Ikan first came into my field of view with their line of reasonably-priced field monitors for the budget conscious filmmaker. I’ve worked with one or two during the bad ol’ days of 35mm DoF adapters smashed on the front of 1/3″ chip cameras. More recently, Ikan has been producing a variety of LED lighting instruments. (I spent some time at their booth at NAB 2011.) Ryan Aivalis of Ikan asked me to take a look at a couple of their new LED instruments introduced at NAB 2012.
The Ikan ID1500 is a daylight LED 39×7″ broad instrument using 5mm LED’s.
The Ikan IB1500 is the bi-color tungsten/daylight version with alternating rows of 5mm LED.
Ikan IB1500 with intensifier barn doors
Both instruments feature integral dimming (and color cross-fading in the case of the IB model) attached barn doors with intensifier reflectors, gel clips on the doors, in-line power supply, and swivel stand mount.
As with the 1×1 LED Panels Test, I didn’t delve into the intricacies of an LED source’s discontinuous spectral output or the many other variables that affect LED instruments. If you’re interested in the challenges of LED lighting and how LED instruments render various colors, read the AMPAS Solid State Lighting Project.
Color is where LED instruments are most challenged. To date, only a very few LED technologies have been developed specifically for the RGB spectral needs of film emulsions and digital video chips. All LED instruments utilizing phosphor-white 5mm LED’s must choose their luminaries from a spread of price and color accuracy (as described in Guy Holt’s detailed on-line paper: High Output AC LED’s.) Ikan has done a fair job of selecting their LED’s for these two instruments but spectral discontinuities and green spikes still plague this class of instruments.
Thanks to my friend, Glenn Martin with Bunker19, for assisting me with and providing the use of his sound stage for this test.
I measured color balance, brightness, and beam spread for each instrument. Obviously, I measured both colors for the bi-color instrument.
The daylight-balanced ID1500 measured 60 foot-candles (fc) at 10 feet, which is very favorable when compared to the Kino-flo 4ft 4BANK which comes in at 28fc @ 10ft. It has a narrower beam than the Kino, coming in at 45 degrees along its long axis and 30 degrees across the short axis (measured at 5 feet.) I often prefer a more directional source which can be flooded by adding various choices of diffusion. The light displays no noticeable color shift when it is dimmed to 50% – one of the advantages of LED lighting. There is a mild green spike as measured by the RED One camera.
The bi-color IB1500 predictably has lower output due to dividing the available LED’s between daylight and tungsten colors. It measured 32fc @ 10ft daylight and 42fc @ 10ft tungsten. Still, that’s better than the comparable Kino 4-BANK. It’s beam spread is slightly smaller than the ID1500, coming in at 30 degrees along the long axis and 25 degrees across the short axis. The daylight side exhibits the same correctable, mild green spike of its cousin but the tungsten side suffers a much more pronounced spike, requiring an aggressive minus-green gel correction to eliminate (at the expense of output.)
Both instruments are robustly constructed for use on set with only a couple minor issues to watch out for. More on that below.
Here’s a zip file of the test charts.
Each instrument illuminated a Gretag Macbeth chip chart. The chart was metered then shot with a RED One MX and Nikon 85m Ai/s lens. Simple color correction was performed with REDCine X Pro and a frame rendered for each setup. I used the white color chip to grab a white-balance and fine-tune the exposure using the REDCine FLUT control. No deeper attempt was made at correcting the image.
Since my venerable Minolta Color Meter II is useless with LED lighting (it doesn’t understand discreet RGB spectra) I turned to my RED One MX at ISO800 as a color measurement tool. My Sekonic L-758 Cine meter served for measuring illumination. Rather than color correcting in-camera, REDCIne X Pro was used to white-balance the Gretag Macbeth chip chart. (I’ve found the RED One MX to exhibit a mild green cast and generally dial in a -6 tint when shooting and grading. That tint level served as my base reference for these tests.)
Note that my test results are for specific instruments with a specific camera. LED lighting can vary widely from emulsion to emulsion and camera to camera. Testing is the key success on the your set.
Both instruments are of similar durable construction, featuring rolled steel enclosures, passive cooling, and integral barn doors with intensifier reflectors on the inside surfaces. The intensifier material could use a bit more securing to the doors (I presume with double-sided foam tape) since we accidentally caught a corner at one end while adjusting the unit and bent the material away from the door. edit: Ikan has a new reflector/door design with much tighter integration between surfaces. These can be a direct replacement for the current design.
The swivel stand adapter is of an interesting design I find more flexible than the Litepanels adapter that came with my Kino-flo instruments. It is capable of orienting the instrument in a wider range of angles and is very secure when cinched down with the large Kip lever. I did find it difficult to initially attach the mount to the back of the instrument – rotating the multiple indexing pins of the mount into the eight keyholes of the instrument was a very tight fit – but presume that will become easier as the mount “breaks in” with the instrument. edit: Ikan informs me they are aware of this issue and will address it with their next production run.
swivel stand adapter
Ikan made the smart choice to use an industry-standard 4-pin XLR jack for the power input on these instruments. The instrument can be powered from any 12volt DC supply with sufficient current. edit: For future versions, Ikan notes they will be upping their power to 24-volts to better handle the demanding current draw of these lights.
I would like to see a mounting clip added to the back of the instrument (or hanging sash cord attached to the power supply box) with which to secure the power supply. Power cables for in-line supplies are never long enough and are of insufficient durability to leave the supply hanging from an instrument. Lacking a means to quickly secure the power supply adds time and effort to the electrician’s setup on set. edit: Ikan notes they are working on a power clip/grip for both the instrument and for attaching to light stands.
I couldn’t find a flight case (or soft case) offering from Ikan for these instruments. A case is critical to protect these lights and to keep their accessories nearby. edit: Ryan with Ikan informs me single- and triple-instrument bags are on their way.
Ikan ID1500 daylight LED:
The ID1500 features 1500 daylight-balanced 5mm LED’s in a 38×7″ array. An integral power switch and dimmer control are on the back next to the power input jack. The accompanying power supply is an in-line style.
The instrument has a respectable output as measured on-axis. The benefit of the intensifier doors is more pronounced the closer the light is to the subject.
- Ft 10′ 5′ 3′
- FC 60 200 550 w/doors swung away
- FC 64 250 600 w/doors in best intensifier position
A rectangular, broad-source like the ID1500 will have different beam spreads along its two axes. That difference will diminish as the distance to subject increases. I measured the beam spread at five feet since that’s a fairly common distance for interview subjects. At five feet, with the barn doors pivoted out of the way, the ID1500 beam is 45 degrees along the long axis and 30 degrees across the short. (I determined beam spread by finding the off-axis angle at which the intensity was fifty-percent of the center foot-candle reading. This is a standard of measurement that Mole and other traditional lighting manufacturers use, although I’ve encountered some manufacturers declaring beam angle as measured with thirty-three percent illumination, presumable, to create the perception their instruments’ off-axis illumination is stronger.)
Here is the ID1500 as it appears to the RED One camera set to a 5600K reference. The light delivers 5600K balance with a mild green spike. (Remember, -6 tint is my “zero” reference.)
The addition of a 1/4-minus-green gel will bring the ID1500 into balance with companion daylight sources. Otherwise, it would be quite fine on its own and with other LED instruments of similar green/magenta axis coloring. As with any source that casts an odd light on skin or important colored surfaces, test this unit for critical applications.
The ID1500, like many of its LED cousins, held its color balance at various dimming levels. There was no noticeable color shift from zero to full brightness.
Ikan IB1500 bi-color LED:
The IB1500 features alternating lines of tungsten- and daylight-balanced 5mm LED’s in a 38×7″ array. An integral power switch, color fader, and dimmer control are on the back next to the power input jack. The accompanying power supply is an in-line style.
IB1500 control panel with 12volt XLR power jack, switch, dimmer, and color cross fader
As expected, since this instrument is only using half of its LED’s when balanced to tungsten or daylight, its light output would generally be half of its daylight-only cousin. Interestingly, as you fade between banks of LED’s, the illumination practically doubles at the mid-point since both banks of LED’s illuminate together. If you’re committed to shooting at 4400K, the output is great. However, any on-set adjustment of color is a minor hassle for DP’s and gaffers as the light constantly changes intensity. (This is more common than not with bi-color LED instruments.)
- Ft 10′ 5′ 3′
- FC 32 120 270 @ daylight
- FC 64 220 500 @ mid-point
- FC 42 140 320 @ tungsten
A rectangular, broad-source like the IB1500 will have different beam spreads along its two axes. At five feet, with the barn doors pivoted out of the way, the IB1500 beam is 30 degrees along the long axis and 25 degrees across the short. (As with the ID1500, I determined beam spread by finding the off-axis angle at which the intensity was fifty-percent of the center foot-candle reading.)
On the daylight side, the IB1500 is identical in color to its cousin, the ID1500. I’ll presume they are both using the same LED’s. Here is the IB1500 set to full daylight as it appears to the RED One camera set to a 5600K reference. The light delivers 5600K balance but with a mild green spike. (Remember, -6 tint is my “zero” reference.)
And here’s the IB1500 in daylight mode after correcting for the green spike in REDCine X.
At full daylight, the addition of a 1/4-minus-green gel will bring the IB1500 into balance with companion daylight sources (at the small cost of a half-stop.)
When faded to tungsten balance, however, the tungsten LED’s exhibit a huge green spike to the RED One camera:
Here’s the IB1500 in tungsten mode after correcting for the green spike in REDCine X.
Compensating for this excess green tint requires a 3/4-minus-green to full-minus-green gel. Then one has to correct for the shift in blue-red balance (ie: Kelvin degrees) caused by the heavy minus-green filter. It gets pretty complicated at this point.
So, are these instruments ready for a professional set?
At daylight, both the ID1500 and IB1500 are quite functional with a wee bit of correction. I’d be pleased to include the ID1500 in my kit.
At tungsten, the IB1500 requires so much correction as to become difficult to use in coordination with other lighting technologies. More importantly, that variable spike introduced over the color fader range requires a constantly changing pack of gels to manage that spike. Add the one-stop variation in light output as one fades the color and you’re adding a lot of setup time to the set.
Professional gaffers are accustomed to managing and tweaking various lighting technologies (HMI’s are particularly challenging and require ongoing monitoring.) So, it’s conceivable that, once some testing and standards are established, the IB1500 could fair well. As with any instrument (and certainly LED sources in this class) testing is key. It would be hugely advantageous to have a cross-fading instrument that maintains its intensity levels across the full color fade.
disclaimer: While Ikan requested I review their lighting instruments, I have no relationship with Ikan beyond this review. I am not an employee nor have I been compensated in any way for my time and effort. The lights were returned to Ikan upon completion of my testing.