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Getting to Know the LED Ellipsoidal Generation – A JimOnLight Series Introduction

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I’ve done a lot of shows in my career so far. I’m lucky as hell, don’t get me wrong – but because of it, I feel like I have a real “bond” with incandescent and high-intensity discharge lamps (HIDs) that we use in this industry. It’s almost creepy sometimes – in my head, I know how a good ol’ no-color Source Four looks in a dark theatre. I know how an Altman 360Q looks in a theatre sitting next to it, too – and how it looks sitting with a Shakespeare, also uncorrected, next to a Source Four. As I close my eyes to write this, I can see how an old Strand 30-degree feels inside of a theatre or outside during an outdoor performance, and how a tried-and-true PAR64 can burns so beautifully bright and amber when it’s going through red shift during a nice slow fade-up during a song in an arena. Even awesome old Kliegl 6×8’s have a good beam still, as long as the optics are changed from those miserable step lenses!

As a side note, I listened to Vesa Honkonen tell a story when I was attending graduate study in Sweden about “trusting” the light from a certain type of reflector, and how that trust cost him time and money on a project.  So as a bit of an aside, with every statement is an equal anti-statement!

I have gotten to know the fixtures in our industry very well because I’ve been fortunate to use them in a real variety of performance situations and installations. When you get to know something like an ellipsoidal fixture with an incandescent lamp in it and you use it over and over and over again, you get to trust the fixture.  I can say with ease that I trust the light that comes from the business end of a Source Four; at the same time, I trust the light that comes out of an Altman 360Q as well, whether it has an HX601 lamp in it or an old FEL lamp.  As a designer, as an artist — I know what that light from an incandescent lamp in one of the “typical” variety of ellipsoidals is going to do for me in a scene on actors of any skin tone, or on a presenter during, or on film and video, and whether it has a chunk of R26 or L181HT in it.  I know that kind of light.  I trust that light.

In the world we live in now, incandescent lamps are slowly becoming forcefully shunned by a growing portion of the lighting industries as a whole (and politicians, sadly), with LED replacements becoming the forced norm by pretty much all of the companies that at one time were pushing an incandescent based fixture.  These companies are all now driving quickly on the road of a really good trend: to produce a fixture that provides the same kind of light or better than that of an incandescent lamp based fixture with a lot less power consumption and without losing any light quality.  Sounds easy enough, right?

There is a strange, edgy, “new car smell” feeling towards the new strains of LED fixtures making their births into the industry.  We are inundated with them at the trade shows in our business, just like we were with the incandescent conventionals.  Manufacturers, this is perfectly acceptable, and I think that it’s one of your biggest assets in this industry.  It’s your job to make us trust your fixtures, through hands-on videos and “shoot-outs” between incandescent and LED fixtures out there.  My informal surveying of conference attendees over the last three years has seen many responses like “TOO MANY LEDS” and “If I see another crappy wannabe LED fixture at another trade show, I’m going to die.”  Believe it or not, this is a really good thing — it provides an opportunity for the exceptional equipment to rise to the top of the Diode Ocean, as I like to call it.  Lately, these exceptions are overcoming their inferior rivals, much to my happiness.

Users, we have a job to do, too — we have to give the manufacturers the chance to trust LED light.  We have to learn how it is different than its incandescent counterparts.  We’ve had all of these decades to learn how to work with incandescent light (and HID light too, for what it’s worth), and we know it.  We trust it, and we love it.  But why is that?  It’s because it’s what we know, and it really is that simple.  Once we give the LED ellipsoidal generation a chance, you know we’re going to trust that too.  This isn’t to say that LEDs are done developing, this obviously isn’t true.  But I am noticing some unbelievably incredible advances in LED engines and output technology lately, especially after LDI in October 2012, and I have to say that I am finally ready to learn to trust LED conventional ellipsoidals.  It’s hard not to at this point to see that LED ellipsoidals are becoming the obvious choice, with the color temperature tuning we see now and the low power requirement that they provide — and to argue against energy consumption and power conservation is just not in my DNA.

Over the next 2 weeks I’m going to be comparing the LED conventional ellipsoidals we see in Entertainment to their incandescent counterparts over the next month, starting with ETC’s new Source Four LED line first, followed by Robert Juliat’s Zep and Tibo ranges, then moving on to the RevEAL Profile from Prism Projection, and so on.  In the mean time, let’s take a look at the characteristics I’ll be examining that I find important to applying trust, at least on paper – you can argue that there are more to see, but for the sake of argument, let’s start with:

  • Cost Comparison:
    What kinds of costs are we looking at over the course of an LED Ellipsoidal lifetime?  How different is it, really?
  • Light Output, or Perceived Brightness:
    How does it compare to a comparable incandescent conventional?
  • Spectral Analysis:
    What is the white light in the beam comprised of with respect to wavelength?
  • Power Consumption:
    When you put an LED ellipsoidal up against an incandescent lamp at 575W, how does it perform?
  • Weight:
    I have to stick these in a truck and on a truss at some point, so what is the difference I need to know?
  • Controllable Properties:
    Obviously I have only a few with an incandescent fixture, so what comes stock in an LED ellipsoidal that makes a difference?

Let’s go on this journey together.  When we work on something together as an industry, we get to make it how we want it to be, and manufacturers listen.  Once we started to get involved with the ways that incandescent lamps were developed and lighting designers started demanding better control over design and engineering of incandescent lamps, they improved.  All we have to do now is learn what the LED Ellipsoidal generation can do for us, and we can really make a difference.

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Good Morning Inspiration! Berlin, from Space, at Night, from Colonel Chris Hadfield at ISS

Good morning, Earth!

An awesome piece of inspiration this morning from Canadian Colonel Chris Hadfield, Commander of the International Space Station.  Col. Hadfield took a photo of Berlin at night from the ISS (he does this all over the Earth, btw, and they’re all awesome), showing an obvious color temperature divide between the higher quality HIDs of West Berlin and the crap Sodium Vapors of East Berlin.  To look at this photo gives me inspiration, and I hope it does for all of you.  West Berlin has 43,000 sodium vapor lamps that are being phased out slowly.

Also, are you on Col. Hadfield’s FacebookWHY NOT?  He is AWESOME!

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GOOD MORNING!  THAT’S NOT TOO LOUD, IS IT?!  I LOVE YOU ALL!

Luxim’s LIFI Technology – A Follow-Up with Tony McGettigan at Luxim

One of my favorite things about digging into our industries is the people and relationships I make through research and interviews.

I recently had an email chat with Tony McGettican at Luxim Corporation, the folks who are making the LIFI plasma lamp.  Their unique and innovative product is becoming widely spread across all of the lighting industries, and it’s been an exciting addition to the Entertainment industry.  Seachanger is using a LIFI lamp in their NEMO fixtures, Robe is using a LIFI lamp in their ROBIN moving heads, and as the industries realize the merits of plasma tech, we’ll see a lot more of that lamp in the very near future.

I asked Tony a few followup questions a few weeks ago, after having a great email interview with him earlier in the year.  I’ve been tracking their progress for a long time, and I will continue to do so.  Questions and answers are below:

JimOnLight.com:  The last time we talked, Luxim’s LIFI source was just grabbing footing in the Entertainment lighting market with a plasma-source for Robe’s ROBIN series moving head. Now, great companies like Seachanger are getting in on the action with a LIFI source in their NEMO CMYG fixture. Are there other entertainment ventures that Luxim is participating in to date?

Tony McGettigan @ Luxim: We are very pleased with the Robe and Seachanger programs.  Each has been recognized in the industry as ground breaking in terms of performance and innovation.  There are several exciting new projects in the pipeline that we will be able to share more on later in 2010. You may be aware that Robe won the Innovation Award at PLASA in London as well as the SIEL Award in Paris last year.  In addition, the SeaChanger Nemo won the 2009 LIGHTFAIR Innovation award in New York.

JOL: How has the LIFI technology changed or improved since gaining partnerships in the entertainment industry?

Tony @ Luxim: We entered this sector with market-leading color quality and lifetime.  Our focus is now on increasing brightness.  We are doing this in two ways:

  • By developing more efficient systems at the current wattages, AND
  • By adding higher-wattage product offerings to our line-up

JOL: Has Luxim seen a larger market share in the infrastructure and civil lighting markets since the release of the LIFI product?

Tony @ Luxim: Our technology is being adopted in all sorts of applications from aquariums to grow lighting to zoos.  In the infrastructure and general lighting markets we are gaining share as a high-illuminance complement to LED solutions.  Several of our customers have a strategy of using LEDs in general lighting applications up to 15000 lumens and using our technology where higher output is required. We have a customer in the US that already has secured orders from 5 different cities and municipalities.

JOL: There’s lots of news stories about new and innovative LIFI applications, from aquarium tank lighting to mobile lighting applications for the construction industry. Can you give some insight on the new projects in related industries that Luxim is pursuing?

Tony @ Luxim: Here are a couple of examples where the unique attributes of our technology are helping our customers deliver better lighting solutions.

  • In Aquariums, our source can deliver excellent color quality AND excellent penetration into the water.  This dramatically improves the visitor experience.  The fish show beautifully while plants and corals can thrive deep below the tank surface.

  • In grow lighting, our sources increase the “seeding rate” and show faster, more efficient early-stage growth than competitive sources on the market.

There are many more examples, but this gives a flavor.  The uniqueness of our light source is apparent at first sight.  In each of our applications, customers are harnessing some of the unique features to deliver a superior overall lighting solution.

Jim, these are very exciting times at LUXIM.  Light Emitting Plasma is gaining significant acceptance in the marketplace and we continue to improve upon our technology.


Tony, we’re so excited to see what comes next for Luxim and the LIFI technology.  You have many fans in the JimOnLight.com community!  Thanks for your time, as always!

The Hula Skirt: Low Tech Solution for A High-Tech Pain in the Rear

Here’s the scenario:

You’re loading in the XYZ Company’s big corporate show into Anytown, USA’s huge convention center.  Let’s just say for gitz and shiggles that the room is a few hundred feet long and a few hundred feet wide, and the only real cost effective way to light the general area when not using the show’s production lighting is to use the high-bay fixtures (the big metal halide scoops) for room lighting.  You could add a bunch of lighting specifically for the house to the rig, but that’s usually never in the budget, so you’re forced to use the venue’s general illumination lighting.  Inevitably, this usually:

  • leads to the general room lighting looking like a huge pile of crap
  • completely ruins the mood you were trying to achieve
  • washes out your video screens because the room lighting is never in the right place for video
  • or a combination of all of the above

Now in the past, I’ve always tried to use a combination or turning certain zones off in the venue which has the tendency to leave important parts of the room dark and swearing at all of the universe as a whole, which usually solves nothing.  A company called Shadow Management has come up with a very low-tech solution to the problem of annoying convention center lighting getting in the way of all your great design ideas – why not cover it up, block off what is annoying you, or even color the entire system of houselights to meet the design requirements of your production?

Meet the Hula Skirt:

The folks at Shadow Management have really solved this problem at the “well, duh” level, which I like very much.  Either cover the darned lights up or use them as colored toplight!  Makes pretty good sense to me!

Check out some images, all taken from the Shadow Management website:

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Lighting 101: HID Lamps

Have you ever been out shopping for replacement lamps for your home and saw acronyms like HID, HPS, MSR, and HMI?  These acronyms refer to lamps that are different than your typical household incandescent with a filament – HID stands for High Intensity Discharge lamp, and refers to lamps that utilize an electric arc to create light.  HID sources are typically very, very bright, and have a very high color temperature on average.  Color rendering indexes, and correlated color temperatures are all usually very high in HID sources.

High intensity discharge lamps don’t have a filament, and do not function like an incandescent lamp except for in the fact that they require electricity.  As a matter of fact, they’re about twice as efficient than incandescent Tungsten Halogen filamented sources, typically.  Once the lamp is ignited, it burns consistently and clean during its arc phase.

Take a look at this image:

HID sources usually consist of a few basic parts – an arc tube, arc electrodes, a metal salt, and a gas, usually of the halogen or chalcogen family on the periodic table.  Once the arc is ignited, the gas and metal salts heat and evaporate to a plasma phase, which greatly increases the light output of the lamp, and also makes it use less electricity.  HID lamps need a ballast to both start and maintain the arc that occurs in the arc chamber (the glass envelope part of the lamp) – to start, the ballast sends a high voltage across the arc gap, which refers to the distance between the electrodes.  Depending on the lamp, this could be as little as 500V or as much as 3500V.  Once the arc is established, the ballast drops the voltage down to a “maintenance” voltage, maintaining the arc and keeping the lamp lit.

HID laps are similar to welding – they put off high amounts of very high color temperature light that can hurt your eyes if you look directly at them.  HID lamps are sort-of like controlled welding in a way, except the deposit that welders make is not quite how HID lamps operate.  HID lamps are made of all sorts of chemistries, from Mercury Vapor lamps (the streetlights that are extremely white/blue), Sodium Vapor lamps (very yellow/amerish light), to Medium-Source Rare-Earth or Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide lamps.

What?  Hydrargyrum?  Did someone burp?  Hydrargyrum is another name for Mercury.

HID sources are used all over the place.  When a need for wide area lighting is required, HIDs do the trick – next time you’re at your favorite big-box retailer, look up and see what’s lighting the store.  Fluorescent tubes are HID lamps, and they are found everywhere.  HIDs are used in Film and TV Lighting, moving lights, and anywhere that a bright, consistent and efficient source of light is needed.  They’re everywhere – the World Trade Center site, atop the Luxor in Vegas, in some car headlamps, video projectors, and in millions of other places.

Handling of HID sources takes some extra care; when changing out an HID source, the best bet is to use some sort of face shield and eye protection while it is still warm.  As the lamp cools down, the lamp is even more fragile than in its cooled state, and could possibly explode in your face if you weren’t careful.  Never look at the source, as mentioned before – this can cause overall blindness and loss of night vision.  HID sources are usually high voltage sources too when in operation.  Take extra care!

Luxim’s Eeny Meeny Little Lamp Outshines a Streetlamp HID

So, a company called Luxim has invented a tic-tac sized lamp that contains argon at its center, a component called a “puck,” and a dielectric embedded structure that heats the argon to over 6000° K – making it so unbelievably bright for its size.  A source that uses plasma to generate light.

Could we be on the verge of something amazing here?  It certainly looks that way:

The plasma bulb uses 250 watts, and achieves around 140 lumens per watt, making it very bright and highly efficient. By comparison, conventional lightbulbs and high-end LEDs get around 15 and 70 lumens per watt, respectively.

“A key advantage is that the energy is driven into the bulb without any electrodes, so you don’t need any electrical connections to get the energy into the bulb,” Luxim CEO Tony McGettigan explained to ZDNet.

Check out articles at CNet and Physorg.