LED - A clean light at the end of the tunnel


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We asked DoP & Lighting Specialist Jonathan Harrison to evaluate the current state of the industry.
Jonathan has long been critical of LED products and the claims made by manufacturers in regards to their performance for high quality professional image capture, he has also been intimately involved in the development of some of the leading industry LED products:

“To be fair, the LED is still very new as an image capture light source and can potentially offer some great benefits to film and broadcast image makers. However, the best of the recent crop of available products have all had some fundamental drawbacks for me, either in practical use or the colour and optical quality.
LEDs have had some problem solving properties. For example the small 1’ x 1’ type panels can get you out of a jam on location where battery power is the only option - but do not expect complete or satisfactory skin tones or optical quality that could be classed as aesthetically beautiful photography. For me the importance of any daylight or tungsten source is that I have to be able to mix it on a set for extended periods of time with any other source of the same class, and up to now I have not seen this. If you can't do this then it is a useless tool long term and can downgrade colour fidelity including skin tones - you end up with colour casts that are irremovable from the scene and no manner of clever software will not solve the problem by colour grading.

My other contention is with what the artist standing in front of the source has to endure and suffer over sometimes prolonged periods. A series of magenta spots in front of the eyes for minutes after being in front of a lamp is not funny and to me shows a lack of understanding in the purpose and design of a fixture of this kind.

However, is there a light at the end of this tunnel? Maybe several!

Blue & Silver clad, reliable technology from Arri have produced a superbly designed "L" Series focusable fixtures that have extremely good properties and work exceptionably well. Gekko have worked extremely hard and produced a series of lamps including the "Ohm" Space Light for PRG. LightPanels have the Sola range that is also getting there fairly well, and Ianiro have developed a mains & battery driven series of fixtures that also solve a few remote location problems as well, but the new kids on the block in terms of New Fixtures come from two of the industry’s leading and most well respected lighting companies in the world, Kinoflo & Dedolight. . . . at last!
I say at last, as I know how long these instruments take to seriously fine tune their colour spectrum, and knowing the people involved in the development of these tools, it does not surprise me they have taken their time in delivering to the serious world of image creation, tools that will deliver in a manner we require.
So, what are we getting from them?
I had a privileged viewing of the new Kinoflo offering (only from Hollywood) the "Celeb" to go with the same nomenclature line as the "Diva Light".
The "Celeb" is a lighting fixture that has had a lot of thought put into it and the guys at Kinoflo have thought about its use and the quality of the light output. It is a Divalight size fixture with a similar output and gives a strong diffuse wraparound light of an colour temperature your heart desires from 2700K to 5500K.
Having an in depth knowledge of what spectrums LED's can produce, my camera and image tests were ruthless. I was looking for anything that would detract from anything but a perfect colour rendering of my favourite fabric. . Skin! I have to say I was not surprised to find that it was virtually spot on and a colour comparison found that it easily matched and mixed with a tungsten source and a Kinoflo KF 32 & KF 55 tube with no discernible colour correctable cast at all. The quality of the light was divine. A lovely velvety wrap that flatters skin and is extremely comfortable for artists to work in front of for long periods.

I can see this being used on location by every news, documentary and film cameraman on the planet as the defacto first light off the truck, as it delivers on many levels. It is very well designed mains voltage powered unit, light weight, (compared to similar tools) and will also deliver high quality light for hours on 24Volt external battery power from whatever source you feed it, and total control of the light from the selection of Honeycombs available that simply clip on the front of the fixture. There is no reason either why the Celeb cannot be used in small studios and also as an over the camera fill/eye light or problem solver on Features, Commercials and TV Drama. This is a lamp you will just want to have in your armoury for many reasons and will get a lot of use from.
The second addition to your LED armoury is, of course, the time trusted compliment to your Kinoflo tools, the Dedolight.
Yes, at last we have a superb trio of offerings from academy award winning Dedo Weigert the "Classic Dedolight 4”.
It arrives in its 40Watt incarnation as Daylight, Tungsten & a Bi-colour and has what we expect from from the Dedo stable, a punchy beam of clean light, creating a flat even field from its carefully crafted front optic projected from the optic carefully attached to the array it's self.
Again, like the Kinoflo tools, the Dedolight 4 will be mains or battery operated, which gives this lamp a superb field of operation. It will be completely at home either up the jungle on a documentary or on a feature film set, this superb lighting tool allows the image maker to craft light as we have come to expect from all Dedolights. The inline dimmer dims this lamp without any colour shift at all, so no more gelling to maintain its colour.
All the standard barn doors and accessories work with these new lights and it's colour rendering is again as expected, pretty close to spot on, so mixing these tools with others of its kind should present no colour issues at all.

Any LED creates heat, not from the front of the array but from the rear. The control of this is paramount to maintain colour stability in the unit. In larger flatter units like the Kinoflo Celeb is a little easier to control, but lamps like the LED Dedolight4 has to have a large heat sink on the rear of the chip that is finned to quickly and efficiently wick away the excess heat, and yes, it does get hot but the yellow focusing ring in front of it is as cool as cucumber and smoothly floods and spots the beam with the subtlety we have always had from Dedolights.
I have to say, these new lamps from Dedo rank among some of the "Wanna Haves" in your lighting kit. It stands alongside the classic designs of our modern age and is for me the Apple iPhone of the lighting world. In essence. . . A must have! (At least three!)

So, the light at the end of the tunnel IS bright and appears to be getting cleaner and brighter by the month. Have a good look at these new boys on the block and you will see the serious advantages over most other offerings and enjoy their creative abilities. Lets hope this trend continues and we can look forward to more useful instruments being created to do specific jobs and not just a PCB with LED's stuck on it that simply illuminates with a seriously deficient spectral output and sold at exorbitant prices for their novelty factor. Don't get caught up in the hype of the LED world. Learn a bit more about these creative tools, understand what sort of spectrum they produce, decide what your image capture priorities are and when you invest in them, buy the right tool and buy them once!


Tags: iss062 | led | cirrolite | dedo | N/A
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