My interest in cinema LED lamps was originally sparked by the release of the Aputure B7c, and you can read this article here, but it is cinema and event lighting manufacturer Astera that is the first to hit the market with its NYX LED lamp range brings. How does the NYX lamp work in general? How does it compare to the B7c and where does the NYX lamp fit into the overall LED landscape? let's begin::
You may know Astera from its popular Titan Tubes (along with the Ax3 series). The company's NYX lights are a slight departure from Astera's previous focus on tubular LED lighting. I say "light" because the core technology that is in Astera's other products, except for internal battery power, is still in the NYX is available for USD 105 (per bulb).
Astera NYX LED lamp
Astera is quick to emphasize its roots as an event lighting company and while I'm sure their lights work well in this setting, in the cinema my focus is, I suspect, yours. For testing purposes, the company was kind enough to send out the following demo kit, which I immediately used on a TV pilot shoot in Southern California:
- NYX bulb x2
- CupBouncer x1
- USB cable x2
- PowerStation with mounting accessories (baby pin / single stud ring)
- Hard case for single bulb + power station / accessories
- Astera ART7 AsteraBox CRMX with USB power cable
- Hard case for ART7
A NYX lightbulb with a few accessories. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
The advantages of the NYX LED lamp
Your cameramen, photographers, and onlookers out there will understand that high CRI / dimmable / non-flickering / RGB lightbulbs are required as "internships" (the lights actually working on the scene in the background), and the NYX lightbulb enables all of these boxes . Steadicam 360-degree recording on the map? You need high quality and powerful lighting to get good exposure while incorporating it into the production design. Alternatively, you can avoid ugly, overexposed internships by dimming the NYX lamp to match your lighting conditions.
In short, if you have scenes with lamps, the NYX is for you! To put the obvious, the NYX is not intended to be an all-purpose key light. Astera offers other options for this.
The PowerStation – half battery / half remote control. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
You can purchase the NYX as a single purchase for $ 105, but you're missing out on a stellar ecosystem of new lightbulb accessories.
* Drum roll. The winner for the best accessory available in addition to the NYX goes to the simple but very useful CupBouncer! Depending on the type of lamp you are using, you may want to increase the beam angle across the shade and cast less light from the top of the lamp. This little suction cup jump does both. In the past, to solve the problem of the lamp spilling on top, we have done DIY work using either a halved beverage can or black wrap. The CupBouncer is an infinitely more elegant solution and is available for $ 55 for a set of 8.
CupBouncer – a tiny hat for your NYX lightbulb. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
The $ 180 PowerStation accessory came as a surprise. Based on the description in marketing collateral, I wasn't sure how often I would use the PowerStation in conjunction with the lightbulb, but it turned out that I use it all the time. With the PowerStation you can control any NYX lamp wired via the menu. This is useful when your phone's battery is low or out of range. The PowerStation is also perfect for fast dimming by a few percent or for changing the color temperature by a few Kelvin. The PowerStation also comes with several mounting accessories for the station itself. Personally, I'd love to see a longer cable from the PowerStation to the lightbulb as the current one is only a few inches long. I asked the Astera team about it and they showed me a longer cable via Zoom that is “coming soon”.
The difficult case is also well thought out. It's nice to see how Astera listens to their cinema users and takes their overall accessory options into consideration in the design.
Astera ART7 – improved connectivity for your Astera lights. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
You'll need a $ 400 device called the ART7 to wirelessly communicate with the NYX lamp, or you can connect directly via Bluetooth, provided you update your AsteraApp to the latest firmware (V11.33 or higher). For more information on NYX Bluetooth connectivity, check out the useful video below. If you already have other Astera products, the ART7 is a useful purchase anyway as it communicates with most of the company's current lights – such as the standout LED tube lights Titan, Helios or Hyperion.
According to the manufacturer, the internally battery-operated ART7 (sometimes also referred to as "AsteraBox") receives "a Bluetooth signal from the AsteraApp and then sends RF signals to the light". In addition, you can also use the ART7 with your favorite DMX system (cable included) to control Astera products. On the other hand, Aputure's B7c is only controllable via Bluetooth and offers no way to connect to a DMX system – something that needs to be considered when weighing any system.
I found that the AsteraApp interface (see image above) takes a bit of getting used to, but after some practice I was able to easily access and set various lighting effects. As always, taking the time to familiarize yourself with the user interface before showing up on set will avoid last-minute stress as you try to find the right button.
Output and color handling
There's a reason the Astera Titan Tubes are so popular on sets these days, and I'm happy to say that the kind of color accuracy you're used to in the Titan or Helios line is in the 1 pixel -NYX lamps absolutely exist. Even though I only had two lamps to test, I didn't notice any color shift between them and on camera they matched perfectly. A NYX lamp has the same output as a standard 60 W lamp. So keep that in mind when you start adding a performance enhancing diffusion between the lamp and the subject. With the NYX lamp, you don't have a ton of initial output. So for practical in-scene training, the output should feel perfect. Another tip: you'll also want to work closely with the art department to play different lampshades to make sure you don't put weird color shift on your subject or background.
Quick note on flicker – When shooting at 24 fps, 30 fps, 60 fps, or 120 fps, I didn't notice any flicker of the lightbulb, but I leave it to the Phantom users to comment on how things look when the frame rate is in use is increased pear.
NYX lamp mounted on the PowerStation accessory. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
There aren't many competitors in this area. For comparison purposes, it makes the most sense for me to place the $ 105 NYX next to the $ 70 B7c. Some may see the Philips Hue as a competitor, but I find this device to be more consumer-centric than professional.
NYX Bulb on the left and B7c on the right. Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
The Astera NYX lamp has a slightly slimmer shape compared to the Aputure B7c, probably due to the lack of an internal battery. You need to judge for yourself whether the internal battery in the B7c is required for your project. However, due to the slimmer design of the NYX, it should be compatible with more lamp sockets overall. As mentioned above, the NYX lamp user has the benefit of DMX and bluetooth control while the B7c user only has mesh bluetooth.
I find the Sidus Link app interface for the B7c and other Aputure devices more intuitive than the AsteraApp, but if you've spent time with the AsteraApp you may feel different. I give Astera the edge over currently available accessories, but with the Aputure multi-lamp charging case for the B7c series on the horizon, my feelings could change in a few months.
The NYX lamp, on the other hand, is already available in an 8-lamp kit with PowerStation and a non-rechargeable hard case. At some point I'd love to see a 4 or 5 lamp kit too, because for those of us who work with scripts, there aren't that many scenes that need hands-on practice for recording. Music video and product shooters will want the 8-lamp kit.
In short, different products for different needs. If you've already settled on the Astera or Aputure ecosystem, you may want to keep things simple by sticking to one camp or the other.
Photo credit: Graham Sheldon
The perfect lightbulb?
Right now it's hard to see how Astera could have improved the design of the NYX LED lamp. Astera may have started out in the events industry with two feet, but with the development of the NYX and its tens of thousands of hours lifespan, the company is cementing a solid home in the cinema as well.
Link: Astera website
What do you think? Will the Astera NYX find its way into your kit soon? Let us know in the comments below!