When deciding on the right LED lights, color rendering and authenticity should be a primary concern.
Steven Hall · September 2, 2016
LEDs are one of the greatest lighting tools a church tech can use. They are flexible units that make our lives easier. However, like any light source, there are some things to overcome to be able to achieve the best finished design.
LEDs are impressive on so many ends. They are relatively simple and require almost no maintenance. LEDs offer an amazing variety of color variations and are incredibly energy efficient, compared to most traditional light sources.
With all the great things LEDs can do, there are also some drawbacks. Let’s explore how we can overcome these drawbacks to get the most out of fixtures and serve our churches well.
As we move away from incandescent fixtures to LEDs, one of our primary concerns should be color rendering, which is the measurement of how true an LED portrays a gamut of colors. Many lights are marketed with CRI values, which measure color rendering quality. The higher the value, the more true colors appear under this light.
Our biggest consideration in this area is skin tone. An unnatural looking skin tone can become a huge distraction and even make people subconsciously feel anxious. A light with a low CRI typically looks unnatural, unflattering and fake. Obviously in the church realm, we always want to be authentic and our stages should visually match this.
So does this mean every LED we have should have a high CRI? Not necessarily, the key is to use the right fixture for the right purpose. If you are using (or considering using) LED front lights, those need to have a high CRI. Typically I’d suggest a CRI from 88 to 100 for front lights. More than that though, the light needs to look good to your eye. You should always trust your eye over a spec measurement. If you see imperfections in the color, keep looking for the right set of LED front lights. There are some good LED front light products out now that create a natural feel with a high CRI. The same suggestions go for houselights and sidelights.
Midrange CRI (60-88) products can work well for backlight, and scenic lighting. In those areas, you are typically not directly lighting large areas of skin and it therefore can be much more forgiving.
This quality of light and color rendering becomes even more of a necessity when dealing with video. Cameras are not nearly as sophisticated as our human eye and are not forgiving when it comes to poor light quality and varied color temperature.