Plasma light manufacturer Hive moves into the LED space with their new Wasp 100-C, bringing a new approach to a very competitive field.
There are a lot of LED lights manufactured for the film industry, at a variety of price points and qualities, making for a very full field. For most of its existence, Hive has stayed away from LED and stuck with the technology it knows best (and has an exclusive license to), which is Plasma lighting. Plasma lights offer daylight color balance while being both more power efficient than HMIs and offering a more even spectral distribution, leading to more flattering skin tone reproduction. As a bonus, they are flicker-free, so great for slow motion work.
So why move into the LED space? Primarily, to offer better control and lower cost. The spectrum that plasmas emit is at a certain color temperature, and when you want to change the temperature, you use traditional gels to dial in your light. Additionally, the least expensive plasma light it was able to offer was $3000, and while that's not unreasonable expensive for the quality on offer, it's still out of the affordable range for many independent filmmakers.
However, if your brand is built on one technology, expanding into another technology had better be worth it. With its LED, it's clear that HIVE has put a tremendous amount of research and development into building a light that is not only a suitable addition to their plasma line but would also fit well in pretty much any filmmaker's kit.
With a planned price point in the $1000 range, the Wasp 100-C is off to a good start, but there are obviously many even cheaper LED units available, so HIVE had to develop something new to make the light a compelling choice. The company did that by developing the LED board from scratch, using five different color LED chips together to create the most even, widest spectrum, and most controllable unit possible.
The operator can take control of the unit in three ways, either using the knobs on the back of the light, through a Bluetooth app for iOs (with Android available soon), or, most interestingly, through Digital Multiplex (DMX) for remote control. Some TV productions have been reluctant to try out LED considering not only the limited spectral response, but also the lack of DMX control interfaces, and it'll be interesting to see if Hive is able to use these units to get a foothold into live broadcast television.
Normally, when evaluating a new lighting source, especially an LED light, we discuss the CRI value. With the new Hive LED, we need to talk a bit about CRI in general before we can discuss the CRI of this particular unit. CRI stands for Color Rendering Index, and it's a way of discussing how accurately a color looks under that lighting. For instance, if you’ve ever looked over at a person or down at a product under certain street lights, you might have noticed how inaccurate some light can be, often giving a dramatic blue or orange cast that doesn't accurately reproduce what you know reality to be.
That inaccuracy is what CRI set out to measure. Unfortunately, that’s a hard thing to nail down. CRI does it by analyzing 15 color chips and comparing how they look in a light source, versus how they should look in an ideal light source.
The problem with that is that CRI is then an average of those chips. So, for instance, you could have a very low reading on a flesh tone chip, but then a very high reading everywhere else and still have a technically "good" CRI, but a light that makes people look weird. Since we tend to shoot people regularly, that's generally something we would want to avoid. This is why the LED tests you see generally focus more on the spectrum of the light, and especially on how flesh tones are captured, since it can be hard to color correct an image if the skin tone is wildly inaccurate from the start.
The Hive is a light with a very sophisticated set of color adjustment tools, and because of that, it's hard to say precisely what its CRI is. In my testing of the protoype, it was capable of CRI response as high as 98, but you might not want to use the light with that setting. For instance, if you were lighting a scene in a grocery store lit with overhead floroscents, and you were using the Hive LED to light the foreground actors, you might dial in the light to match the color cast of the overhead lights, especially if you don't have the budget to rebulb the entire space. In this case, the Hive will likely be giving out a lower CRI value, but if it is capable of matching the lights of the world you are working in, it could be said to be more accurate. Since matching the lights of the scene will make the color grade easier (the actors will be lit the same as the background, requiring less keying to make the grade work), this will be an incredibly useful tool.
One thing we did notice is testing was that the Hive tends to give out a very slight "batman" spectrum, with spikes around 3200K and 5600K, but this is a short eared batman not a long eared batman, and more importantly, it's a smooth spectrum otherwise as opposed to the spikes you see with other sources.
The head unit itself is lightweight and sturdy in your hand, compatible with an available chimera soft box. It was designed not just for motion picture work but also for still photo use, and is also compatible with most popular still photo accessories. The LED board is expected to last around 50,000 hours, so if you were shooting 12 hours a day, six days a week, 50 days a year, and left it on full time, it would last around 13 years. Of course, considering the rapid pace of lighting technology development, you will have likely replaced them before they even have a chance to wear out. Hive has started a Kickstarter today offering a $300 discount on the light for early backers. The light, which should list for $1099 when it hits stores in March, is available for $799 through the Kickstarter, with additional discounts if purchasing multiple units together. We don't often cover products at the Kickstarter stage here, but Hive has a solid history of delivering functional lights to the motion picture industry, and we were very impressed when we got our hands on the prototype.
The Wasp 100-C will ship through normal distribution in March, but is available for discounted pre-purchase through Kickstarter starting today.
- 98 CRI, 97TCLI
- 5 color LEDs: red, amber, lime, cyan, and sapphire
- Millions of colors
- 5 lbs.
- 4" x 7" body, 5" face when reflector is on
- 0-100% dimming
- 1650K-8000K color temp in 25k increments
- 360° hue control in 6° increments
- 0-100% saturation control
- 100-240VAC input, 4-pin XLR (compatible with most camera block batteries)
- Kit includes 100-C head unit, 100-C power supply, HDP lenses Super Wide, Wide, Medium, Spot
- 5" barn doors