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Why the Temperature of Light is a Big Deal

You liked the paint color in the store. Got it home. Not so great. Seems like the same thing happens when it comes to rugs, furniture and even clothing. Looks great here, but not so much there.

Relax. It’s not you. It really is the light.

Or to be more precise, it’s the temperature of the light.

The color temperature of a light source is a numerical measurement of its color appearance. The unit of measure is called the Kelvin (K). It’s based on the principle that any object will emit light if it is heated to a high enough temperature, and as the temperature increases, the color of that light will change.

Think about an old-fashioned filament light bulb and a dimmer switch. At the dimmer’s lowest setting, the bulb’s filament emits a reddish glow. As you dial up the dimmer, the electricity causes the filament to get hotter. As it gets hotter, the red glow turns yellow, then white and (if the bulb wouldn’t burn out) would ultimately turn a bluish white and finally blue. (Take a look at the color/temperature scale at the top of this post.

The light in the store, the light outdoors, the light in your home are likely all different temperatures…which changes your perception of the color you see in the paint, rug, furniture etc.

Great tip for interior design. But what does all of this have to do with your audiovisual equipment?

It turns out…A LOT.

For AV equipment, such as projectors, the color temperature setting controls the way in which the projector projects white and color. A true white is around 6500° Kelvin; if the projector is told to display white at a higher color temperature, whites will tend to have a bluish hue to them. If you set the projector to a lower setting, whites will tend to have a more reddish hue.

For color-perfect projection, the easy answer would be to not dink around with the equipment’s color controls. Problem is, equipment coming from the factory may or may not be perfectly set and even if it is, the defaulted temperature levels may not be to your liking or appropriate for the environment in which the equipment is being used.

Besides that, different sources just look better at different color temperatures. Computer images can look brighter and more vivid at a higher color temperature while movies are better at or below 7000° K. Generally, projectors’ settings will range between 5500° K- 9000° K.

Which is all well and good, but the adjustment controls that you can play with on most equipment are generally labeled as low, mid and high, or warm, normal and cool. Good luck with that! Really, it’s no way for you to spend your afternoon.

When you work with a professional AV systems integration company like ExhibitOne, you can be certain your equipment is dialed in with precision. We have the set-up, testing and calibration equipment and expertise to ensure the color temperature being displayed by your equipment is exactly where it needs to be for your specific needs.

The good news is your A/V equipment can always be color perfect. The bad news is that with all of this technology and capability, even we can’t do anything about your paint colors, furniture or rugs.  Sorry. That’s all you.


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