Luminaire Comparisons: Light Science Evaluation of Lighting Fixtures

Why Compare Luminaries?

As creative technicians, light offers us a multitude of ways to bring any vision to life; its ability to help or harm the final image should not be understated. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand light’s behavior and effects in an effort to control and modify it to our will. Commonly observed light behaviors are called “characteristics”, and we often use these characteristics to inform our choice of light fixtures (or “luminaries”). While the terms used to describe these characteristics can range from empirical to subjective, they form a necessary language to communicate how the light should appear on camera. The first step in achieving your vision is to be aware of what characteristics are needed in a given scene.

Some of these characteristics  – such as specular, soft, modulated, i.e. anything described as a”quality” – are more dependent on how the luminaire is used, rather than the luminaire itself. It does little good to discuss these terms when comparing luminaries, though they are crucial in the discussion of other grip and electric equipment.

Other characteristics – such as throw, punch, intensity, evenness, fidelity, and color – are more dependent on the luminaire itself, and can be quantified for effective comparison.

Already, there are 2 quantifiable ways that people often use for comparing fixtures:

Brightness & Color – both of which inform nearly all of the characteristics in our latter category.

Unfortunately, these comparisons are too frequently meaningless without context or understanding. Manufacturer data is often out of context, inconsistent, or incomplete. Yet comparisons made solely with experience is limited and without data or even understanding. 

We believe in a 3-pronged approach to learning that marries knowledge, experimentation, and experience. 

The goal of these comparison tests is to equip you with an unbiased, third-party database to quantifiably compare luminaries, and to provide the proper context and understanding of the relevant characteristics of light. Our objective is to make your fixture-selecting process as informed as possible.

Produced by:
Light Modifiers Rental

Written by:
Camrin Petramale & Neil Adamson

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