Over Saturated?

I have posted the content below on my own page as well. But I thought, this is a matter of greater interest for us lighting and theatre people. And this is why I will also place my ideas here:

We all have a certain style of lighting as production. Yes, the show dictates probably a lot about time and place of the story. And the director also has a high influence on the final product. His style and the way he imagines the show will ultimately determine the way it has to be dealt with lighting wise.
But we all tend to have our own style that is usually reflected in the way we approach the design. Some people tend to go for a lot of white lighting and layer different shades of white on top of each other. Some designers might be heavy on the side light or have a very special lighting position they want the light to come from. For me, I think I am definitely a fan of the deeper saturated tones. You will also find some lighter colours in my rig, but usually there will be some quite bold colours around.
With strong, saturated colours, I always felt quite comfortable to set the general mood of the scenes. The lighter ones come into place when it comes to lighting the actors. There I feel that the key light should not be too colourful. This is why I usually don’t have a lot of saturated colours front of house.

Now, it seems we are about to close another chapter of technology in theatre- and event lighting. The one of tungsten light sources. The incandescent light bulbs for our homes have already been banned from the shelves in the supermarkets and been widely replaced with questionable “alternatives” that don’t bring us the same quality of light in terms of colour temperature and spectrum, but are a lot more energy efficient. I won’t go into details about the disadvantages of these revolutionary replacements and the given fact that this has been a very clever lobby movement – this article is about something else.

Of course, us, working in the entertainment industry also get affected by this. It is only a matter of time until the halogen light sources are banned (not only in homes, but also for entertainment purposes) as well. The manufacturers have started years ago with the development of new, compact and lightweight LED fixtures to eventually replace the now common ones. We gained a lot of new tools out of this. As always when there is new technology developed and shaped, there is a lot of crap products around. But time usually helps for a natural selection of the useful things.
We gained much faster lights, lower power requirements, lots of little dots that light up, extreme brightness, lower costs and so much more. What we didn’t gain is a better quality of light. I feel that over the past years, every event I attended and where a large amount of LED fixtures were used, the overall feel of it was quite sterile and in a way cold. I cannot describe it better, but for me, the feel of any colour coming from an LED source is quite cold. And it is highly saturated. I also feel that we lost variety. As people don’t really know how (and if) you can get subtle tones out of the pixelated fixtures, they simply tend to go for full saturation all the time. Think about it. I think the most commonly used colours lately were deep blue (100% Blue), some strange type of amber/yellow (100% red, 100% green) and a lot of magenta (100% red, 100% blue).

Don’t get me wrong. This is not meant to say we should get rid of LED lighting. But I think it is also wrong to completely ban the incandescent light source. It is a given fact that the spectrum of this light source is good for us. And I don’t mind selecting colour gels for a fixture. In fact, I always like doing this. And I also don’t mind that the colour changes when I dim down the light. Maybe this is even an effect I want to have…?

LED will be the future. Period. But there is an awful lot to do before I accept it as a perfect replacement for the tungsten light we are still used to. The charm of a tungsten show is unmatched by modern LED fixtures. And I really feel we are loosing something by blindly following the LED way. I don’t expect the manufacturers to build brighter lights or faster lights. How much brighter and faster do you want to go? I expect them to build fixtures (and I know there are products around already that can do some of this to a certain extend) that offer:
– NO visible pixels. LED as a light source and not as visible “dots” everywhere.
– proper dimming. No further explanation needed.
– in also in the dimming section: Maybe it makes sense to build a light that behaves like a tungsten fixture? So that when you dim it, it changes the colour temperature according to a tungsten light source. But then, probably the spectrum will always remain in the way.

But then, there is a lot to say about the positive aspects of LEDs. I leave this to everyone else. If you want to contribute, then feel free to do so.