Autor: Dennis Jackstien

ARRI Skypanel

In 2015 the first version of the ARRI SkyPanel came onto the market as the S60-C.

It quickly became one of the most successful luminaires ever. No other ARRI luminaire could even come close to achieving such high sales figures as the Skypanel S60-C.

The SkyPanel was originally "only" developed as an update to the ARRI Studio Cool - an older luminaire model based on classic fluorescent tubes. As a pure studio luminaire, it was intended to complement the already successful ARRI L-Series LED spotlights with step lenses in this market segment.

However, when the first prototypes were presented to selected DoPs and lighting designers, the potential of the Skypanel for many other markets, especially the film/location sector, quickly became clear.

The Skypanel as "Gamechanger"

While LED lamps were previously the exception in larger film productions (smaller battery solutions, InCar Lighting or ring lights were used occasionally), this changed significantly with the introduction of the ARRI Sky Panel. Decisive factors in favor of the Skypanel included the following:

  • Very high colour quality and precise adjustment possibilities regarding colour temperature (2.800 - 10.000K), +/- green or effect colours.
  • Very high light output, so that with a Skypanel it was possible to illuminate scenes from a greater distance with LED and/or to use popular accessories like softboxes, octadomes or simply bounces together with LED technology effectively.
  • The confidence that ARRI radiated as a brand and the service network that stood behind it. This is the only way large rental companies are prepared to invest very heavily in new technology.

The Skypanel first spread to large film studios, replacing classic space lights. But also "on the ground" more and more Skypanels were used. Today many rental companies offer complete kits with the most important accessories (remote controls, alignment grids, softboxes) in typical transport cases.

The technology of the Skypanel

ARRI began its first developments in the direction of LED film and TV lighting in 2004, more than 10 years before the Skypanel. From the very beginning it was clear that ARRI wanted to bring only LED fixtures with very high colour quality and flexible colour control to the market. So before the Skypanel, ARRI had already gained many years of experience with PAX, LoCaster and of course the L-Series.

The LED composition of the Skypanels largely corresponds to the L-Series mix. That means a combination of red, green, blue and very high quality white LEDs. Classic RGBW, where the white LEDs have a well-filled spectrum and the color LEDs can be used to make corrections.

In general, even in 2020, there is the problem that LEDs can show strong colour and brightness deviations due to production (keyword: LED binning) and therefore the colour location is corrected via colour LEDs so that all luminaires produce the same colour. All ARRI Skypanels are therefore calibrated at the factory and are permanently recalibrated during operation, especially in the event of temperature changes. Of course, the user does not notice this.

Control options of the ARRI Skypanel

Since firmware version 4.0 the skypanels now offer 6 different control modes.

1. CCT: Colour temperature control via Kelvin selection and +/- Green
2. HSI: Colour selection (Hue, Saturation, Intensity)
3. gel: direct selection of simulated colour filters (Rosco & Lee)
4. source: direct selection of various light sources (street lamp, torch, etc.)
5. RGBW colour selection
6. color control via x,y color coordinates

Furthermore, pre-programmed lighting effects can be called up and to a certain extent also manipulated. Examples are fire effect, police light, flash light or television flicker.
All modes and also the effect colors can be remote controlled via DMX. Depending on the mode 7 up to more than 100 DMX channels are used. It goes without saying that the Skypanels are therefore also controllable via ArtNet or sACN and of course can also be RDM controlled.
With the exception of the largest Skypanel S360-C version, the ARRI luminaires currently have no built-in radio control. In professional environments, therefore, DMX radio adapters with lumen radio technology are used or the SkyLink system offered by ARRI.

Update capability

Another novelty in the film and TV lighting sector were the extensive update functions of the Skypanel family. Approximately every year ARRI released new, free firmware updates for the Skypanel, which always brought new, extensive functions. For example, master / slave functions were added, adjustable dimming curves and a high-speed mode were integrated. The latest firmware 4.2 offers an Extended Color Mode for fine-tuning the colors, new effects, the Stage Mode for finer dimming and much more.

Skypanel variants

As of today ARRI Skypanels are available in 4 versions:

  • S30-C with 35x30cm light area and approx. 200W LED power
  • S60-C with 65x30cm light area and approx. 400W LED power
  • S60-C with 130x30cm light area and approx. 400W LED power
  • S360-C with 130x90cm light area and approx. 1500W LED power

The few special variants, such as S60-RP with remote phosphor technology (no continuous colour adjustment possible) play a subordinate role.
In addition there is a huge range of accessories such as grids, honeycombs, softboxes, lanterns and octodomes (e.g. from DoP-Choice & Chimera), as well as remote controls, special mount and battery solutions and much more.

Weak points of the Skypanel

A few weaknesses of the Skype panel should also be mentioned.

Rain cover:

All skypanels are unfortunately not protected against rain and have only IP20. Some third party suppliers have developed accessory solutions that can help.

Complex operation:

The Skypanel's menu navigation is very complex - also due to the huge range of functions. The ARRI Skypanel is therefore perhaps the first film & TV luminaire for which it is recommended to work through at least the basics of the manual before first use.

"Only" 4-channel LED technology:

What was still a novelty in 2015 will no longer be quite state-of-the-art in 2019. The RGBW LED mix of the Skypanels can no longer quite keep up with newer developments, such as 5-channel RGB+WW+CW or combinations with amber or lime LEDs, in terms of colour reproduction and gamut.

But of course ARRI does not stop there either. The already announced ARRI Orbiter with changeable optics system will work with a 6-channel LED mix (Red, Blue, Green, Amber, Lime & Turquoise) and will be weatherproof according to IP23.

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