These days, we seem to be at the beginning of an LED lighting revolution, and the future of the technology is certainly bright (dah-dun-chhh). However, the LED lighting solutions that are currently available on the market are either cheaply built, really difficult to modify, or they're just insanely expensive. Last year, Andy Waplinger, a freelance filmmaker out of San Diego, set out to create the perfect LED light for low-budget and professional filmmakers alike. He created Strahlen, and the company's first product, the ST-100, a ruggedly simplistic, yet incredibly powerful LED light is now available. I recently talked with Andy about the creation of these lights. Read on to see what Strahlen's all about.
Before we get into the interview with Andy, let's take a look at the Strahlen ST-100. Here's the campaign video:
Here are a few of the fantastic feature and spec photos:
Here are the specs of the ST-100:
|Power Consumption:Color Rendering Index:
Tungsten | Daylight | Bi-Color
Bowens S-type | 3" Magnetic Attachment
Baby mount (5/8")
16.5" x 7.5" x 5.5"
90-305V AC, 47-63Hz
One year limited
And now that you've seen the basics of these wonderful little lights, here's the NFS interview with Strahlen founder, Andy Waplinger.
NFS: Give us a little bit of your background in film production.
Andy: I’ve been involved with film production since my early middle school days. I began working on our school’s morning TV broadcast in 6th grade and progressed throughout high school.
I originally intended to study electrical engineering but decided instead to pursue filmmaking. I went to a small liberal arts college, Juniata College, where I studied Digital Media Arts. While there I worked on and created several award-winning short pieces. I was also lucky enough to intern in the camera department on Showtime’s Weeds where I was slinging cable, swapping lenses, and grabbing coffee. It was the best hands-on experience I could’ve asked for, and I got to work with an exceptional crew on one of my favorite shows.
After graduating, I immediately moved to San Diego where I’ve been working as a freelance filmmaker/photographer.
NFS: Before you started Strahlen, you saw a deficiency in the LED video light market. What were some of the problems with the existing products on the market?
Andy: I was looking to upgrade my equipment with LED lights, so I began researching what was available. The lights I found tended to fall into three areas – they were too expensive, poorly made, or difficult to modify (or some combination of the three).
Since I have a background in electronics and mechanical design, I decided that I’d rather build my own lights so that I could get exactly what I wanted – LED lights that wouldn’t break the bank, could withstand the repeated abuse of a production environment, and could be modified with a wide variety of light modifiers.
NFS: How does the Strahlen ST-100 alleviate these problems?
Andy: I set out to build the ST-100 using three basic principles – flexibility, durability, and value.
The ST-100 is the most flexible light on the market. It has a Bowens S-type mount, which allows for budget-friendly light modifiers, and a magnetic mount built-in to attach a dome diffuser or fixed Fresnel. We’re also offering a Chimera 6.5” mount as an add-on, opening the door to a virtually limitless amount of possibilities.
The design of the ST-100 is made to be very robust thanks to its all-aluminum housing. We also don’t use any plastic in the construction, either - just durable, high-strength, lightweight aluminum all the way around.
The ST-100 also offers unmatched value. All of that flexibility and durability is packaged into a unit that starts at under $1000.
NFS: What separates the ST-100 from all of the other LED lights currently on the market?
Andy: In addition to the three items I just mentioned, the ST-100 also features:
-Silent cooling – the cooling system produces only 18dBa. You can hardly tell it’s running from even a foot away in a completely silent space. It won’t ruin your audio, ever.
-Integrated design – everything is completely integrated into the housing, so you don’t have an extra power supply to carry around. It also uses a standard AC power cable, which are available virtually everywhere.
-Industry standard models – the ST-100 comes in tungsten- and daylight-balanced models, as well as a bi-color model, which can go between tungsten or daylight at the flick of a switch.
-90 CRI – our LEDs are very close to an ideal light source (100 CRI). A broadcast engineer even took it upon himself to test our colorimetry against other major manufacturers, and we beat out everyone in the room.
NFS: Talk about the importance of CRI values in video lights.
Andy: Not all light sources are created equal. A light’s Color Rendering Index is crucial because it quantifies how well colors are rendered under a certain light compared to an ideal “black body radiator” (i.e. a tungsten filament).
You want your lights to have as high and consistent of a CRI as possible – this allows you to mix light sources without having to worry about poor color rendering or inconsistent looks.
We’ve used the ST-100 in a variety of mixed environments, and it has blended right in perfectly every time. Our demo reel shows several examples of the ST-100 in those mixed environments.
NFS: Talk about the design philosophy behind the ST-100, and talk about the importance of modularity in regards to light modification.
Andy: The design philosophy of the ST-100 is a combination of pragmatism and flexibility. It’s designed to be clean and confident with no frills, but still give you everything you need to create the look you desire.
Its combination of modifier attachments – S-type, magnetic, and Chimera – and ability to dim from 10-100% gives you the ability to modify the look and feel of the ST-100 to exactly suit your personal preferences.
NFS: Talk about the price of the ST-100. How does Strahlen provide more bang for buck than competing lights.
Andy: From its color quality to its modifiability to its construction, the ST-100 was designed with the overarching principle of providing the best possible value. The ST-100 breaks down the barriers of entry and allows filmmakers and photographers to enter into the LED market without having to worry about so many of the issues and limitations that plague other LED lights.
Our single LED models (ST-100T and ST-100D) are available during the campaign for only $800 a light, and our bi-color model (ST-100B) is available for $1200. Even at retail pricing ($999 and $1399, respectively), the ST-100 packs an incredible punch in value.
If you’re interested in testing the waters before jumping into full ownership of the ST-100, we’re offering a 2-week rental of our bi-color three light kit for just $500, shipped to and from anywhere in the US, anytime during 2014.
We’re also running two very limited specials that provide an even steeper discount on our 3 light kits of the ST-100T/D and ST-100B. There isn’t a better way to enter into the LED market.
NFS: Anything else worth telling the NFS audience?
Andy: My goal is to empower others. I want to give others the freedom and flexibility that Strahlen has given me. I’m excited that Strahlen has matured to a point where that’s possible.
I work tirelessly on Strahlen (trust me, you can ask all of my friends and family) because I believe so strongly in what the ST-100 can bring to other filmmakers and photographers. Every day I work to make the ST-100 better than it was the day before.
My promise to those who choose to support Strahlen is that I won’t ever stop. Your feedback will always be heard and great ideas will always be implemented.
Join Strahlen and let’s light the future together.
If you're interested in Strahlen LED lighting, make sure you head on over to their IndieGoGo campaign to see the rest of their promotional material and to get your very own ST-100.
What do you guys think? Does Strahlen fill a much-needed niche in the LED lighting market? And more importantly, are these lights priced right for independent filmmakers? Let us know down in the comments!