What is Digital Light?

Here at Light Thinking Rift Labs, we’re working on a new generation of photographic light. Something very different from the traditional light sources used for photo and video. We are working on ‘digital light’, and I thought I’d prepare a little FAQ-style post about it.

Digital Light concept illustration

So what IS digital light?
First, the term ‘digital light’ is a bit generic, I should probably start by saying, that this is our definition of digital light as applied to photography.

Without getting too technical, digital light is light made up of ‘pixels’. Instead of a steady flow of light, like the kind of light you get from a light bulb, digital light is made up of a stream of very rapid blinks of red, blue and green.

But… why?
Well, the overall goal is to open up new creative possibilities. Digital light can do things that traditional light don’t do.

Like what?
First of all, with digital light, you don’t have to worry about filters and gels. You can dial in any color temperature you want. Daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, etc. You can dial in any filter you want, CTO, CTB, plusgreen, etc. You can also go beyond white light and dial in any color if you need, say, “Summer Green” for a background.
We are also working on some pretty far out stuff that involves modulating the light during the individual exposure, ambient light amplification and shadowless light. I’ll post more info when we can demo these things.

Is this, like, laser light?
No. Lasers generate light of a single color. If you illuminate something with a laser, you get a monochrome image. If it’s a red laser, everything would be shades of red. This on the other hand is a broad-spectrum light with very good color rendering.

Does it mean LED light?
Yes, and no. We need a light source that can be controlled very precisely and turned on and off very quickly. It does not have to be LED, but LED is currently the only commercially available technology that can do this. LEDs also have some other attractive properties; they are efficient, they run cool, the are small, and lightweight.

So is this similar to the other LED photo lights out there?
No, this is very different from the simple white led panels that has appeared over the last year or two.

If it blinks, won’t the light flicker?
No. The blinking is very, very rapid. You may be able to sense flickering from a light that blinks 50 times per second. This light blinks typically 25.000 times per second, way beyond anything humans can sense. You could say that the ‘light pixels’ are so small you can’t see them. And importantly, the camera works well with digital light.

Is it a flash or a video light?
The distinction between a flash and a video light makes less sense when it comes to digital light. You can apply it to stills or to video, which is really great if you shoot both.

This is something Light Thinking invented? Have you patented it?
The underlying principles of color mixing is old knowledge. The same for chopping up light into small chunks. We have filed a number of patents on specific ways these principles are applied to photography and some inventions on how to use digital light in conjunction with a camera.

So this is the future of photography?
Your camera is digital. We believe the next generation of photographic lights will emit digital light.

OK, when can I try this out?
By the end of the year, we hope.

Does this make any sense at all? Hit the comments if you have questions!

If you want to learn more about digital light and the new generation of photographic lights that are being developed here, be sure to subscribe to this blog. You can also find us at the twitters.

4 Responses to “What is Digital Light?”

  1. Why not have 3 high powered lasers that emit red, green and blue receptively? Combine the colors and diffuse it to spread it out 1 foot by 1 foot. High powered laser light panel.

    • You mean apart from the fact that you should not point high powered lasers at people? 🙂

      Jokes aside, laser light is naturally collimated, so you would have to use optics to spread it out a bit. You would have three single-wavelength colors, and that would probably affect the quality of the light quite a bit. I have not tried this at all. Possibly not a good option for a general purpose light source, but maybe there are some wild and wonderful effects you could do with such a setup?

  2. Are you planning on something like KickStarter? I’d like to get some as I’m sure others would. KickStarter would be a good place to do this from.


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    […] believe the next generation of photographic lights will emit digital light” says Morten Hjerde of London-based hardware start-up Light Thinking Labs. A potential […]

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