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Eric Gesualdo

Perks to sticking with tungsten when shooting digital?

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3 hours ago, James Compton said:

A few years ago,  I worked at an electrical supply house in Atlanta. I sold bulbs and industrial fixtures to big budget studio productions. I had conversations with DP's, gaffers, key grips, set dec and makeup on a daily basis. They all said the same thing: we want tungsten bulbs. The best boy on many Roger Deakins projects spoke about making fixtures that utilize small quartz halogen bulbs, because the TEXTURE of light is more pleasing than LED. 

I'm an enthusiastic investigator of this sort of stuff and I will generally be the last person to suggest overlooking any sort of concern over the quality of a light source. Within that, I feel bound to point out that Deakins' best boy's opinion, if this is it, is horsefeathers.

Light can clearly have all sorts of textures and those textures are imposed on it by the modifiers used to control and shape it. All of those things can be done to light produced by LEDs or by tungsten (or HMI, etc). To be completely, scrupulously fair, the ability of manufacturers to make high power, point source LEDs is a limitation here but given the existence of Mole's Tener LED and things like the Cineo R15, which reach into the kilowatt ranges, those limits are somewhat remote and retreating all the time. In most situations, LED can create precisely the same "texture of light" that tungsten can, for any meaningful interpretation of "texture." At some point, photons are photons.

So Deakins' best boy's opinion is pseudoscience. It's the sort of gibberish spouted by audiophiles who pay ridiculously inflated sums for cables that have been dipped in liquid nitrogen and polished on maidens' knees.

It's also an appeal to authority. Sometimes, people with very impressive CVs are inculcated in exactly one day of doing anything. Experts may think narrowly under the guise of being focused. Deakins' best boy, like anyone, can be wrong.

There are all kinds of reasons that the light produced by LEDs is not precisely the same as the light produced by tungsten halogen and those reasons are very well understood. None of them has anything to do with texture. Modern LED lights tend to be deficient in deep blue and turquoise and that is not well understood outside the specialism. That is all.

P

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Yes, "texture" is the wrong word. Though the LED versions of fresnel lamps don't have quite the same sharpness of the classic tungsten versions. It's a bit like the complaint that there isn't anything quite like the effect of a carbon arc fresnel lamp.

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I've been an Tungsten and HMI guy for years. I love experimenting with new things and a few years ago, I DP'd two industrial films back to back and on one we shot Tungsten/HMI and on the other, we were 100% LED, using a friends Arri LED kit. We had L series and Skypanels of various outputs and I gotta tell ya, I was very impressed. The first day we set them up, having never used them before, I was able to get the look I was after in some difficult mixed conditions (daylight bleeding into scene) and honestly, I was impressed. Where the output of the sources wasn't anything like that of a similar sized tungsten light, being able to adjust the color balance without resorting to gels and being able to run many sources off "house" power, were both incredible features. I was impressed with the light quality as well, it was the closest thing to Tungsten I've ever seen come out of an LED. I'm sad that show is the one I shot with the F55 because it's such a "cool" looking camera compared to Arri or Canon, but still I was able to do a satisfactory grade that didn't look completely like shit. lol 😛

Since then, I've shot with a lot more LED's and my experiences have been varied. I think that's part of the reason why so many people continue to prefer Tungsten because there are situations where it works great and situations where it doesn't. Tungsten always works great, there really isn't a situation outside of electricity and heat limitations, where it doesn't work. In those cases, if you have no choice, then you'll go for LED's. I think that's the power of LED, as an alternative to the mainstream solution. 

I'm still a tungsten guy. There is no denying that I probably won't buy LED's anytime soon and I'll continue to expand my Tungsten inventory once I have more space. You can throw up a tungsten light and it will be perfect every time you turn it on, just like shooting on film. Ya know for fact, the results will be what you expect in post, without having to really worry about the nuances that make shooting with modern tech so tricky sometimes. 

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Tungsten lamps photograph very well for good color, with no surprises.

The biggest issue with tungsten vs LED is speed of working. LED lamps can be adjusted for brightness using a dial or a remote. No need to climb a ladder to drop a scrim in the lamp. They can also be adjusted for color, avoiding time cutting and mounting gels. They are also lighter weight and easier to rig without light stands, as in back lighting interiors. And to add more speed, many can be powered by battery and save the time running and hiding cables.

When time is short, speed often trumps color accuracy.

Of course, when harder, more controllable light is needed, tungsten and HMI fresnel lamps are still used.

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I still find that the Source-4 Leko, both the 750w Tungsten HPL and the Joker-800 HMI version, are brighter than the LED version. So I only use the LED version when I need a dimmer daylight Leko bounce for ambient fill (scrimming, and even worse, gelling the HMI Jo-Leko is tough due to the heat.)

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17 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

I still find that the Source-4 Leko, both the 750w Tungsten HPL and the Joker-800 HMI version, are brighter than the LED version. So I only use the LED version when I need a dimmer daylight Leko bounce for ambient fill (scrimming, and even worse, gelling the HMI Jo-Leko is tough due to the heat.)

The first Source Four LED lekos, called Lustr and Lustr+ by ETC, are about 120-130W, so they would be expected to be less powerful than the 750W HPL. The LED advantage is something like four to one, not six to one, unless you want to take into account colour filtering.

The more recent Series 2 Source Four LED, specifically the white-emitting daylight and tungsten versions, exceed 240W and should be measurably more powerful than the HPL.

Nothing currently outperforms an 800W HMI in a source four leko shell; the power density is enormous. However, we are about to see LEDs in the 600-watt range start to become available. Aputure have been showing prototypes of a 600-watt LED compatible with their "spotlight mount," which is a Bowens-mounting leko tube that I think actually has better optics than the actual ETC product. LED may have a small efficacy advantage over HMI, and the combination of the 600-watt LED and lens tube may approach the performance of an 800-watt Joleko.

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15 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

LED can create precisely the same "texture of light" that tungsten can

But Phil, Tungsten looks better. It just does.

Is this an opinion? Yes.

Can I provide evidence? No.

Will I argue this point forever? Absolutely.

😉

 

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Stuart, I think Phil was just objecting to the term "texture" when color is really where tungsten shines. What does texture mean? Specularity? That's the only time I use the word, when describing a soft light with specular qualities, like when shining a light through a fabric with a loose weave, or sunlight through a light silk. I call it a "textured soft light."

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5 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I feel bound to point out that Deakins' best boy's opinion, if this is it, is horsefeathers.

.In most situations, LED can create precisely the same "texture of light" that tungsten can, for any meaningful interpretation of "texture." At some point, photons are photons.

 

Nah. Normally, I wouldn't take a stranger's word as truth without proof. Then the fella proceeded to show me photos of his home workshop where he built some of those fixtures, including a photo of him and Deakins together in front of the finished fixtures. It is not entirely impossible. Go figure.

 TEXTURE...yeah, I'll continue to use that descriptor. Quality of Light does not work for me in this instance. My eyes can clearly see the differences in light, diffused or otherwise. TEXTURE is simply the word that fits that vector of my perception.

 Phil and David are two deeply insightful industry professionals, whose posts enlightened many post members. This time, I respectfully disagree on the aforementioned topics. Cheers.

 

 

 

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Maybe we should set up some blind tests.

I think if you put it on something like a Macbeth chart, a really good eye might just barely see it, but I'm not convinced. As to "texture," well...

I also think that most people would miss the point by looking at the deep reds, whereas that's not really where modern LEDs actually fail. That little problem was identified and largely corrected early on.

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59 minutes ago, James Compton said:

 TEXTURE...yeah, I'll continue to use that descriptor. Quality of Light does not work for me in this instance. My eyes can clearly see the differences in light, diffused or otherwise

Describe those differences.

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That's fine, just define it. If it's not the color of the tungsten light you are responding to, then what is it outside of color? And if it's the color you like about tungsten then why refer to the color as a texture?

To me, once you eliminate the color issue, then you'd define a light by its intensity, its beam variance, its specularity, etc. To me, texture implies a tactile quality, how surfaces are reproduced.  I guess one could be poetic and talk about the tactile quality of colors... "juicy reds", "velvety blacks", etc. but it's not very measurable.

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What we do as cinematographers is half science, half art, so I cut a lot of slack when people get vague about these descriptors, but pseudo-science bugs me when it starts to create an inaccurate impression of what is going on.  It's a bit like the film versus digital debate -- we all recognize that film creates a different look but if we cling to vague feelings about that difference, rather than more measurable issues, then we can't solve practical problems in terms of look creation.  Same goes for the tungsten / LED debate. Obviously there are differences both in color and in the design of lighting fixtures that can use the technology, but IF the goal is to get LED closer to tungsten, then we have to define the differences more accurately rather than just talking about out emotional responses. We have to break things down into their components of color response, specularity, intensity, spread, real-world response to conditions like temperature, etc.

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Maybe he was talking about the quality of the light from the bare bulb and 'texture' is just not a very good word to describe it.

Sodium vapor has always felt very soft to me.
Quartz hard.
Frosted tungsten bulbs have a totally different quality than clear. One is soft the other hard.
I've only ever seen one arc light in action, and it was pretty unique.

Some of how we perceive it may be color temperature and spectral output. Also the size of the source. Something with a tight source looks different than a bulb with a big long filament. A big LED COB looks different than an array of smaller LED.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

How light falls on and reflects off something can be different depending on source. It's not pseudo science it's just art. Artists can use whatever term or word that does it for them. No, I'm not a pro and not even in visual arts generally but I do come from a family of 'em, fwiw. I think texture is a cool word to use. Some light just looks a bit different ... we are all saying this. Science can come into art, definitely. Ultimately, it must. But the two are wholly separate fields and feel and emotion are entirely to be trusted. But everyone here already knows this. Just saying.

Also, we live in an era of a somewhat arrogance in science. Do we really know what light is? In fact we do not. It's still a bit mysterious to pin down. And thank heavens there are still mysteries that just elude us.

Edited by Jon O'Brien
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Jon have you been at the Port again .. 🙂 ..  we do know what light is .. very scientifically.. its been studied to death from 100,s of years.. what is this mystery of which you speak..  

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9 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Stuart, I think Phil was just objecting to the term "texture" when color is really where tungsten shines. What does texture mean? Specularity? That's the only time I use the word, when describing a soft light with specular qualities, like when shining a light through a fabric with a loose weave, or sunlight through a light silk. I call it a "textured soft light."

David,  I was really just making a joke about the numerous opinions and sometimes esoteric ways people describe ‘light’. Much as I love using tungsten, I’ve never thought of it as having texture.

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No pseudo science, here. I am speaking from an artistic perspective. I am referring to light absent of color. 

Firelight - soft

Incandescent - soft

Fluorescent - crisp

Quartz halogen - crisp

Metal Halide - crisp

High Pressure Sodium - soft

LED - crisp, Sharp

 I have seen every permutation of LED technology and the light always appears thin and sickly. Now, throw color into the mix and it still looks thin. I can quickly spot a scene shot with RGB LED's versus tungsten units with gels. My eyes can perceive the defecits in the aforementioned technologies.

TEXTURE is the word to describe them. Not a fan of LED's. I simply will not use them for photography. It makes it easier for all departments when shooting with a digital format. You don't have to like it or agree with me. That's just me.😉

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Posted (edited)

How do you classify fire light and incandescent light as soft ..  its heating the shite out of a piece if metal till it gives out light .. its a really hard light .. as is fire light ..  ?? 

Edited by Robin R Probyn
spelling

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It seems to me that there is a disconnect between the terms used to describe the emotional evocation of different sources, and the technical terms used by researchers. I could imagine feeling a soft, intimate emotional response to fire light, and this response would be taking place in between my eye's observation and my brain processing that information. And that is not to say that it is invalid or that my brain tricking me, photometry is the study of how the human eye perceives light, and that eye/observer is just as important as the photons of light. That's one of the interesting things about color, it can be greatly informed by our memories and feelings. One might observe an orange to be of a greater saturation if that is what they remember as a child, etc. Balancing this real and justified emotional interpretation of light/color with the technical aspects is a challenge that the DP, LD, or gaffer must face.

As someone on the manufacturing side, I appreciate that the artistry of light may take on a different vocabulary and way of thinking. However, we work to create tools that best suite your needs, so maintaining a dialogue and getting input from the artist is essential if we want to create something useful. Sometimes we may need to take a step back and consider what we should do because it is useful, vs. what we can do because it is possible. At the end of the day, we are creating tools, and we must use objective methods and terminology if we want repeatable results and quantifiable goals. I'm not saying that we don't want to hear the artistic terminology, but if there are certain things that you like or dislike, digging into the technical language will help make our dialogue much more effective. 

When you say soft, perhaps there is an emotional context motivated by color or even the flickering that brings about memories of sitting around the campfire. When the R&D team designing a fixture says soft, they are referring to a diffuse source vs. a specular one. At the end of the day, our lighting instruments have to be described in purely technical terms for the sake of specifying and manufacturing; The further that you the artist can bring the conversation into the technical realm, the better the chances are that we can move the technology in a direction that suites your needs.

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1 hour ago, James Compton said:

No pseudo science, here. I am speaking from an artistic perspective. I am referring to light absent of color. 

Firelight - soft

Incandescent - soft

Fluorescent - crisp

Quartz halogen - crisp

Metal Halide - crisp

High Pressure Sodium - soft

LED - crisp, Sharp

 I have seen every permutation of LED technology and the light always appears thin and sickly. Now, throw color into the mix and it still looks thin. I can quickly spot a scene shot with RGB LED's versus tungsten units with gels. My eyes can perceive the defecits in the aforementioned technologies.

TEXTURE is the word to describe them. Not a fan of LED's. I simply will not use them for photography. It makes it easier for all departments when shooting with a digital format. You don't have to like it or agree with me. That's just me.😉

I weirdly understand what you're saying here. However, I would be very hesitant before bringing this up in a professional context, if for no other reason than it will cause confusion.

The reason is not because the light is actually softer, it's because the longer wavelengths are more visible to the eye and so it's just easier to see the harshness of the bluer lights. Additionally, bluer lights activate our photopic vision which makes that harshness even crisper.

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2 minutes ago, Andy Jarosz said:

I weirdly understand what you're saying here. However, I would be very hesitant before bringing this up in a professional context, if for no other reason than it will cause confusion.

The reason is not because the light is actually softer, it's because the longer wavelengths are more visible to the eye and so it's just easier to see the harshness of the bluer lights. Additionally, bluer lights activate our photopic vision which makes that harshness even crisper.

I'm not sure that this logic holds up. Peak photopic sensitivity is defined as being 555nm, which is a green color. Check out this luminous efficacy chart. Maybe I'm misreading, but it also feels like you are referring to blue light as being longer in wavelength, while the inverse is true. If anything, our scotopic vision is more sensitive to blue light than our photopic. Please let me know if I'm misinterpreting your post.

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When I use a Litemat 8 on a face, the last thing I think of is "crisp and sharp" to describe the effect. And when I light the face with a direct tungsten Source-4 Leko spot, "soft" is also the last thing that comes to mind.

I have to ask, what is the definition of hard and soft for light then? Wouldn't it be how sharp or blurred a shadow patten it creates?

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Just to weigh in here, for perhaps no good reason. I blame the virus for my time to waste...

The idea of light “texture” makes no sense to me. Light plus shadow can create a texture (from the shadow), but not an evenly illuminated light.

Soft vs. hard light is a function of parallel light waves vs. random. The size of the lamp, and the distance to the subject, relative to the size of the source.

Simply put, a “diffuse” one inch diameter lamp, will cast a sharp shadow 20 feet from the lamp. We all know this from experience. And vice versa.

We all learn this stuff pretty quickly as cinematographers.

So why all these emotional words to describe a light fixture?

The emotion is a combination of what’s in front of the lens, plus the lighting/shadowing of the subject.
 

Simple stuff. Color accuracy of particular lamp/camera combinations is a good area for discussion. 
 

And, to me, film doesn’t look “organic”. It looks “dithered” 🙂

 

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You could compare something a bit less apples and oranges -- a tungsten Mole Tweenie versus their LED Tweenie. The LED version is softer than the quartz-halogen version, I think because the emitter bulb has multiple LEDs inside and becomes less of a point source behind the fresnel lens.

"Emotionally" a single candle flame is a "soft" source but in practical lighting terms, it is a fairly sharp source depending on the size of the flame.

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