We had a film crew from the History Channel at the Observatory a few days ago, filming a segment for an upcoming special on inventions that changed the world. One of these is the clock, so naturally they wanted to speak to some people who could tell them about clocks. I showed them around the lab and they liked the setting a lot more than any of our operational clocks; they’re all nicely packaged up and quite boring. (One type — the hydrogen maser — is literally a black box, and the fountain physics package looks like a water heater.)
So they filmed a segment in our lab, and since I was there making sure they didn’t touch anything they shouldn’t be touching (they didn’t — they were quite well-behaved), they had me and one of my lab-mates stand in the background, pretending to work at one of the optical tables. We might end up on screen for ten seconds or so in the final cut.
Being geeks meant that we drooled a bit over the equipment that they brought. This is part of their lighting system, a bank of LEDs, which has the advantage over traditional equipment that it draws much less power since LEDs are much more efficient. This means they can run it off of a battery and not have to worry about whether there is an outlet nearby, and it also doesn’t heat up very much.
With the lights at full power it saturates the camera.