February 1, 2014

Why Hollywood Will Never Look the Same Again on Film: LEDs Hit the Streets of LA & NY

cleantechnica led street lighting lights lamps sodium vapor mercury clean green la los angelesAfter Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story's setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city -- especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city's night lighting. Even the film's protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Read on for why Hollywood will never look the same again -- on film or otherwise.

Here's the trailer for Collateral if you need a visual refresher:

Mann chose to shoot HD because of how the format rendered the story's setting. Considering that Collateral takes place over the course of a single night, its portrayal of LA's nocturnal landscape is integral to the film. Due to the city's recent retrofit of over 140,000 street lights, that nocturnal landscape has changed forever.

LA Goes LED

Environmentally speaking, this is a good thing -- though it's easy to get a little nostalgic to put the implications of this retrofit into perspective. In a sense, every night exterior LA-shot film previous to this change is rendered a sort of anthropological artifact, an historical document of obsolete urban infrastructure.

Justin Gerdes has written a ton for Forbes about LED lighting and its benefits to cities big and little, including the following in September: "On June 18, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced [PDF] the completion of the first phase of the project, with LED fixtures installed on 141,089 street lights." He goes on to say (my own emphasis):

The City of Los Angeles estimates it will see at least $7 million in electricity savings and $2.5 million in avoided maintenance costs annually with the switch to LED street lights. Street lighting can account for up to 40% of a city’s electricity bill, according to Eric Woods, writing at the Navigant Research blog. The LED fixtures used in Los Angeles, which include Cree’s XSP series and LEDway series, Hadco’s RX series, and Leotek’s GC series, consume about 63% less electricity, and last much longer, than the high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures they replaced.

The ecological and economic benefits are rather astounding -- but the transition to LEDs has another unique effect, and one that's specific to filmmakers. Let's first take a look at what LA has 'lost' before we check out what it's gained, and why it could make a difference on camera.

What Makes Artificial Lighting 'Realistic'?

Simple_spectroscope prism cri color rendering index full spectrum white light artificial lighting source tungsten incandescent versus fluorescent

The interesting thing about non-tungsten artificial light sources is that they often produce a non-continuous or incomplete spectral output. This can affect the appearance of certain colors under that output. More simply, you can't really put colors back in that weren't there to begin with, even by gelling such a light source or color correcting in post. At left: emitted spectrum of incandescent versus compact fluorescent lamp, courtesy of Wikipedia user Timwether. Notice the non-continual spectral output emitted by the latter (bottom).

Color Rendering Index or CRI attempts to rate a lamp's ability to approximate an ideal, continuous spectrum source. 100 is the highest possible CRI score, though some types of artificial lighting -- ahem, many traditional street lights -- can actually score in the negative numbers. For filmmakers, CRI is a yardstick of limited usefulness because a simple number such as "85" can't explicitly tell you which points along the spectral output may suffer, or even how many such points that output may have. On the other hand, a spectral power distribution graph of sufficiently high-resolution will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about a lamp's spectrum, but information may not be readily available.

It isn't necessarily simple, easy, or inexpensive to get non-tungsten lighting technologies to perform at the level filmmakers want and need. This is why HMI and Kino Flo fixtures do a very good job and don't come at a low price. That being the case, it's not hard to imagine that old-school street lights may not hold up so well by comparison -- for better or worse.

The Light That Was

There are two very common types of artificial lighting sources used for street lighting: sodium-vapor and mercury-vapor lamps. If you've ever lived anywhere that gets lit up at night, you know sodium-vapor lamps. Aside from being the key to an absolutely fascinating old school film compositing process, sodium-vapor  is one of the most common types of street lighting. The distinctive orange glow cast by this type of light is efficient, functional, and cost-effective  -- or at least was in 1933. Interestingly, low pressure sodium-vapor lamps cast a virtually monochromatic spectrum of light. Apparently this can have several beneficial effects on night driving, but is downright hilarious to see plotted for spectral power distribution:

Light Wavelength Chart

High pressure sodium lamps look less silly when compared by chart, but still don't hold a candle (I went there) to the spectral power distribution of "full body" light sources such as tungsten lamps or sunlight. They're also common enough for filmmakers to need lighting gels which help mimic their distinctive output (see also the Collateral writeup in American Cinematographer). Mercury-vapor lamps, on the other hand, produce better color rendition than either of their more efficient sodium brethren, though their CRI is still poor. Being related to our beloved fluorescents, their cast is generally a 'cool white' with a blue-green dominance.

Understandably, none of these guys are ideal for the reproduction of natural (never mind pleasant) skin tones. As such, sodium and mercury-vapor lamps are mostly relegated to streets, parking lots, industrial locations, and the like, but in turn give such locations their starkly unique, artificially lit recognizability. At least, until now.

The Light That Will Be

To see how it all affects 'the big picture' both past and present, check out the incredibly striking before and after below (photo courtesy Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting):

cleantechnica led street lighting lights lamps sodium vapor mercury clean green la los angeles

According to the Forbes article, the same residential LED fixture going for $432 a piece in 2009 went for $245 by the end of 2012, with its output boosted from 42 to 81 lumens per watt and a life expectancy improvement from 80,000 to 150,000 hours. If I'm doing my math right, that's about 17 years of life if the lamps were running constantly.

los angeles la led street light conversion complete

How much of an upgrade these LEDs will be over their sodium or mercury-vapor ancestors in terms of performance will likely vary depending on the fixture. Whether it's an upgrade at all, I think, is a more clear-cut matter: in terms of color rendition, the above comparison speaks for itself. The answer is: yes. The LEDs should very well prove a benefit to existing-light photography -- better for the environment, and in nearly every case, better for cinematography. Whether the new look is visually preferable is a subjective matter, but you probably won't find as many proponents for the old one.

At left is a geographical representation of the program's progress, courtesy the LA Bureau of Street Lighting (click for full PDF). It's visually apparent that filmmakers exposing by the existing street lighting of Los Angeles will be picking up very different imagery, even in many of the same locations, as they might have before. It's also interesting to consider how Collateral might look if it were shot today (or tonight, I should say), advancements in digital acquisition aside.

Links:

Your Comment

85 Comments

I think it's pretty exciting! Can always make it yellow in post, but like they said, colors missing from the spectrum can't be added back in.

February 1, 2014 at 11:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Don't forget about the dreaded flicker effect from LED lighting. If ever shooting with these LEDs I would go from 48 shutter speed to 30 because the flicker is noticeable at 48 and even more so the higher the shutter speed is.

February 1, 2014 at 11:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

The flicker is only on the cheap LED lighting. Hopefully they'll use better quality ones that don't flicker.

February 2, 2014 at 5:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Clark Nikolai

I tested the LED streetlights in West Seattle by scanning the lamp at a low shutter speed. There was no flicker at all. The previous sodium lamps flashed at half frequency as fluorescent, probably 60 Hz. I could see it in a 1/6 second exposure of moving cars front lit by a service station with a bit of flare from a street lamp.

It depends on the power fed to the diodes. Cheap 120V Xmas lights that cut the voltage by placing several diodes in series look like they flash at 60 Hz. (I tried to feed them DC and at 60V they were unexcited. It may be that peak to peak 170V might be what matters instead of 120V RMS.)

Lifetime on LEDs depend as much on the other components. If the LED lasts years but the power supply lasts months maintenance will be high. The household LEDs have cheap noisy switched power supplies, test with an AM radio tuned off station. Your mics or cables might pick it up.

Also the light from fluorescent varies depending on quality. Hallways and stairwells are likely to get the economy bulbs. Office space might have better and art space better yet. A cheap spectroscope will show this. It sure was disappointing to look at my fluorescent back lit workstation monitor with it. Oh well, it works as good as the others.

February 7, 2014 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
inohuri

What does shooting in HD rather than SD have to do with color rendition?

February 1, 2014 at 11:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Larry Vaughn

digital HD instead of FILM

February 2, 2014 at 8:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
palisady

Residential LED fixture going for $432 a piece in 2009 went for $245 by the end of 2012. Who pays $245 for a residential LED anything?

February 1, 2014 at 11:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Larry Vaughn

I think residential is meant for the (public) area of the light to be used, not in actual homes.

February 2, 2014 at 6:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Robert

What does shooting in HD rather than SD have to do with color rendition?

Or was the author talking about HD vs film?

February 1, 2014 at 11:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Larry Vaughn

yes I believe he talking about digital verses actual film

February 2, 2014 at 12:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

I've shot under LA's LED lighting numerous times. No flicker.

February 2, 2014 at 12:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

3
Reply
Paul Stephen Edwards

but if you d shoot slowmotion you would get a flicker, no? because you also have to adjust the shutterspeed and angle accordingly.

February 2, 2014 at 9:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Pat

I'm not a slo-mo guy. :)

February 2, 2014 at 1:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Paul Stephen Edwards

Shooting slow-motion with available light at night?

February 3, 2014 at 10:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Emiliano Ranzani

In the slow motion cinematography world LED's have actually becoming a saving grace. At full output, something like a 1x1 LitePanel does no show any flicker at variable high frame rates. Sodium vapor lights do flicker something terrible, so from the slow motion stance, this might actually be a good thing.

February 3, 2014 at 12:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Rob

Isn't that because LED panels are designed to work with batteries, so they have to convert AC to DC? Street lights would be connected directly to AC, so it may be different.

February 3, 2014 at 3:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Ok

LEDs themselves, are inherently flicker-free at any frame rate (speed). HOWEVER, it is the inexpensive power supplies that make them 'flicker' at high frame rates. I am certain our city used the cheapest foreign-produced power supplies they could find... ?

February 3, 2014 at 9:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
RobM

I know some people will feel nostalgic about the old light. But the new will have it's own special feel. Colors are more distinct, everything isn't just different shades of yellow-brown, and details are more visible. With higher K's in cameras also bringing out more detail in low light this opens up new possibilities. The glass is half full, and with campaign. Smile! :-)

I'm not really much of a believer that governments are changing over to these lights because of the environment. It's about the huge savings. But it is good that this particular money saving is getting mercury light bulbs permanently out of use. I always thought it was telling that the twisty straw florescent bulbs that were supposed to be saving the environment, the bulbs that came to be known as Al Gore light bulbs, had to be handled in special ways when disposing of them because they had very hazardous levels of mercury---they were saving the environment with those bulbs....? Got it.

February 2, 2014 at 1:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Gene

opps, champagne

February 2, 2014 at 1:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Gene

I lived in one of the neighborhoods that switched over. It took some getting used to. The LED's are around 5000k I think, very odd seeing cool bluish light flooded on streets. Camera wise it looked pretty great, but because the LEDs are set up in multi source arrays the shadows that tree branches and other things are pretty crazy!

February 2, 2014 at 1:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
jmg

The article is in error. You can always color correct and add the so-called sodium vapor look back in. Clean white lighting is the easiest thing to degrade in post. It's much harder to take OUT the sodium vapor look if you wanted the night scene to look clean.

I think that whole look was ugly and overrated anyway. I think there's far more interesting things cinematographers can do with night looks, and the color temperature of the city lights is the least of their worries. This is a meaningless article written by a non-technical person who didn't bother to get a pro DP to comment on the color temperature of sodium vapor lights (2700 degrees K) vs. LED lights (roughly 5500 degrees K). It ain't a big deal.

February 2, 2014 at 3:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Vidiot

You're right. It's aesthetics and I think the new look that we will be seeing is just as good. Nice, clean light. It's usually a treat to watch a night street video lit with white light in the first place.

February 2, 2014 at 3:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Tyler

This new look to city streets will make it easy for them to teal and orangeify everything, the background is already cool; just light the actors with tungsten, set the white balance to about 4K and you're set - orange skin and blue/teal lights.

February 2, 2014 at 3:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Where did he claim you couldn't put the sodium vapour look in through colour correction ? I can only find the part where he mentions you can't put colours back in which weren't captured in the first place, which isn't the same thing. I think you're confusing his assertion that LA's streets will no longer have the sodium vapour look right out of the box (which he is saying) with the assertion that you'll no longer be able to get the sodium vapour look at all (which he doesn't actually say).

February 2, 2014 at 9:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Actually, you CAN put different colors back in during post. It all depends on the time available and the skill of the colorist and VFX people involved. We radically change stuff all the time during color correction, particularly when retakes and pickups are done weeks or months after principal photography has wrapped, even at different locations. It's done far more often than you think.

The original article claims that LA will lose the look because the lighting has changed. It hasn't, in that you can get almost any kind of look that the DP wants. If the original author had bothered to contact a DP and have them comment on the piece, it would've added much more authority to the content. This is what happens when non-technical people try to tackle technical areas that involve artistic judgement and taste.

February 3, 2014 at 2:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Vidiot

I won't weigh in on putting colours back in post because I'm not qualified but as a reader, again, I'm not sure the article's saying what you think it is, or at least seem to think it is. What I took from it, and what I meant by "out of the box", was that LA's nighttime streets are now going to look different from the previous sodium-vapour look - to the eye. So if you're trying to reproduce the "look" of LA's streets (as Mann was in Collateral), then you're not going to try for the sodium look anymore, with any technique - gels, grading or otherwise - since it no longer reflects the visual reality of the city. And that, at least, isn't something you'd need to consult a DP about, obviously. I can't speak for the author, of course, so I could be wrong - Dave, if you're reading this, feel free to jump in and clarify.

February 3, 2014 at 6:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Hey Vidiot, here are words from David Mullen of the ASC discussing the part of my post with which you seem to be taking issue:

"Sodium Vapors have missing wavelengths so they cannot be fully corrected -- all you end up with is a muddy, desaturated image if you try. Plus if you try and white balance to a color temp much lower than 3200K, you are already pushing the blue channel quite heavily. At the most, you could try just adding a little coldness to take out some orange. But white balancing under the sodium lights isn't really going to work well, I'd try putting some 1/4 CTO on a tungsten light pointed at a white card and white balancing to that -- that would add a little blue into the sodium color but not cancel it completely.

As for gels, there are lots of combinations people try. Rosco just created two new gels for this purpose: Industrial Vapor, which is an ugly brown-green gel that supposedly matches real sodium, and Urban Vapor, which is an orangey-yellow gel that looks like most people's impression of sodium vapor without as much green. But you could also try various gel combinations, like Full CTS + 1/4 Plus Green, Apricot, etc."

Here's the source of this quote: http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=39681

My point was not that LA could not be color corrected or lit to match a certain look, but that its natural ungraded look has changed, which it has. The aesthetic implications of this are subjective. That and incomplete-spectrum lamps behave differently than natural or full-spectrum sources.

February 3, 2014 at 9:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
avatar
Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

You misunderstand R. David Mullen ASC's message. He's talking about the difficulty of color balancing under Sodium Vapor lights. He's 100% correct. I'm saying, if you had to, you could *easily* take today's white LED lights and make them yellow in color correction. Just pull a highlight key and add yellow. Easy and trivial to do in color correction. We could recreate the Sodium Vapor look in seconds.

The article implies that we've *lost* something by the changeover to white LEDs. My point is that the new lights are actually better and more natural. We can always degrade streetlights and make them uglier in post; what we can't do is take ugly lights and make them look *good* in post. The article implies that the change is bad; I argue that the change is good.

Mullen is a very, very good DP and was robbed when he didn't get nominated for the much-slammed SMASH last year. Extremely well-lit show. Content... not so good. Lighting was great.

February 4, 2014 at 5:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Vidiot

Ah, but how will these new lights effect the hookers on Hollywood Boulevard?

February 2, 2014 at 3:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

More natural flesh tones should ensure higher revenue streams and save on make up to 'white balance'...

February 2, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DUDE

You guys have won the internets today.

February 2, 2014 at 9:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
AlfonsoJ

Actually, warmer tones are better for hookers, since warmer colours helps to increase blood pressure, increase the pulse rate and increase the physical sense acuteness.

This is why the sex industry use a lot of red lights, as this helps them to excite their clientèle and thus get more business.

Put this to a test yourself: have your partner and you have an intimate encounter in a room with blue or cold light, see how off-putting that would be.

February 2, 2014 at 11:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
JR

If You want to deeg deeper into LED color lighting fidelity, You can check this paper from OSRAM:
Light and Color Methods of Achieving High CRI with LEDs
http://goo.gl/9bKNMn

February 2, 2014 at 3:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
SydneyBlue120d

Thanks for the link! Do you have more beginner explanations which don't go too deep into scientific terms (as far as not explained)?

February 2, 2014 at 6:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Jan

I do not have any other documents beside that, sorry.

February 3, 2014 at 12:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
SydneyBlue120d

ok, so light is measured in 2 main areas: color temperature and Color Rendering Index (CRI). The color temperature is what the color of the light is from reddish to yellow, white, blue. The CRI is how well you can differenciate colors. HPS has low color temperature (yellow) and low CRI (can't differentiate colors well in the light). LEDs have low to high color temp (yellow to white to blue) and usually high CRI (even the yellow colors).

February 5, 2014 at 10:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
LightNerd

This is an interesting and informative read but I think it primarily deals with how human eyes and brains perceive color, not how digital sensors perceive color. As the paper points out, CRI is not a very good judge alone of the color fidelity of a light source for human vision. As it relates to sensors, it's an even poorer indicator, from what I understand of the AMPAS solid state lighting project:

http://www.oscars.org/science-technology/council/projects/ssl

More meaningful and relevant measurement tests are being devised for solid state light sources.

February 2, 2014 at 1:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Brian

Not only do I find that the new street lighting is not as pictural as sodium, but also, filmmaking considerations put aside, 5600K daylight lighting at night is bad for our biological clocks, and it seems like nobody ever gave a thought about this issue at the Bureau of street lighting.

February 2, 2014 at 3:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
William

nothing beats falling asleep while drunk driving under sodium vapour lights.

February 2, 2014 at 6:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Robert

You're right. Blue light stimulates our brain and keeps us awake for longer. Maybe it's linked to the fact that ambient daylight light is blue or something.

February 3, 2014 at 6:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Tyler

I agree with most people on this thread. Sodium is a pain in the neck and Post Productions let us choose weather we want it yellowish or not. For the gentleman talking about flicker. He may istake LED with CFL light bulbs who are actually flicking. And even some of them are flicker free now : http://oliviatech.com/flicker-free-cfl-bulbs

February 2, 2014 at 4:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
manu

LED flickers and so does CFL. Even the kinoflo CFL's are for regular frame rate only.

February 11, 2014 at 7:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Daniel Mimura

What they need is some of those bluetooth led lights, then they can change the colour to whatever they like ;-)

February 2, 2014 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Jw

I've been trying to find before and after videos of the lighting but it's been impossible. I can't even find videos of the current LED lighting. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

February 2, 2014 at 10:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
AlfonsoJ

I miss the gas lamps. Damn that Edison!

February 2, 2014 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
JPS

lol

February 2, 2014 at 8:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Gene

I'm more of a candle kind of gentleman. My father keeps talking about the good ol' torch days.

February 3, 2014 at 3:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Carl

This and the green bike lanes have vexed production in LA the last year or so. The bike lanes have been repainted slightly less flouro green but we still spend a lot of time painting them out in post. Dear LA: if you want to know why we have to shoot 90% of car ads in Vancouver, thats a BIG reason.
Have been on a couple sets where the street lighting was turned off and 'replaced' with tungsten or lower 'practicals'.
On my low budget stuff I've had no problems at 24fps with the new LEDs. Haven't noticed anything at 60 either but that may be because I will have probably lit that with a fixture.

February 2, 2014 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
marklondon

Yeah, it's funny that bike riders that pay zero in registration fees take up so much money and space on the streets.

February 2, 2014 at 8:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Gene

Los Angeles, home of the worst traffic in the country, doesn't benefit from bicyclists?

February 2, 2014 at 10:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Note enabler

Yes, it's those bike riders' fault we have a lot of traffic and no new freeways. It isn't as though the taxes those bikers pay could be enough for new freeways especially since billions are constantly thrown away on feel-good policies and programs to appease hysterical masses. Every tax dollar should primarily go towards new streets/freeways, and if anything/whatever is left should go to other things.

February 3, 2014 at 12:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Pianohero

In my city, the streets are beginning to change from a very unique looking orange to a blue LED look. I can't decide which is better... Orange seems like horror lighting, the white light of the LEDS seems to remind me of the "blue night" films of the 80's.

February 2, 2014 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Connerkward

they shot collateral on a Viper. part of that was because the camera was one of the first HD cams with really good low light performance that let the camera see the ambient light far better than conventional film at ISO500. it also had 4:4: output as another factor.

Not sure if 800 was around when they where shooting, or that you could push process a 1/2-1 stop at the increase of contrast.

as for LEDs @5000K. if you want the warm, though maybe not pure yellow look of So Vapor lights, you can do the reverse cheat. gel your FG lights at 5600K with CTB to get 8500K or so. set your WB to that and the LED's will go warm. I've done the reverse as well. I did a nite ext. shoot w/o any HMI's but wanted the cool blue look. I also didn't have a ton of lights or power to be putting up 5K's with CTO. what I did instead was go straight 3200K tungsten, but then cheat the white balance down to 2200K, as low as the camera would go. This turned the 3200K pleasing cool. Flashlights in the scene came in as neutral so it worked perfect and I got max light from the 1K's I did have up. so you need to understand WB - its relative and you can push things around once you learn to separate FG from BG light.

February 2, 2014 at 4:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Nice article. Thanks.

February 2, 2014 at 6:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Lionel

I used to think that the streets there were paved with gold ... now I realize it was all lighting.

February 2, 2014 at 8:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

Thank god. I've always thought sodium vapor light looks disgusting

February 2, 2014 at 10:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Damon

I'm myself am looking forward to the switchover to LEDs for night shooting. I realize there is an entire, younger generation that will wax nostalgic about the yellow sodium vapor look, but growing up in both the neighborhoods and films of the 1970's thru mid-80's, for me this is a wonderful return to "the good 'ole days". The mercury vapor streetlights that were everywhere when I was a kid was reflected in the coolish blue nighttimes of HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NY, WARRIORS, THE TERMINATOR, etc. The similarity between LEDs and mercury vapor lights is a welcome change. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of nighttime available light for that "film noir in color" that a cool night lighting scheme creates...

February 2, 2014 at 11:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Trey

Oh gee, what is creative Color Grading?

February 3, 2014 at 4:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Natt

What a bizarre article? Cities look the way they do at night because of a compromise. Not because anyone CHOSE to use light sources that were not full spectrum. It's what we've grown accustomed to, but clinging to it for subjective reasons is pure nostalgia.
Yes, in time it will make film, video and still images immediately dated. Just like film grain and scratches, the shredding of video without a global shutter, and the effect of 3:2 pulldown on broadcast video. Asking whether we should keep the old compromises for the sake of continuity is simply sentimental foot-dragging.
If you want to make retro movies, make sure in the future you carry some sodium vapor tinted gel to wrap the LED street lighting...

February 3, 2014 at 7:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Jerry

As a video camera rental house for the pass 5 years, LED is here to stay. Indeed looking at the power savings and duration, we will see more places using LEDs. Years later LED will look realistic and tungsten unrealistic because we will live in a world lit by LED. Good that you highlighted this early.

February 3, 2014 at 11:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Nobody cares that the American Medical Association warned several years ago about adding this amount of blue light to nighttime lighting. Just another Cassandra, those people.

American Medical Association:
?Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting” -- “adopted policy recognizing that exposure to excessive light at night can disrupt sleep, exacerbate sleep disorders and cause unsafe driving conditions. The policy also supports the need for developing lighting technologies that minimize circadian disruption and encourages further research on the risks and benefits of occupational and environmental exposure to light at night.” https://ama-assn.org/resources/doc/csaph/a12-csaph4-lightpollution-summa...

Research sources:
Am J Prev Med. 2013 Sep;45(3):343-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.04.011.
Adverse health effects of nighttime lighting: comments on american medical association policy statement.
Stevens RG, Brainard GC, Blask DE, Lockley SW, Motta ME.

The American Medical Association House of Delegates in June of 2012 adopted a policy statement on nighttime lighting and human health. This major policy statement summarizes the scientific evidence that nighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism. The human evidence is also accumulating, with the strongest epidemiologic support for a link of circadian disruption from light at night to breast cancer. There are practical implications of the basic and epidemiologic science in the form of advancing lighting technologies that better accommodate human circadian rhythmicity.

More at:
Prof. Abraham Haim</a

Dangers of exposure to “white” light
Exposure to light at night: link with obesity?
Light at night and cancer
Seasonality and seasons out of time
Exposure to artificial light at night and prostate cancer

Hey, who cares?

February 3, 2014 at 2:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Hank Roberts

Use a tungsten gel in your bedroom ... otherwise, I'd prefer not to have the motorists falling asleep while navigating the city streets.

February 3, 2014 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

Spend $141M to save $7M. Smart.

February 3, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Michael

If the lights will be there for 20+ years its pretty smart.

February 4, 2014 at 10:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Does anyone know how the incandenscent ban will affect lighting production in general? Are specialty lights an exception or should I run out and buy all the 500w floods I can find??????

February 3, 2014 at 6:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
NoahO

Dave - The emphasis that you've chosen in this article is rather poor. It causes the casual reader to believe that LED lighting will have a poorer color quality than the outgoing HPS lighting. As I'm sure you know, that couldn't be further from the truth.

In every respect the LED lighting is a closer representation of natural daylight. Unlike how this article reads, LED lighting provides a fully continuous spectrum (it is those nasty mercury-vapor based, and sodium based lamps that are discontinuous). Additionally, the higher Correlated Color Temperature of the LEDs more closely mimics that of natural daylight.

So, yes, while the "nostalgic appearance" of HPS lighting will be lost, it will be going the same way as the oil and fuel burning streetlights of the 19th century. Except, in this case, replaced by something that not only is more efficient and more reliable, but something that actually has better and more natural color rendition!

Take a look at this comparison between the incandescent-tungsten based lamp, natural daylight and an LED. http://research.ng-london.org.uk/scientific/spd/. The LED is actually a much closer simulation of the daylight color content, is it not?

I hope I'm not coming off to harshly, as I do appreciate the "look" that you are discussing in this article. I just wish that the presentation of this vastly improved technology (LED streetlights) was done in a more careful and holistic manner. Its not just the environmental and economical reasons that set LEDs apart, it is their color characteristics as well!

Disclaimer: I previously worked for one of the manufacturers involved in the upfit of the City of LA, and I am currently in the business of helping others "see the light" (yes, I went there too).

February 3, 2014 at 9:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Kyle

Hey Kyle, it was not my intention to to imply that LEDs have a poorer color quality than sodium-vapor lighting. I felt that my inclusion of low pressure sodium's very limited SPD -- as well as a link to a high pressure sodium SPD chart and other comments in the conclusion -- would illustrate this sufficiently. I have made some corrections to help emphasize the point a bit better.

February 3, 2014 at 9:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
avatar
Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

Dave, your article absolutely did not imply that LED would have poorer colour quality than the HPS lighting. From your explanations of the CRIs to the included before and after shot and your remarks upon it, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone could have come away with that impression (by the way, I sighed heavily when I saw you felt compelled to add, "The answer is: yes" to the statement "in terms of color rendition, the above comparison speaks for itself."). It seems to me that the article has come under attack by commenters who didn't read it very carefully or simply applied their own meaning to it wholesale without much regard for what was actually written down. So, to balance the scales: it was a good article, deftly-written, and thank you for it.

February 4, 2014 at 4:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

What's the view on the future of plasma lights for the high end/pro level production? (I know, it's not what this post is about entirely but I am being curious)

February 3, 2014 at 10:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

long way out. LEDs are what's up right now. Costs are constantly going down, efficiency is going up. plasma is seriously out of control expensive... as in unaffordable for anyone.

February 5, 2014 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
LightNerd

Just put a sodium vapor filter on it. ;-) people are so afraid of change.

February 3, 2014 at 11:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Maximus Moretta

Thanks for the article. It looks according to the PDF map that the downtown area has not been converted yet. Do you think that is intentional and at least partially due to the fact that LA Studios and others want to shoot there and maintain the Sodium-vapor look?

February 4, 2014 at 6:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Jeremy

At least where I live the LED retrofits aren't living up to their advertised rated life. In just a few short years many streets here are being converted back to high Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide as the LEDs fail. Typically in mid summer and mid winter is when the most LED fixtures fail. Temperature has no bearing on the performance of HID lighting such as HPS

February 4, 2014 at 10:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Kyle Shady

This is great for the city and of course it will prompt new studies in lighting techniques and theory. Of course I think movie makers should be more concerned with making good movies first.

February 4, 2014 at 11:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Armando

I warned people about this years ago. You can't make an efficient led that has broad spectrum, because even though you can, it gets its efficiency by matching peak efficiencies in the human eye and leaving the other frequencies alone. Though you might be able to get the city to swap out the light modules for such broad light, or strap on such lights temporarily). There will be shifts in colors, but what is there is authentic anyway, as seen to film authentically.

Collateral was not authentic anyway, they shot much with the electro luminance panels of some sort that I also was looking at using for devices too at the time, in the car, that is the strange glow. They were used as backlights on some sorts of LCDs and watches. Still nice look, but not authentic.

February 5, 2014 at 2:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Wayne

"Authenticity" has nothing to do with it. As an inherently manipulative medium, film -- and digital -- are nothing more than another method of telling stories. The authenticity comes from the truth of the story being told, not the lighting or any other production values, which are there to serve the narrative. The lighting in "Collateral" worked very well for that particular story, but future stories will work just as well under the glow of LED lighting.

The story itself is the cake -- the lighting (and I say this as someone who has spent 35 years in set-lighting) -- is just the frosting.

February 7, 2014 at 1:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

I agree with some comments that this article is misleading in a way that will make the reader believe LED is a poor alternative.

LED has dramatically improved recently, and you can find many different types.Some of them at 5000k with a CRI <95 on all spectrums. This improves quite extensively the outcomes of any shooting.

Should the wanted end result by washed out images, this is easily achieved in post rather than the contrary.

Finally, any big production set will easily lit up by their own means or temporarily change individual lights of an entire street.

February 6, 2014 at 2:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

2
Reply
Paul

Sodium lights are old school? Yeah right. Take a look at "Terminator". Notice any orange lights? How about "Blade Runner". Any there? That's no studio lighting— the orange lights aren't there because they weren't there at all. High pressure sodium lights weren't even installed until the late 80s, and weren't commonplace until the 90s.

The *real* old school street lights ran on mercury vapor, and had a green-blue hue (and the color corrected bulbs were cool white). *This* is the type of lighting you see in classic movies set in LA, as they were used from the 1940s to the late 1980s (and some are still in use today); the large majority of the colour film era.

Night having an amber hue is a recent phenomenon that's only been around for about 15 years or so. Either the author is a 15 year-old, or he doesn't pay attention to this sort of thing.

Bemoan it all you want, but the modern LED streetlights are closer in colour to the original mercury-vapor lights that lit up the sky at night, and we can finally close the book on the orange sky that's plagued us for the last 15 years.

Induction lights are even closer to the classic mercury vapor look (and cheaper, and just as energy efficient). I wish more cities were adopting induction lamps, but LEDs have that "sexiness" that induction doesn't seem to have for the "green scene". A real disappointment for those of us who enjoy the night sky, because the induction lamps have lower light pollution than LEDs. Pomona, CA has installed the induction fixtures, but I don't think much of anyone else in the Southern California region has.

February 10, 2014 at 7:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Daniel Bryant

Bad research defines a lot of this article.

For a continuation of my comments above, the lights that were invented in the '30s were low-pressure sodium lights, and are in fact, still more efficient than any other light source out there. The problem is, the hue is a monochromatic yellow that makes it impossible to differentiate colours, and much of the light produced is "scotopic", meaning it only activates the rods in your eye, and not the cones, which are responsible for most of our vision.

The second error in this article mentions a negative CRI. It's impossible to have a negative CRI. CRI is on a scale of 0 to 100. Low pressure sodium lights have a CRI of 0, meaning it is not possible to differentiate colours at all.

Despite their invention, low-pressure sodium lights remained a niche product until the 1970s when the energy crisis forced many cities to install the low-pressure sodium lights to save on energy costs. However, since the light was not very effective, most cities switched back to the mercury vapour lighting they had been using before.

In the mid to late 80s, high pressure sodium, which was developed in the 70s, became affordable for cities to install, and by the late 90s, most fixtures has been converted to high pressure sodium. These are the amber lights that this article refers to, and they haven't been around for anywhere near as long as this article infers. High pressure sodium is different from low pressure sodium in that it has a higher CRI, meaning that it is possible to differentiate certain colours under it.

Really dude, if you're going to write an article, get your stuff straight!

February 10, 2014 at 7:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Daniel Bryant

February 13, 2014 at 7:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
avatar
Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

http://www.mikewoodconsulting.com/articles/Protocol%20Winter%202010%20-%...

"Although the CRI definition allows negative numbers they are often rounded up in literature to zero."

So, yes, you are correct. I apologize. The equation for calculating CRI can produce a negative number, but generally the scale is considered to be from 0 to 100, but since the formula used to derive CRI does not technically end at zero, it's possible to get a negative number. I'm sorry about that; I've never actually read a negative CRI before since most round up to zero.

However, I still suggest you take a look into mercury-vapour lighting and its effects on film. MV was around until the early 90s in most areas, and is responsible for some really wonderful night scenes in movies. Check out films like Taxi Driver, the Terminator, Blade Runner, etc. Those use the ambient mercury vapour lighting from streetlights.

Mainly my dismay was that HPS is getting so much love here when it's only been around for a very short time, while mercury vapour lights have lit some of the greatest scenes in film history. The light it provides is both sublime and a bit eerie at the same time. I think the loss of MV on our streets was really the greatest loss to cinematography, and it doesn't get anywhere near the recognition it deserves, despite many cinematographers attempting to emulate the MV look with tungsten filters.

I feel like those attached to tungsten filters are really missing out on what made the classic movie scenes look the way they did simply because they assume the visual effect was achieved using filters, when in fact it was all real.

I'd love to see an article on here about mercury vapour. Maybe it would inspire more cinematographers to get that classic look in real life rather than using a color-correcting filter.

February 19, 2014 at 8:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Daniel Bryant

the lack of reply illustrates why i chose to go on the offensive. nobody mourns the loss of mercury vapour street lighting. what a shame, and a loss to the film industry.

February 26, 2014 at 9:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Daniel Bryant

I miss the MV night scenes like we really saw in the 80's. The "Terminator" is indeed a good example. I also remember lots of T.J. Hooker night scenes shot in L.A. and Hollywood taking advantage of the mercury vapor lighting. It is unfair the bad rap MV lighting got because of lack of maintenance. These lamps did not "burn out" like the incandescents, or "cycle" like a HPS lamp at the end of lifespan so many of them were producing low light levels while consuming the same amount of energy. I witnessed changed out MV luminaries still containing 20+ year old original lamps still working, but dimmed out due to overuse and lack of re-lamping on time (8 years). LED luminaries do however produce white light, but also produce a lot of glare and still have high failure rate requiring complete $400 fixture replacement vs. $40 lamp.

May 20, 2014 at 5:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Tom S.

Hi! I'm Rick "C-6" Delair, and a light bulb/fixture collector and lighting historian. (freelance) I'm with The Edison Tech Center, www.edisontechcenter.org and my reply here of course pertains to my favorite light source, mercury vapor, with classic preheat fluorescent being my second favorite. All the hype about LED efficiency is really a joke. Most of the fixtures mentioned have efficiencies no higher than maybe 75-80 lumens per watt (LPW), and those that claim higher are lying. Even if they DO achieve those claimed efficiencies, the life of the LED suffers. First of all, "white" LED's aren't LED's in the true definition. Instead, the more correct term will be "solid state fluorescent" lamps. This is because they use blue LED's coated over the die with a yellow colored phosphor that actually glows white. The better LED's use a "remote" phosphor coated on a separate glass or plastic surface, or an integral component of a plastic or silicone cover over the blue emitting regular LED's. The most common types are the ones with the phosphor integrated into the LED itself, and these are used because they are cheap, compact, and easy to build arrays with. They are the least desirable, though from a LIFE standpoint. As a rule, unless the LED die cracks due to overheating from missing/damaged/dirty heat sinks, the die itself will last a very long time, except the highly overdriven versions that can still "burn out". What fails it the PHOSPHOR. Any time you drive a fluorescent phosphor to the levels that are found in these street light fixures and other uses, the degradation of the phosphor is rather rapid. Though they keep working to come up with phosphors that don't degrade, let's face it, like the old Hooter's song "You can't get blood from a stone" (I LOVE that band!), the saying applies to LED phosphors. The claims of 150,000 hours are bogus at best. Even 35,000 hours is a real stretch. None of these new LED fixtures has ever been tested to these amounts of hours, because hey didn't EXIST long enough, and you CANNOT do accelerated life testing by running these "lamps", which they are NOT, they are just semi conductor devices, NOT lamps or light bulbs, at increased voltage to force them to burn out faster and calculate life approximations at normal voltage they are made to operate on off of this. It applies to any incandescent, halogen, HID (mercury vapor, high and low pressure sodium, metal halide) and fluorescent lamp, but CANNOT be done on LED---you raise the voltage just a few percent--often as little as 1-2 volts above the design volts of the LED, and BAM! FLASH, KERPLOOEY! it's dead. Well, not as dramatic, it will just go out and never light again. Thus, all life claims of LED fixtures and bulbs are BOGUS and speculative at best. I am not crazy about these lights, they are glare bombs because LED's cannot have accurate opticals except in very narrow beam patterns, so spread the light for street lights, you get awful glare. There is no either-or---either a spot 2 feet in diameter and all around that pitch dark, or decent light coverage and awful veiling and direct glare from the fixtures. Since a 2 foot diameter spot under each fixture is not useful, the glare is tolerated, though it never should be--the optics of these things are dismal. Back to the phosphor degradation thing---while the blue LED emitter itself MIGHT last 150,000 hours, the phosphor will be dead and GONE in 10,000 to 35,000 hours, and in some cases even less. I have seen installations of a popular (and UGLY, aesthetically wise during the day) CREE LED unit in parking lots 2-3 years ago that are showing signs of serious phosphor degradation, lose of light output, AND yellowing of the epoxy LED shells that encase the "works" in most all LED's, causing serious color shift as well, both from degradation of the phosphors, which not only causes lower light output, but also loss of certain wavelengths as components of the phosphor "package" degrade and fail to emit light anymore. These units have shifted to a "plastic 7-UP bottle" green color, which, ironically reminds me of the old "/C" type or "color improved" phosphor coated mercury vapor lamps used in the 1950's and to the mid '60's when the modern "cool white" looking "/DX" phosphor took over from the old /C, after they get a "gazillion" hours on them and the phosphor components degrade, and the lamp "greens out", actually a DESIRABLE thing for us vintage lamp collectors, by the way---it's beautiful in mercury lamps, but UGLY in LED's! But those LED's, which are only 2 miles from my house in a parking lot have shifted in about 3 years as much as a /C mercury lamp takes 25+ years to do! Also, they have replaced several power supplies, or "drivers" in these things, and one totally failed over the kerosene pumps, and had to be totally replaced this past summer, ans it is the ONLY one there emitting the 5500K it is supposed to. It is also WAY brighter than the remaining ones in use! And it happens to be a SMALLER MODEL! (They installed the wrong size actually during the replacement!) Once these light start exhibiting visible lumen loss and color shift, even if the epoxy doesn't yellow, as sometimes it doesn't due to UV inhibitors, and don't believe the hype of LED's not emitting any UV--they DO!, then you can BET that there will soon be a rapid downward curve of lumen loss as the phosphors degrade at increasingly fast rates. Also, the rated life of LED fixtures and arrays is determined by lumen loss to 70% of initial lumens. This is trus for other light sources as well, but 70% is reached fast, and then the LED is considered End of Life or EOL. seriously, do you think end users will replace all the LED fixtures once 70% lumen depreciation is reached? NO! Be ready to see some EXTREMELY dimmed-out LED fixtures, as governments, towns, cities, and even business owners and home owners will keep it in service "as long as it still lights up", even if it emits less light than a 4 watt night light bulb and uses 100 watts. The lumen maintenance of white LED's is way worse than metal halide, and that is about the worst lumen maintaining light source of all the types up until the "LED craze" and it will prove costly. LED's are NOT---repeat NOT "Environmentally Friendly" at all. When a fixture or driver fails, even if they are replaceable, like the driver or array, the fixtures are a pain to disassemble and repair, so they go in the scrap pile. Eve if the plastics and metals get recycled, the expensive semi conductor parts of the LED's themselves are NOT recyclable, and have nasty chemicals to boot. Albeit in minute quantities, but they are there. An HID fixture can be easily field troubleshot, and repaired, maybe a lamp, or a capacitor or ballast, or lamp ignitor (HPS, pulse start MH only) or just a new ballast kit, and you are in business, and the ballast can be recycles or even rewound by people willing to take one on. A fried LED driver is trash can/landfill fodder, not even enough metal to be worth scrapping. Electrolytic capacitors abound and they are PRONE to failure, as are dry-film types like mylar film. Capacitor failures account for most LED driver failures, and also ignitor issues in HID units.There is only ONE in an ignitor, but MANY in a driver. ONE fails and the driver is trash. These issues are difficult to overcome, especially when most of these new fixtures are probably made in China, another REALLY BAD thing about them. In hot weather, LED fixtures heated by strong daytime sun can he heated almost or even to the critical temperature that the LED's cannot safely run at. They turn on, and the dies crack beecause the temperature goes beyond the safe level because of solar heating of the fixture, aluminum heat sinks are designed to get RID of heat, but work in reverse---they can also ABSORB heat! This explains many failures in summer, and in winter, bitter cold temperatures can freeze electrolytic capacitors in drivers and hasten failure, as well as cause thermal stress in the LED's as they start warming up quickly from bitter cold temperatures---just like throwing cold water on a hot incandescent light bulb. The result is cracked and failed dies. (and dead individual LED's in most units) One more thing. Since white fluorescent LED's use a special "blue sensitive" phsophor, instead of a UV sensitive type in fluorescent and mercury vapor lamps, direct and reflected sunlight during the day entering the LED dies and hitting the phosphors WILL degrade them, causing earlier dimming out. Don't believe me? Put up 2 sets of identical white LED Christmas lights outdoors, take one set down after the season, store in a dark area as normal, leave the other in place. Install the other set next season and compare the brightneess of the stored-in-a-dark-area set and the other one left exposed to the sun all year. It will be WAY dimmer! And it may be both due to phosphor degradation from sunlight exposure, and epoxy yellowing or not. At any rate the phosphors will badly degrade. I know of a porch with LED lights that were left up all summer and actually also used and the LED's that got less sunlight are brighter, but still badly dimmed from use, and the ones that got the sun now barely glow visibly at night! Only the intense blue glow of the blue LED itself is visible in those. The dimming out is incredible, as they were really bright and lit the whole porch brightly last year, now they can't light it at all. Even light reflected off white concrete roadways will KILL the LED fixtures. Also, the near-UV emitted by blue and white LED's is well known to cause macular degeneration, even in kids, and distorts vision terribly when looked at, due to fluorescing of the corneas, the exact same effect as looking at a filtered (looks black when off) fluorescent black light tube directly when lit, and these cause macular degeneration, too, so see the connection? And yes, they DO interfere with the circadian rhythms badly, even the "soft white" ones promoted for use in houses, so use ONLY incandescent or halogen in bedrooms, and switch off LED's in other parts of the house at least 2 hours before bedtime. This applies to LED backlit TV's, computer screens etc, too.

As for mercury vapor, they are indeed efficient, in fact most induction lamps, which are merely "electrodeless fluorescent lamps" with the mercury vapor being excited by high frequency magnetic energy instead of flowing through the lamps from electrodes, are only slightly, at most, more efficient than mercury vapor lamps. All fluorescent lamps are also mercury vapor lamps, too. The difference is fluorescent (and induction) are LOW PRESSURE MERCURY VAPOR LAMPS, which produce little light from the excited mercury vapor itself, but alot of UV rays, which strike and make glow, the phosphors coating the inner wall of the tubular bulb. The phosphors them emit most of the visible light, the mercury arc only a few percent. A mercury vapor lamp, and it's cousin, the metal halide lamp, is a HIGH PRESSURE MERCURY VAPOR LAMP, with the mercury arc inside a small, compact quartz arc tube, with high current loading compared to low current loading and low pressure for a fluorescent. This results in an intensely bright, and powerful arc that emits plenty of useful light on it's own, as well as UV. The lamp can be and often is clear, with no phosphors at all, and the lamp emits a stark, but absolutely stunningly beautiful blue-greenish white light at 5800-5900 K. The look of an area lit by a clear mercury lamp is absolutely breathtaking to witness! I have a 1954 Westinghouse OV-20 remote-ballasted "clamshell" street light behind the house, visible as I write this through the kitchen window, and it just is awesome. It has a little 175 watt clear Sylvania lamp in it, it originally had a 400 watt, I just wired it up to a 175 watt remote ballast, and installed a mogul based socket extension inside the fixture to get the proper optics with a smaller lamp than the 400 watter used previously. It has very uniform light distribution, and produces very little direct and veiling glare, while still looking crisp, bright, and sharp! Show me an LED at any price that can reproduce this look, put out as much light, even at 175 watts, like the lamp in this unit, and not be a glare bomb to the hilt, and also last as long as this lamp will! I will lick it! Ain't happenin' folks! And that mercury vapor runs pretty cheap, and it one of several (of various makes and models and types, as I like variety in my vintage merc units!) units around our large yard. Some are 100 watts. Some have clear lamps, and some the next type of lamp--the phosphor coated lamp, or "color improved" lamp. In these, the outer bulb is coated on the inside with a certain type of phosphor, in the case of the ones I have in use, yttrium vanadate, or the "/DX" Deluxe White phosphor. The old /C lamps used Magnesium fluorogermanate, and the /C suffix in the lamp order code means "Color improved" or "standard white", which Westinghouse called them. Since the arc tube inside is made of UV-transmitting quartz (glass absorbs it, so clear mercury lamps don't emit any UV to be hazardous), the phosphors coated inside the bulb are excited and glow. The ones chosen for mercury vapor (and some metal halide lamps, too) lamps emit mainly red light, which, combined with the bluish-white of the arc, produces a "cool white" light of about 3900-4100 K, in the /DX lamps. the old /C lamps were at about 3200-3500 K range, so "warmer". The /DX phosphor (but not the old /C) also does something else---it ctually, by adding it's light, increases light output over a regular clear lamp by about 10-15%! Of course, that increases efficiency as well as improves color. The old /C lamps, which by the way are highly sought after by us collectors, and are also incredibly beautiful when lit and something to see if you can, actually emit about 10-15% LESS light than a standard clear lamp. (in the same wattage of course) I find the /DX lamps nice for general lighting, due to better color rendering index (50 versus 15 for clear lamps) than clear lamps, a softer more diffused light because the phosphors also diffuse the light from the arc, and of course higher light output, and a lower, more visually effective color temperature than clear lamps, especially indoors, such as in our workshop, lit by 8 400 watt mercury vapor vintage high bay units. there are alot less shadows, as well, which means easier seeing when working at the bench etc. And outdoors, the fewer shadows mean even clearer seeing of intruders etc. I have just installed a 1996 Lithonia wall pack fixture on the high bay garage recently, I had changed from the factory equipped 150 watt HPS (High Pressure Sodium) ballast and lamp to a new old stock 175 watt CWA (Constant-Wattage Autotransformer) type mercury ballast, and a beautiful, wonderful, high quality EYE Iwasaki 175 watt /DX white phosphor coated mercury lamp, and the results are spectacular! It is really bright, but NOT glaring, nothing even remotely like the LED units, and it covers a large area without being an annoyance, my neighbor across the street from England originally absolutely ADORES it, and all my mercury vapor lights! The HPS lamp would have been WAY more glaring, and even if it IS more efficient than mercury vapor (and LED, by quite alot!), it would have been really glary, and the lighting would never be as uniform and even. And HPS will never last as long either! The color is about 3950 K, and looks beautiful, though my clear in the OV-20 is the star of this show by far! Nonetheless, the phosphor coated lamps are beautiful in their own way, and BOTH or should I include the old /C lamps and say all 3, look absolutely amazing on fresh snow, LED's look crappy, even if the color is similar. HPS looks putrid on snow, and metal halide, similar to, but better than LED. The clear mercury lamps also look absolutely incredible beyond all belief on summer foliage, while the phosphor coated ones, OK but not striking. The secret to good lumen maintenance and super long life in mercury lamps is simple--huge main (running) electrodes, and high quality construction, especially when pumping down and filling the arc tubes, as well as high quality quartz in the tube itself. There are plenty of 25 to 40 or more year old mercury lamps in use with excellent light output, especially the clear ones. the phosphored ones can have poor lumen maintenance because the phosphors can get on the quartz and discolor it at the high operating temperatures of the tube, as well as give off gases as they slowly degrade over time, which also discolor (blacken) the are tube faster. The arc tube blackens due to evaporation of the tungsten main electrodes, which glow orange hot during operation. The larger the electrodes, the more thermal mass, and the cooler they run, which means less evaporation of the emission material and tungsten itself, and therefore, little blackening inside the tube from these materials depositing o the inside, blackening the tube and causing light absorption and lumen degradation. Some lamps were better in this respect that others. the best of the best, but rare and not alot were made, were the "Radiant" brand lamps with HUGE electrodes. These can run 45 years and only lose about 15% or less of initial lumens. Sadly they were not well known, and seldom used by utilities in street lights. I have some in my collection and they are spectacularly well made, and the arc tubes are hand made! The best of the "Big 3" lamp makers, the common brands, were the awesome, beautiful, incredible and infamous Westinghouse "Lifeguard" and Westinghouse's other lesser known brand, Ken-Rad with the pretty much identical "Lifelong" mercury lamps. Again, huge electrodes and primo quality construction, I have a 1963 Westinghouse Lifeguard, phosphor coated, H33-1 GL/C classic /C Standard White lamp, that was put in a Westinghouse OV-25 cobra head street light in my collection, that year, (1963) and was taken out of service in 1995-6. Then I used that lamp in another fixture, while restoring the OV-20 in 2001-2002, and gave that old lamp at least 3-4 more years of use. It has "greened out" slightly, although the phosphrs are in pretty good condition overall still, and it puts out at least 65-70% of initial lumens after all those years of use! Show me an LED that can do this, and again, I'll lick it. Won't taste good, but, of course it ain't gonna happen! Yes, this lamp is below the 70%, but s still bright enough to be useful after over 100,000+++ hours of service. I always use the later style Westinghouse Lifeguard lamps, which are still abundant used with low hours and also new old stock, in fixtures that are hard to reach, especially seeing as I'm in a wheelchair and cannot climb ladders at all anymore (paraplegic). These are excellent lamps! The next lamp, rated "middle" in life and lumen maintenance and quality is Sylvania, the older ones of course, up till about 2008 when they went to re-badged Philips junk made in China. The electrodes aren't as big as Westinghouse (and also immediate post takeover from Westinghouse, Philips lamps, which were still technically Westinghouse Lifeguards) but large enough to easily make the 7 year to 70% maintenance life and then some. I figure more like 10-15 years for phosphor coated, and up to 20 years for clear lamps is possible with no excessive lumen depreciation. My OV-20 sports a 1995 vintage Sylvania H39KB175 clear lamp, It will be there and be alive and well when LED's installed tomorrow will be dimmed to the max or DEAD. The least long lastig of the big 3, unsurprisingly is GE. Don't get me wrong, they are still really decent lamps! The electrodes are average, not tiny like today's 10,000 hour or less junk made in China, but not huge like Westinghouse. The coated ones can do between 5 and 15 years. The clears about 7 to 18 years. The GE arc tubes do blacken heavily though, and sooner than other makes, while Sylvania blackens heavily pretty late in life, and much later than GE, and westinghouse often never blackens at all, and if it does, at the ends and slowly towards the center. That can take 5 decades, literally! I run my lamps to about 60% maintenance, then use them in my vintage street light displays to mimic decades old lamps that have served like silent sentinels for all those years. I can never throw away any mercury vapor lamp, they go in my collection to be preserved for the future. On that EYE Iwasaki I just installed--it actually has LARGER electrodes that a classic Westinghouse Lifeguard, and I wonder--can it perform as well as the rare Radiant lamps because of this? Methinks YES! It will certainly perform as good as a Lifeguard, for sure! It is made in Japan, and really well made! Eye is the only company that makes the good old high quality mercury lamps still---Philips, Sylvania, and GE have all sold out to The Chinese now, and the lamps are junk. I want to do my part to at least keep some mercury lamps in service, as they are still a valid and efficient light source, and eve though LED's mimic the color of mercury vapor, they CANNOT EVER match the true beauty and starkness and effective lighting of classic mercury vapor!! Long after those LED's are gone, there will be some mercury vapor lamps nearly a half century old, still burning brightly on the farms up where I live. Even the ballasts are robust and last eons. No high LED failure rates HERE! My light bulb collector bud in California told me they had whole parts of LA and Hollywood lit by clear mercury vapor lamps, 400, 700, ans some 1000 watters in classic GE, Westinghouse, Line Material, etc cobra head and even remote ballasted clamshell fixtures, and YES lots of OV-20's like the one I have in service in my yard, and he said it was absolutely heaven on earth to witness the bright, crisp daylight-white light of these classic clear lamps and he says the LED's don't even come remotely close to either light levels or the beauty of those fixtures and lamps, and failures are frequent in the LED's and getting moreso by the day now. So what--the LED's save a little power--but in fact most use, for the same approximate light output as metal halide, as much if not more than metal halide! Those greened out CREE LED's are 215 watts I was told, and they replaced 250 watt metal halide. Not mush savings, and they are prone to issues, not such a good deal after all! Plus, the LED's were subsidized for the most part by taxpayer money, as well as hidden charges on electric bills, (hidden tax!!!!) while the wonderful mercury vapor units were purchased by the municipalities themselves, ans NOT subsidized. They paid for themselves many times over, and were good to go for another half-century plus! No, LED's are just the latest "gadget" and a trend, and NOT a major improvement. Yes, the white light is definitely better than the orange palor of HPS that I never really liked anyway, and they, too, had serious reliability issues, ans also were subsidized! Mercury vapor is where it's at and always will be. Next time you enter a mercury-lit town or city at night in your car, stop, get out, and bask in the glorious glow of the greatest outdoor light source in history, before it's gone, and when it is, mourn it. The loss of mercury vapor, especially to someone like me who LIVES and BREATHES this light source, is indeed a tragedy, and it depresses me no matter how hard I try not to let it. I can't wait to see how many people have issues with their eyes from the near-UV light of LED's. Mercury vapor has no such issues, and even the clear lamps are low enough in color temperature to not affect circadian rhythms much if at all. LED is NOT a "natural" light as mentioned in this article, because it uses more continuous spectrum phosphors, because it is a FLUORESCENT light source, people! No--INCANDESCENT is the ONLY artificial light source aside of flame, which also is incandescent, that is as natural as possible. The SUN is the only real natural light source. Mercury vapor is far better than LED in beauty and effectiveness. Cheers, and sorry for the LOOOONG reply, but I needed to clear this up. It is not related to filming, but about lighting. Rick "C-6" Delair! : )

January 10, 2016 at 12:42AM, Edited January 10, 12:42AM

0
Reply

On Hawaii Island, in Hawaii, we will continue to use the narrow spectrum yellowish lights, not sure if they have LEDs in that spectrum. The reason is to prevent light pollution. Our island is the premiere site for astronomical viewing with many of the world's most power telescopes here. By using narrow spectrum light the astronomers can just put a cut filter on that specific wavelength and get a clear view (would be clearer without the filter but hey). So for us it's not about saving energy with sodium vapor, it's always been about light pollution. We've been dealing with this nasty available light for awhile now and will continue.

July 20, 2014 at 3:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Recently, Hilo has changed out many of the LPS lights for LED light fixtures. The fixtures filter out the blue component of the LEDs (so they appear yellow). The reason for the filter has to do with light pollution (as stated in your note). Blue light efficiently scatters in the upper atmosphere. The scattered blue light increases the background noise to the observatory. Even though these lights are yellow, the CRI is significantly higher than LPS lamps.

September 3, 2014 at 7:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Tim