The Nila Lighting System is a modular solid-state light designed for film and television lighting applications, especially where the light is going to get put through its paces. It is designed to be rugged and durable enough to stand up to the rigors of location shooting and is weather-resistant. With its compact size and low power draw, it is suitable for shooting car scenes but is just as adept mixing with tungsten and HMI sources in a studio.

What It Does

The Nila light is designed to be green from start to finish. With the low power draw of LEDs, the light reduces electrical use and air conditioning load, eliminates toxic heavy metal components, and is RoHS-compliant without the need for any special exemption. The inherent durability of Nila's solid-state solution and an expected life span of 20,000 hours without maintenance means there is no lamp to replace, so federal and state-regulated lamp recycling is eliminated. At the end of the useful life of the light, Nila Inc. takes the lights back to recycle them.

Jim Sanfilippo, founder and principal of Nila, Inc., explains that the system was designed specifically for the entertainment industry, given its 75% additional energy efficiency over tungsten halogen lights and generating 80% less heat. “At Nila Inc., we believe that sustainability is a product of good design combined with good intentions,” Sanfilippo says. “When our customers are done using the Nila Lighting System, we want it back so we can repurpose its components.”

At its core, the solid-state light consists of 24 white LEDs built into a fixture with onboard universal power supply (90V to 240V, AC or DC) and controls. The light is built for the rigors of location shoots and is machined and built out of aluminum, featuring 100% dimming using either the onboard dimmer or via DMX control. The units have a master/slave mode, and for simpler control, a remote hand dimmer is also available. There are two color temperatures to choose from — 5,600K or 3,200K — and the lamp life is rated at 20,000 hours.

The light draws 65W of power but puts out the equivalent of a 350W tungsten light. With the low power draw, you can run six Nilas from one 12V car battery. The rugged design of the light allows it to be used in a wide variety of applications. A number of directors of photography like them for car shoots, since they reduce the weight on the car rig, are road-rugged, and require a much lower power draw. They also offer an instant on/off even in cold environments.

The light is about the size of a bookshelf speaker — 3.93“×6.10“×5.90“ — and weighs 5.5lbs. It is stackable and reconfigurable in the field to make larger lights or light banks. Each unit has a male and female dovetail on its sides, so users can slide units together and use two setscrews with a 3/16“ Allen wrench. The lights can be stacked sideways or one on top of the other for a variety of combinations. Different size yokes are also available through Nila. Every component — yoke set screws, yoke holder, lens, barndoors, and Chimera brackets — use the same 3/16“ Allen screws. ETL, CE, and RoHS certifications are in process and should be finalized by the end of this year.

There are currently six different, quick-change lenses for the system. These include 10° spot; 25° medium; 45° flood; 10°×45° elliptical, vertical; 45°×10° elliptical, horizontal; as well as a 90° uniform light dispersal. The light may also be used without any lens for a dispersion of 120°. Lens sets are attached to the light with a single ¼“-20 center bolt. The center bolt is also used to attach any of the Nila color or color correction filters.

The unit mounts to standard grip gear with a junior receiver or a 5/8“ baby pin. It comes complete with two 3/8“-16 threaded holes for additional mounting options. Chimera brackets or barndoors can be added to one or multiple units. The units are currently available in kits of one, two, four, or six, or in custom configurations.

How It Came To Be And What's Next

Like many inventions, the Nila Lighting System was created out of a desire to improve upon the standard lights for the film industry and overcome their inherent limits. “I started Nila out of my frustration with underperforming and energy-inefficient lighting,” says Sanfilippo. “I have been working behind the camera for the past 21 years. I have been a gaffer and key grip, as well as camera operator and on a few occasions, the director of photography.”

“I can't tell you specifically what is in store for the future,” he continues. “What I can tell you is that Nila's goal is to replace all HMI and tungsten lights. The next generation Nila will replace a much larger studio fixture.” Planned additions to the existing product include onboard batteries, remote location battery kits, and underwater units.

What End Users Have To Say

Gaffer Greg Davies used Nila Lights for two commercial shoots, one on a ride at Legoland and one for a car shoot in the hills around Tahoe. “The reason that I was using the Nila Lights was that, in both situations, I wasn't close to any AC power and had to run off batteries,” he says. “What impressed me over and above other LEDs were the machining and the design of it. It just felt a lot more solid. It is one of the best machined pieces of lighting gear that I have seen in a while; it is machined like a camera.”

Michelle Plotkin, an independent production and environmental consultant, says that she likes the unit's energy efficiency and low heat output. “If someone were to ask me about the light, I would say, ‘Try it, and you'll like it,'” she says. “The industry was long overdue for a product that met both our quality standards and our environmental standards. Nila has figured it out.”

Gaffer Marc Meisenheimer used the Nila Lights for a couple of films, including the upcoming Armored. “That was probably the most abusive use of a light I have ever done,” says Meisenheimer. “We had them strapped on a full-size armored car, and we were doing a car chase with two armored cars banging into each other. We needed a great deal of light; we had the contrast of the inside of the cab with the outside daylight, and the exposures came out perfectly.”

Meisenheimer also notes that the units are extremely bright — too bright at full with the spot lenses. “We actually had to dial them down to 33%,” he says. “We absolutely mangled the Nilas, yet the lights were still on, working and in focus…The day before, we tried to get the similar shot just using HMIs, and there is no way that they could take the pounding.” Meisenheimer also appreciates that “the interchangeability of the lenses is good. The other thing that I liked about them is that they are compact, so if you need a lot of light in a small space, they work out great. I also like that you can configure them to be bigger or smaller. Having the multiple brackets really helps.” For improvements, Meisenheimer would like to “see them become an underwater fixture. I think that they have a huge possibility for underwater use.”

Director of photography Roberto Schaefer, ASC, chose to use the Nila Lights for the upcoming James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. “I thought the Nila lights would be a really good thing to use on the moving vehicles in Quantum of Solace because of their durability, robustness, size, and punch,” he says. “I used it mostly for car shots, but I also used it as a simple fixture in place of a HMI or in place of a tungsten right on stage and on location. I was mixing it with other sources too. They had given us lenses that had the minus green already built into them and evened out the white. It was quite good, very controllable with the different lenses.”

For Schaefer, the features that he likes about the Nilas include the size and “the fact that you can put them anywhere. They really do have quite a good output and are controllable. The built-in electronic dimmer is quite nice.” Schaefer does like the ability to stack the lights. “I could put them together like a nine-light. They have all different possibilities.” Regarding improvements to the Nila Light, Schaefer would like to see the dimmer control changed. “I would prefer a dial that you can spin and control the percentage instead of pressing a button up and down,” he says.

Schaefer concludes that he truly respects the company's move toward an environmentally friendly fixture. “The company's commitment to the green aspect is commendable,” he says. “They recycle all parts of the light. However, with their rugged construction, I doubt they will need to be recycled very often. When they came and demonstrated them to us, they kept slamming one down on the table, and it kept working perfectly.”

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