Cinematography : LED lighting color and concerns by David Landau

David Landau

LED lighting color and concerns

There has been a lot of discussion in the industry and on many websites about the use of the new LED fixtures in cinematography. Litepanel came out with the first really widely used units for filing with their on camera bricks and their 1x1 panels. Many embraced them while others were very concerned with the lack of full color, harsh texture of light generation and multiple shadow rendition of LED sources. Three years ago there was a special presentation made by the Academy of Motion picture arts & Science and the ASC at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Vegas that compared the three leading LED unit manufactures against standard tungsten lighting. The results were an eye opener as all three reorder colors differently not only from the tungsten light units but also from each other. While there have been many Asian manufacturers that have been releasing very inconsistent lighting units at low price ranges since then, there have been great strides made in the last three years in standardizing the LED output in both color and consistency by more respected and recognized lighting manufacturers here in the USA. The most notable massive improvements have been made by Cineo and their remote phosphor units, by mole and their LED fresnels, spacelights and now softlight units and kinoflo with their new Celeb line of softlights. My friend Joe DiGennaro,a local 600 cinematographer who works in the research dept of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science (The Oscars) helped Cineo during their development stage. He swears by their lights and he's definitely the expert when it comes to LED lights and how they record on digital and film - having tested every manufacturer against every major camera and film stock. He and a major film techie have been working on an app that allow you to plug in the camera (with its sensor) and then the brand LED light which will then give you a color rendering idea. Its a rather complicated thing. Here's a link to one of their articles on the subject. And here is a free app that the Academy has put out. Joe says there is a second app about to come out that is even more conclusive - The fact is that the industry has embraced LED lighting now. On Project Runway we use LEDs and Kinoflos almost exclusively for our locations and the work rooms lighting. The progress being made, especially by Mole and Cineo, has really brought the LED into the realm of dependability. There are still things to get over but much has been accomplished and more will be. England and the USA have made it clear that the governments will be terminating the manufacturing of tungsten element lighting in the very near future. Those of us in the lighting business have been fighting against this, but losing. There s a misconception that fluorescent and LED lighting is more green”. While they do consume much less power and generate much less heat, once they are disposed of they are actually more toxic to the environment than glass and tungsten wire. But they are looking only at the financial costs of power consumption and not the beauty of full spectrum light. And money always seems to win out over art.

Academy Color Predictor
Academy Color Predictor
The Academy Color Predictor, the first app created for the general public by the Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is now available on iTunes.
David Landau

Here's a link to Cineo lighting- and here's one to Mole - And here's an interesting article comparing LED units

Amanda Toney

This is Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing.

Andrew Sobkovich

Some of the current LED fixtures are looking better in terms of their spectrum. However, the balance of the colour output across the spectral distribution doesn’t match the standards for given colour temperatures very well at all. Those standards are what film stock and cameras are made to reproduce. The pronounced blue spike is the easiest to see even in the small spectrum charts that many of the manufacturers have on their sites. This blue spike changes the way cameras will see the colours. This makes accurate colour reproduction problematic. If the inaccurate reproduction is deemed “good enough” that is a decision that is separate from the fidelity of the colour. Being “good enough” is not always as bad as it sounds and may be completely workable on a given shoot. However, many of us strive for colour accuracy and LEDs just are not there yet. Besides colour, there are many problems with LEDs currently. Beam pattern, light output, the need for cooling fans or liquid cooling for the larger lamps, no hard light, are just a few of the additional issues when incorporating the lights into day to day shooting. There are some specialty uses they do excel at so even at the current state of evolution they can be useful.

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