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Let There Be (Cheap) Light

For years, Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium was a premiere venue for classical music. But there’s no question that the building’s exterior design is dated, to say the least. Replace the soaring, ‘60s-style white columns that unfortunately bring to mind shopping malls of the same period? That’s a nonstarter. But as with aging movie stars, there’s little […]

For years, Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium was a premiere venue for classical music. But there’s no question that the building’s exterior design is dated, to say the least.

Replace the soaring, ‘60s-style white columns that unfortunately bring to mind shopping malls of the same period? That’s a nonstarter. But as with aging movie stars, there’s little that can’t be improved by a dash of color.

That’s what Richard Brown, a leading TV and commercial lighting designer in Los Angeles, had in mind when he recently demonstrated how advanced LED lighting could completely change and update an environment that’s showing its age.

A few television stations have started to make the move toward replacing their studio lighting with LEDs, and they’re saving a ton of money in the process. At WTCT, Brown retrofitted the station with a mix of LEDs and more traditional lights, and the station has cut its power usage by an amazing 90 percent, reducing consumption from 1,100 amps per day, to 150.

This time, armed with some advanced LED lighting products from Philips’ Color Kinetics division, and assisted by me and several industry gaffers, Brown relit both the iconic exterior of the Ambassador and the nearby pond and garden.

Brown used blue LEDs to light the pillars, as he thought that color to be the most striking, one that would give the building some depth. “I wanted to light the pillars in such a way as to set the mood for the place,” Brown said.

For the large fountain topped by an egret that sits in front of the building’s entrance, we placed several Color Kinetics RGB fixtures around the circumference, and programmed them to alternate colors, giving the water a sense of motion.

Brown used those same submersible fixtures, called C-Splash 2, to light the pond, literally placing them under water, and again changed the color patterns to create psychological movement.

Not only did we design a completely new look for the building and its accompanying grounds, but by using LEDs we dramatically cut energy consumption. The entire installation used just 250 watts of power, not much more than a few household light bulbs (or one early-generation plasma TV).

Brown has used LEDs to light a number of churches that do extensive television production, saving them up to 90 percent in energy costs; and he’s about to do the same for several national networks as well.

“With its tremendous savings in energy and great color versatility, LED lighting is now ready for prime time,” he said.
 

BIO Eric Taub

Eric Taub has covered the intersection of technology and entertainment for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications for more than 15 years. A former pay TV analyst for Paul Kagan Associates, Eric has written two books, including "Gaffers, Grips, and Best Boys: Who Does What in the Making of a Motion Picture." He produced the first-ever pay-per-view concert, and worked for 12 years as an independent overseas feature film distributor.