Overview of Ideal-Lume

Ideal-Lume lights are for people who want to enjoy the most beautiful pictures their TV can produce. Most viewers know instinctively their TV looks the best when the room is dark. Why is this the case? Mainly it's because reflections of room lighting are gone and don't interfere with the picture on the screen. Reflections on a TV screen are similar to a double exposed photograph. Such photos are usually thrown away. Another reason dark room viewing looks better has to do with how our vision changes when adapting to a darker environment.


Watching TV in the dark can eliminate screen reflections, but typically causes eyestrain and viewing fatigue. Most of us remember our mothers telling us to turn on a light when we watched TV in the dark as children. Locating such a light behind the TV solves two problems. Eye strain is relieved and screen reflections are avoided.


Ideal-Lume Lights provide another benefit that's a bit more technical. Video experts have found that using the right color of white light behind the TV helps preserve correct color perception ofthe picture. Our products use special lamps that have the same color of light TV professionals use as a reference.TV pictures look more natural when the light in the room is in this color.

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Now, for all the technical details:

In the mid 1980's the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) conducted "human factors" research to identify optimum standards for the viewing conditions in professional monitor environments.  Their work addressed issues applicable to all forms of electronic displays.  These findings, as set forth in their 'Recommended Practices Document #166: Critical Viewing Conditions for Evaluation of Color Television Pictures', can be applied to the consumer's own viewing environment at home to get the highest level of performance and enjoyment from any television.  SMPTE’s work focused not just on helping the viewer see the picture correctly but also on making the viewing experience comfortable over a long period of time - minimizing eye strain as an example.


All TVs require a darkened room to present their best picture. The color, point of origin, and intensity of light in a viewing environment, all affect the quality of image obtainable from any television, as well as the viewing fatigue experienced.  A small light fixture, with a proper 'color temperature' lamp placed behind a direct-view monitor, flat panel TV, or rear-projection set, fulfills much of what is needed to achieve the SMPTE recommendations pertaining to ambient light in the room.


Viewing a TV in a darkened room can cause eye strain in short order. This is primarily due to the iris opening and closing dramatically as scenes change from dark to light on the screen.  For a vivid demonstration of how frequently light levels change throughout a typical program, turn your back to a TV in a darkened room and notice how much the light changes in the room, both in intensity and frequency.  Providing a small amount of light behind the set 'biases' the iris (reducing the range of motion in the iris), resulting in more relaxed viewing.  Glare and reflections are then dramatically reduced, by eliminating any light source from striking the front of the set. Colors appear richer and blacks are darker.  Contrast and brightness controls can be turned down. Doing this will prevent over-saturation of phosphors, thereby reducing the risk of 'screen burn-in and preserving maximum sharpness and detail. Phospor life will also be extended for plasma panels and LCD monitors with adjustable cold-cathode fluorescent backlighting.


The imported fluorescent lamps included in our products feature rare phosphors that perform unusually well.  The 'Color Rendering Index' (CRI) of all our lamps exceeds that of commonly available commercial fluorescents.  Typical fluorescents have a prominent green spike in their spectral content.  The human eye is most sensitive to green light.  Those lamps are manufactured for efficiency and perceived light output rather than color accuracy.  CRI is the measurement of a light's ability to render surface colors recognizable according to a prescribed standard.  Put another way, it’s the ability of a light source to illuminate colors in a predictable balance.


The CRI of most types of lamps is referenced to the spectral content of a standard element heated to a certain temperature on the Kelvin scale. Illuminants rated at 5000 Kelvins and higher are referenced to natural daylight at varying times of day.  Our video monitor luminaires are rated at 6500 Kelvins.  This color of white light is the same as that displayed on a correctly calibrated TV set.  Using 6500K ambient lighting in a video viewing environment preserves accurate color perception of images on the screen.  Another, even more precise, method of measuring an illuminant's color performance is called its 'Spectral Power Distribution' (SPD).  The SPD measurements of our lamps are among the best in the industry. Industry experts recommend a CRI of 90 or better in applications where color recognition is a priority.


A light of this type, placed behind the TV, provides more than enough illumination in most rooms for serious viewing.  Point the light toward the wall behind the set to produce an even glow surrounding the TV.  It is commonly understood in the lighting industry that fluorescent phosphors change as they age. Our fluorescent lamps' published, average, lifespan ratings are their average useable life. When ultimate color performance is the priority, these lamps should be replaced at about their half-life. Even though the eye strain benefits of fluorescent bias lighting will continue until the lamp fails, the color accuracy of our lamps will start to change slightly at approximately 50% of their maximum life rating. Many of our customers order an extra lamp with their Ideal-Lume as a convenience, considering this aging characteristic.


The SMPTE ideal recommends that the wall behind the set be a neutral color to further preserve correct color perception.  Colors classified as neutral by the Munsell Color Order System, range from white to black throughout the gray scale.  Vivid colors should be avoided if they are used within the field of view of the TV screen.  SMPTE suggests Munsell's 'Nearly-Neutrals' be used elsewhere in the viewing environment, but not within the field of view while observing the screen.  The typical off-whites used in most homes will skew the viewer's color perception only slightly.  These lighter wall colors invariably reflect so much light that most users of Ideal-Lume require some degree of dimming. 


SMPTE's research discovered that the optimum level of backlighting for extended viewing should be 10% of the brightest white typically on the screen.  A low-cost but effective method of dimming fluorescents is to use a simple mechanical baffle, to cover the lamp.  All of our models feature this method. 


In the absence of a light meter, there is a simple way to judge if the light is producing the correct amount of illumination on the wall behind the set.  Joe Kane's 'Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics' Blu-ray Disc contains a still-frame reference pattern that can be displayed on the screen to provide a visual comparison.  The Blu-ray Disc is available in our online store.  Mr. Kane chaired the SMPTE Professional/ Studio Monitor Working Group mentioned previously and produced these programs to help consumers and technicians alike optimize their video displays and multi-channel audio systems.


Using an Ideal-Lume behind large rear-projection TVs, larger flat panels, or behind media cabinets makes it difficult to reach the on/off switch on this product. Our online store offers products to enable automated switching of our bias lights if desired.