I tell my students that we’re lighting designers not scientists, but that it’s good to understand some of the science that underpins our work. This is especially true when the science is out of date and produces results that don’t necessarily agree with our vision and/or perception. It’s frustrating and amazing to me that as individuals we’d never agree to use a broadcast only TV and give up our modern cable and internet channels. We’d never agree to use a flip phone and miss out on all of the upgrades and improvements that have been developed over the years. Yet as an industry we seem perfectly happy to continue to use 75+ year old technology with known flaws when we calculate color rendering, measure brightness, plot chromaticity in color spaces, etc. Our industry doesn’t seem interested in “upgrading” to get the latest features like less metameric mismatch and measurements that better align with our vision and perception. But, I continue to shout into the void about these things.
One of these topics is the standard observer. This article, online and in the current issue of LD+A, looks at the problems that can arise from continuing to rely on the 1931 standard observer, and not “upgrading” to the 1964 or 2015 standard observers.
Last week Tony Esposito and I presented seminars at ArchLIGHT Summit in Dallas, TX. The topic was TM-30 and the deep information that it provides us about a light source’s spectrum and the resulting color rendering. CRI, of course, only evaluates fidelity – how close a light source matches its reference light source. But CRI penalizes all deviations and says nothing about the rendering of individual colors. Nor does it help us understand if the deviations from the reference are acceptable to viewers.
A small part of our demo is shown below. It illustrates how two light sources can have the same fidelity (in this case Rf of 70) but wildly different spectra that produce wildly different color rendering results. This is the great strength of TM-30, a deeper insight into the effect of a light source on illuminated objects and their color appearance – not just fidelity, but chroma shift, hue shift, and the perceptual implications of those shifts.
The video below shows the color appearance shifts. The graphic illustrates that even though the Rf is 70, the first light source renders objects in a preferred manner (Preference Priority Level of 3 or P3) and increases vividness (Vividness Priority Level of 2 or V2). At the same Rf the second source mutes colors and fails to achieve any of the Design Intents and Priority Levels specified in TM-30’s Annex E.
A reminder that Tony Esposito and I will be presenting Specifying Light Source Color Rendition three times at ArchLIGHT Summit in Dallas next Tuesday and Wednesday, the 21st and 22nd. Hope to see you there!
Last Thursday Donald Trump spoke to a group of Republicans in Baltimore. One of the things he said caught my attention: “The lightbulb. People said what’s with the lightbulb? I said, here’s the story. And I looked at it, the bulb that we’re being forced to use, No. 1, to me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.”
Now, I’m not aware of being made to look orange under LEDs, nor have I ever noticed LEDs making my friends, colleagues, or students appear orange. You can’t imagine how embarrassed I’d be if it turned out that a real estate developer and entertainer had more astute color perception than me, a lighting designer and Co-Chair of the IES Color Committee. If our only means of evaluating the color rendering of a light source, and evaluating the orange content specifically, was CRI we would have no objective way of testing his statement. CRI, technically Ra, is a single value that gives us an average of the match between the light source in question and its reference source (either a blackbody radiator or a CIE definition of daylight, depending on CCT) using only eight color samples.
Since Ra is an average value there’s no way to understand the rendering of any particular hue. I’ve talked about this here. However, one of the wonderful things about ANSI/IES TM-30 IES Method for EvaluatingLight Source Color Rendition is that we can use it to test that claim. TM-30 uses 99 color samples that are distributed across the color space and the visible spectrum.
It also breaks the color space up onto 16 Hue Bins, each one covering a specific range of the color space. In the case of orange, we want to look at Hue Bin 3. Specially, we want to look at Rcs,h3 (the subscript CS stands for Chroma Shift) which quantifies the increase or decrease in the saturation or vividness of orange compared to the reference light source.
So, let’s put the science of TM-30 to work and see if we really do know that LEDs make us look orange!
The TM-30 calculator contains a library of 300 SPDs (spectral power distributions), of which 137 are commercially available white LEDs. The CCTs range from 2776 K to 6123 K. If white light LEDs really did make us look orange we’d expect to see a large majority of them have a positive Rcs,h3, probably with an average chroma shift in excess of 10%. In fact, the 137 SPDs have Rcs,h3 that range from -8% to 1% with an average of -3.6%, a decrease (not an increase) in the saturation of orange. It’s not me, it’s him. TM-30, which uses the most modern models of human vision and a set of colors that cover the color space and visible light spectrum, proves it. What a relief!
Don’t believe me? Download TM-30 and the calculator for free from the IES web site and see for yourself.
Of course, I’m not saying LEDs are perfect light sources. Like any other product there are good ones and bad ones. However, TM-30’s measurements of fidelity and gamut (as averages) and measurements of fidelity, chroma shift, and hue shift (by hue bin) permit us to make a thorough evaluation of a light source to understand its color rendering characteristics. Using this knowledge, we can determine if a particular light source distorts colors and is appropriate for a project, or not.
I should take a moment to note another error he made when he said, “And very importantly—I don’t know if you know this—they have warnings. If it breaks, it’s considered a hazardous waste site. It’s gases inside.” Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym SSL or the phrase solid state lighting. LEDs are a version of SSL, which means that they are…well, solid. Unlike previous light producing technologies LEDs are a solid combination of materials. As such, if one were to physically break (which is unlikely since LEDs are small, are mounted to a heat sink and often covered with a lens, so you’d have to break a lot of materials simultaneously) no gas, hazardous or benign, is emitted. He’s thinking of fluorescent lamps and the small amount of mercury they contain. Even then, a broken fluorescent lamp doesn’t turn the area into a” hazardous waste site.” Here are the EPA’s instructions for cleaning up a broken fluorescent lamp.
On April 19th Wendy Luedtke (my co-chair of the IES Color Committee) and I will be presenting a free IES webinar called Design for Color and Illumination. Here’s the blurb from the IES site:
When developing a lighting design, lighting specifiers determine the lamp and fixture combination that best suits the design’s requirements based on many factors. While some considerations are largely technical, such as power consumption, the amount of light generated, and how light is distributed, one consideration is both technical and artistic and can be approached in a number of ways. Participants to this webinar are eligible for one (1) IES Continuing Education Unit (CEU).
Today Focal Point Lights of Chicago, IL introduced a series of fixtures that feature what they call Preferred Light. Preferred Light is based on recent studies at PNNL and Penn State, plus their own study, and uses TM-30’s Rf, Rg, and Hue Bin 16 values to establish a balance of fidelity, saturation, and red rendering that is “visually appealing to humans.”
The overall idea is that people seem to prefer a light source that slightly over saturated most colors, especially red. “Using a custom LED mix, Focal Point defines Preferred Light using TM-30-15 metrics as having a fidelity (Rf) of 89, a gamut (Rg) of 107, and over-saturating Hue Bin 16, deep red content, by 9% at a [Correlated] Color Temperature of 3500K.” So, by using the statistical measures of TM-30 and applying them to the related topic of color preference Focal Point has identified an optimized set of LED products to meet their customers’ needs.
I’ll be the first to admit that it may be risky to base all of this on only three studies, but other studies have shown that the TM-30 results can be applied in this way, and are also showing us the relative importance of the various calculated values. I’m excited to see the industry using the tools, and am looking forward to seeing the Preferred Light for myself.
As the co-chair of the IES Color Committee I am delighted (pun intended) to announce the publication of the Design Guide for Color and Illumination. The guide is the result of over five years of work by more than a dozen researchers, engineers, manufacturers, and designers from across the globe. Here’s part of the description on the IES site.
Color can be described using concrete values such as chromaticity coordinates, spectral power distribution, or others discussed later in this guide. However, one’s response to color can be much more personal and emotional—and therefore more difficult to quantify. This guide takes the reader from basic vision and color vocabulary, through methods of measuring and quantifying color, and culminates in the practical use of commercially available white light and colored lights. The definitions, metrics, and references discussed will assist in building a critical understanding of the use and application of color in lighting.
It is probably the best, most thorough discussion of light and color available today. Everyone interested in color, color perception, color rendering, and their relationship to light should read it. It will be available at the IES booth at Lightfair.