Lately, there has been a surge in the number of video crews using LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for digital video production. This has come from the recent innovations in technology that allows for LEDs to be made relatively inexpensive. Though still somewhat costly, the prices are only slightly more than traditional kits such as tungsten lights. However, for any use, they can recoup costs quickly and lead to long term savings.
We chose to use LEDs for many reasons. The first being that they are economical. Though slightly more expensive than their tungsten counterparts, they use much less power. LEDs use about 30 times less power than standard lights, meaning not only are the energy costs lower, they are more environmentally friendly and they put out much less heat. What also makes them better for the environment is the fact that they last much longer than standard lights and contain no harmful chemicals. Normal light bulbs that use filaments dissolve over time and only last a couple of months under heavy use. On the other end of the spectrum, LEDs can last for several years, maybe even decades. Also important is the portability and durability of these lights. Since LEDs have no filament, they can withstand shock, vibration, heat, and cold much better than standard lights. They are also lighter and more space efficient, meaning they can be packed up and taken to production shots abroad, as opposed to normal light kits. For the studio, they have one key feature that makes them shine: LED panels light up very quickly, meaning there is no warm up period, and no excess heat.
In our recent testing with LED lights, the reception has been fairly warm. The color they cast in stock form is pleasing, but slightly blue. Not only can the brightness be dimmed quickly, there are switches that control which parts of the panel are on. In our experience, these switches are helpful for taking off the brightness of the scene quickly and reducing the eye strain on clients. For a more realistic color, filters are needed. However, there is one thing to note: standard tungsten filters do not produce the same hues with LEDs. So, some trial and error, along with specialized filters, may be needed to produce what is needed. To produce realistic colors, we used a skin tone corrector filter and a CTO filter together. We found that this takes off the glare produced by the lights, and corrects for the blue hue. For filters, we suggest Lee LED filters, as these have been color corrected specifically for LED kits. One other mild quirk is the fact that the cord on the lights is much to short to use without an extension cord.
For years, people had to suffer under hot lights that made the room unbearable. These new LED lights run so much cooler that you can put your hand right on the panel, it will still be cool to the touch. Considering how much more convenient they are to use, as well as the cost and heat savings, these lights can hold their own with tungsten, if not better in their own right. These lights can show the world that you use only the most up to date technology.
By Evan Jacques & Horacio Jones