The Voice of America (VOA), located in Washington, D.C., is a U.S. Government multimedia broadcaster, whose mandate is to broadcast accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience. VOA recently completed the first round of upgrades to two of its six very busy television studios and addressing lighting challenges in those spaces was a priority. Seth Jason, VOA’s Senior Lighting Director and Studio Supervisor, found the right solution was to specify a range of Cineo Lighting products.
“Our studios are in a WWII-era office building with very, very low ceilings and a lot of restrictions,” explains Jason. “When we started to upgrade the lighting in our studios, I really wanted to go with LED sources, for several reasons, but heat issues were the biggest complaints that we got from people who worked here. Some of the studios are small and the heat can build up quickly when you put on a few ellipsoidals and Fresnels with tungsten halogen sources.
The largest full studio installation is in Studio 50, which gets used quite frequently by a range of VOA programs. “We’re doing 23 language services, doing different productions 7 days a week,” Jason notes. “It’s a lot. We are the only ones in the world doing that many languages in one building.” The many and frequent people using the space have been pleasantly surprised by the new lighting in the studio, as well as the clean, sparse look now of the grid. “When you are used to a lot of Fresnels, Lekos, and soft lights”, says Jason, “it is odd to now see it without the old heavy hang.”
The new lighting inventory in Studio 50 includes: 30 Cineo Lighting Mavericks, 5,600K; 7 Cineo Lighting Foton2, 70˚, Daylight; and 4 Cineo Lighting HS, 5,600K. Plus accessories including barn doors, louvers, gel frames, mounting hardware, etc. The lighting package was provided by Newington VA-based Communications Engineering, Inc. The lighting plot covers four sets in the studio that are always in place, including a desk with four talent positions; a two-position stand-up set; a five chair interview set; and a large, curved 12 feet high by 30 feet wide green screen area. “The desk technically has four positions, but because I light it flat, we can put five people there,” comments Jason. “Just like with our audio, we have lighting flexibility to add in more people for larger coverage of the State of the Union, election coverage, Chinese New Year, certain events like those. The green screen is the only one we have in the building where we can actually do a walk.” Studio 50 is usually shot with standard definition cameras.
Color rendition is an important consideration that Jason has to take into account since there are a lot of variables at VOA including a wide variety of skin tones as well as a very broad range of colors in the talent’s on-air outfits. Tom Yuhas, the Eastern US Sales Manager for Cineo Lighting, worked with Jason on the selection of Cineo gear and suggested the switch to daylight sources for VOA. Jason states, “Previously, we had been strictly a 3,200K-source studio. This was something that Tom advised me on and I thought a lot about; he mentioned that a few studios had gone to daylight sources and recommended that daylight is more forgiving for skin tones. Here at VOA, we can have a situation with somebody from Asia, from Africa, from the Caribbean, and from Canada on one set. Going to a daylight source is just more flexible and a lot of camera operators and video engineers do prefer the daylight source. When we renovate the other studios, we are going to go daylight as well and in our small studios, we will add CTB to correct tungsten sources to daylight output.”