Tony and I Talk Color Rendering

Podcast Album Cover

In September at ArchLIGHT Summit, Tony Esposito and I gave a series of demonstrations on the spectral flexibility of LEDs and the possibilities they present with regard to color rendering.  While there we spoke to Sam Koerbel on his LytePod podcast about the basics of the new measures introduced in Annex E, and discuss why TM-30’s multi-dimensional approach to quantifying color preference is superior to the old-standby in the industry: CRI.  Our discussion is now available.  Give it a listen.

The Strength of TM-30

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.

Alternating between light sources with Rf 70, Rg 94 and Rf 70 Rg 111

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!

New TM-30 Tutorial Available

Many of us on the IES Color Committee, myself included, have written and spoken about TM-30 and how to use it. I’ve written posts on this blog (click on the color rendering tag to see them all), authored articles, spoken at IES Annual Conferences, given webinars to architects and lighting designers, and assisted manufacturers in adding TM-30 data to their cut sheets. Despite our efforts, and those of others, TM-30 is still not as well understood and broadly implemented as it could be.

A recent issue of Leukos featured an excellent tutorial by Michael Royer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In it, he describes the development of TM-30, color rendering fundamentals, the workings of the TM-30 calculation framework, TM-30 measures and their meaning, and more. That article is now available on the US Department of Energy’s website here. Anyone who’s unsure about TM-30 will find it immensely useful.

On a related note, many members of the IES Color Committee, myself included, can make themselves available to answer questions or present webinars to architects, interior designers, lighting designers, electrical engineers, sales reps, and manufacturers. If you’re interested, use the Contact Jason Livingston link above to send me a message. If I’m not available or the right person for your organization I’ll find someone who is.

What is the Reference Illuminant?

Over the past few months I’ve had a manufacturer, a sales rep, and a lighting designer all tell me they think CRI compares a light source to daylight.  When I tried to correct one of them the reply was an acknowledgment that an incandescent source is normally used, but daylight can be used, too. Given that the lighting industry has been using CRI since 1965, all three should have known better.  On the assumption that they’re not alone in their misunderstanding, let’s talk about reference light sources.

The International Commission on Illumination (CIE for Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) both define color rendering as, “The effect of an illuminant on the color appearance of objects by conscious or subconscious comparison with their color appearance under a reference illuminant.”  In other words, we evaluate the color rendering of a given light source by comparing it to another light source.  The other light source is called the reference illuminant.  

In 1965 the CIE published CIE 13 Method of Measuring and Specifying Colour Rendering Properties of Light Sources.  The current version is CIE 13.3-1995.  Its General Color Rendering Index, Ra, is usually referred to as CRI. CIE 13.3 says, “the reference illuminant for light sources with correlated colour temperatures below 5000 K shall be a Planckian radiator, and from 5000 K one of a series of spectral power distributions of phases of daylight.”  

So, the reference illuminant must have the same color temperature or correlated color temperature (CCT) as the light source being tested. For all light sources with a CCT below 5000 K we use the spectrum of a Plankian, or blackbody, radiator.  For all light sources with a CCT of 5000 K or above we use a CIE model of daylight, again at the same CCT as the light source we’re testing.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a fan of CRI, greatly preferring the increased accuracy and depth of information provided by ANSI/IES TM-30 IES Method for Evaluating Light Source Color Rendition.  What about TM-30’s reference light source?  It’s nearly the same.  For CCTs of 4000 K and below it’s a Plankian radiator.  For CCTs of 5000 K and above, it’s the CIE model of daylight.  TM-30 avoids CRI’s sudden jump between reference illuminants by using a graduated blend of Plankian radiator and daylight over the range of 4001 to 4999 K. 

CIE 224 Color Fidelity Index for Accurate Scientific Use is identical to TM-30’s Fidelity Index (Rf) and uses the same reference light sources.

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.

Standard 189.1 Now Includes TM-30 Requirements

Yesterday an addendum to ANSI/ASHRAE/ICC/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2017 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings was published. The addendum makes changes to Section 8.3.5, which covers lighting. One of the biggest changes is to add TM-30 color rendition criteria to the section on Indoor Lighting Quality. Here’s the relevant text:

8.3.5.3 Color Rendition. At least 95% of lighting power of nominally white lighting within each enclosed space shall be provided by luminaires that meet the following criteria at full light output in accordance with IES-TM-30, Annex E, P2 and F3:
1. Rf of at least 85
2. Rf,h1 of at least 85
3. Rg of at least 92
4. Rcs,h1 of at least -7% but no greater than +19%

Nominally white lighting is lighting that has chromaticity within the basic or extended nominal color correlated temperature (CCT) specifications of ANSI C78.377.

Where a lighting system is capable of changing its spectrum, it shall be capable of meeting the color rendition requirements within each nominal CCT of 2700 K, 3500 K, 4000 K, and 5000 K, as defined in ANSI C78.377, that the system is capable of delivering.

I hope that this is going to put more pressure on manufacturers to improve the color rendering of their luminaires as measured by TM-30, not CRI, and to provide TM-30 information on their cut sheets. If not, they’ll risk not being considered on projects that have TM-30 requirements.

Using TM-30 to Improve Your Lighting Designs

Recently, ANSI/IES TM-30 was improved with the addition of Annexes E and F.  Annex F reviews and summarized five studies that explored using TM-30 metrics to predict subjective visual outcomes.  Annex E uses that research to establish recommended specification criteria when the designer’s color rendering goals are Preference, Vividness and/or Fidelity.

The IES Forum for Illumination Research, Engineering, and Science (FIRES) has an article I wrote with Michael Royer and Tony Esposito explaining the Annexes and how to use the information in Annex E.  Here’s the link: Using TM-30 to Improve Your Lighting Design – Illuminating Engineering Society

I’ve been using Annex E on projects and have spoken to other designers who have begun to use it.  It provides useful, accurate information that allows me to evaluate the color rendering results of light sources in a way that hasn’t been possible until now.  It lets me make informed decisions about my projects, and explain those decisions to colleagues and stakeholders in (relatively) easy to understand terms.

TM-30 and the TM-30 calculators continue to be a free download from the IES here.  Annexes E and F are also free on the Errata and Addenda page here and here.








Do LEDs Make You Look Orange?

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. 

Colors used to calculate CRI Ra

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 Evaluating Light 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. 

TM-30 99 color evaluation samples (CES)
TM-30 CES spectral reflectance functions

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.  

TM-30 hue bins
Example of TM-30 chroma shift bar graph by hue bin

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.