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rbb Studio in Berlin is Setting Standards in Lighting

rbb Studio A in Berlin

This spring, Studio A of rbb's broadcast centre on Berlin's Masurenallee went OnAir after a refurbishment break of only seven months. From the lighting piont of view, it is considered to be one of the most modern studios of its type in Europe.

Latest generation ARRI telescopes, a completely new developed control system and a LED-based back-lighting system in a size totally unique for TV studios are the highlights of the new studio A of Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg (rbb), the regional public broadcast station for Germany’s capital Berlin and the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg. It took only seven months to refurbish this some 800sqm large studio in close cooperation with ARRI Lighting Solutions. The broadcast station will meet demanding new requirements with the help of this unique stage: Daily changing formats like talk shows, magazines and sport programmes demand high flexibility, short changeover times and embody a high demand of architectural and lighting design on the studio environment. Furthermore, the studio is able to accommodate an audience of up to 450 people. In a few months, the production will entirely move to the 16: 9 widescreen format – and in the long run possibly to a high-definition standard. Successful formats like KLIPP UND KLAR, THADEUSZ, SCHEIBENWISCHER, or POLYLUX are not only broadcast regionally, but nation-wide within the collaborative programme of the ARD, the working committee of the public broadcast stations in Germany.

The highlight of the turn-key solution is the new, LED-based background lighting system: With a total length of 100m (330ft) and an altitude of 8m (26ft), it covers all four studio walls. Behind that: LED modules with a size of 219 × 127mm (8.6" × 5") each, specially developed for this application, carrying 3 × 6 RGB LEDs. These modules are the result of an intensive cooperation between the research and development department of ARRI Cinetechnik, Stephanskirchen, managed by Erwin Melzner and the American semiconductor manufacturer Color Kinetics. Saturated colours, a colour space of more than 16 million colours, applicability for virtual production and an intelligent software control system that is able to reproduce a vast variety of effects clearly demonstrate the advantages over any conventional concept, based on RGBW fluorescents.


During the run-up phase, the precise module grid was determined in relation to the fixed distance of 1.20m to the projection foil. Furthermore, the compatibility of the PWM dimming with 3-CCD digital cameras had to be examined. Excellent heat dissipation – to optimise the lifespan of the LEDs – as well as the system’s EMC were further test criteria. And finally, a number of different projection foils and the panel alignment had to be tested to obtain optimum results regarding colour saturation, brightness and an even colour gradient. All testing was performed in close cooperation with the rbb, whose Project Managers were Götz Schillmann and Helmut Kotwenko, head of the lighting and props department.

The potential the new system releases for creative lighting design is most impressive. This goes together well with economic arguments like the long lifespan of LEDs and the low heat dissipation, enhanced electrical safety thanks to a low-voltage supply as well as the possibility to expand the system in any direction.

Also, the latest generation ARRI motorised suspensions were optimised. Innovative gliding sheets provide for a better vertical movement. A newly developed trolley with specially-designed rollers delivers excellent running characteristics on all rails. Apart from that, the compact and quad-shaped tubes, made from premium steel, offer a number of advantages. At rbb, the telescopes can be used over-grid – a very strong argument, when it comes to serviceability.


Also, the radial deviation was considerably reduced to better support accessories like motor yokes. All together, the design team in Stephanskirchen, headed by Klaus Stegmaier, managed to integrate more than 20 years of manufacturing expertise into this new generation of telescopes.

Naturally, the control of 150 telescopes requires an intelligent and reliable control system. Headed by ARRI Lighting Solutions, the PCS 2100 series was considerably enhanced. At rbb, it controls the movements of various suspension equipment, like motorised suspensions, hoists, motorised panthographs or chain hoists. Even the control of motor yokes and dimmers has been integrated into the system. Main focus of the development was the adaptation to modern operating systems and the precise tailoring around customer needs. The central user interface, running on a touch panel (19", resolution 1280 × 1024), is a perfect platform to clearly display studio A’s infrastructure, consisting of 150 telescopes, distributed across 36 rails. The central user interface can be moved freely in the studio and can be connected to any of the several wall-outlets. The display of the user interface is then adjusted in steps of 90° to the actual position.

The user interface is an integral part of a complex, bi-directional, hierarchically structured real-time bus, whose data transmission is based on the industrial standard Process Field Bus (ProfiBUS, EN 50 170). In this case, ARRI builds on a proven and very stable data transmission system, whose development started back in the 90s at SIEMENS for data transmission in industrial automation. ProfiBUS features a maximum data rate of 12 MB/s, a maximum user data length of 244 Byte, the coverage of long communication distances, scalability and a high degree of standardisation. ProfiBUS is future-proof, under ongoing development and new upgrades, like ProfiNET, are just about to be implemented in the industrial field.

Lighting Solutions for Top-of the Art Video Studios

Interview with Götz Schillmann

From the lighting point of view, it is considered that rpp's Studio A is one of the most modern studios of its type in Europe. What was the reason for this multi-million Euro investment?

Götz Schillmann: The old machinery did not comply anymore with the safety standards. Productions were only possible during a transitional period and under imposed conditions. Additionally, new requirements came from the broadcast station: Among other things, it should become possible to record programmes with up to 450 visitors in this 800sqm studio. However, the presence of audience in a studio is governed by firm directives for the public broadcasters in Germany.

At the same time the production costs were to be reduced – as everywhere – and the use of the studio’s capacities was to be optimised. The only way to cope with all those requirements was to considerably improve efficiency – meaning shorter changeover time and a higher degree of automation.


rbb is setting standards in lighting: For the first time ever a LED background lighting system of this size was installed. On top of that, there is a new combination with a projection foil and a newly developed control system for the suspension equipment installed. Would it have been possible to reach the goals mentioned above with the help of conventional technology?

G. S.: Most likely, but our bid invitation was deliberately kept very open in a technical sense. All competitors were allowed to present conventional concepts – but also technically more advanced suggestions. At public broadcast studios in Germany, investments of this type are conceived for an utilisation period of more than 10 years. Therefore, innovative strength and guaranteed future of the solutions suggested was an important selection criterion.

You selected ARRI Lighting Solutions, a subsidiary of ARRI in Munich, to be general contractor. Why?

G. S.: Quite a number of positive factors accumulated here: The seriousness of an innovative concept, ARRI’s decades of experience in lighting, and the availability of resources to put the entire concept into reality in only seven months. Furthermore, the project team at site in Berlin proved to be very capable. Last but not least, the excellent price-performance ratio should not be concealed.

The eye catcher of this studio is the gigantic LED lighting system. It has a total length of 100m (330ft), an altitude of 8m (26ft) and was installed behind a projection foil. What do you think the benefits of LED technology are ?

G. S.: Initially, compared to conventional fluorescent back lighting systems, we got a considerably improved visual colour rendering. Additional advantages are the low service costs as well as completely new scopes of lighting design thanks to dynamic effects.

What role does the expected long-term transition to high definition video play?

G. S.: As it has just been discussed on a HD symposium of the ITR (Institut für Rundfunktechnik = Institute for broadcasting technology) in Munich, we are also convinced that we are better off using LED lighting technology considering the new requirements regarding flexibility, purity of colours and lighting precision. Please keep in mind that there is a different depth of field with HD.

Are you going to use the LED lighting system also for virtual purposes?

G. S.: Because of its uniformity and quality of colour rendering, the system is ideally suited for Chromakey applications.

The brightness of the LEDs is controlled by a pulse width modulation (PWM). This has been discussed controversially over and over again. How about your practical experience?

G. S.: PWM dimming is a prerequisite for high constancy of colours. If the colour is achieved by RGB mixing and the light source is dimmed, then the chromaticity coordinates do not change. Because of the asynchronous operation of the single LED modules, no interference is visible in the image of 3-CCD cameras. Furthermore, following intensive EMC measurements, it could be shown that the PWM dimmers and the installed switching power supplies do not cause any failures of the studio equipment.


A pure white wall wash also is a frequently discussed and critical aspect of LED lighting.

G. S.: This is exactly where the rbb’s new solution is so convincing: The visual result is far above our expectations. This is achieved by the precise colour mixing of the RGB LEDs, where white LEDs are not used deliberately.

How important is it to select the right projection foil?

G. S.: The control is mainly based on the Ethernet protocol. Using a special software, we are able to address every single module. Thus, the system can be expanded in any direction and provides various dynamic effects. Considering that there are more than 2,600 RGB modules, each consisting of 6 x 3 LEDs, conventional control through DMX would just have not been practical at all. In cooperation with ARRI, we aim at a second phase upgrade of the controller software where it will be possible to control pre-programmed effects directly from the lighting console.

A further highlight of the technical lighting concept is the control of the suspension equipment. Here at rbb, it is used with 150 ARRI telescopes for the first time. Where do you see the benefits?

G. S.: What really convinced us was the considerably improved user interface – compared to what was on the market before. Especially when used in a studio of this size, the system offers a full range of advantages: On the hardware side, it uses standard IP components and the network is mainly Ethernet-based. Thus, the parallel use of terminals is provided. The hardware is – up-to-the-minute – fully compliant with the RoHS standards of the European Union. A short booting time, low noise emissions, flexible interconnection with the studio’s infrastructure, and a remote control system that meets the requirements of the necessary dual band system (currently under development) were further decisive factors.

For its studio A, rbb selected ARRI motorised suspensions, manufactured in ARRI’s Stephanskirchen workshop.

G. S.: We are happy that ARRI is such a very stable partner. They have a 20-years-tradition in building motorised suspensions that is now carried on. This development assures that we will have service available throughout the intended long utilisation period. Furthermore, our contacts work just a few minutes down the road.

Thanks to their thin-walled steel construction, the monopoles provide technical advantages. In our case, these are long guideways over-grid that we can use to freely position the lamp heads. The small radial deviation of the telescope is important to allow for the later use of motor yokes.

Mr. Schillmann, thank you very much for this interview. We are looking forward to further joint projects!

G. S.: And I would like to state that it was a real pleasure working with ARRI Lighting Solutions. ARRI has always been very responsive – in both a pragmatic and unorthodox way – to our changing demands that were mainly caused by the various regulations that apply to public broadcasters in Germany. Only through a joint effort, it was possible to put this ambitious project into reality – in such a short period of time.

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Thus, a cyclorama of 99,2 x 8 meters had been realized together with ARRI-Solutions in Berlin, who had received the overall project for the light installation equipment of RBB television studios in Berlin. After comprehensive tests and selection procedures with LED-surface lights in terms of neutral color rendering, brightness and luminance factor the decision fell for the Gerriets high-end rear projection screen OPTITRANS® for this cyclorama.

The OPTITRANS® - rear projection screen, originally designed for the video sector, shows perfect color rendering features for the whole wavelength range of visible light from 380nm - 780nm. This characteristic combined with a high luminance factor of ß 1,61 and an extremely good luminance factor highly qualify this projection screen also for application in studios as cyclorama for two-dimensional rear lighting via LED-technique. The good handling and manufacturing features, such as high tear strength and high flexibility respectively tensibility, facilitate the intallation per means of especially developed Gerriets floor strips and thus guarantee a smooth and absolutely wrinkle-free appearance.

Further main projects with Gerriets OPTITRANS® screens in application, were for example the “Carmen” opera production 2003 in Seoul / South Korea with dimensions of 100 x 20 meters and the celebrations for the Sultan of Oman, with dimensions of 30 x 15 meters.

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More details to be found:

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