Los Angeles in a new light

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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: