LED lights dominate the TV movie industry

LEDs have revolutionized lighting over the past 15 years, and this is especially true for TV lighting. Lightweight, compact, efficient, bright and cool, LED lights have put all other types of TV lighting to the curb.

In addition to the attributes of LED light already mentioned, there is another advantage of LEDs that makes the technology seemingly ideal for television. LED components come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and emissivity, so they can be packaged in different ways. Need car dashboard lights for an action shot? LEDs are the only choice that will fit the space, provide ample light, run all night from a single battery, and won’t cook your talent.

Another benefit of LED lights is that you can get fixtures that use red, green, and blue LEDs, creating lights that can be adjusted to produce any color and quite impressive lighting effects.


Pete Challenger (Image credit: Lupo)

“The ability to produce any color from light without gels is quite appealing, and using a number of color effect lights often makes a lot of sense,” said Pete Challenger, head of US sales and support for Lupo Lighting. “Whether it makes sense to use such lights for each fixture is more open to debate.”

LEDs were a favorite of the companies contacted for this article, and the fact that LED lights can be configured in so many different ways is a big factor in their popularity.

Light quality
One of the lingering questions regarding LED lighting is the quality of light emitted by the fixtures. Tungsten incandescent lamps produced a broad spectrum of light that worked well with camera sensors. The first LED lamps intended for television production did not have this same quality of light.

Today, lights used in television are rated for their color rendering index, which is a measure of the light’s ability to reveal the colors of the object illuminated by the light. The higher the number (up to 100), the better the colors represented.

Some of the earliest LED lights for TV production were rated at 75 CRI, while today’s technology is 95 CRI and above.

“Early panels were rated at around 70 CRI and tended to be quite green, but that didn’t stop people from using them back then,” Challenger said. “Now if they’re not rated in the 90s, nobody would consider them.”


Lupo’s latest series of Ultrapanel luminaires offer lower and higher output versions (Image credit: Lupo)

Challenger said Lupo’s latest series of Ultrapanel lamps have lower and higher efficiency versions, and the low efficiency line has a CRI of 98, while the high efficiency model has a CRI of 96.

“Either would have been considered incredibly good just a year or two ago,” he said.

ENG Lighting
Frezzi has long made lights popular with ENG teams, combining small size, high durability and punchy brightness that brings out camera skills on dark city streets at night. The company’s tungsten lights and HMIs did the job a few decades ago, but they’re mostly all-LED now.

“Our customer ENG’s primary application is live and field stand-ups, so they are looking for the highest performance LED in a compact/lightweight form factor,” said Kevin Crawford, vice president of the engineering at Frezzi Energy. Systems in Hawthorne, NJ “Because our Frezzi SkyLight uses a single-source LED element, it provides a smooth, flat optical field with a single shadow and the intensity of an HMI in a small, user-friendly fixture.”

Kevin Crawford, Vice President of Engineering for Frezzi Energy Systems, with the Frezzi SkyLight (Image credit: Frezzi)

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However, are LED fixtures good enough to push HMI lights out of the market?

“We also find that HMIs are quickly removed for LEDs, even though they produce nice light,” Crawford said. “The product trend we’re seeing is that LEDs are replacing tungsten and HMIs as LEDs become more efficient and their quality continually improves.”

Crawford said LED is the lighting technology of the foreseeable future.

“LEDs are here to stay and are always improving output, light quality and efficiency,” he said. “HMIs have a much higher running/ownership cost, as well as UV issues, and lamp life is typically only 200 hours compared to 50,000 hours for LEDs. With new tunable LED single-source elements, we map luminaires with adjustable color temperature [3200-5600K]while maintaining an HMI-like output in a compact device. »

Thinness of the form factor
LED fixtures are available in many more shapes and designs than was possible with tungsten and HMI fixtures. One reason for this is the high output/low heat nature of LEDs – you can simply package them in different ways and use a range of diffusion techniques to achieve your desired lighting effect.

Lite Panels

Michael Herbert, Product Manager for Litepanels (Image credit: Litepanels)

“For LED fixtures, there are now many different types of light modifiers, so end users can bounce and diffuse light to change the size of the illuminated surface, to achieve the desired result,” said Michael Herbert, Product Manager for Litepanels. . “What’s increasingly important is that the LED light itself has enough power to be used with a range of different modifiers.”

This is partly why Lietpanels is seeing a trend towards “hard” LED light sources, Herbert added.

“These high-output fixtures can project beams of light through windows to simulate midday sunlight, but can then be pushed through multiple layers of diffusion to create a much softer lighting effect,” a- he declared.

One of the advantages of LED lamps is their excellent efficiency: they produce a lot of light using a modest amount of energy. Will this efficiency continue to improve over time?

“It’s been increasing for many years, but we’re starting to see it leveling off,” Herbert said. “Unlike the general lighting industry, TV and movie lighting needs to pay attention to the color quality of LEDs. There is an inverse relationship between color quality and LED efficiency: the more you focus on a broad, full-spectrum LED, the less efficient it will be at converting electricity into light.

How efficient are LED lamps compared to tungsten and HMI lamps?

“Movie lighting fixtures now typically exceed 100 lm/W, which is much more efficient than tungsten, but roughly comparable to HMI,” Herbert said. “I think we’ll continue to see smaller, more incremental improvements in LED efficiency, but with an increasing focus on improving color quality.”

White versus color
As with many technical situations, flexibility is a good thing, if you understand how to use it and keep device settings in mind. Many years ago there was great interest in lights that had red, green, blue and white emitters; lights that could create light of any color and even produce effects like ambulance lights or imitate the light of a fireplace.

Such lights are still popular for many applications, and they can be the right thing for a range of applications. However, the key is that you need to understand what light can do and how to get it to produce the light you need for your project.

“Just a few years ago, everyone wanted RGBW lights, but in recent years the market has demanded high-quality white light with a fixed color temperature or bicolor without RGB,” said Toby Sali, co-owner of BB&S Lighting. . “What we hear from professionals is that the option to use RGB is not necessary, and most of the time creates problems due to the option to add colors to white light.”

Although LED components are generally stable, there is some aging over time and slight variations between similar components.

“The problem with most RGBW fixtures is the calibration of the mix of the different LEDs,” Sali said. “No LED is the same, and variations from diode to diode affect the mixing of RGBW colors to achieve the desired color temperature.”

A match for the cameras?
So how good are today’s LED lights? Ultimately, a camera has to capture the scene the light illuminates, so how well do today’s lights work with today’s cameras? Do tungsten lamps still have an advantage in terms of color purity?

“Matching tungsten doesn’t really matter anymore in most cases,” Challenger said. “The problem is that all LED sources have non-continuous spectra – cameras from different manufacturers have quite different spectral response, so it depends on how the peaks and valleys of the LED spectrum line up with the sensors in the camera. My personal recommendation is that whatever color index was popular at the time, you should test the lights you are considering by viewing the results through whatever cameras you have or are considering. Everything else exposes you to the risk of unpleasant surprises.

Frezzi’s Crawford said modern lights and modern cameras are fine.

“Today’s cameras can adapt to all types of light sources,” he said. “The LEDs we use have a very good broadcast quality spectrum, and our SkyLight is balanced at 5600K for maximum output to rival a day in direct sunlight. If the color temperature of tungsten is required for a shot indoors we have a flip-down converter filter that will balance out to 3200K without significant loss in output.

It may sound trite, but over the past 15 years, LED lights have revolutionized television lighting. Besides being all the good stuff mentioned above (low weight, low heat, high efficiency, and available in a wide range of shapes and sizes), LED lights are also economical. They are no more expensive than the technologies that preceded them, and in many cases they are cheaper.

Good quality lighting at reasonable prices is one more tool the industry has used to reduce the cost of film/video production. It’s a win-win situation for creators: the equipment keeps getting better, while the cost goes down.

This is the perfect time to create content.