One of the simplest ways to add some interest to your studio production is to add some color changing LED strips.
When designing scenery for a program, I like to include some low-cost LED strip lights, that provide some lighting accents, this may allow you to provide a different look for each studio production.
The strips are usually available in Cool White (CW) and Warm White (WW), but the lights I most often use are RGB (Red Green Blue) strips that can produce color variations using a simple provided remote , or a WIFI app accessible from a phone or tablet.
RGB strips behind translucent white plastic.
LED strip or ribbon lights, as shown in the picture below, are essentially a flexible circuit board populated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other components that usually comes with an adhesive backing.
Through trial and error, we have found that the most commonly available strips come in two sizes: 3528 mm and 5050 mm. The 5050 are larger and give off more light, the strips are slightly larger than the 3528, but we are talking fractions of an inch, so we always choose the 5050 size.
Although you can find AC LED light strips that you simply plug in the wall, the alternating current always produces some camera flickering, it’s best to use DC power units, which minimize or eliminate the flickering.
Typically you will find an abundance of 16’ 4” (5meters) reels for sale online. You want to purchase a kit that will include the light strip along with a controller, a remote and a DC power supply. These components also come with many flavors.
DC power supply- 12V, 24V and USB.
The longer your run, the more DC power you will need. If you need to run a single reel, 16’4” or less, a 12V power supply will do the trick. If you need to run a total up to 32’8” (2 reels of 16’4” or one of 32’8”), use the 24V power supplies. If you want to run more than 32’8”, you will need to add another power supply to operate. If you try to run 40’ off 1 @ 24V power supply, the last couple of feet will not light up to maximum brightness, believe me I’ve tried.
If you simply want to light the wall behind a TV, to create a glow.
Then look for a ribbon specifically made to plug into the powered USB port on the rear of your LED TV. This also allows you to turn the lights on and off with your TV set. Programming the lights for movement or color changes are still done with the ribbon light remote control.
The controllers are a module that plugs into the power supply. The controller is the brain of the ribbon. The light ribbon plugs into the controller. There are 3 types, RF (Radio Frequency), IR (Infra-Red) and Wi-Fi.
The RF and the IR controllers are interfaced using a remote control. The RF remotes are easier to use, because they do not rely on line of site to a sensor. If you use the IR controller, make sure you let the tiny sensor eye “see” the Infra-red signal.
The remote control allows you to mix colors, control the brightness and program a variety of effects. This is all well and good, but for a few dollars more, get a kit with a Wi-Fi controller.
The Wi-Fi controller runs on a 2.4hz Wi-Fi system, you turn the controller on and fire up an app on your phone or tablet and the Wi-Fi controller appears in the app. The beauty is if you are installing more than one strip. The app allows you to group the strips according to the task.
If you want the top of your set to be colored red and the bottom to be blue, the software allows you to group the ribbons to accommodate this.
One caveat, the systems only run on 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi systems. If you have an older system or a dual system in your location, then you can use these controllers, if you only have a 5Ghz system, you cannot use these controllers.
So, recap. Best choices, 5050 style LED ribbons, 24V DC power supply, wireless controller.
Brian Flynn is an Emmy Award winning set designer who has worked on over 2000 unique productions. He has worked for all the major TV networks and for numerous foreign news producers. Mr. Flynn also works on infomercials (wait there’s more), non-broadcast corporate projects, and for schools and colleges throughout the United States. Currently his work can be seen on the new syndicated talk show “The Doctor and The Diva”, and on a number of informercials featuring chef Emeril Lagasse. Mr. Flynn lives in the western hills of NJ, in the town of Blairstown. He also offers a catalog of news desks, and off the shelf studio news and talk show designs on his website www.newsdesksusa.com