Can A Downsized Panel Be A Good Thing?

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
I evaluated the Gemini 2×1 last year, and I’m a big fan of the light. But relative size, weight (50 pounds, when you factor in the weight of its heavy-duty shipping case) and price ($3,200 each) held me back from buying it.

But those factors aside, I’d be very happy owning the Gemini 2×1 as my primary key source.

To recap, the Gemini 2×1 is sometimes compared to the Arri S60-C Skypanel, another 2×1 LED panel that has gained a good foothold in the feature- and episodic-film markets. The main difference is price: The Arri panel costs $5,850 while the Gemini 2×1 retails for around $3,200.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 controls are laid out logically and efficiently.

The Gemini 2×1 does have a little less output than the Arri, but overall it has very competitive features.

But for this review, I’ll be testing Litepanels’ newest LED panel, the Gemini 1×1.

The Examination

After I unpacked the 1×1, I had several questions after examining it: Was the Litepanels Gemini 1×1 an exact replica of the 2×1 in a smaller package? What would it retail for? (At press time, Litepanels hadn’t provided the price.) Why a 1×1 version of the Gemini when Litepanels already has the Astra Soft 3X and 6X versions on the market that put out plenty of nice-quality light in a 1×1 package?

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The power supply is external but attached to the light’s yolk.

To begin to answer these questions, I compared the 1×1 to the Gemini 2×1. Two conspicuous features found on the Gemini 2×1 were its extraordinary output and the quality of the light itself. (However, I should note that the LED panels I regularly use in my work are smaller and have considerably less output, although enough to do some useful things like act as a fill source on moderately sunny although not “nuclear” sunny exteriors.) After unpacking the Gemini 1×1 and mounting it on a Matthews Beefy Baby light stand, I took a close look at the light.

If you’re familiar with Gemini’s 2×1, most of what’s on the 1×1 will seem pretty familiar, such as the same row of user buttons with six factory presets and six user presets. It also has a similar LED control/menu display, with three control knobs found on the Gemini 2×1.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 Color Modes provide all kinds of control over HSI, color effects, color temp and even “lite character.”

The top of the light features a folding antenna and a small rubber cover with the abbreviation “comm” on it (The comms socket will accept Bluetooth or wireless DMX modules), RJ-45 i/o plugs, two five-pin XLR DMX i/o ports and a USB A jack with a small, rubber cover. The three control knobs on the bottom of the panel are angled to the back panel of the light so that they can be easily accessed when the light is both high on a light stand or down at normal, eye or chest level.

The three control knobs are labeled, from left to right: “Menu – push_,” “CCT” and “Dim.” The light’s power switch is to the right of the “Dim” knob and features a small status light to let you see that the light is receiving power when used in dark situations or when the light is high up on a stand or grid.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 utilizes a two-piece (IEC) cable rather than the simpler PowerCon its larger sibling uses.

Here are the technical specs for the Litepanels Gemini 1×1:

  • CCT Range: 2700K-10,000K
  • Weight: 11.7 lbs
  • Power Requirements: 100-240VAC, 13-30VDC
  • Max Power Draw: 200W
  • CRI/TLCI: 95 @ 5600K and 96 @ 3200K
  • Presets: 6 user options, 6 pre-defined factory presets
  • Lighting Modes: CCT, HIS, gel and effect
  • DMX Info: Integrated 5 pin-XLR & RJ45 jacks. Optional Bluetooth & wireless DMX.
  • Beam Angle: 92 degrees
Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
On the set with the 1×1 Gemini Bi-Color LED Softpanel by Litepanels.

Give It Power!

Unlike the 2×1, this 1×1 has an external power supply that’s cleverly mounted on the light’s yolk. A hard-wired 18-inch-long, three-pin XLR exits the power supply and is plugged into a corresponding XLR input on the side of the light body.

But to be honest, one thing I found most appealing about the Gemini 2×1 was that unlike most other LED panels, on the 2×1, you plug an AC cable into a socket and the other end of the cable terminates in a PowerCon connector that plugs straight into the body of the light.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 carries on many of the features of its larger 2×1 brand sibling.

The other LED panels that I own and rent seem to mostly have external power supplies, which I find to be a nuisance, especially if you have plugged in the light, turned it on and then want to reposition it. Often, the AC cable goes from the wall to an external power supply that sits on the ground, then a DC breakout cable connects the external power supply to a control box, then yet another cable connects the control panel to the light body. This all takes extra time to set up and move and is generally a messy nightmare with a lot of clutter.

I was sad to see that the Litepanels Gemini 1×1 had lost the PowerCon connector and the ability to daisy-chain power from instrument to instrument like the Gemini 2×1 is capable of. In its place, the 1×1 has a short IEC cable that extends a few inches from the power supply and terminates in a male connector.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 fan was almost undetectable as far as making noise, even in a quiet, small room.

The light comes with an extension cable that goes from the AC receptacle to the 1×1 power supply’s IEC male plug. This means that it’s held in place merely by friction and will often be hanging down, although you could use a cable wrap to wrap the short AC power cable from the power supply to the light’s yolk.

What this means is that on a working set, it will be fairly easy to step on, kick or snag the 1×1’s AC cable and cut power to the light. I have mixed feelings about this setup because I like that the power supply is attached to the yolk (if we have to have an external power supply!) and not flopping around on the ground. I just wish that the 1×1 had an internal power supply like its 2×1 brother does.

Litepanels told me that an IEC-to-PowerCon adapter, as well as a PowerCon version of the power supply unit, are also planned for future release, which means that some of the potential misgivings I have about the cable’s connection to the power supply may be mitigated in this future update. The IEC cable is functional, just not ideal for video production.

Firing It Up

After examining the rest of the 1×1, I plugged it in and turned it on. Functionally, it appears to operate in pretty much the same way that the Gemini 2×1 does. The menus and the way that the controls function are intuitive and straightforward.

The output of this unit is very impressive. Unfortunately, at press time the independently tested lab results on output weren’t yet available, but in comparison to a borrowed Astra 6X, the Gemini seemed to have at least twice the output, possibly more.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
A peek behind the diffuser reveals two CCT sets as well as individual RGB diodes. It’s amazing that such small-sized diodes provide so much output!

I noticed that the 1×1 has a fan, similar in size and appearance to the one on the Gemini 2×1. It rotates relative to the light’s output level, but I have to say, I fired up the light to 100 percent output in my small office and I couldn’t hear the fan once I was about a foot away from the light.

If LEDs have to have fans, at least fans like this won’t make your sound mixer’s life too difficult.

Future Features?

I asked Litepanels what the antenna and the comm port were for, as the unit I reviewed was a working prototype and didn’t arrive with an owner’s manual.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 Color Modes provide all kinds of control over HSI, color effects, color temp and even “lite character.”

The company said that an antenna and a WiFi chipset are built into the Gemini for future functionality and that software/firmware updates will come later (current estimate is end of 2019) to enable this functionality.

As far as the comm port, the reply was that the port is a communications port that can receive either a Bluetooth dongle or a wireless DMX (Lumen Radio) dongle. A free Bluetooth app can be used with the optional Bluetooth dongle. The wireless DMX dongle can be used with any Lumen Radio-compatible transmitter DMX system.

As far as other features and accessories, Litepanels will be offering cases, diffusers, Snapbags and Snapgrids, and, most interestingly, it will provide a dual battery and a single battery bracket, so you’ll be able to run the Gemini 1×1 from battery to be very portable.

Litepanels told me that the Gemini 1×1 will operate with either one or two 14.4V batteries. Both dual-battery and single-battery brackets will also be available at the end of April when the Gemini 1×1 starts shipping.

The fixture is 200 watts and requires 10 amps from a battery to operate at full power. Anton Bauer (either V or AB mount) batteries of 90, 150 or 190 all power the light. Early testing is that you will get approximately 45 minutes from a 150Wh battery. So you’ll need a lot of batteries for long shoots, but that’s to be expected with a light this powerful.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini 1×1 features a plastic tie-down knob rather than a metal knob with teeth.

In The Field

I’ve been shooting a feature documentary over the past two years where I key the talent using one of my LED panels (Aputure Lightstorm LS 1s) through a medium (36” x 48”) Chimera Quartz Pro light bank.

I also use a 40-degree egg crate on the Chimera to keep my key light off of the 8X8 green screen—and as you probably know, using an egg crate reduces perceived output, too.

The LS 1s is right on the edge of outputting enough light to use in this situation. It works well, but only in a dark room. If I were competing with ambient light, the Aputure wouldn’t have enough output for this situation.

Unlike a lot of green-screen interviews I have shot, where the director usually wants a medium or MCU head and shoulders shot of the interview subject, this project’s director wants to frame the interviews in a wider frame, from the waist up, so there’s plenty of room around the talent for some sweet motion graphics.

To frame the shot wider means I need to move the key source further away from the talent to keep it out of frame. This requires all of the light I can provide to give me enough exposure. I decided to use the Gemini 1×1 as my key source, and both my gaffer and I were impressed with the output. I normally use the Lightstorm at 100 percent output in this setup. With the Gemini 1×1, I only had to use the light at 40 percent output to achieve the same exposure, which is impressive.

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel

Litepanels brings forth a 1x1 Gemini bi-color LED softpanel
The Gemini features a built-in antenna and a communications port for future updates.

It’s A Wrap

Besides the green-screen interviews, I utilized the Gemini 1×1 as a key and a background color-wash source on several other types of shoots, including some scenes with actors in a well-lit office with huge windows. The 1×1’s power came in handy in competing with the sunlight coming through the windows as a fill source. Overall, I was impressed with the Gemini 1×1 So much so that it somewhat redefines what a 1×1 LED panel is capable of.

But the Gemini 1×1 isn’t a perfect light. I feel that the yolk tie down, which is plastic with a rubber/fiber washer, is inadequate for this level and price point of instrument. It means that only small Snapbags and Snapgrids will be able to be mounted and held in place at any angle needed. I don’t think you’ll be able to use small or medium Chimeras or other larger/heavier light modifiers.

But this is a minor complaint. Overall, the quality and the amount of light the 1×1 outputs and the feature set it offers is very flexible and astounding for its size. It’s a light well worth trying out for yourself. 

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