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Sunday, December 22, 2013

My LED LIghts - Not Your Cheap eBay Specials

I've been talking about these lights for a while and using them on jobs, getting to know them. Above I'm mixing in the quad 48 LED emitter with an HMI while using a dual 24 emitter as a back light. How can you use an LED light as a back light from 10 feet away ? well because these lights actually are focused and throw the light a pretty decent distance. They aren't like the common panel light with simple wide angle LED's of various grades of quality. Below is a look at what makes them work from the inside :

You can see the LED emitters and the nice photograde polycarbonate lenses that diffuse the direct sources a bit. You can also see the big custom anodized heat sinks. These lights are made from modules of 12 LED's to make 12, 24 and 48 emitter units. The circuit boards the LED's  are soldered into are are made not of typical fiberglass but METAL ! Your read that right, medical spec product here. This greatly adds to sinking the heat the LED's make. The boards themselves are glued with a special heating conducting silicone glue that's VERY expensive but does the perfect job in securing things and conducting the heat away.  Mil spec product like is never cheap, but it always works great.

While LED's get billed as "cool" lights, they do in fact make heat. They typically emit heat towards the back of the unit. If you don't get rid of the heat you burn the LED's out rather quickly. So heat management is important to LEDs and thats why these lights are made so well. These units have no fans which is a major boost in keeping a reliable life thanks to this mil spec fabrication. The heat sinks will get warm during operation, but never hot.

Next are the CREE high CRI of 94 LED's. They aren't cheap to say the least, but that's what it takes right now to create an LED light of true cinema quality. If you take high per unit cost X 24 or 48 emitters you can see how the price of these lights gets up there. 

The benefits of high CRI is important. While you can filter out green with gels ( minor light loss ) or camera white balance ( sometimes ) you run into problems with mixed sources. If you mix sources the only option is minus green gels in 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 values.

The other place CRI makes a difference is in gelling the lights to other color temps. These lights are 4300K. That might seem odd but that was done because these LED's have the highest CRI possible right now and thats the color temp they are made in. Going to 5200-5600K would drop the CRI. I have a 5600K LED that if you gel it to 3200 goes pretty visible green because of its spikey performance. That's a CHEAP ebay light. Using a 4300K light also works perfect in a lot of office environments lit with overhead florescent lights. Often all I'm using in these situations are diffusion.  4300 also means minimal light loss when going to 5200 or 3200. SInce these lights have throw to them gelling doesn't hurt very much. Even when using correction gels I still have these lights dimmed to 50% or 75% ! 

I love the compact size. 2 of the dual lights with power supplied and AC power cables are easy to travel with including airline friendly case. I could easily put 3 lights into a case and still be under 50lbs. If that matters, this is a big deal. 

Another thing I like are the dual ball swivel locks on the back. They make positioning and aiming these easy. Yes light a fresnel light they do need to be aimed to hit what you want to light up. Here is a look below at them on a shoot I did a few days ago for a national sports network at Lambough Field. 

In the background of the camera shot there its all 3200K tungsten. In the foreground there was a mix of tungsten and 6000K daylight. We went direct with the 4300K which got the background a little bit warm but still nice. The daylight that was spilling into the talent was simply washed away. You can see how these lights are throwing from 6-8 ft back from the talent. There's not wasted light being dumped all over the place like panel lights... not that I don't have some panel lights and have uses for them too !

The entire power draw is an amazing 60W per light. This easily could of been a dual 500 or 1K tungsten & gel shot or 400W HMI's. They are also dimmed to about 80% for better balance with the background.

These lights have a XLR4 DC 12V input for alternate power options. I haven't gotten around yet to getting some Anton Bauer plates with XLR4's on them but I will eventually. a 120W Hytron will run these for 2 hrs straight. Given the nature of live shots, we could shoot all day just turning them on when needed. Without the warm up of HMI's you can go live at a moments notice if you get the call.

Above : Another ESPN shoot at Lambau Field With Bob Holzman as talent, Chris Hibben on camera. I have the quad 48 working as key, and the 24's as fill and hair light. The big flex fill is bouncing back in some good light and blocking out some bad light. Went live quite a few times during the day with Packers updates. 

Another nonobvious feature of these lights are the internal driver boards. They make 250fps safe light. Try that with cheap LED's and even some of the expensive ones and you won't be happy, you'll have flicker. While shooting high speed isn't something you do everyday, its nice to know these can play in the mix up to a reasonable point. 

 The problem has been that most people expect these lights are $300 because of the cheap panel lights coming out of China. The problem is the parts in these lights cost more than that, never mind labor, machining, anodize and powder coating, and even, well, how about some profit so the lights can stay on and bills get paid ? Of course the question I'm going to ask - what would you be WILLING to pay for quality like this ? Post a comment and let me know, maybe there are one or two left you can have for yourself !