Opinions on Cheap LED Lights, Please.

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
I asked this in another topic, but I want to make it a subject on its own: Are the cheap LED lights sold by Amazon and other outlets at all usable?

For example, I am assuming that theatrical professionals would see something like these lights as pure junk. But my context is not professional. I am trying to light a community theater musical being done in a local middle school and the school system's built-in lighting system (which was never that great to begin with) has suddenly and completely failed. The school bureaucracy is impenetrable and won't get the lights repaired until long after our show closes (if ever).

We have a few lights of our own, our own cables for power and DMX, and a computer with QLC+ and an Enttec OpenDMX. But we need more lights. We are on a microscopic budget ($300 is about it). If we buy a few of these crummy LED lights and get Amazon to ship them via overnight delivery, we can hang them in time to open. But I have never used any lights of this kind.

Do they work? And I mean do they work at all? We don't need long-lasting, professional stuff. We only need lights we can dim with our DMX software that actually illuminate the stage below them.

Thanks for your thoughts on this!
 

sk8rsdad

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Ottawa
If you are looking for certainty then cheap LEDs aren't the way to get it. Will they work? Probably. Will they work for your application? It's hard to know without photometric data.

You would be better off talking to a local rental house about what they can offer. I get the sense from your other thread that what you need is a reliable dimmer, not necessarily additional lights.

When ordering from Amazon, try to filter on Amazon Prime vendors. Otherwise you will get 100s of listings for offshore retailers who cannot deliver in a hurry.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
You would be better off talking to a local rental house about what they can offer. I get the sense from your other thread that what you need is a reliable dimmer, not necessarily additional lights.
If we had more time, I'd go that route. However, the existing installation is all incandescents, so a rental dimming system would have be pretty muscular. And, alas, my experience with the local companies is that they won't even come out to see you unless you front them $300, which is our entire budget. On top of that, we need to keep this out of the view of the school system, as they have a tendency to say, "That's not allowed" for almost anything we do.
 

Colin Bishop

ValleyPoint Church AVL Tech
Joined
Nov 24, 2015
Location
Delaware
I use 10 of the ones linked to in your original post every Sunday washing some walls as cheap FX lighting. I do not think they would have to the power to wash or be good key lighting for any theatrical stage though.

They are lighting up the truss in the pictures and the backdrop behind the drum shield, I do not think they'd be great for lighting people though as the white is really bad on them. They have been stupid reliable too, another than one having some channels reversed,I have never had one fail or show other problems.
20170910_164715.jpg
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
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Near Milwaukee
What kind of throw distances are we talking here? If you're trying to get a Front of house face wash out of these from a catwalk position, you're going to have a bad time.

Any chance you can buy a couple of these and use their fixtures, could get you up to 16 lights on 8 channels. That's five sections of face light, one color wash, and a special.

If you just need these for toplight, they can probably get the job done, but you're going to hate the way they 'pop' on, the dimming curve is probably really 'steppy' (especially at the low end), and they will probably look god awful on camera if you are making an archival recording. (note, I have no experience with these specific fixtures, but have been stuck with very similar level lights in several community theaters in my area)
 

microstar

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Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Location
Lawton, OK
What kind of throw distances are we talking here? If you're trying to get a Front of house face wash out of these from a catwalk position, you're going to have a bad time.

Any chance you can buy a couple of these and use their fixtures, could get you up to 16 lights on 8 channels. That's five sections of face light, one color wash, and a special.

If you just need these for toplight, they can probably get the job done, but you're going to hate the way they 'pop' on, the dimming curve is probably really 'steppy' (especially at the low end), and they will probably look god awful on camera if you are making an archival recording. (note, I have no experience with these specific fixtures, but have been stuck with very similar level lights in several community theaters in my area)
His existing fixtures would have to be lamped at only 300 watts each to get 16 fixtures on eight 5 amp channels. Plus only 1800 watts max on each pack limits it even further. His smallest lamp is probably 500 watts. I like the idea, except he could only run 6 fixtures in practice. Maybe renting similar portable dimmer packs allowing higher wattage loads?
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
What kind of throw distances are we talking here?
Short, maybe 20-30 feet. We can hang them on the bars directly over the stage. They are about fifteen feet up.

Any chance you can buy a couple of these and use their fixtures, could get you up to 16 lights on 8 channels.
We have one and will be using it. Most of them have kind of quirky current limits. Typically, they provide a maximum of 15A, with no more than 5A on any one channel. This means you can have three 500W instruments up at one time, which is not too bad, or you can have four 400W instruments up (if there is such a thing; if not, then you have to keep your eyes on the Kill-a-Watt meter and cap your intensity levels at 80% for your four 500W instruments).

If you just need these for toplight, they can probably get the job done, but you're going to hate the way they 'pop' on, the dimming curve is probably really 'steppy' (especially at the low end)
My limited experience with LEDs confirms this. It's kind of surprising, but it's what I have observed. As I understand it, LEDs are "dimmed" by varying the duty cycle of the square-power current that supplies them. I would have thought that would allow for very controllable dimming, but that's just not what I see on the actual devices. Puzzling.

Thanks for the comments. (This is a great site. So glad I found it. People here are amazingly helpful with their professional experience.)
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
Maybe renting similar portable dimmer packs allowing higher wattage loads?
We looked into that, but then it dawned on us that we have to plug these packs into ordinary wall outlets, and those only have 20A breakers. I'm guessing that 15A per-pack limit is about it, as some of that 20A is getting lost as heat in the pack. Shopping on Amazon fails to find me one that will do more than 15A total, 5A per channel.
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
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Near Milwaukee
His existing fixtures would have to be lamped at only 300 watts each to get 16 fixtures on eight 5 amp channels. Plus only 1800 watts max on each pack limits it even further. His smallest lamp is probably 500 watts. I like the idea, except he could only run 6 fixtures in practice. Maybe renting similar portable dimmer packs allowing higher wattage loads?
Assuming he runs them at full :D

My limited experience with LEDs confirms this. It's kind of surprising, but it's what I have observed. As I understand it, LEDs are "dimmed" by varying the duty cycle of the square-power current that supplies them. I would have thought that would allow for very controllable dimming, but that's just not what I see on the actual devices. Puzzling.
Get your hands on some nice ones and you'll see what they can really do! I'm personally looking to get funds together to get at least one face wash's worth of ColorSource Spots as soon as possible. Just thinking of the amount of trips up the ladders they could save me over the years:dance:
 

Colin Bishop

ValleyPoint Church AVL Tech
Joined
Nov 24, 2015
Location
Delaware
My limited experience with LEDs confirms this. It's kind of surprising, but it's what I have observed. As I understand it, LEDs are "dimmed" by varying the duty cycle of the square-power current that supplies them. I would have thought that would allow for very controllable dimming, but that's just not what I see on the actual devices. Puzzling.

Thanks for the comments. (This is a great site. So glad I found it. People here are amazingly helpful with their professional experience.)
Can confirm the dimming curve is usually terrible on these. Mine do not dim well, and the dimmer channel is combined with strobe so it makes dimming a real PITA.
 
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Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
Get your hands on some nice ones and you'll see what they can really do!
A CB'er was kind enough to lend me one about a year ago, for another project. It was rather impressive, even though it was not a name-brand lamp. I believe it listed for about $150. If the show we're doing right now is even partially successful with some cheapies, that will do a lot to bolster my later argument that we ought to buy some decent ones. We do shows in some venues that don't have lights at all. Being able to hang some lightweight lights of our own, either from trees or existing architecture, could be a game-changer for us.

I'm personally looking to get funds together to get at least one face wash's worth of ColorSource Spots as soon as possible. Just thinking of the amount of trips up the ladders they could save me over the years:dance:
Brother, I feel your pain. This is the ladder I have to climb to get to the "booth" on this show.

IMG_2046.JPG
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Have you called in some favors of surrounding big names to see if they will bless you with some help? Sight n Sound comes to mind.

These people are also pretty friendly and turned and entire building into a tech wet dream. http://rocklititz.com/home

Then you have everything in DC.

I know you are grasping at straws but I think this LED straw isn't the one you should be reaching for. The networking straw will be much more rewarding.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
Have you called in some favors of surrounding big names to see if they will bless you with some help? Sight n Sound comes to mind.

These people are also pretty friendly and turned and entire building into a tech wet dream. http://rocklititz.com/home

Then you have everything in DC.

I know you are grasping at straws but I think this LED straw isn't the one you should be reaching for. The networking straw will be much more rewarding.
Long-haul, that's how I'd like to go. In fact, a number of us are loosely working together in the hope of outfitting a shared space the region's community companies can all use. Having relationships with the area's professionals will be essential to that project.

For reference we are here:

upload_2017-11-2_11-45-31.png
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
I know where you are. It's in your profile. That's why I suggested the names I did. I think you could still have both the favor and the ultimate goal. You gotta start somewhere and asking for help with a failing dimmer system is a great way to get your foot in those doors.
 
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