TM-30 at ArchLIGHT Summit 2021

My colleague Tony Esposito and I will be giving a new TM-30 seminar and demonstration at ArchLIGHT Summit 2021 in Dallas on September 21st and 22nd. We’re working on a new, and we hope more attendee friendly, presentation and an all new set of demonstrations to explain TM-30s Annex E specifications. The demo will include, for the first time, live models of different ethnicities so attendees can evaluate the impact of of the specifications on skin tone. I hope to see you there!

TM-30 Is Not Too Hard To Learn!

Recently, a well-known lighting designer gave a presentation at a well-known lighting conference. During the Q&A he was asked his opinion of TM-30 and replied that it was too hard so he just specified CRI>90. At the risk of sounding like a jerk I have to say that maybe it was too hard for him, but it’s not too hard for most of us. Here is a brief list of new things lighting designers have had to learn over the years.

  • The introduction and transition to electronic ballasts and transformers meant that we had to learn about reverse phase dimming and control protocols.
  • The T5 lamp meant we had to change our layout patterns to accommodate lamps that weren’t standard 2’, 4’, and 8’ lengths.
  • Metal Halide lamps, especially PARs, meant that in exchange for energy savings we had to learn about the color rendering of a new type of lamp, and give up dimming.
  • Daylight harvesting and daylight responsive designs meant we had to learn about daylight zones, photosensors, and daylight harvesting control systems.
  • White LEDs meant we had to learn about another light source and its specific pros and cons, including different color rendering properties due to its SPD.
  • Circadian lighting means we are all in the process of learning how and when to apply the most current scientific evidence to certain project types.  Since the science is constantly advancing on this topic, we must be aware and continue to educate ourselves.
  • Regularly updated energy conservation codes mean that as we begin to memorize the lower LPDs and changes to control and daylighting requirements, we have to relearn that information because it changes every three years.
  • Most recently, we’re supposed to enthusiastically embrace IoT, adding new hardware and controls to our lighting control systems.

There is a ton of TM-30 educational material available, including posts on this blog here, here, here, here, here, and here. There’s this article on the IES’s FIRES Forum, and this page on the Department of Energy web site. Manufacturers are also providing education including DMF Lighting, Soraa, Premier Lighting, Alphabet, and Lighting Services Inc. Then there are the articles in trade magazines and sites such as Lux Review and Architect Magazine, not to mention many articles in Lighting Design and Application and Leukos (no links because they’re behind the IES login). In addition, there have been presentations at other conferences (some given by me) at the IES Annual Conference, LightFair, and LEDucation.

If that’s not enough for you, let me know. I have a presentation approved for one AIA HSW LU, so if you’re architectural firm wants to learn more let’s set up a presentation. Ditto for lighting design firms and teachers of lighting. If I’m not available there are a half dozen others on the IES Color Committee who regularly give TM-30 presentations. You can learn TM-30. I’m here to help.

IES RP-16 is Now IES LS-1

The Illuminating Engineering Society’s Recommended Practice 16 Nomenclature and Definitions for Illuminating Engineering (aka RP-16) has long been one of the two reference sources for the definition of lighting related words and phrases – the other being the CIE International Lighting Vocabulary (ILV).

As part of the IES converting all of their publications to an online library format, some publications have been given a new designation. RP-16 is now Lighting Science 1 (LS-1) and is at this link. Bookmark it now!

CIE Position Statement on the use of UV-C

As interest in using light disinfection continues to grow standard setting organizations and manufacturers are becoming more active in this area.  The International Commission on Illumination (CIE) has just released a position statement on the use of ultraviolet radiation to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Here are a few bullet points:

  • While ultraviolet light ranges from 400 nm to 100 nm, the most effective wavelengths are at around 254 nm and this is generally what is meant by germicidal ultraviolet or GUV.
  • UV-C has been successfully used for water disinfection and in air handling units for many years.  UV-C has also seen a resurgence for use in healthcare environments.
  • Direct exposure to UV-C can cause photokeratitis (similar to snow blindness) and erythema (skin reddening similar to sunburn) so carefully shielded luminaires are required when used in occupied spaces.
  • Consumers should be wary of products not approved by consumer safety organizations.  Such products could be hazardous to use or may not emit UV-C at all.

Read the full position statement.

A Look at Bridgelux’s Average Spectral Difference Metric

Today’s post was going to be a reminder to take manufacturer provided education with a grain of salt.  Last week I sat through a manufacturer’s presentation on color.  There were some big errors and some that’s-not-quite-right errors that angered me. The information presented wasn’t hard to confirm, but whoever created the presentation didn’t so some of it was wrong.  However, before I could start writing I received an email about a new color quality metric that was developed by Bridgelux.  Here’s the scoop.

Last Thursday, May 14th, Bridgelux announced a new metric, Average Spectral Difference (ASD), which they claim quantifies the naturalness of a light source.  The announcement is based on this white paper by Bridgelux.  The white paper asserts that since we evolved under fire light and day light, human-centric lighting should use spectra that mimic these “natural” sources.  Bridgelux says that, “ASD provides an objective measurement of how closely a light source matches natural light over the visible spectrum, averaging the differences of the spectral peaks and valleys between a light source and a standardized natural light source of the same CCT.”  

Basically, ASD is a measurement of the difference between a “natural” spectrum and that of an electric light source.  It is expressed as a percentage, with lower percentages equaling a closer match to the reference source and higher percentages equaling a larger difference between the two.

My first thought was, “Oh, it’s CRI – Natural Edition” but in some ways it’s even worse.  For starters, while Bridgelux presents a definition of “natural” light that is based on the illuminants we use as references for color fidelity calculations, there is no accepted definition of “naturalness” in the lighting industry, or most other industries for that matter. Obviously, a metric for something that has no industry-wide definition is of questionable value.  The white paper says, “The reference source used by Bridgelux is the blackbody curve (BBC) for light sources of 4000K and below, and the daylight spectrum (i.e. standard illuminants such as D50, D57, and D65) for light sources of 5000K and above.”  (Yes, there’s an obvious typo there because they’ve left a gap between 4000 K and 5000 K.)  Second, like CRI it presents a single number with no additional information about where in the spectrum the differences occur, or if they are increases or decreases relative to the reference light source.  Third, as a measurement of spectral difference alone, it disregards the fundamentals of human vision, including the principle of univariance and how perception changes with intensity, among other things.  

I emailed a few colleagues on the IES Color Committee and found that they were already examining ASD.  Some of the comments that came back were, “This is just a refresh of a spectral bands method. It says little about color rendering” and “This is very similar to the Film industry’s SSI developed by the Academy. It also suffers from the same problem. If the result isn’t 0% (or 100%) then it tells you nothing about where the differences are. Thus, it tells you nothing about whether two light sources will work together.”

Michael Royer at PNNL went further by looking at ASD with the sets of data in TM-30 Annex F that were used to develop the TM-30 Annex E recommendations.  Here’s what he had to say. (You may have to right click and open the graphs in a new tab to see them clearly.)

First, spectral similarity metrics are not new at all—they predated CRI (e.g., Bouma spectral bands method from 1940s). For some reason they gained popularity again in the last decade or so. Here are some other examples:

B. H. Crawford. 1959. Measurement of Color Rendering Tolerances J. Opt. Soc. Am. 49, 1147-1156

Crawford, B. H. 1963. Colour-Rendering Tolerances and the Colour-Rendering Properties of Light Sources. Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society, 28: 50–65.

Kirkpatrick, D. 2004. Is solid state the future of lighting?” Proc. SPIE 5187, Third International Conference on Solid State Lighting.

J. Holm et al., “A Cinematographic Spectral Similarity Index,” SMPTE 2016 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA, 2016, pp. 1-36, doi: 10.5594/M001680. Also:

Acosta I, Leon J, Bustamante P. 2018. Daylight spectrum index: a new metric to assess the affinity of light sources with daylighting. Energies 11 2545

Spectral similarity measures, like ASD, don’t relate to perceived naturalness or preference at all. They’re more closely correlated with color fidelity (e.g., Rf) but perform even worse in terms of correlation with perceived qualities because they don’t account for how the visual system works (they might have more use for understanding cameras, as used by SMTPE with SSI, linked above). I guess people just assume that a Plankian/Daylight spectrum is ideal.  While smooth SPDs have advantages, Planckian/Daylight SPDs aren’t perceived as more natural or more preferred in typical architectural lighting scenarios. This has been shown over and over in experiments, where it’s become quite evident that certain deviations from Planckian are preferred/viewed more natural than others.

Here’s the correlation between ASD and rated naturalness/normalness, preference, and Rf for the three datasets used to develop TM-30 Annex E:

 If you’re not up on your statistics, r2 is a measurement of how well data fits to a prediction or to the data average.  1.0 is a perfect fit.  Generally, 0.7 or above indicate a strong statistical correlation, and values less than 0.3 indicate no relationship.

PNNL (combination of three studies):


Penn State:

Overall, it’s clear that ASD isn’t a tool for characterizing perceived naturalness (or preference) over a wide range of SPDs, and it probably has limited other uses. While spectral smoothness (as exemplified by the reference illuminants in ASD) is sometimes a useful goal, there are other metrics more rooted in human vision to better asses this characteristic. It’s a shame that ASD and the accompanying message will likely lead to confusion, especially when there’s enough to learn about color rendition already.

This is a good example of why it’s important to rely on metrics that have been vetted through a standardization process and to always be skeptical of marketing material.

So there you are. Take manufacturer’s education with a grain of salt. The same is true of their internally developed metrics. I’m not saying that they are intentionally deceiving anyone. but their goal is sales, not education. As Mike points out, this is why metrics need to go through a vetting process before we can use on them with confidence.

By the way, although I’ve mentioned the IES Color Committee and quoted a few of its members, this post doesn’t represent the opinions of the committee or of the IES.

New Definition of Kelvin Goes Into Effect Today

Science geeks everywhere are celebrating World Metrology Day today.   Today has also been chosen by Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) to implement changes to the International System of Units or the SI.  The changes are to the definitions of the kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole.  

Of special interest to lighting designers, the Kelvin is now defined “by taking the fixed numerical value of the Boltzmann constant k to be 1.380 649 x 10–23 when expressed in the unit J K–1, which is equal to kg m2 s–2 K–1, where the kilogram, metre and second are defined in terms of hc and Cs.”

Yeah, I don’t know what that means, either!  Here’s a link to the full definition and formula.

CIE Publishes Position Statement on Blue Light Hazard

On April 23rd the CIE (Commission Internationale de l´Eclairage) published a position statement on so-called Blue Light Hazard. Given the amount of press this phrase has received and the responses, such as the AMA Policy H-135.927 Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting, which was refuted by the IES and the LRC, it’s a timely piece.

The position statement makes a couple of key points. The first is that the phrase itself “has been inaccurately used to represent the risk of actual eye damage and the influence on general well-being. The term ‘blue light hazard’ should only be used when considering the photochemical risk to the retinal tissues of the eye (technically referred to as “photomaculopathy”), usually associated with staring into bright sources, such as the sun or welding arcs”

The second point is that “There is no evidence in humans of any adverse health effects from occasional exposure to optical radiation at the exposure limits.” It’s an important position paper with links to research. Read it for yourself.

Specifying Color Quality With TM-30

By now most of us have attended one or more seminars or webinars about IES TM-30 and understand that it is a method of measuring various color rendering properties of a light source and reporting those measurements.  The thing that’s been missing is a recommended set of values that set minimums, maximums and/or tolerances for the various measurements.  This has been true for two reasons.  First, TM-30 is a method and as such was never intended to set recommended values.  The second is that while the science behind TM-30 is solid, the science doesn’t offer any predictions of acceptability.

Good news!  After almost three years of research and tests around the world we’re much closer to establishing a set of recommended values.  At this year’s IES Annual Conference in Boston, Tony Esposito, Kevin Houser, Michael Royer and I will be presenting the seminar “Specifying Color Quality With TM-30”  The description of the seminar is, “This presentation will discuss several research projects which have used the IES TM-30 color rendition framework, and whose results have been used to develop various specification criteria. We will discuss UFC 4-510-01, The Department of Defense Unified Facilities Criteria for Military Medical Facilities, which has already implemented IES TM-30-15 specification criteria.”

During the seminar we’ll review some TM-30 basics, look at several research projects that are helping to establish TM-30 thresholds, and review how to use the TM-30 calculator.  Don’t miss it!