Rosco Silk 220 review: Soft and smooth

Rosco Silk Family
Neal Romanek
Acquisition
September 14th 2017 at 3:50PM : By Neal Romanek

Christina Fox takes a look at the new Silk 220 LED light from Rosco

Rosco has a new addition to its Silk range of LED lights aimed at filmmakers and broadcast DoPs. The Silk 220 is particularly well-suited for use in broadcast studios, on film sets or for (indoor) location lighting. It is the fifth light, and the largest so far, in the range (see picture above, left), which includes the portable 110 (top) and slightly larger 210 (centre), along with the slimmer-profile 205 (bottom) and 305 lamps (right).

It really does seem that LEDs have now found their place in the lighting grid. It wasn’t that long ago that LED lights were launched as the bright new thing. Compared to tungsten lighting they had a lower power consumption, didn’t change colour when dimmed and produced less heat than tungsten lamps.

But there were also problems. To the human eye LED lights looked fine, but when put on a test bench they were sadly lacking - quite literally, in terms of colour spectrum. This was most noticeable when it came to skin tones, which is what we shoot most often. Graders were also finding it difficult to match shots lit with LED lights to those lit with conventional instruments.

 

Rosco Silk rear

Colour temperature of the Silk 220 can altered from 2800K to 6500K, using controls on the rear, or via DMX

 

It also didn’t help that the common metric at the time, CRI (Colour Rendition Index) quoted by most lighting manufacturers, was created in 1964, but had not kept up with changing colour science and was not even designed for TV but for architectural lighting.

Indeed, lamps with the same CRI score can produce totally different colours. We needed a new metric, designed to tell us what light actually looks like when seen by a camera sensor - as well as an improvement in LED technology.

Thanks to work by colour scientist Alan Roberts and the backing of the EBU, a new metric was proposed and has been widely adopted by the lighting industry. The Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) makes it easier to tell how different light sources will work together and on camera. A TLCI rating over 90 should certainly ensure that people don’t make expensive mistakes before buying LED lights. In fact, a TLCI score of 85 - 100 needs no correction (so should be the aim for live productions), while anything scoring from 70 - 85 should be simple to correct.

The Silk 220 bi-colour light uses proprietary tungsten- and daylight-balanced LEDs. This allows the colour temperature to be dialled in using a control on the rear of the light from 2800K to 6500K. And yes, the light ticks all the metrics boxes with a TLCI of 97 at 5600K and of 98 at 3200K.

Thanks to clever design and soft diffusion the Silk 220 does produce a beautifully smooth, clean shadow straight out of the box

The Silk 220 has a list price of £5,425/€6,165/$6,780 and is described as a 2x2 soft light. It is 508mm wide by 546.7mm high by 100mm deep (excluding the yoke), and weighs in at 9.5kg including power supply, yoke and receiver. It works at 100-240V AC and 24V DC. Maximum power output is 230W.

The kit supplied came with two Hawk-Woods V-Lok batteries. Four-pin (Anton/Bauer-type) batteries can also be used.

Early tests in the field showed that a Silk 220 has the equivalent output to a 2K tungsten Fresnel with an attached soft box. All Silk lights are rated IP20 for indoor use (or outdoors on dry days).

Dim and dimmer

DMX dimming is also available. Eight-bit dimming gives 256 discrete steps and uses one channel DMX. Sixteen-bit gives 65,536 steps, offering very smooth dimming using three channels of DMX: dimming course, dimming fine and CCT (Correlated Colour Temperature).

There are three modes of DMX – standard, wireless and DMX master. In standard mode the Silk 220 uses two channels of DMX to control colour temperature and intensity. Wireless DMX is obviously an advantage for out-of-reach lighting rigs. In this mode Silk lights can be daisy chained to other fixtures not in wireless mode.

This is a beautifully soft light that will flatter anyone lit by it - making you popular with the people you shoot

When in DMX master mode the Silk can control other Silk lights on set with a common base address. This will be useful if you are designing a small lighting set up.

Smooth as Silk

LED fixtures use multiple point sources, potentially creating multiple shadows, but most users want to have a clean shadow. Thanks to clever design and soft diffusion the Silk 220 does produce a beautifully smooth, clean shadow straight out of the box.

The 220 has plenty of accessory mounting points. In the corners you’ll find magnetic areas for egg crate attachment. There was a good feel to this and it made it very quick and easy to add or remove the egg crate. There is also an accessory slot and holes for barn doors and soft boxes. One modification is larger safety/rope hanging ports compared to previous models.

The 220 came with a DoPchoice Snapbag softbox with two diffusers (quarter and a half). This only took a couple of minutes to attach to the light. There was no need for a speed ring - just pop the elasticated corners over the light and ensure the strengthening rods are in place and you’re done.

 

Rosco silk brighness

Adjusting the brightness of the Silk 220 (colour temperature control dial is on the right) 

 

If you need more control over your soft light you can also attach a Snapgrid onto the Snapbag. This comes in 30, 40 and 50 degrees, plus a 30/50-degree combined grid. The fabric is robust and the frame keeps the grid taught enough to stop the grid sagging when it is hanging horizontally and facing downwards. If you haven’t used them before then there are some hints and tips on the DoPchoice website.

On the rear of the Silk 220 there are eight mounting holes for a Kino Flo centre mount assembly or Avenger Baby Plate with 5/8-inch swivel spigot. It was a nice touch to also supply four spare mounting screws just in case you can’t find the originals.

Conclusion

This is a beautifully soft light that will flatter anyone lit by it - making you popular with the people you shoot. The shadows are clean and gentle with no hint of the multiple diodes inside. The high output and colour metrics should keep DoPs and colour graders happy.

If the 220 is too big (or expensive) for your current needs then I’d recommend you take a look at the rest of the Silk family, there is probably one that will work for you - the Silk 110 costs from about £1,700 plus VAT ($2,000).