HMI Lighting : Power Gems interviews Marc Galerne

Power Gems talked to Marc Galerne of K5600 Lighting about the future of HMI lighting, breaking the laws of physics and being a splinter in the side of a much bigger competitor.

HMI Lighting specialists K5600 Lighting are old pals and long-standing partners of Power Gems. For the last two decades they have shared the same ethos – to deliver continuous flicker-free light in lightweight, compact and versatile units.

K5600 Lighting has outlets in US and France ; Marc (below) is based in Bouafle, outside Paris.

You continue to enjoy success with your world famous Joker Bug and Alpha Lighting products and continue to add a choice of accessories. What innovations can we expect to see from K5600 in 2017 ?

We are looking at advances in LED technology, but still concentrating on HMI. We feel that there’s still a lot to do with HMI, and LED is only really suitable for low power. LED fixtures require a lot of cooling with heat sinks and fans, which makes the unit over-sized and over-weight for the output. This doesn’t fit with the philosophy of our product range.

We still firmly believe that, specifically for an optical design unit, as soon as it involves a lens or reflector, at least at the higher wattages that it will be HMIs – until maybe we can break the laws of physics !

You’ve been in business for 25 years, you’ve seen trends come and go…

It’s not a trend ; LED lighting is here to stay. I just feel that it is not going to be replacing everything. LED is a good replacement for fluorescent but it will never be for HMI unless the production process changes.

It’s actually funny because it is what happened with fluorescent lighting, there were people who said ‘I can light an entire movie with fluorescent’, which is as stupid as saying an artist only needs one brush to do a painting. I like to make a comparison between lights and paintbrush. Some units need to be able to provide broad and soft, and others need to be able to generate a single sharp shadow.

You’ve kept to a core range of products, focusing on HMI, was that deliberate ?

When we set up K5600 25 years ago, we looked for opportunities way into the future. It was the start of cable TV, and we felt there would be a demand for more content, more moving pictures. But the growing market would need less crew with smaller budgets. In response, we began to make lighting units which are lightweight, compact and very versatile.

We are strong believers in the art of cinematography, where there’s soft light and hot light. These days it’s more about being able to work fast on the set, so the easiest way is to flood the room with soft light, without too many shadows to worry about. That makes a flat picture, and it’s not very appealing to the human brain, which is used to seeing contrast. That’s why we have the Joker Bug range which is the Swiss army knife, a fixture that can do many things. Except be a very controllable light, which is why we have the Alpha Lighting range that can make shadow effects.

Many of your competitors have fallen by the way-side over the years, K5600 is still going strong, what do you attribute that to ?

For 20 years we were the only French manufacturer, but in the last few years there are at least three more which are doing LEDs because they are less complicated (sometime you just need to put your brand on an existing Chinese product). Worldwide there are many more companies in that field, which you can see from the growing number of exhibitors at trade shows.

We’re probably the last one designing and manufacturing a HMI product, and probably the last one fighting ARRI on the HMI market. Much like Power Gems, that’s part of the reason we get on so well – united by the same nemesis. K5600 and Power Gems have been building things together for 20 years, we recently collaborated to provide a seamless lighting solution for the theatre market.

Stage lighting for theatre and opera is one new market we’re moving into, both Power Gems and K5600 lighting are working in association with STS Lighting based in Germany.

K5600 is also seeing growth in Slovakia and Bulgaria, where small rental houses are run by gaffers who select gear according to merit rather than the latest trends, such as LED.