LED lighting: What you should know about the pluses and minuses.

As a producer, it’s important to know the benefits and limitations of the equipment on your set. LED lighting has been controversial with some DPs, directors and colorists because it’s trade offs have been fairly significant. But for producers, watching the crew hours, the upside can be big.

First, the pluses that make them a producer’s time saving dream:
They’re light
Easy to work with in many situations
Draw little power
Fairly soft source that can used with little modification for some applications

Now the negative:
Compared to tungsten sources they have a low CRI (color rendering index). I won’t get in-depth here because this is a quick tip but compared to the sun, tungsten, fluorescent and HMI, they fall short in their ability to produce accurate skin tones. Also, unlike a other sources, replacing bulbs as the units age and degrade isn’t possible on set.

All this said there have been significant upgrades to LED fixtures in the past couple years. If your production has invested in the latest equipment and your DP and colorist have experience fixing problems they may be a great choice for your project.

What does this all mean? It means, if you have a beauty shot of an actor, think carefully before using a LED as a key light. Also, problems with accurate color on set become bigger problems in post. Know your material, with non-fiction television LED is probably good enough. But an a-list celebrity would probably be horrified with a green spike in her close up.