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Current faves for LED heads


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Hi all, just back from my yearly gig as LD for Circus Big Top at Glastonbury. My rig was as usual provided by the most excellent Fineline Lighting and consisted of S4s, fresnels, Pars, Sunstrips and moving heads by Chauvet Professional with the Rouge R2 washes and the new Maverick 2 profiles. These all behaved impeccably (with a couple of odd personality issues, but thats a subject for another thread)

No, the deal here is photographs. I took a few hundred shots from FOH of some shows and am reviewing them. As with last year, the ones that are unquestionably better, as far as skin tones and general warmth are concerned are those that are lit predominantly with tungsten. Last year I had Robe spots so its not the fault of Chauvet.

Our shows in Circus are becoming more and more theatrical in nature so this is something I really want to look into. I know that LED kit is here to stay, and it seems to me that its really only ETC that have cracked it. I am not interested in loads of effects. I want decent rendition of skin, smooth pastel colours, smooth movement and some nice gobos in my profiles. Thats it really.

It really should not be a big ask eh?

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So for me and LED Wash lights, I've always had great experience with the Robe Robin products and used them in a lot of varied situations, from theatre mixed with tungsten to rock and roll where they had to be used as a replacement for tungsten.

I'm always happy to see them on any spec I'm presented with.

More recently I'm really liking the Clay Paky k10s and 20s the most (either B-Eye or not), just for the colours and zoom range. I'm not sure I can quite put my finger on what exactly it is, but they're my current preference.

However, I feel with most decent LED washes they can all compare well and with careful handling they can all achieve the same performance.

I'm not really a fan of using LED products that aren't homogenised first, they never seem to mix colours properly.

I've used Robe DL4X's recently on a festival and they appeared to have a good output and colour mixing, but I didn't have time to work to hard with them. My show file was updated and off we went within 20 mins.

Mac Quantum Profiles however are quite nice, they have a white LED chip and then use CMY flags to create the colour mixing. I've enjoyed using these units on theatre and rock and roll in the last 6 months. They do some unusual uneven colour mixing at full zoom with a prism though, so watch out for that. They've got some beautiful gobos that focus up really well however.


LED has so many uses that quite often out weigh more traditional ways, but I don't think you can ever replace the beautiful way in which tungsten reacts with most objects.


And on a side note, I think LED Moles should be banned outright, they're bleeding aweful!!

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Hi James,

What settings have you been using on your camera? That will be having as much of an effect as the light source. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but a quick flick through I saw a fair few photos with different colour temperatures, sometimes within the same shot. Depending on your settings and camera, where the camera pulls exposure and white balance will have a big effect on the colours and tones generated. Have you tried with a RAW file and pull the balance by eye on a colour balanced screen? Also I picked 1 file at random and there was no EXIF data in it.


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Both the Robe 600 and the Chauvet Rogue washes have RGBW with tungsten emulation. The Robe comes out a bit pink, and the Chauvet is a bit - dull I can only describe it as. But not actually bad. It seems to be that the profiles are experimenting more with amber and lime LEDs to try and achieve a better tungsten look. It would be nice to see that same kind of science applied to washlights.

I generally shoot RAW with auto white balance set on camera then tweak it in Lightroom. There is no correct wb setting when using as mixture of tungsten, LED and discharge but awb on my Olympus has a pretty good stab at it, so a good calibrated screen and eyeballs are really the only way to go I agree.


"And on a side note, I think LED Moles should be banned outright, they're bleeding aweful!!

Yeah, totally.

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I've had a few photographers and video people complain about the results they get when I'm using LED, so it may be the camera set up that is highlighting the difference. Having said that, I think that there is a fundamental difference between the texture of tungsten and LED light. There is a flatness and hardness to LED which to me borders on the uncomfortable. I lit a panto last Christmas where the entire FOH cover was Source 4 Lustre series 2 profile units. Although the colour mixing was superb and the intensity more than adequate I struggled to get the same definition in peoples faces than I would with tungsten fixtures. It's as if human skin reflects LED light more flatly than tungsten. I also found it quite uncomfortable to look at for long periods of time. It is almost as if my brain can sense the flicker that is in the units, but my eyes can't actually see it. This is certainly the case with cheaper LED stuff, particularly Christmas lights, which make me feel quite nauseous. The same venue has equipped its studio space with RGB PARS as working /houselight and people are starting to complain about headaches after long periods of exposure. It is possible that, a bit like florescent tube lighting, some people are more sensitive than others. However, as the use of LED becomes more widespread, it will be interesting to see if this becomes an issue.


I realise that I have wandered a bit off topic here. I find the Robin DLF4 wash and DLS4 profile pretty good for skin tones. In theory, the 7 colour DLS7 Profile should give the ETC colour mixing system a run for its money, but I've not had the opportunity to use one yet. I was also quite surprised at how good the MAC Aura XB was on skin tones.




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There is a flatness and hardness to LED which to me borders on the uncomfortable. ... It's as if human skin reflects LED light more flatly than tungsten.


I think this is down to the "jaggy" spectrum of LED compared to the smooth spectrum of tungsten. There's all sorts of dips in the LED spectrum where there is much less light emitted in those colours - although your eye does a great job of smoothing it all out, there is definitely going to be a difference in the way lit objects respond to the light.


This picture of the Lustr spectrum says it all... and that's probably the best colour mixing currently available




Regarding flicker, some people are much more sensitive than others, it bothers me a lot but often others can't see it at all. There is flicker (though softer edged) on dimmed tungsten as well though.

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"I think that there is a fundamental difference between the texture of tungsten and LED light. There is a flatness and hardness to LED which to me borders on the uncomfortable."


Thats exactly it. The texture is something undefinable - and its very much the flatness and hardness that is an issue. If the colour temperature is the same - and the full spectrum of colour is there - then it should be okay. But very often the full range is not there, just what is deemed necessary. Also there may be something about the fact that a fresnel or PC lens lends qualities to the light that an LED array does not, even though they are going through another kind of lens.


As for the flickering, Steve Connor our video guy commented that the LED battens I used last year caused issues, so I replaced them with good old Sunstrips this year for floor lights. He said that the Rogue washes had some flicker issues, but not nearly as bad. But some people just do not see the flicker. I was once standing lin line at a supermarket checkout, and above the till was a flickering florrie tube, When I got served I asked the girl "doesnt that drive you nuts?" She replied that she hadnt even noticed. I got bugged within a couple of minutes. Same with old CRT monitors - I used to go and see clients who had the most shonky screens at some awful refresh rate that I just couldn't deal with, yet they were staring att hem all day. Weird.

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