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Photon Management
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Old November 18th, 2008, 08:09 AM   #16
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It's very exciting for me to know that there are now so many players in the LED ENG+ lighting scene. 5 years ago when I complained about the lack of interest in making LED camera lights, my whining was met with dead silence on the Illuminations forum chorus . Now everybody's singing the same tune!

Here are some point to consider when buying LED based camcorder lights.

Output Baby Output
Don't be fooled into thinking that a 20 LED cluster of the teenie tiny sub $50 hobby video lights variety will be enough. Most prosumer/pro camcorder lighting has to compete, not with total darkness, but in many cases, with a substantial ambient illuminations level that has to be filled or otherwise supplemented. A good test of a single ENG light's usefulness , is to camera mount it outside in broad daylight. With a back-lite 'talent' , can the camera mounted light provide enough main illumination to bring a face out of the shadows. If it can at an exposure setting that holds highlight detail in the background - you've picked a winner. Very few single fixture camcorder lights can compete with broad daylight that way- even at 8'. Indeed, I often need two of the most powerful LED based lights to meet the challenge effectively. Reflectors help.
Illuminating total darkness is a different matter entirely. That's where any light is better than none and the more illumination the better. If you're shooting an indoor event and you're at full aperture and 1/30 you can probably make good use of the smaller, weaker LED lights. Realize that to balance a 5,000K LED fixture such as the LitePanels Micro indoors with tungsten incandecent, you'll probably attach the Full CTO filter to achieve color harmony. That act will cost you 50% of your light's output. That's another great case for bigger, more powerful lights.

Beam Profile ( AKA coverage, Signature, Illumination Window)
This is the scene coverage in degrees () Horizontally as well as Vertically. Without going into excruciating detail, not all lights cover the same angle, nor do they need to. Obviously, you start by asking questions about the function of the light in question. In 3 point, it's going to either be a main, fill or accent light. For ENG/Interviews at 6'-10' your on camera LED light can be the main or if ambient is predominant, the fill. In some cases it will simply provide a catch-light to liven up a face.
These days you have two main choices- High Flux emitters (Rebel, Seoul,Luxeon) or 5-9mm Nichia types. The High flux emitters feature lambertian beam patterns that are very conducive to management via either a reflector or an optic, designed to modulate the beam for an intended purpose.

Which type is best for the Videographer?
The High flux fixtures such as those used by the LED-Z ( LEDz lighting, maker of LED Lighting Fixtures for Entertainment, TV, Film, and Theatre ) family of lights are the easiest to control, allowing for user imposed changes of beam angle. I like the LEDz Mini Par because I can mount a 40 optic for standard Interview lighting on camera or use a 25 or 8 for spotlight or accent lighting purposes. The narrower beams are also handy for giving the light distance 'throw'.
The 5-9mm Nichia types are those pesky pinto bean sized 1/2 Watt emitters that tend to be clustered together to form mini or maxi banks of light as in the Litepanels LP-Micro Camera Light fixtures. These types are excellent WIDE angle lights if properly designed in BIG banks. Think of them as mini window lights or effect lights. The low wattage emitters are very efficient and though they put out much fewer lumens/watt than their High flux cousins, they typically have longer runtimes and lower voltage requirements. In addition, 'Panel Lights' can be used to simulate computer monitor or TV illumination as well as provide Main, Accent & Fill lights for table-top shoots.

Color of LED lighting
Most current LED's are sorted (somewhat like diamonds) by color of output as measured on the color spectrum. Without going into detail, videographers typically prefer to start with either a 3,200K, 3,400K or around 5,000K light, which can then be filtered as necessary to harmonize with ambient light . Some of the more sophisticated fixtures contain a blend of Amber and White LED emitters, allowing the user to vary the color temperature of the fixture's output with a dial. In other case, the LED emitters contain die (not dye) components that allow for a myriad of color outputs using computer programmed and dial controlled 'mixing'. This is really the future of video lighting- not gels.

Photon Management
This refers to the process of modulating the character of the light than emanates from the source. Mini reflectors, optics and diffusers or defraction gratings are used to change angle and to diffuse the beam.
Again, I like High Flux fixtures because they offer the widest range of possibilities for the videographer. Unfortunately, these fixtures, sporting the brightest Seoul P7 emitters, for example, can be beyond the low budget Indy shooter. They are however the best value for the money, as manufactures often charge far more for fixtures using the little Nichia emitters than those $5.00 clusters are cost to buy on the street. Should the videographer care? Probably not.
HINT- buy from a manufacturer that plans an upgrade path for their systems. Currently, most of the high flux fixtures are just a soldering iron away from a reasonable upgrade path. Some manufacturers (Lupine Lighting Systems) offer plug in modules that anticipate advances in the LED designs of the future. Indeed, we've already upgraded our Lupine 'Wilma' twice in two years. Oddly enough, Lupine Lights are for Bicycles not Camcorders- but that's another story.

The Future
Some day, if it has not already arrived, we'll have LED based lights that are wirelessly controllable and that may even be linked to a camera's ( RED?) controls to allow for camera controllable set lighting. Till then, it's nice to just have something portable, efficient and of a consistent output and color temperature & CRI to get the job done.

M.P. El-Darwish - Imago Metrics LLC
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Old November 19th, 2008, 01:23 PM   #17
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While i haven't used the LP Mini, I have to give a thumbs down to to the LP Micro.

1. It's really weak. More than a few feet, forget it. For events and weddings, too bright spoils the mood, but this light isn't even close t that.

2. It's blue. I have used it with the 1/2 CTO that comes with it, and the results were semi-acceptable after some CC, but the background was orange. Using a full CTO, there isn't any output.

3. You go through a lot of AA batteries. Using Alkailine batteries, the power drops off after an hour. (It's hard to see, just looking at the light, but your EVF will let you know). I imagine it could be better and more steady longer with some good rechargeables, but frankly, I don't have time to bother.

4. The dimmer is nice, but I usually want to dial it up the other way, and there's no there there.

I have had much better results with the halogen Canon lights, and with them I can use the same batteries as the camera. I'm looking for a similar light with a dimmer and barndoors.
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