Bright Idea in Home Theater Lighting
By Jim Bray
Whod have thought
that putting a fluorescent light behind your TV could enhance your viewing
Yet thats exactly
the case when it comes to CinemaQuest Inc.s Ideal-Lume bias
light, an unassuming little gadget the looks to all intents and
purposes like a conventional fluorescent tube in a small bracket.
This $45 item illuminates
the wall area behind your TV, casting a warm white glow that turns your
TV cabinet into a silhouette while enhancing the screen and whats
Sound silly? I thought
so too, until Denver, Colorados CinemaQuest sent me a sample to
try in my home theater. Now Im convinced, and I use the Ideal-Lume
Bias Light whenever Im watching a movie; I often use it when watching
conventional TV, too.
According to the company,
the image quality you can get from any electronic display device (which
basically means TV or monitor) is affected by the color, point of origin
and intensity of light in the viewing environment. These factors also
affect the amount of eye strain on the viewer. This makes the lighting
in your home theater very important, as anyone will know whos experienced
a washed out picture caused by too much illumination on the viewers
side of the set.
Dimming the room lights
helps a lot, but putting the Ideal-Lume behind your direct-view monitor
or rear-projection TV takes you a long way toward meeting the SMPTEs
(Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) ideal standards regarding
ambient room light.
The SMPTE standard
calls for less than 10% of ambient light when compared to the peak
white output of the display device (the TV). CinemaQuest says Ideal-Lume
gives off more than enough light for the average room; some people may
even find it too bright, in which case you can reduce it by partially
covering the fixture with a non-flammable material or sticking foil duct
tape onto its protective cover.
On the other hand,
in larger rooms or rooms in which the wall behind the TV monitor is especially
dark, you may want to set up an additional unit.
The Ideal-Lume can
either be attached to the back of your TV or sat on the floor behind it.
I plopped it on the floor, not wanting to stick anything to my TV (and
considering I often change TVs for review purposes anyway).
The fluorescent bulb
thats the heart of the product is manufactured in Germany; CinemaQuest
says it features rare phosphors that give it a Color
Rendering Index (CRI) of 98 per cent. CRI, by the way, is the measurement
of a light's ability to render all recognizable pigments, or a light sources
aptitude for illuminating all colors in a natural balance so it
isnt merely a pigment of your imagination.
How does it work?
Well, CinemaQuest says that the Ideal-Lume "biases" the iris of your eyes,
resulting in more relaxed viewing. Couple this with the elimination of
light striking the front of the set you substantially reduce glare and
reflections, which makes colors look brighter and blacks appear blacker.
It also allows you
to turn down your TVs contrast and brightness controls, which not
only makes the picture look more film like, but actually prolongs
the life of the picture tube or CRTs because they dont work
The company also claims
the light helps reduce eye strain, improve your color perception, and
increase the pictures perceived detail, revealing subtle nuances
in the color and shading.
I discovered that
using the Ideal-Lume as the only room illumination was the ideal way to
lume, as it were. Unfortunately, I live in a home that also
includes people who hate sitting in darkened rooms, so most of the time
we had to compromise by using the Ideal-Lume with some room light as well.
It didnt do the same job, but it was workable under such emergency
I tried the thing
with TV screens ranging from 25 to 36 inches, and it worked well with
any of them. The manufacturer says it doesnt cut it with front-projection
or two-piece rear projection set ups, but that means its fine for
most of the TVs in the world.
It still seems strange
to me that a light behind the TV can be a cheap way to improve your home
theater, but it really works well.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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