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tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:05 pm
by ThermaCal
In the most recent case review article Lawrence mentioned a common problem - an LED light being uncomfortably bright. I ran across an elegant solution to this last year and a since it didn't turn up in a quick search of the forums I thought I'd make a post about it.

The product is called LightDims. You can find it on Amazon or directly on their website - It's basically a self-adhering tinted plastic film (in black or silver) that you apply over the offending light. The film is pre-cut into different size circles and rectangles. They also offer an uncut version of the sheet as well as an opaque black one too.

I purchased a complete set in at the beginning of the year which included one of each of the film types. I bought it specifically for one device but ended up installing it on nine so far: 2 computers, 3 monitors, router, modem, 2 A/V receivers.

My personal opinions...

Price: Initially I thought it was overpriced for what it was (meaning it felt like it had too high a markup above the perceived material/manufacturing costs). After having used them I feel the benefit they provide is worth the price.

Ease of use: The pre-cut shapes were good fits for most of my uses. The round ones especially are good for covering a single LED. The film pieces were difficult to remove from the sheet they were mounted on. I permanently creased a few while trying to peel them off. I felt a set of tweezers or a utility knife were necessary to remove the films and also to properly position them during application. Getting the smaller ones centered over a small LED can be a challenge. The low-tack adhesive allows you to move it around in place, remove and reapply it, or remove it completely without leaving residue behind. One of my applications was to cover a large vacuum fluorescent display on an older A/V Receiver that lacked a dimming option. I cut a 1.5" x 6" rectangle from the uncut film sheet for this and found it difficult to apply to the display without air bubbles or creases at the edges. I unpeeled and re-layed it 3 times to get what I thought was a clean lay, only to find an edge crease pop up several days later. Another partial unpeel and re-lay will probably solve that problem but I haven't tried it yet. Having said all that I think that particular application was outside of the usage scenarios the product is targeted for.

Appearance: Very unobtrusive in all of my applications. The film has a nice matte finish to it which I think helps it integrate visually. I can't say the silver film matches any of the 3 silver devices I installed it on, but the result is harmonious and certainly better than the black film would be. Overall, compared to my previous black electrical tape-based solutions this is a major improvement.

Performance: Excellent. I find the dimmed light levels to all be quite pleasant. The distracting brightness is gone yet the visual functionality of the LED remains. This is a major improvement over my previous electrical tape black-out solutions. I didn't find it necessary but I think you can easily add additional layers of the film to achieve increased blocking without having to go totally opaque.

When I purchased this I wasn't aware of any other alternatives. I'd like to think that there is an un-cut industrial film product available less expensively somewhere, but after using this product I can say the pre-cut shapes provide value in minimizing the film handling, as well as having the applied film look integrated. Also, after having dealt with all of the obnoxious LED's in my life I've barely made a dent in the sheets I got. It wasn't my plan, but I think I inadvertently bought a lifetime supply. Or enough to solve this problem for my friends and family too.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:21 pm
by Cistron
My solution was always a few coats with a black permanent marker.

Not sure what's with the trend of super bright LEDs everywhere. In my local tube station, particularly the green train traffic light actually manages to cast shadows all the way to the other end of the platform. Most notice boards are now so bright, that it is uncomfortable to read. *rant*

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:28 pm
by ThermaCal
Interesting idea. I can see that working, though I think I'd be reluctant to marker-up a new device I just paid for. Reminds me of how it used to be common to see painted incandescent A-lamp bulbs in advertising.

Speaking of signs... 10+ years ago a new LED-lit theater marquee sign was installed on 42nd St in New York that I found painful to look at from 3 blocks away.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:08 pm
by xan_user
Lithographers Tape would work really well, and probably result in a nice purple hue when put on a blue led, but i dont have any on hand.

so i use what i have, black marker ( the real stinky kind) and or painters masking tape.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:08 pm
by ThermaCal
That's def more like the industrial film product I thought must be out there. A google image search of "Lithographers Tape" does show it's already being used/promoted as a dimming film. Difficult to tell how dark it actually is (or can be if it's varies in density) but more important is the fact that it is visibly a deep red color. Probably not a big deal on a black case, but probably not esthetically pleasing on a lighter color.

As for the masking tape, if it's paper-based that would probably allow some of the light to shine through, which I think is a good thing. I've only tried using opaque black plastic electrical tape before, and now that I've replaced those with the tinted films, I feel some light is def better than no light.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:19 pm
by xan_user
the tape ive seen are pretty dark.
ThermaCal wrote:probably not esthetically pleasing on a lighter color.
stick large square over LED, cut around carefully with sharp exacto, peel off everything but the part covering LED. (thats what ive done in the past with painters tape.)

your post turned on the light bulb in my head about using lithographers tape, even though ive known about it for years. ill have to ask my offset printing freind if he still has some around... but now that everything is done digitally, there's really no need for it.

now that im thinking about it, this might even be easier/better... ... ens/Detail
it goes on real thick. and gets darker with evey coat.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:41 am
by edh
Putting tape over or drawing on an LED does nothing to reduce it's power consumption which I would rather tackle at the same time. Power LEDs are routinely disconnect now as they add nothing to a computer. You could replace any other LEDs with lower power ones or put a resistor in line perhaps. A neater solution offered by Shuttle for some of their XPC range is that you can set the brightness of LEDs from the BIOS!

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:31 pm
by ThermaCal
Ironically a 2003 Shuttle XPS was my introduction to annoying LED's. Still, if they're providing BIOS-based dimming that gives me hope that LED's may follow in the steps of fan headers in getting that control as a common feature. Though I'm not sure how that would work, or even if it's possible from say an individually purchased motherboard point of view versus a complete system manufacturer like Shuttle. Somewhat related - my 2012 Asus motherboard has an LED back-lit decorative feature (SupremeFX audio) that they thankfully provide a BIOS on/off switch for.

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:38 pm
by cmthomson
There are of course two ways to use black electrical tape for this application: complete blackout with a patch of tape, or dimming using the same patch with a pin hole...

Re: tinted film for dimming bright LED's

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:05 pm
by laststop
I have this dark blue electrical tape that works perfect. 1 layer dims it, 2 layers dims it more, 3 layers its just barely visible and 4 layers its totally gone. I use 1 layer for some and 2 layers for others. It's much too involved to buy a dimmer led light and change the lights. That's a little crazy imo. Save the power usage of the light someone said. You do realize 1 little led light is like milliwatts of power.

Checked out the site 6.48 including shipping for 100 precut pieces isn't that bad of a deal actually. or 4 sheets 1 of each type for 16.48 including shipping thats like buy 3 sheets get 1 free. I think I'm gonna buy a 4 pack variety pack. Like the OP said it's basically a lifetime supply for 16.48. Seems like an andrew jackson well spent and you still get a few george washingtons back.