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MediaLight vs. Lumadoodle: Key Differences

Dear MediaLight:

I just found your website. I'm coming from a Lumadoodle that I damaged when I moved to a new apartment. Is there a reason why your lights cost more? Like can you show me actual data?

Amrit S.

Hi Amrit.

Thanks for your message and please forgive the delayed response. We get that question a lot. I usually respond with a question of my own:

Are you saving money if you buy a product that doesn't do what it is supposed to do?

We make lower-cost bias lights that cost roughly the same as Lumadoodle, while offering professional-level accuracy, longer warranty and more connectivity options. 

So, if you are looking to make a more appropriate comparison, I’d compare MediaLight to the brand new LX1 Bias Lighting from the same MediaLight team.

There's much more to making an accurate bias light than taking a low-CRI (only 75 Ra) camping LED strip, “removing the plastic tube and putting a sticker on the back,” as Lumadoodle would like you to believe.

If you don't want to negatively impact the TV image, then there are standards for CRI (Color Rendering Index), chromaticity and spectral power distribution of ambient light that sshould be followed. 

Our company has spent seven years improving the accuracy and features of our products while theirs haven't improved at all, and we know that there is still room for improvement, which is why we are always working on the next iteration. This is why MediaLight products are used by video professionals at virtually every studio and post production facility. 

It goes without saying, but we are not at all associated with Lumadoodle, Govee, Antec, Zabiki or anybody else.. However, what follows avoids opinion and focuses on spectrophotometric data and physical design. 

But, back to your question. I wanted to be able to send an exhaustive response with actual data, so I just ordered a new Lumadoodle unit and measured it under a Sekonic C7000.

First, let's take the strips out of their respective packaging and look at the Lumadoodle next to a MediaLight. The first thing you will notice is that MediaLight has more LEDs. A 5m Lumadoodle strip has 90 LEDs.  A MediaLight of the same length has 150 LEDs.  There are 66.66% more LEDs on the MediaLight per meter. 

Comparing Lumadoodle and MediaLight 
LED Density

 

The chips in MediaLight would cost 66% more based on LED quantity alone even if lower-yield, higher accuracy SMD chips didn't cost more to manufacture. Fact is, they cost at least 20 times more per LED. 

Comparing bias light LED Quality

First, let me just say that this is not a an apples-to-apples comparison.

MediaLight is designed by imaging science professionals and Lumadoodle isn't. MediaLight contains custom Colorgrade Mk2 chips and Lumadoodle doesn't. That's not to knock the people who work there, as they are very nice people, they just don't consider image quality when building their products and are very honest about it. We prefer this to companies that are also selling low-quality LEDs but claiming to be accurate. 

I tested a Lumadoodle a few years ago and assumed, as with a lot of technology, that there would have been incremental improvements since then. In actuality, the CRI (color rendering index) is still very low even though LED technology has advanced significantly over the last 5 years.

Lumadoodle Color Rendering Index (CRI) = 76.3 Ra (deficient)
MediaLight Color Rendering Index (CRI) ≥ 98 Ra 

For contrast, the first (post-beta test) MediaLight sold in 2015 featured a CRI of 91 (now 98-99 Ra). But, even the MediaLight of 2015 had a far higher CRI than the Lumadoodle of today.

The new strip measured warmer than the previous strip, for which you can still see my measurements here from 2017, but still reasonably close to their advertised CCT of 6000K (versus the 6500K reference standard). 

What do I mean reasonably close?

The world of bias lighting is the Wild West. There are very strict industry standards, but few seem to follow them.

We submit our products for independent certification by ISF, while most companies simply print "6500K" on the package, or "pure white", or "true white."  I once bought one to test that said "happy white" on the package. 😁

Two of the worst offenders, though were Vansky and Antec. They were so bad that they actually hurt to use them. If you ever walked in a stairwell or parking deck with crappy, harsh lights, you know what I mean. 

Vansky Bias Lights claimed a color temperature of 6500K on their website but measured at nearly 20,000K

Antec Bias Lighting said that their lights were "precisely calibrated to 6500K" on their website but they measured at 54,000K.  Not going to sugarcoat it, they were horrible. 

Rounding out this introduction, Zabiki and Halo Bias Lighting were also very crappy in their own right, but, fortunately, they already went out of business, so I don't have to review them anymore.

So, the short answer is that it costs more to build MediaLight due to there being more LEDs, which are themselves of higher quality - built to exacting "reference standards," plus a bunch of other components that you need to make an LED strip a fully-functional bias light:

  • CRI of ≥98 instead of 76 (bias lights should be an absolute minimum of 90)
  • Tighter binning tolerances (within 50K of 6500K)
  • Pure copper PCB construction
  • Lots of extras that you'd need to buy separately with other lights (I.e. dimmer and remote, adapter, on/off toggle, extension cord, wire routing clips). 
  • Did I mention 66.66% more LEDs per strip?

I promise that I'm going to get into the raw photometric data soon. But before I do, there is, one confounding part of Lumadoodle branding that causes a lot of confusion, and which results in a lot of emails and web chats to me. 

I didn't test the Lumadoodle Pro because if they are happy to publish a spec that's even worse than their white lights, that's good enough for me. Anyway, if you learn only one thing from this email : "color changing bias lights and color acuity don't mix.

All MediaLight strips are simulated D65 white. They don't change colors. 

Therefore, our comparison is between the MediaLight Mk2 and the white Lumadoodle.

Here is the raw data in .csv format for measurements from both light strips taken with a Sekonic C7000 off of an 18% gray card in a room painted with Munsell N8 paint. (You might have seen our integrating sphere on other pages. We use that to test individual LEDs, bulbs and lamp heads, not assembled strips). 

MediaLight Mk2 (.csv)
Lumadoodle (.csv)

The measurements above were taken with 1m lengths of LED strips. 

Comparing MediaLight and Lumadoodle Features

  • MediaLight includes a dimmer. Lumadoodle does not include a dimmer for their white model (bias lighting should be D65 white, so this is what we are comparing), but you can purchase one for approximately $12
  • MediaLight includes an on/off switch. Lumadoodle does not. If the USB port on your TV doesn't turn off with the TV, you are instructed to unplug it. 
  • MediaLight's dimmer and remote works with Harmony remote or IR universal remotes, Lumadoodle doesn't include a dimmer and the unit available for sale is not Harmony or IR universal remote compatible. 
  • MediaLight uses pure copper PCB (alloy-immersed) for superior conductivity and heat sink capabilities, Lumadoodle does not.
  • MediaLight includes an adapter (North American only), Lumadoodle does not. 
  • MediaLight includes a 5 Year Warranty, and the Lumadoodle warranty is 1 year.
  • MediaLight does not change colors and Lumadoodle does make a model with different colors. If you want changing colors, Lumadoodle is a better choice. However, color changing lights adversely impact the image on screen for color-critical viewing. As a result, MediaLight doesn't offer them. 
  • MediaLight is certified for accuracy by the Imaging Science Foundation and designed to exceed SMPTE standards for ambient light for color critical video environments. Lumadoodle is reasonably close to their stated targets of 6000K and 76 Ra, but these are not reference standards.

Lighting Characteristics

    • MediaLight LEDs are simulated D65 (6500K with the Δuv of .003 -- the Δuv of reconstituted sunlight, in line with the CIE standard illuminant D65) with ultra-high color rendering index (CRI) of ≥ 98 Ra. The chromaticity coordinates are remarkably close to the x=0.3127, y=0.329 standard.

    • Lumadoodle advertises advertises a lower temperature of 6000K (on some pages) and our measurements bear this out. They are warmer than 6500K (about 5600K for this sample). Lumadoodle's color rendering index of 76 is below the SMPTE-recommended minimum value of 90 Ra.
Objectively speaking, higher CRI lights are more accurate than low CRI lights, and 76 is below the threshold for accurate image reproduction.  
    • MediaLight has an R9 (deep red) value of ≥ 97. Lumadoodle has a negative R9 value. This means that Lumadoodle has no deep red in its spectrum, at least not relative to the other colors in the spectrum.
      • Deep red (R9) light is important for accurate skin tones due to the blood flow beneath our skin. (This matters even with a transmissive display, even though the impact is inverted). It also explains why the lights tend to have a green/blue cast compared to high CRI lights. The light comprises blue and yellow peaks.

      Spectral Power Distribution and CRI of MediaLight Mk2

      Spectral Power Distribution and CRI of Lumadoodle

      It can be a challenge to visualize the difference between the spectral power distributions of two light sources, so we will overlap the graphs. The spectral power distribution for the Lumadoodle is superimposed in front of the MediaLight Mk2.  The Lumadoodle appears as translucent white with a black border and the MediaLight Mk2 appears in color. 

      We see that Lumadoodle creates white by combining yellow phosphors (phosphors with a peak wavelength of 580 nm) with a blue emitter. There is no red or green peak in the Lumadoodle sample (you can make low CRI white light by combining two colors of light -- yellow and blue).  

      You can see the separate green and red peaks for the MediaLight Mk2 and the colors that look boldest on the graph represent the colors missing from the Lumadoodle spectrum.  The white "mountaintop" represents the peak energy level of the yellow phosphors in the Lumadoodle.  

      The MediaLight does not contain a yellow peak as a combination of wide and narrow-band red and green phosphors are combined with the blue emitter to give the MediaLight Mk2 SPD a shape that is closer to D65, or "simulated D65."

        Conclusions

        While this comparison is coming from their competitor, unlike some products on the market, Lumadoodle does not claim to be designed for accuracy, and the price is lower than the price of MediaLight, although it is not necessarily lower than similar commodity LED strips. Contrast this with companies who promise more than they deliver. They are promising CRI of 76 and that's what you get.

        Cost is certainly a factor and even the best bias lights won't save a bad TV with the wrong settings.

        We prefer to not sell to people who don't need or want accuracy. There are many more people using TVs directly out of the box than there are people who calibrate their displays. 

        We hope, however, that we've shown why our products cost more to manufacture so that you can decide which product is right for you.

        Here are the founders of Lumadoodle talking about their bias lighting products and how they have a different focus. This isn't unusual. Most LEDs sold as bias lights are commodity LED strips that are designed for multiple purposes, such as tent lights.

        Our lights would make terrible tent lights, but they are exceptional bias lights. However, there are situations where accuracy doesn't matter much, and paying for accuracy isn't worth the additional cost. You should never buy something that costs more than you want to pay for for features that you don't need. 

        If you calibrate your TV, inaccurate lights effectively uncalibrate it from the viewer's perspective. The perceptual differences between the chromaticity and color rendering of the MediaLight and Lumadoodle is, in most cases, far more extreme than the tweaks you'll make to your display, and since the lights provide the visual white point reference, perceived shifts in color temperature and tint will correspond to that difference. 

        If the ambient light in a viewing environment is too warm and has a Δuv that is too high, it will look greener and warmer than simulated D65 light. As a result, a TV will look more magenta and cooler than D65, even when it has been calibrated. 

        And even without the accuracy difference, there are other things that you'd want to add to the Lumadoodle to make it an apples-to-apples comparison based on price, These items include a remote control, a dimmer (bias lights are supposed to be set to 10% of the maximum brightness of the display, so you need a dimmer) AC adapter, an extension cord, higher LED density and a vastly longer warranty period. Adding accessories closes the price gap considerably. 

        The key trade-off is one of cost versus accuracy. If you don't get the accuracy that you need, you are probably paying too much, despite a lower price. And, if you don't need accuracy, you might be better off with a cheaper product, rather than either of the products reviewed on this page.

        That was an interesting comparison. Which lights would you like to see measured next?