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Gekko lights Sky News at the Gherkin

Gekko Technology LED lighting installation being used for Jeff Gandall Live at Sky News in the City of London.

Sky News has chosen Gekko LED lighting for its newsroom on the 15th floor of the 180 metre 'Gherkin' in London's financial district. The studio, which is used for the daily business update 'Jeff Randall Live', has as its backdrop a view directly through an exterior glass wall. Airing at 7.30 each weekday evening, the cameras have to contend with the setting sun as the rear outlook of the studio is due west. Care was taken to achieve camera positions which used nearby buildings to mask direct views of the sun but this can be hard to achieve consistently as the sun sets.

The initial solution considered involved using HMI fixtures running through DMX-controlled dimmer shutters into soft boxes. This introduced complications in terms of control, power draw, and the large amounts of heat that multiple HMIs produce, especially when used in a confined space. Sky then approached Gekko Technology via Broadcast & Production Services to investigate an LED-based solution. Sky is no stranger to LED lighting but was concerned to avoid colour shift when dimming and relatively low intensity.

Gekko specified a solution based on a range of its fixtures powered by kleer colour ®, the company's colour tunable LED light engine. The chosen solution centres on kezia hard-source lights.

Fully colour tunable, the kezia fixtures provide a high volume of even light, the colour temperature of which is accurate at points between 2900K and 6500 Kelvin. Colour temperature stability is maintained via a feedback loop built into each light. If a shift in output is detected as a consequence of rising ambient temperature, for example, the kleer colour system automatically adjusts to the temperature specified. Calibration of units as they leave the factory also ensures consistency from lamp to lamp.

"As well as the requirement for colour temperature accuracy, the west-facing window demanded very high light levels in the studio," adds Gekko Managing Director David Amphlett. "The actual requirement was for a maximum of 10,000 lux on the presenter when the sun is on axis with the camera. To achieve this, we recommended a combination of kezia 800, 200 and 50 fixtures installed as key, fill and back lights. The kezia 800 is fitted with four kleer colour light engines, each individually controlled via DMX. These were hung as key lights, oriented directly to cover both the presenter and guests. To avoid hotspots and increase the overall ambient light level, kezia 200 fixtures were hung as fill lights directly above the set, presenter and guests. The kezia 200 uses a 190 watt LED array and has a similar output (in the white spectrum) to a traditional 1 kilowatt tungsten source."


For back-lighting, the kezia 50 was deployed. This requires only 50 watts of power yet equates to a 250 watt tungsten source. Power supplies for the lights are contained in separately integrated units, each capable of driving up to four lamps. This made rigging a relatively straightforward process with no undue loading on the ceiling-hung grid.

As well as the high light output requirement, the lux levels were specified to be as low as 100 lux in winter, requiring a 100:1 dimming with no shift in colour. Gekko’s solution was able to meet this challenge without the requirement for dimmer shutters, consumable neutral-density gels or scrims.

Sky News Head of Cameras, George Davies, who was responsible for overseeing the project, was impressed by the capability and power of the solution provided:

"The ability of the kezias to produce such a volume of light makes them a viable alternative to traditional light sources, especially in technically challenging environments such as Sky News’ new City studio in the Gherkin. An ability to change the colour temperature also adds a whole new dimension which can enhance the images produced, as well as complementing the other technologies we use. Sky News’ new studio provides a stunning backdrop for the Jeff Randall Live programme on Sky News HD and this would not have been possible without this new LED lighting technology".

Delivered by Gekko and BPS in a total time frame of less than six weeks, the project delivers images entirely comparable with a traditional install which may include fluorescent, HMI and tungsten technology, plus substantial benefits by way of reduced power consumption and heat levels and no change in colour temperature when dimming. Combine this with the high quality of tunable light that kleer colour is capable of producing and it is evident that the future of studio lighting has now arrived.

Sky News commenced on 5 February 1989 and provides an hourly news radio service to multiple radio networks in Britain and Ireland. The channel currently has seven UK bases and can call on a wide range of resources provided by its parent company News Corporation. Sky News today provides news to around 145 million people in 36 countries in Europe alone, with distribution across Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

About Gekko

Gekko Technology designs and manufactures LED lighting products for the global film, television and photographic industry. Gekko is committed to supporting users with innovative products, including unique functionality and the advantages of minimal weight, low power consumption and long life. High component quality and build quality are key drivers. Gekko Technology products include kisslite, lenslite, kicklite and george (TM). Credits include Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Death Defying Acts, Mama Mia, Golden Compass and television drama such as Star Trek, Desperate Housewives, Waking the Dead, New Tricks and The