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WFSB-TV in Hartford, CT Re-launches Main Studio with New, Energy-Efficient Lighting

This is not the first LED retrofit I have worked on. If I had my druthers, I think all studios would still be tungsten. I also imagine that a lighting person at every evolution of new technology has uttered a version of this phrase since the invention of Edison’s lightbulb… Something along the lines of: “Blast, this infernal contraption, bring me my candle and chamberstick, knave…” But we must evolve with the times, and the LED is here, becoming more affordable, and has some notable upsides in the broadcast world.

When I was asked to consult on this project, the station’s goals were laid to me out pretty simply. First and foremost, they wanted to look better, they wanted their talent to pop off the screen, they wanted a big-network look. Secondly, they wanted to do it with less energy and less day-to-day maintenance. Thankfully, the technology exists now in the LED world to make that possible.

The studio was previously lit with a combination of Tungsten 300/500/650W Fresnels, Videssence Fluorescent wash fixtures, and ETC Source 4 Ellipsoidals. All of the equipment was clean, in working order and well maintained, even while hanging in the air. The station had even been very good about replacing their fluorescent lamps regularly!

I have to give WFSB a lot of credit because that is pretty rare in my experience. Proper and regular maintenance is something that gets often overlooked in the daily grind of affiliate broadcast news. WFSB had some great people and regular maintenance schedules in place to help them with this.

To the goal of energy efficiency, the decision was made to go with the Desisti Magis LED 40W-Tungsten Source as the replacement for their incandescent Arri Fresnels. I have used this product before in other stations and it is pretty solid. The fans are quiet enough to not be noticed by the human ear, (quieter than the camera’s own prompter fans actually), the output is roughly equivalent to a 500W Fresnel, and what’s better, (at least for broadcast) is they are fully DMX dimmable and the color temperature stays near-constant, unlike tungsten. This, in a fixture-for fixture swap, could save them over 16,000W in lighting power draw alone, whenever the studio lights are on. (these are rough estimates, based on old fixture wattages).

We investigated retrofitting their Tungsten ETC Source 4 ellipsoidals’s with LED but ultimately decided to keep them incandescent. This was largely because, while the ETC LED Source 4 is fantastic, its cost is just not quite low enough to justify putting their entire inventory of perfectly good Lekos into mothballs. We did decide to re-lamp the fixtures Long-life version of the lamp that fits the source 4, thus lowering the overall fixture wattage almost 25% and increasing the lamp life from a listed 300hrs, to a listed 2000hrs. –More Savings.

We took the opportunity of being off-air in the main studio to clear the entire grid, clean all of the fixtures, and re-lamp the fluorescents for the final installation. The studio also did some infrastructure expansion, replacing the processors in the Dimmers, and adding additional DMX ports in the Studio, along with a new Control Console. The Studio chose an ETC Element, a great console for current use and future expansion, alongside some Pushbutton stations to run their new lighting system. The infrastructure upgrades will allow them more expansion possibilities in the future, as dimmers are replaced with addresses and fixtures no longer just turn on and off.

By reworking the set lighting, we achieved a more dynamic look and increased the contrast between our talent and backgrounds. The set was originally an FX Design Group set (with graphics designed by the station) and built in the mid-2000’s. The set’s kneewalls were relit, replacing off-the shelf puck lighting with BriteStrip . (essentially a strip of low voltage, low profile bulbs that look like fuses) to achieve a more even, pleasant glow. The set also utilized internally lit columns that were originally only lit with fluorescent tubes. A power savings, as well as potential story-telling visual element, were gained when we replaced the T12 fluorescent lamps with RGB LED cove lighting manufactured by Color Kinetics. The columns can now be a theoretical 16 million colors and are individually controllable, by the foot. This gives them the option to have a nice slow wave of color, or solid color choice, and can change them whenever they desire. Combine all of this with some rotating gobos and well-placed highlights and the set and graphics were given a new lease on life!

All in all, I am really pleased with how the project is turning out. The studio with their new fixtures, are also eligible for a rebate with their utility provider to help defray the initial investment. Over time, the fixtures can pay for themselves. At the end of the day, we are here to get vital information to as many people who in some cases have no other way of getting it. Whether it’s the latest LED, or 60-year old-fresnels, every station can look good with the right application and diligence. This is why my goal as a lighting director is to make you look good- both on-air, on-budget, and on-time. There are more things in store for WFSB, but LED conversion is in place. Stay tuned.

New Equipment:

Desisti Magis 40W LED Tungsten

Desisti DeLux CYC 2x55W Fluorescent

Color Kinetics iColor Cove Powercore MX

NSL BriteStrip

ETC Element Control Console

Grip Equipment by Matthews Studio Equipment

Equipment Supplied by Barbizon

Eric Furbish is a Lighting Designer based in New York City. For almost a decade, Eric has been working professionally in the entertainment field throughout venues and studios large and small in Orlando, New York City, nationwide, and internationally. Having roots firmly planted Theatrical Design styles and immersive experiences, Eric continues to grow with experience in a variety of design work including Broadcast Television, Consulting, Theatre, corporate events, and theme parks and attractions.

WFSB-TV Panorama

#broadcastnews #collaboration #lightingdesign #wfsb #led #consultation #storytelling #green #technology

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