Transcript

Rick:
Okay, well, that’s Mike Mickens from Lee Filters. I’m Rick Smith with Broadcast Blinds. Mike, you’ve been in the industry a pretty long time. How long have you been around?

Mike:
Since my mama gave birth to me. Oh, in the industry. 35 years about that. Yeah. Give or take a few years.

Rick:
You started the broadcast side of things for the Millennium Broadcast in 2000 when Good Morning America built their new studio in Times Square, which was totally a glass studio.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
We assisted with the installation of that. And then, from there, we’ve been doing our own studios ever since. That was an interesting setup because, as I say, it was all glass and light control became a huge issue there in terms of getting all the right shots.

Mike:
So what year was that?

Rick:
That was 2000. The studio went in in 1999. And of course, 2000, we were waiting for the 2K computer meltdown, which never occurred.

Mike:
Right.

Rick:
And they managed to make it through the whole broadcast. And the next day we were there, I mean, everybody was still here. It was amazing.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
So what we’re talking about today are the challenges of windows in studios and…

Mike:
And how we can fix them.

Rick:
Exactly. Thank you, Mike.

Mike:
How we can solve those problems that people may have and are not quite sure how to resolve the issues.

Rick:
And we find those problems all over because we find them in people’s home studios. Mike, I don’t know if we can. Yeah. Well, there you go. We got Mike’s home studio, and we see them all the time with what was that room Raider on…

Mike:
Oh yeah. People, you have to make… Everyone, in the pandemic, is working from home so remotely. You have to do some kind of correction, which I presently do not have any correction as, so I can show examples of what you might need in your home, but you do it on on a larger scale for studios. But it’s the same process. So there are people who need it just for their home studio, and then people need it for NBC or… I don’t know if we’re allowed to mentioned all the places you have installed, but go ahead. Tell me where.

Rick:
It would probably be easier to tell you where we haven’t done any work because we’ve done work for every major network in the U.S. and many of them outside the U.S. Furthest we’ve gone in China. I’m still waiting for an invitation to Australia. Hasn’t come yet.

Mike:
Hmm. It’s pretty sunny there.

Rick:
Mike can probably help me get that one.

Mike:
I think we have offices there. We can arrange that. So what’s our next step here? What are we going to talk about?

Rick:
So I guess one of the things that we were talking about the other day was the studio we did recently in Bethesda, Maryland. And actually there, we didn’t do the studio. We did the newsroom because they will have some shots from the newsroom of people working and the world outside, even though they’ve got a very high tech studio, which has no windows, no light, sound deaden to everything. And in that particular instance, we’ve got about 80 feet, 80 linear feet of gels across windows, so they control the daylight coming in. In that particular instance, we’ve got two stops of gels. We actually set it up, so sometime in the future they will probably add another two stops of scrim to go in front of the gels. Helps to bring down reflections from the gels.

Mike:
So we don’t know who’s attending this. So maybe we want to explain why we’re using the gels. I mean, when I look out the window, I can see my backyard perfectly clear, correct. But this camera right here, can’t see it. Like my eyes can cause my eyes and my brain worked together to manipulate the image so I can see it right away. So cameras are not that smart yet. So what we need is neutral density, something to cut the amount of light like this, like sunglasses, right. But this is sunglasses for windows, right. So do you want to talk about what neutral density is or what do you want to.

Rick:
Well, you’re probably better suited to talk about that, but we’ve got a video we can use to show it a little bit.

Mike:
That would show your product.

Rick:
We can roll that in.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
So this isn’t San Francisco overlooking the ferry terminal. And what you can see right now is three levels of density. But now we’re going to, hopefully the video is going to run, and you’ll see what is acceptable. And then it’ll turn into something that’s totally unacceptable. And the question is balancing the amount of outside light with your inside light. Now, this is a studio that just had work lights on, but it’s rather amazing how we could still see it yet. It just disappeared the whole place is whited out.

Mike:
Right.

Rick:
So, Mike. Explain. Go ahead.

Mike:
Explain what? What do you want to explained? Neutral density? What’s N.D.?

Rick:
Explain how it works.

Mike:
Oh, how neutral density works? Well, neutral density… It stands for… It’s basically a gray filter, right? So it doesn’t change the light waves in any direction. So the colors never shifted. Right? So you just want a flat, cross the spectrum, nice, neutral. That’s why they say neutral density, right. It’s just gray filter. Right. And what it is, is there’s different levels of it. There’s one-stop reduction, which is about 50% of the light is kick or killed. Right. There’s two stops, which is N6, right. Which is on a camera is two stops, but you’re physically cutting 75% of the light and so on and so on as you go N.D. nine. And it goes all the way up to N.D. five by the way. Did you know that, Rick?

Rick:
So N.D. five is what you get arrested for having on your car windows, right?

Mike:
N.D. five is you could look at the sun. That is the final thing that… Just a little known fact. Kind of weird, but if it’s totally neutral across infrared and the entire spectrum, right. Even infrared and ultraviolet, then you can use N.D. five to look at the sun.

Mike:
All right. So just a weird example. So that’s N.D. And how has N.D. made? It’s made like lighting gels? We produce it in the U.K., in a factory using… Coding different sides of the gel to make it a perfect, easy kind of, it’s always consistent since the 1960s. It’s the same gel hasn’t really changed. Same manufacturing process. Nothing’s really changed how it is. So that’s why it’s totally consistent. That’s why people use our gels.

Rick:
So if I take a gel out of a box that I stored in 1970, put it next to one of your gels from today-

Mike:
If you stored it properly.

Rick:
Yeah.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
I should expect it to be virtually the same.

Mike:
Yes.

Rick:
And you’ve got this control because you’re making it in your own factory.

Mike:
Absolutely. And the reason why people use it is because we coat both sides. So we start with the first side and basically, so the process, when you coat the first side, you have the viscosity and everything is chemically done. Right. So if there’s any slight variation, when we coat the second side, we can correct the viscosity and the density of the next coating. So that’s how we kind of get it to be absolutely perfect.

Rick:
Very cool.

Mike:
Yeah. Something you learn. Something new. Hopefully somebody learned something. So.

Rick:
Absolutely.

Mike:
So what else are we doing today? We’re doing Q and A later, right?

Rick:
Yeah. Well, if anybody’s got questions for us, they’ll probably pop up. I haven’t seen anything come through yet.

Mike:
Okay. You’re supposed to tell me… Oh, I have a question here. Okay. Can I ask this question, or do you want to tell a story about…

Rick:
You can ask the question.

Mike:
Okay. Let’s try that. The question that I just saw, what is the best way to help talent at home? The best way to help talent shoot at home because of all the windows. So let’s say they have them set up like I have, but what would you recommend?

Rick:
Well, there’s a couple things you can do. The more permanent version of things would be that we create a system so that they can roll gels in and out and scrims appropriately and actually do it. But if it’s temporary, there’s that old method with a little bit of water in a spray bottle.

Mike:
Yeah. A little bit of soap in it too. It helps it cling to the glass. Just a very small amount.

Rick:
You did something like that in where was it? LAX?

Mike:
No, actually Ontario Airport. I did a music video back many years ago for a boy band called Big Time Rush. They were on Nickelodeon. It was a TV series sort of like The Monkees. And we were doing a music video called “Worldwide” and it takes place inside an airport. And we had to get a long tracking shot of one of the lead characters singing. And we wanted to see the background, which was an airplane placed on the tarmac for us, which costs a lot of money. And so the director wanted us to follow through the entire shot. So what we had to do is order a lot of gels, I think about $10,000 worth of gels to plaster all the windows in the airport, so we could look at this plane as we went by.

Mike:
So in the final version, I think we see it for five seconds, maybe. But that’s how it is in editing. But the one thing that we did have was to make the run longer, we were having a problem. We were basically running out of money. So what I did was cut the bottoms out. So they blew out like this. So they look like light sources, but on top you could actually see where the plane was sitting on the tarmac. So just a simple solution to a fairly expensive problem.

Rick:
Pretty cool. Yeah. You wouldn’t want a permanent solution in the airport to that?

Mike:
No. They’re very picky. They don’t want things attached to the airport. So they get a little particular about that. So, here’s an example. You could see how it works. You can see some of the details here. I have some thicker N.D., which is, this is 299, which is four stops. So in this setup, and this is three stops right here. So you kind of get an idea where you can get details in the background. So that’s why we’re trying to get detail in the background. We’re trying to recreate what the eye can do, right?

Rick:
Yeah. Absolutely. Our eyes pretty amazing.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
It’s interesting. We were talking the other day. In Washington, D.C., a lot of the shots, of course, of the Capitol and the Capitol’s become more of a problem in the last few years, not for political reasons, but because somebody decided to clean it. And so now it’s very white and glistens when the sun shines off it. They actually have to use a lot of gels in order to deal with, not only the daylight, but the reflection of the white from the Capitol. So we’ve seen instances where they’re dropping it, four, six, seven f-stops in order to get their shots.

Mike:
Okay. That’s a lot.

Rick:
For the standing person in a small studio.

Mike:
That would be technically N.D. 2.1.

Rick:
Thank you.

Mike:
And they’re doing it in a combination of multiple gels, correct?

Rick:
Absolutely.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
Because that’s the only way you can make it work through out different points in the day as the light changes. And that’s one of the challenges, of course. As the sun rises, gets higher, goes down, you need to adjust it based on what’s going on outside. And that’s why we have multiple gels or multiple levels of filtering on a window.

Mike:
So-

Rick:
It’s not unusual for us to have three or four layers on a window.

Mike:
So it’s a mechanical system that you have in place. What operates? What is the operating system that makes it all work together magically? Explain that.

Rick:
Normally, we automate it. And so they’re all motorized. For lighting purposes, we want them to operate from the lighting console. So they generally are very easily operated off the lighting console using DMX.

Mike:
Cool.

Rick:
And then we also set up backup keypads, so that should something go down, you could still operate it from the… Just walk over to a key pad and press a button and operate what you need to operate. So you’re not out of business, even if something happens to your lighting console.

Mike:
Right. You could fry your lighting console and you can still operate them.

Rick:
Absolutely.

Mike:
Correct. Yeah. But do you other do other systems like Bluetooth and other alternate…

Rick:
We tend to avoid them. We can.

Mike:
Yeah.

Rick:
But we avoid them because I’m a fan of hard-wiring these things. If we do it radio frequency, which is Bluetooth or ZigBee, or other RF systems, with so many radio waves going on in studios, there’s just more of a possibility for them not to operate 100% the way you want them to 100% of the time. And so that’s really, my view is if we can hard-wire it, we hard-wire it.

Mike:
Okay. I agree with that.

Rick:
I guess you’ve been there where something hasn’t operated because of…

Mike:
That happens all the time….On a film set. Murphy’s law is the king. So there’s always going to be a failure, but there’s always a redundant system. There’s always-

Rick:
You know McDonald’s corollary to Murphy’s law?

Mike:
What’s that?

Rick:
Murphy was an optimist.

Mike:
There you go. But it’s true. You have to have redundant systems. I always built that. So what’s our next phase here? We’d have more questions.

Rick:
I don’t know. Are there any questions that we haven’t hit already?

Mike:
There is one here. It says-

Rick:
How does neutral density work? I think we’ve sort of addressed that already.

Mike:
Yeah. It’s just basically gray filters that go across the broad spectrum, the visible spectrum, and part of the invisible spectrum. Right. UV and IR. And it just reduces things and it’s always been based on camera filtration. That’s where it started on the Rattan Filters. And then it became lighted filters. So yeah. okay. Do we have any other questions?

Rick:
I don’t see any. Okay. So I guess the answer to that is no, we might as well close it up.

Mike:
Oh, wait, wait. Oh, here we go. Here’s one. I like this one. I’m going to ask this to you.

Rick:
Okay.

Mike:
What was the hardest install you’ve ever had to do, and who installs your systems?

Rick:
Well, I can do the, who installs our system, easily. Our staff installs our system. We’ve always got our guys on site, and generally, we do all the work. Occasionally we’ve had to use somebody local because of agreements that were in place. But we’ve always got our guys on site regardless. So that’s the easy part .

Mike:
So you supervise everything?

Rick:
What’s that?

Mike:
You have total quality control over your product.

Rick:
Absolutely. It’s total from soup to nuts. We manufacture it, we install it. We make sure it’s the way we want it to be before we walk out the door. So hardest install was one this past fall for ESPN. They built a temporary studio overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and the windows were about 15 feet wide. There was no room at the top of the window to have a system that rolled down. So we had to do a system that would come up from the bottom without any visible lift courts. So we had to go 15 feet wide, no lift cords.

Rick:
There’s a motor system that we have used before that would do this fairly easily. Not the no sagging or anything on the 15 feet wide, but at least working. Except at that moment, there were only two motors in the United States and I needed 42 and I needed to make this whole thing happen in three weeks. So we did make it happen. We actually designed, as we were installing, prior to installing actually, a new system that would do what we needed to do. It ran beautifully for the whole time that it was there. And honestly it was the best looking gel system I’ve ever seen us do, which is surprising considering the complexity.

Mike:
Can you mention where it was?

Rick:
It was overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge from the South Street Seaport.

Mike:
Okay. You definitely want to see the bridge back there.

Rick:
Oh yeah. It was totally a bridge view. And in this particular instance, there were roughly 15 feet wide. So roughly 60 feet of windows looking out at the bridge.

Mike:
Nice. Nice. Okay. Hey, I got another question. It is… Is there a limitation on the size of four windows? I know our product only comes as wide as five feet. So you got four feet is our standard and five feet additional, right? So how do you make your…

Rick:
We seam your product so that we can make them very tall, but there are some physical limitations. The widest we’ve done is about 16 feet. And I think we’re going to be pushing that a little bit on a studio in New York in a few months. I think we’re pushing it to closer to 17 feet, but we haven’t gotten in there to take site measurements yet. And last I heard the studio was still in the demolition phase.

Mike:
Wow. Okay. So you can go and clean and install. That’s probably the better way to do it. Yeah.

Rick:
Absolutely. We always go in for a clean install. We actually, as you know, the gels are static magnets, so any dust it gets it. We actually developed a system that reduces the static electricity, and we add that to our rolling system.

Mike:
Oh, how’s that work? I’m just curious.

Rick:
It’s a very specialized… Basically, we find a way to ground across the entire shade with metal. It’s sort of strange, but we found it… If you think of industry with film that’s being used. I’m trying to think what would be, some of the packaging plants, for instance. Where they take two materials and put them together and then weld them. But they start with big sheets of film and they can develop lots of static. For us, it’s ugly. For them, it could be literally explosive. So they have to ground it and keep it well-grounded so that they don’t do that.

Mike:
Did not know this. So you actually ground yours into the electrical system. Or into the pipes?

Rick:
Well into the building.

Rick:
I mean, there’s enough metal in a typical building that we can ground it that way.

Mike:
Right.

Rick:
But yes, shades are grounded, go figure.

Mike:
Who knew? Who knew?

Rick:
Certainly I didn’t. So we decided to start doing it.

Mike:
All right. We have any more questions?

Rick:
I think we’re probably good.

Mike:
Okay.

Rick:
So-

Mike:
Do you want to tell us where-

Rick:
Mike tell everybody how to get ahold of you if they want, if they need you?

Mike:
Okay. We could put it in the chatbox. I believe you could reach me the best way would be MarketingPR@LeeFiltersUSA.com. So if you need any questions about gels, you can answer and how do we get ahold of you? I believe it’s right there. It popped up. And you can look me up on LinkedIn, and you can also look me up on my website. My personal website. And Rick, how do we get a handle or call you or get a consult?

Rick:
Well, that’s easy. Either go to BroadcastBlinds.com, somewhere on there there’s a form that’s going to give you a chance to reach out, or just send me an email. Rick@BroadcastBlinds.com, R I C K@BroadcastBlinds.com. 212-298-8980.

Mike:
Excellent.

Rick:
Good. Mike, thanks for hanging out.

Mike:
Hey, thanks. It was fun to chat, Rick.

Rick:
It’s always fun to do this coastal thing.

Mike:
All right. Good night, everybody.

Rick:
See ya.

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