A great way to compare lights or experiment with new technology is to rent it from your local gear rental house. In this movie, author Jim Ball compares LED lighting with traditional lighting technology to find the similarities between them and point out scenarios where they would be well suited for.
- I've assembled a variety of types of lighting from my local rental house, DC Camera, and incidentally this is a good way to experiment and learn about different technology, by renting it before you buy. Then you can identify what you will consider essential to every shoot you do and what might be considered an occasional specialty item. So we have tungsten lighting, and HMIs, which are daylight balanced, fluorescents and LEDs. I have a mixture of all of these in my garage because each has its own use at the right time but one thing I always look for is lighting that can be multi-purposed for a variety of shooting conditions.
I get more bang for my buck and I can carry fewer instruments if they do more than one job. LEDs are great for this. Let's compare LEDs to some of these other kinds of lights one by one. So tungsten lights are usually cheaper to buy than LEDs and cheaper to rent by a lot but dimming changes the color, so when you decrease the voltage it will actually get warmer so it's not color consistent, and they get very hot to the touch, a lot hotter than any other kinds of light, and then to decrease the intensity without a dimmer you have to use these scrims, these wire scrims, and that will work without changing the color but these get hot and you have an extra step to do.
And they're not much good for daylight either because they're native 3200 degrees Kelvin, that's the color temperature, the native color temperature so if you're going to use them in a daylight situation you'd have to gel them, a blue correction gel, and that's going to decrease the output by a whole lot. And also tungsten lights are generally not multi-voltage so if you go overseas and use 220 or 240 voltage and 50 Hertz cycle you're going to have to change out the bulb to a special 220 volt bulb so there's a lot of extra work even though you're saving a lot of money.
But one of the advantages are, as we said before, this is a full spectrum light, tungsten is a full spectrum light so the CRI rating is 100, it's a perfect 100 so if you're going to compare an LED you're going to want to find an LED with a score as close to tungsten as you can, or I might choose tungsten in a more controllable situation like some of my studio work. Let's look at the next family, HMIs. HMIs are daylight balanced native lights, 5600 degrees Kelvin generally, they can be dimmed, some of the more expensive models but the range of dimming is usually limited and there's minimal color change when you do that.
Otherwise you have to do the same thing to lower the output, you use these scrims to decrease the intensity without changing the color. But these get kind of hot too, not as hot as the tungsten lights but they get hot and they're also bulkier, they're a little heavier, bigger build, and they also have more parts and pieces, they usually require one of these ballasts to run to your power source. So there's more parts, there's more bulk, but generally these are more power efficient than tungsten and they have quite a bit of output, these are things you might even use outside to augment natural daylight so they have a lot of punch to them, they're very popular.
They use lenses like Fresnel lights or they can be open face so there's a lot of varieties, they're generally very expensive because of the daylight output and all of the efficiencies in them, but the bulbs are uber-expensive, you have to change the bulbs. This is a 400 watt HMI bulb and these can be well over $100 to replace these, you're not going to need to change your LEDs for a long time, you're going to have to do that quite often with these lights and with these lights, so bulb changes are a factor of all these other traditional lights.
And LEDs are smaller but they're catching up in the punch factor every day, there are lots of LEDs coming out now that will rival the punch of an HMI. And last we have fluorescents. Fluorescents got lighter and offer a nice, soft quality of light but they need a reflector sometimes to match the punch of some of the LEDs these days. The tubes are getting smaller but you still need to change tubes and if you're going to change color temperature, generally you have to change the tubes or you have to add the gels so it's all those extra steps that LEDs, some of the bicolor and more advanced LEDs, don't have to do.
This is not as quick and effortless as a bicolor or RGB LED but we're moving the direction of lighter and efficient so they're not bad. So as I said I have all of these kinds of lighting in my kit and I use them all for different situations all the time. I tend to use some more than others in different situations, you need to experiment, you need to evaluate your workflow and the kinds of shoots you're doing. Sometimes it's just a matter of having them in my kit longer and whenever they have a use occasionally I can decide to keep them in the kit, they sometimes come in handy at just the right time.
Now you can certainly be very observant as you get on more shoots and get more experience as to when different situations dictate using different kinds of lights and you can make your own decisions based on those experiences and observances so just bear in mind there are lots of different kinds of lights, LEDs are not the only one, we'll talk more about the advantages of LEDs but all of these have had their uses in their day and continue to be useful in my kit.
- Types of LEDs
- The cost of LED lighting
- Advantages and disadvantages of LEDs in video productions
- Bouncing and diffusing LEDs
- Mounting LED lights
- Controlling light temperature
- Transporting LED lights to a location shoot