mounts from FXLion that will be a great pairing for Literibbon and small tubes, proper battery cables for Quasars, 2’ Titan Tubes (now known as Helios), and TRP Worldwide’s new active suction cup system called the Spider Mount 220. More on all of this come, but for now I’ve got to get back to work fielding all the requests for gear I actually do have available to rent!