A Color Reference Light

When I started as a programmer, we would make color palettes by setting up an incandescent fixture and putting the actual gel in front of it for me to match new fixtures to.  This was useful, but it took many pieces of gel (slow to change between) and almost universally meant all my colors were matched to a 3200k fixture. 

My next step was to start using a Source 4 Lustr 2.  This worked great, as I could call up the reference color (no more changing gels), but it wasn’t always possible for me to have one on every gig, and buying one was very expensive to consider as a programmer.  And yet again, since so many of the Lustr attributes were optimized for emulating 3200k, everything had that warm, fuzzy look that slaughtered output from a moving light for instance.

Recently I’ve started working more in film.  There are so many things that are normal for film that are very different from live entertainment.  One of my favorites is there is usually a way to view a virtual gel through 3200 or daylight. An example is the Astera product range.  I just did a small shoot and hadn’t yet returned the gear, so I spent some time playing with the AX5 (for those who don’t know, it’s a high CRI battery powered PAR) and ended up testing the fixture as a reference.  I really appreciate the fact that I can view any gel through either a tungsten or a daylight source.  And while the color isn’t obviously 100% accurate to the gel, it is impressively close.  Add in the lower-than-a-lustr price point (about $775 USD) and how very portable it is, and I think this might become my new reference light. Disadvantages are it could be brighter (and the AX10 is brighter- at double the price), and I find a soft source slightly harder to match a new source to – especially a hard-edged fixture.  But this might be a case of the advantages outweighing the shortcomings. 

An additional advantage of such a light could be pre visualizing a show with clients in the room.  I’m used to the fact that visualizers don’t show 100% color accuracy, but clients don’t understand that.  Having one or two of these around to show the client a far more accurate rendition of the color could be very useful.  Obviously, the best case scenario is to have one of each light you’ll use in the show present, but that’s not always possible.  I live in a relatively small market (Portland, OR) so there are fixtures that certain venues own that simply aren’t available for rent here.

I’m going to test this light a couple more times first, but early signs are promising.  If it works out, I’ll have a very convenient way to build palettes for the foreseeable future.  What do you all use to match colors to?  I’d love to hear it, since I’m sure there are more methods than just what I’ve done.  Hit me in the comments!

1 comment

  1. Tomas - Reply

    Hi , reference light for film i start to use Hydra panel , and start to made my X & Y cordinates mostly for black body curve ( white )
    Usefull to reference and match with most common film lights
    I always have in the console and usb stick ( .xsl )

    New tungsten bulb above 300w will be the best source to match with LED ….depends the recipe of the led easy will be the job

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