Setting a High Standard: LEDs and Color Rendering

Xinxin Li


Lighting is an integral component of professional imagery – photographers, broadcasters, and cinematographers rely on ideal lighting to convey meaning and evoke emotion within their chosen medium. Natural light can present a sense of realism, yet rarely can image makers solely depend on it. Artificial lighting must be utilized to fill the void when natural conditions are subpar. The major challenge of blending light sources is rendering colors accurately to mimic natural light.

Light & Motion has been on the forefront of utilizing LED lighting, known for its reliability, efficiency, and small form factor, to create cinema quality light. LEDs historically have been neglected by professionals as they tends to cast a greenish hue. Our engineering team studied this problem and found that LEDs are usually low in the Color Rendering Index (CRI), a test that is designed to measure a light source’s ability to give accurate color representation. CRI ratings range from 0 to 100, the higher the better. Generally speaking, CRI is an average of 8 separate colors. LED lights typically lack a few of those colors, especially reds which translate in a low CRI. The lack of certain color bands can create skin tones with a green tint which requires lengthy post-production correction.

We discovered early on that high CRI ratings do not necessarily translate into good color quality for camera sensors. Remember that CRI is just an average of 8 colors. Higher CRI (80 or better) might mean it still lacks in reds yet the average colors in other bands give it a deceivingly high CRI value. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has documented this mismatch in high CRI ratings from LEDs.

A high CRI rating did not fulfill Light & Motion’s commitment of creating the perfect imaging light for professionals and our team turned to the Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) as a baseline. Like CRI, TLCI averages colors, but measures the colors based on a camera sensor’s reading. High TLCI of 90 or better means your images and video will not have that ugly green hue requiring post production color correction. At Light and Motion, we adopted the TLCI standard as the color quality standard to test our new camera lights as it is most relevant to our clientele. The test instruments and tools we have in house have built-in spectrometers that accurately measure color. These test both for CRI and TLCI values. Our Stella camera lights, revolutionizing LED cinema lighting, all have a TLCI of 90 or greater.

Completely manufactured in Marina, California, Light & Motion is reinventing camera lighting. The motto of a test engineer should be ‘Don’t assume anything, and test everything.’ Adhering to strict testing protocols, the Stella lineup creates confidence in the next generation of portable LED lighting.