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HMI Lighting History?


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#1 Dallas Angarita

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 10:40 AM

I'm trying to find information online about the inception and development of HMI lighting in the late 60's and early 70's, but I've been pretty unsuccessful in finding any good, well researched, in depth sources. Does anyone here know of any good sources to read about the history of HMI Lighting? I'm interested in finding out about the technological developments that made them credible film lights and how their popularity spread over to Hollywood film sets. 

 

 


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#2 Theodore P Rysz III

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 11:47 AM

Hi Dallas,

 

A quick google search brought me to the Wikipeida page discussing HMIs. Honestly if that isn't enough of a start, I would reach out to Local 728, here in Hollywood. Our business agent, Patrick, could answer a good amount of your questions. I hope that helps.


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#3 John Holland

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 01:07 PM

HMi's didn't really come online until the mid 80's.


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#4 Guy Holt

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 02:50 PM

I'm interested in finding out about the technological developments that made them credible film lights and how their popularity spread over to Hollywood film sets. 

 

Given the evolution of the technology this is a huge topic. In head design you have (in chronological order) Fresnel, Par, and the new CAD designed ARRIMAX reflectors. The basic difference in head design between a Fresnel and Par is that a Fresnel gives you less output for the wattage, but the light is crisp and you will be able to cut a clean shadow edge. The subsequent Par on the other hand gives you more output, but the light is sloppy and you will not be able to cut a clean shadow edge. The newest CAD designed ARRIMAX reflectors give you nearly the crispness of a Fresnel, and more output than a Par since they do not use spreader lenses like a Par head.

 

HMI globes were originally double-ended and then single ended globes were introduced. The newer single ended globes put out approximately 10% more light than the older double end globes and allowed manufacturers to make a more compact head design. The newer single ended heads are smaller and lighter for that reason.

 

The history of HMI ballast design is not quite as linear as that of head design in that its’ progress is characterized by the proverbial two steps forward while making one step back. When electronic square wave HMI ballasts came on the market, they were at first thought to be the solution to all the problems inherent in running HMIs with magnetic ballasts on portable generators. Since they are not frequency dependent, it was thought at first that electronic square wave ballasts would operate HMIs more reliably on generators – even those without frequency governors. By eliminating the flicker problem associated with magnetic ballasts, they also eliminated the need for the expensive AC governors required for flicker free filming with magnetic HMI ballasts and portable generators. 

For these reasons, as soon as electronic square wave ballasts appeared on the market, many lighting rental houses replaced the expensive crystal governed Honda EX5500 with the less expensive non-synchronous Honda ES6500. The theory was that an electronic square wave ballast would operate reliably on a non-governed generator and allow filming at any frame rate, where as a magnetic HMI ballast operating on an AC governed generator allowed filming only at permitted frame rates.

 

In practice, electronic square wave ballasts turned out to be a mixed blessing. The leading power factor caused by the capacitive reactance of the new electronic ballasts proved to have a more severe effect on conventional AVR generators than did the old magnetic ballasts. 

Since magnetic ballasts worked reasonably well on AVR generators with governors, in the past, attention was only given to portable generator features such as automatic voltage regulation, speed regulation and AC Frequency. But, given the leading power factor of electronic HMI ballasts and the problems they cause, an increasingly more important feature today is the quality of the generated waveform and the impedance of the power system. For this reason, it is imperative that today’s power generation and electrical distribution systems be designed for capacitive lighting loads, not just inductive lighting loads.

 

This is especially true of the systems to be used in low budget independent production because these productions have traditionally relied upon portable gas generators that are more susceptible to the adverse effects of harmonic distortion. These productions are also increasingly embracing the use of HD digital cinema production tools, like inexpensive HD camcorders, laptop computers and hard drives, that require cleaner and more reliable power on set to operate effectively.

 

If some of this terminology is foreign to you, I would suggest you read an article I wrote for our company newsletter on the use of portable generators in motion picture lighting. In it I cover the evolution of HMI ballast technology, basic electrical engineering principles behind ballast Power Factor, harmonic distortion, and how it adversely affects generators. The article is available at http://www.screenlig...generators.html.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer,

ScreenLight & Grip

Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston


Edited by Guy Holt, 06 May 2015 - 02:55 PM.

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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 06:52 PM

Whats's really odd is that low-cost ceramic metal halide lighting, which frequently seems to operate with square wave output at about 150Hz, seems to be flicker free at any frame rate you like. And the ballasts I've seen have high power factor.

 

Phil


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#6 Dallas Angarita

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 11:08 PM

Does anybody know what the first Hollywood film with an HMI package was?


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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 07 May 2015 - 07:59 AM

Guy would you disagree that any discussion of HMI history must starts at it's roots?  The introduction and commercial use of High Intensity Discharge lighting like Mercury Vapor, High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide?  Probably hard to pinpoint it, but todays HMI are a result of someone using a commercial HID on a film instead of an arc lamp (and dedicated operator) and realizing that with some refinement that we're on to something here.


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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 07 May 2015 - 04:33 PM

 the technological developments that made them credible film lights and how their popularity spread over to Hollywood film sets. 

 

I don’t know the particulars of where, when, and on what HMIs were first used, but I would be very surprised if they came about as a consequence of HID lamps being used on set first.  The output and color rendering of HID lamps is and always has been not up the requirements of motion picture imaging. One distinguishing feature of HMI lamps that separates them from HID lamps is the precious metals incorporated in HMI lamps to generate a near daylight spectrum. HMI lamps are also designed with a comparatively short electrode gap in order to increase output, improve luminous efficacy, and color rendering. Their increased luminous efficacy places an increased load on the bulb wall which accelerates the devitrification of their quartz envelope; which, in turn, leads to increased lumen depreciation. In other words, their brilliance comes at the expense of lamp life. Over their relatively short life of 500-750 hrs, it is not uncommon for HMI lamps to lose 15-20 percent of their initial lumen output before they fail all together.  For this reason, HMI lamps were never adopted for general illumination. 

 

It took a while for manufacturers to work out all the bugs in HMI power supplies, so any discussion of “the technological developments that made them credible film lights” would have to include the advancements we have seen over the years in ballast design. Today you have a choice between magnetic and electronic ballasts; and to complicate matters even more, you have a choice between Power Factor Corrected electronic ballasts and non-Power Factor Corrected electronic ballasts.

 

Power Factor Correction (PFC) is relatively new to HMIs and adds considerably to their cost and so you will still not find it in smaller HMI ballasts.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were not even familiar with Power Factor Correction. Since Power Factor Correction (PFC) is not mandated in this country, as it is in Europe for any electrical device that draws more than 75W, we are pretty much ignorant of Power Factor and effect that poor Power Factor can have on a distribution system and power generation source. However, any veteran film technician who has worked in the industry for more than twenty years will be quite familiar with Power Factor and Power Factor Correction (PFC.) That is because after a false start back in the 90s, all major manufacturers now include PFC circuitry in HMI ballasts in the 6-18kw range. They do so by necessity. The early line of Lightmaker electronic ballasts were nick named by film electricians “Troublemaker” ballasts because they were not Power Factor Corrected and proved that PFC circuitry was absolutely necessary in large ballasts to reduce heat and returns on the neutral, and to increase ballast reliability. But, because of the added cost, weight, and complexity of PFC circuitry, ballast manufacturers in the US still only offer PFC circuitry as an option in medium-sized 2.5-4kw ballasts. And, until very recently manufacturers did not offer PFC circuitry in HMI ballasts smaller than 2.5kw in the US (in the EU PFC circuitry in mandatory in all HMI ballasts sold.)

 

Part of the reason PFC circuitry was not incorporated in smaller HMIs was that it did not offer a huge advantage when plugging into house power. A typical 1200W Power Factor Corrected electronic HMI ballast will draw 11 Amps at 120 Volts verses the 19 Amp draw of a non-PFC electronic ballast. While not a huge advantage when plugging into house power, the added efficiency of a PFC 1200 ballast can make a huge difference when powering a lighting package off of a portable generator. For example, when you consider that a Kino Flo Parabeam 400 draws only 2 amps, the 8 Amp difference between using a PFC 1200W electronic ballast and standard non-PFC 1200W electronic ballast, can mean the difference between running four additional Parabeam 400s on a portable generator or not. Unfortunately, it is still the case that almost every 575 - 1200W electronic ballast that you will find in a rental house or for sale used in North America will be a non-PFC electronic ballast.

 

To this day older magnetic HMI ballasts offer a number of benefits over a non-Power Factor Corrected electronic ballast.  A 1.2kw electronic ballast draws 19amps (verses the 13.5 amps of a magnetic ballast) so it will always trip the common 15amp house circuit and will trip a 20 Amp circuit if there is something else, like a computer or light, on the same circuit.  Where you can't always know what else is on the same circuit, or even if it is a 20 or 15 Amp circuit, a 1.2kw magnetic ballast drawing only 13.5 Amps is the safer bet since it can operate on a 15 amp circuit even with other loads on the circuit.  Non-Power Factor Corrected electronic ballasts are meant to be used on film sets where every circuit is 20 Amps and you know what is on the circuit because you are distributing the power yourself from a tie in or generator.  If your style of shooting requires that you plug into wall outlets, you will be better served by a magnetic ballast.

 

But that is not the only benefit to using a magnetic ballast over a non-PFC electronic ballasts. If you don’t have access to the newest PFC electronic ballasts, the older magnetic ballasts are in fact cleaner running on portable gas generators than non-PFC electronic ballasts. As mentioned above the harmonic distortion created by non-PFC ballasts reacting poorly with the distorted power waveform of conventional AVR generators limited the number of HMIs you could power on a portable generator.

 

wwaveform_elec_ballast.jpg

Characteristic voltage waveform of a non-PFC electronic HMI ballast on grid power (left),

on power generated by a conventional AVR generator (middle),

and power generated by an inverter generator (right)

 

The adverse effects of this harmonic noise that can be seen in the middle oscilloscope image above, can take the form of overheating and failing equipment, efficiency losses, circuit breaker trips, excessive current on the neutral wire, and instability of the generator’s voltage and frequency. For these reasons it has never been possible to operate more than a couple of 1200W HMIs on a conventional 6500W portable gas generator. Harmonic noise of this magnitude can also damage HD digital cinema production equipment, create ground loops, and possibly create radio frequency (RF) interference. The increasing use of personal computers, hard drives, and microprocessor-controlled recording equipment in production has created an unprecedented demand for clean, reliable power on set.

 

However, now that inverter generators, like the Honda EU6500is, do not require crystal governors to run at precisely 60Hz, magnetic ballasts offer a cost effective alternative to dirty non-PFC electronic ballasts because you can operate magnetic HMI ballasts “flicker free” on inverter generators. And as mentioned above, the smaller magnetic ballasts (575-2500W) offer the distinct advantage of being less expensive and draw less power (once they have come up to speed) than the commonly available non-PFC electronic equivalents (13.5A versus 19A for a 1.2kw.)

 

Of course there are downsides to using magnetic ballasts. One down side is that you are restricted to using only the safe frame rates and shutter angles. But, when you consider that every film made up to the early 1990s were made with magnetic HMI ballasts you can see that being limited to the safe frame rates is not all that restrictive. Another downside to magnetic ballasts is that you can’t load the generator to full capacity because you must leave “head room” for their higher front-end striking load. When choosing HMIs to run off portable generators, bear in mind that magnetic ballasts draw more current during the striking phase and then they “settle down” and require less power to maintain the HMI Arc. By contrast, an electronic ballasts “ramps up”. That is, its’ current draw gradually builds until it “tops off.”

 

While older HMIs with magnetic ballasts are less expensive to purchase or rent, Power Factor Correction (PFC) makes the newest electronic ballasts worth the extra money when it comes to lighting with portable generators. The substantial reduction in line noise that results from using power factor corrected ballasts on the nearly pure power waveform of an inverter generator creates a new math when it comes to calculating the load you can put on a generator.

 

waveform_PFC-ballast.jpg

 

Left: Grid Power w/ 1.2Kw P-2-L PFC Elec. Ballast. Center: Conventional AVR Power w/ 1.2Kw P-2-L PFC Elec. Ballast. Right: Inverter Power w/ 1.2Kw P-2-L PFC Elec. Ballast.

 

 

In the past we had to de-rate portable gas generators because of the inherent short comings of conventional generators with AVR and Frequency governing systems when dealing with non-PFC electronic ballasts. The harmonic distortion created by non-PFC ballasts reacting poorly with the distorted power waveform of conventional AVR generators limited the number of HMIs you could power on a portable generator to 75% of their rated capacity (4200Watts on a 6500W Generator). But now, where inverter generators have virtually no inherent harmonic distortion or sub-transient impedance and power factor correction (PFC) is available in small HMI ballasts, this conventional wisdom regarding portable gas generators no longer holds true. Where before you could not operate more than a couple 1200W HMIs with non-PFC electronic ballasts on a conventional generator because of the consequent harmonic distortion, now according to the new math of low line noise, you can load an inverter generator to capacity. And if the generator is one of our modified Honda EU6500is inverter generators, you will be able to run a continuous load of up to 7500W as long as your HMI and Kino ballasts are Power Factor Corrected. And, since after ramping up, PFC electronic ballasts top off at a lower current draw than non-pfc electronic ballast, it is now possible to operate a 12kw HMI off of a couple of paralleling Honda EU6500 generators. And if that 12kw globe has one of the CAD designed ARRIMAX reflectors behind it, you have output comparable to that of an 18kw HMI Fresnel on Honda generators.  Since there is nothing else that can run portable generators that can compare to an 18kw Fresnel, HMIs will continue to be the go to source when it comes to lighting day exteriors or the deep background of night exteriors.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer,

ScreenLight & Grip Boston

Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 May 2015 - 07:37 PM

I don’t know the particulars of where, when, and on what HMIs were first used,

 

They were developed by Osram specifically at the request of companies operating in the film and TV industry in the 60s.

 

The output and color rendering of HID lamps is and always has been not up the requirements of motion picture imaging.

 

As a point of order, an HMI is an HID lamp, but anyway - this has recently (in the last ten years) become contestable. Some of the stuff advertised as CDM is very reasonable, and HQI is, with the exception of the compact size, functionally equivalent to HMI in at least some cases. Datasheets for HMI generally state a CRI of 90, and there are several other ranges with similar numbers. They look good on Macbeth charts too - 4000K types are perhaps fractionally deficient in the deep crimson reds.

 

One distinguishing feature of HMI lamps that separates them from HID lamps is the precious metals incorporated in HMI lamps to generate a near daylight spectrum.

 

Strictly speaking, the iodine creates the near daylight spectrum, as it does in HQI and other types. Iodine is neither precious nor a metal, though it does look a bit metallic when collected together in large lumps.

 

HMI lamps are also designed with a comparatively short electrode gap in order to increase output, improve luminous efficacy, and color rendering.

 

I think that's really more about keeping the bulbs reasonably small, although there are optical concerns with regard to energy density in the plasma. One of the notable characteristics of HMI is its physical compactness, to the point where non-Osram equivalents referred to it in the name - Thorn EMI call or called them CID, for "compact indium discharge". Other HID types in the several-hundred-watt range are often twice the size. I believe this is also the principal issue limiting life.

 

Phil


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#10 Hans Lau

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Posted 08 May 2015 - 10:21 PM

According to Osram themselves the first "public" use of the HMI lamp, a 575W,  was in 1969 for the first color television broadcast in Germany.

 

The first large scale HMI deployment was for the 1972 Munich olympics.


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