Photo by Hector Sanchez via Flickr/ CreativeCommons

Photo by Hector Sanchez via Flickr/ CreativeCommons

In a move to make LA more energy-efficient, the city has been changing the light bulbs. Since 2009, over 140,000 sodium-vapor street lights were switched to new LED ones in the first phase of the world’s largest lighting retrofit.

According to Forbes, “The City of Los Angeles estimates it will see at least $7 million in electricity savings and $2.5 million in avoided maintenance costs annually with the switch to LED streetlights.”

Phase two of the process will begin in July, and 70,000 more will be replaced, which means that Los Angeles’ once orange-tinted nightscape is gradually brightening up a bit.

“It’s not really a comforting output,” said filmmaker Dave Kendricken of the old, sodium-vapor lights. “It’s sort of industrial and utilitarian and not really naturalistic, whereas these new LEDs that have replaced them produce a cast that is much more reminiscent of daylight. So it’s more pleasing to the eye.”

“And hopefully to cameras,” he added. The new lights will have some important implications for moviemakers here in the entertainment capital of the world. The LED lights allow for a more full representation of the color spectrum.

That orange hue “defined the look we’ve mocked in filmmaking for many years and it will be a dramatically different landscape on film in years to come,” said Wally Pfister, a cinematographer who worked on the Dark Knight Trilogy.

“And the interesting part is that we’ll see probably more of the natural colors, because the other difference is that LEDs are a lot closer to a full spectrum of the color scale than sodium-vapors or mercury-vapors.”

But the most dramatic change, according to Pfister, will be looking out from the window of a flight descending into LAX.

“The best view, which is in an airplane as you land at LAX, you see the glow, the orange glow, the sodium vapors and little smatterings of blue and green that come from the mercury vapors, so clearly it’s going to change the look of this city.”

Wally Pfister talks to Warren below:

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6 Comments »

  • Claudia said:

    Great to see that LA is finally changing the lights – in my opinion many more cities should do that. It would save a lot of money that can be invested in better things…

  • vqporfiend said:

    The next time you have a chance to walk around a neighborhood with LED street lights, take a gander at the shadows cast by these new lights. Notice anything different? Pass under a tree and you'll see what I can only describe as a "grid shadow" caused by these new streetlights. But a shadow is a shadow right?

    Well,if a single light source shines, then yes, a single shadow will shadow the subject being lit. But since there is no such thing as a single LED (meaning a single diode) powerful enough to light a street, clusters of LEDs are used such as in the Cree Ledway 30D streetlights that have sprouted around the West LA area. With a cluster of 30 individual diodes in each unit, instead of a single HPS bulb, the shadows thrown by these LEDS creates a grid like pattern which can be seen best when walking under a tree with a streetlight over or near it.

    The best example of this would be to talk a nice evening walk starting at Wilshire Blvd and S. Wilaman Dr (older HPS streetlights) and walk South. As Wilaman Dr. changes to S. Bedford St (another curiosity), you'll see the new grid shadows being cast by these new streetlights. It would be nice for someone else in this city of 4 million people to notice this other than me.

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  • Bec said:

    Great article, really liked your perspective on these things.

  • electricians said:

    Its a great placement and hopefully very glad by hearing and knowing about new light changes Los Angles city. Thanks

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