First shooting with BRIESE Lighting's NEW High Speed Generator
88 flashes per second. That's something you only believe when you've seen it with your own eyes. Hans Werner Briese is pleased. His latest masterpiece has been in the making for a long time now. Being finally able to reveal it, fills him with pride and joy.
Back in Hamburg
It hurts to refrain from long hugs. Coming back to Briese Studios is like returning to a beloved family. It's quiet these days, due to to Corona. No big productions in the studios, the entire world is standing still. But this won't harm our mood. Instead of shaking hands, we're using the old Vulcan salute. Creativity works either way.
H.W. has used the quiet time for research and development. Two novelties are already set up and ready for us in Studio 6, both a world's first. I'm invited to be the first photographer to put them to good use. What an absolute honor!
The new Briese focus.2 170 H-S with an HMI model lamp and bi-tube flash head in a single fixture, and an absolute sensation: The new Briese Pulsar, the gentle giant of flash generators, and the fastest of its kind. White, elegant, three-phase powered and sliding smoothly on wheels.
BRIESE PULSAR & FOCUS.2 170 H-S
The new generator design is kept deliberately simple, there are surprisingly few buttons. A few months ago, I was already given a chance to work with its smaller brother. A touch display shows all the important options and calculates the flash duration at any given power setting. The Pulsar is two in one: An HMI ballast and a strobe generator. The two flash outputs are fully asynchronous. The HMI model light ignites at the push of a button and reaches a stable color temperature quickly.
The bulb has just about 100 watts but emits pristine daylight. Of course, bulbs with a higher power output are supported and available. It's already blinding me enough the way it is, but then I realize how evenly the focus.2 lights the entire studio. Its new reflective surface has a highly glossy surface with intentional wrinkles, diffusing light with maximum efficiency. Additional sewn-in ribs support the shape of the reflector, making it even rounder. To evenly light a set this big, you'd usually need a row of giant softboxes or multiple fresnel spots through a huge scrim, losing a lot of light and power. Especially when shooting high frame rates, your production costs could easily rocket sky high.
88 Flashes Per Second
As soon as no one's looking, I push the strobe test button. The flash is short and crisp, no afterglow at all. But no matter how often I press the button, my fingers are not fast enough to stress the powerful machine. It easily produces 44 flashes per second and 88 with the bi-tube on flip-flop. I plug in my pocket wizards, and then I'm good to go. Meanwhile, my wife is getting ready with her make-up. Thank god she's a gorgeous model and well known as Instagram's Die Schminktante, perfectly capable of making her own stylings. We couldn't let a make-up artist near us during this weird social lockdown.
A whole range of lenses and cameras is waiting in front of me: My beloved Hasselblad H5D, the H6D, and my old Canon 5Dmk3, which I still use on a daily basis, although it's long outdated. As I make the first shot, I quickly realize: What you see is what you get. The flash result and model light look practically identical. Concerning light quality and color temperature, I see exactly what I'll get, even before I push the shutter release. Model bulb and flash tube are at exactly the same place inside the reflector. The bright light of the HMI ensures a quick and precise autofocus without the need for focussing on contrast edges. Time for a model!
No tungsten light, no color confusion. Skin tones look crisp and lifelike. I know the accurate color mapping of my Hasselblad by heart, the H6D's no different. Just tethering's a mess, as always. Maybe the USB ports of my MacBook have some sort of a loose joint, maybe the cable's broken. There is a lot of data running through that cable. The MacBook fan runs high, and the Pulsar is still yawning. Making it even recharge as I'm shooting is impossible. It's always ready.
Fashion & Portrait
The focus.2 170 S-H provides a gigantic light. Admittedly, I didn't expect anything less, but it still amazes me every time how good the Briese lighting looks. With a practiced eye, you can quickly see the subtle nuances that make these light shapers so popular. The beautiful skin, the sculpturing drop of light towards the cheeks, the shadow under the chin, which is crisp but not too dark, and the flattering highlights that can really pop without bleeding. My pictures are clear and lively, the model's standing out, even without rim lights. Most striking, however, is how good the light renders structures in the fabric of the clothing. Every single mesh and seam is razor-sharp, inviting you to touch it. The drapery looks like a painting or a perfect fashion drawing. And with a single lamp, no white cards, no fill lights, not even dodge and burn. As Lena is posing, her hair flies wildly. Due to the extremely short flash duration, everything's sharp to the tips. There are already dozens of winner shots on the flash card, but somehow I don't want to stop. I have the perfect team behind me. Jutta and Hans Werner Briese on the sofa, at a safe distance, enthusiastically cheering. Jutta is Instagramming everything until my muscles burn. Medium format lenses have never been light?time for the next outfit and a short break.
It doesn't take long for Lena to reappear with curly hair. I want to see more movement, make the hair fly again. With the central shutter of my H5D, 1/800th of a second is the limit. That's not enough for me. I need it to be sharper. I play with the setting of the generator and quickly get into high thousandths. There's still enough power and H.W. is having a great time, mocking the cameras, which cannot go faster than a few measly images per second yet. He thought ahead, and he is well prepared for future gear. Tethering fails again on the last run, but most shots are already safe, this time in classic black and white. Faced with so many things to play, I am completely in my zone, even forgot to eat and drink. Time for a break.
Late afternoon we start using the latest Sony A7R IV. So far, it has the fastest frame rate we could find, and in a few minutes, I've quickly taken about 3000 pictures, with my model always in motion, wearing a silk cloth. Due to the high flash power, I can use a small aperture, and despite the rapid movements, there is no trouble focusing. Every single photo's razor-sharp. I'm browsing through the photos in Lightroom, and the shoot is almost like a film. I'm having an idea. Time for a few actual film recordings.
Filming with Strobe Light
Has anyone ever tried lighting a film with strobes? I actually dreamed of this years ago. If I had something flash 24 times a second, I'd have the brightest light for filming. Today this absurd idea will suddenly become a reality at a professional level for commercial photography. But how would flash and camera sync? Time for elaborate experiments! With a simple waveform generator, the flash generator can be triggered at any frame rate. Most cameras don't output flash sync signals during filming. With the Red, Arri Alexa, or even the GH5s, there is a helpful timecode output.
The electronics engineers at Briese are real geniuses. In minutes we have made it flashes 24, 25, 30, or even up to 88 times per second. The sound is quite surreal but tolerable. Only those suffering from epilepsy should leave the room immediately. For the first time, I'm filming flashes, even with the iPhone. Adjusting the shutter angle in the GH5 works like a charm, we quickly find the settings for a flicker-free video. I'm filming without any motion blur. It takes a little while to process, but the experiment succeeded. If you are wondering, however, what this is even useful for, you didn't pay attention.
Such a system won't be needed by the average amateur photographer. But that's not who's it aimed at either. Nevertheless, we all should know the application from our daily television commercials. For example, fruits and cereal time-lapse drop into the milk, the latest cell phone jumps through clouds of colored powder, or whatnot. Anyone who has ever tried doing something similar knows how many tries are necessary to get the perfect shot. And I'm not even mentioning the time needed to set up the shot over and over again. Especially when working with liquids. Triggering flash and camera to movement is a real struggle. Laser our sound triggers that are a pain to configure and difficult to use.
Simply filming everything with a conventional high-speed camera requires an insane amount of light, and even then, the images are blurry due to the fast motion. Not really usable for still photography. What if at every attempt, you could take an entire burst of photos, and select the perfect shot later? This not only makes work much easier but ultimately also drastically reduces production and post-production costs. Here, the Pulsar can be an absolute ace up your sleeve! By the way, it's still flashing, and I wonder about the flash tube's lifespan. We honestly don't know, but we won't find out today either. No tube has ever failed since the Pulsar's invention.
Qualität made in germany
The next day we want to use the fantastic technology for an haute couture shooting. Leica has provided us with the new S3, but we're still waiting for the delivery of the dress. While Lena is styling herself, I get the opportunity to visit Briese's manufacturing workshop. For me, this is like being knighted. For a little while, I feel like a child in a candy store. I'm shown how focus reflectors and flash generators are made. I learn secrets I'll take to my grave. A lot of Pulsar generators are already being built. Their inside is an electronic marvel, deeply fascinating. Sophisticated electronics, especially well-designed circuits, have always been my thing. At least to some extent, I understand how they work. Hans Werner Briese's creations are not only first-class engineering. They are a work of art. I keep noticing particularly well-designed details. The holding bracket of the B6 flash head, for example, which is unparalleled in beauty. Or the signature handle, which accommodates spare parts. It's practical, and built to last.
I brought an old flash head, on which a colleague burned a jack. Even if that model is not manufactured anymore, it poses no problem for Briese. There are enough spare parts. The technician replaces the defective component in minutes, and the device is fixed. Looking around in the workshop, it becomes clear that there are many older devices in for revision by customers who have been using them for decades. I am impressed by the sustainability, and once again, I wish for other manufacturers to counteract our throw-away society with more longevity. At this moment, I am once again proud to use Briese equipment in my own studio. My system, too, has worked reliably for decades.
Haute Couture Shooting
Finally, late afternoon the dress arrives, literally last minute. We had almost started packing. Now we are using the new Harvey Briese 180, a gigantic reflector that creates a wonderfully soft light and provides great highlights thanks to its large surface. Now we can use the Leica S3, a medium format camera, just as it should be.
The S3 is surprisingly tactile and comfortable to hold, and its design reduced to bare necessities. The buttons are not even labeled. The display shows just ISO, aperture, exposure time, and frankly, I'm not interested in anything else. Thanks to the large viewfinder, I can finally concentrate on what really matters: my subject.
The trigger responds without delay. Every shot's an instant hit and fun to take. This is photography without distraction, paired with the Briese light a definite match made in heaven. Just a few more, and it's a wrap. Raving about it any more would be redundant. However, I need to point out once again that all photos were taken with a single light source in a single shaper. No white cards, fill lights, nor anything else needed. That's the magic of the Briese focus reflector.
I'm overwhelmed by all the many impressions, and I'm utterly happy with the results. And finally, tired. But we still have a six-hour drive ahead of us. The farewell hurts as always, but we are sure it wouldn't be our last visit.
We're still in the car when Lena sorts and rates the photos. As always, far too many picks. During the next few days, however, the image processing of our favorites will be limited to color corrections, color looks, or simple cropping. Those who know me know how much I hate image retouching. It's called photography, not photoshopy. Spending a lot of retouch time on mediocre shots just makes no sense to me. Occasionally I do remove a stain or dirt on the floor, but skin treatment is not really necessary with Briese reflectors. The focus.2 creates incredibly flattering complexions without losing the pores and structures. The light is crisp like sunshine, yet all the shadows are perfectly filled, the skin looks even and healthy. Look once into a focus, and you'll understand. Its light is almost esoteric. But that's the only thing that bothers me about this kind of reflectors: as a photographer, I usually only see them from the back.
Briese Lichttechnik - http://www.brieselichttechnik.de/en/homepage.html
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