We’re seeing a variety of RGB tubes hit the market and given the similar form factor and feature set of many of them, I wanted to know if the LEDGo AltaTube stood out from the crowd. Recently, we had the opportunity to give the 180C (6 ft./70 in.) tube a try on the set of a feature film shooting in Indiana. Did it hold up to a Midwest winter and the long shooting days? Find out below:
I have worked with Digital Sputnik Voyagers and Quasars and Titan tubes in the past, but RGB functionality is still relatively new when it comes to LED tubes. Personally, I love tubes because they’re just so darn flexible. Put them in the background and you have architectural accent lighting. Bring a few together and you have a nice soft key or fill light. In terms of mounting I’ve velcro’d them to the ceiling and even used gaff tape (careful on paint) to add a little ambient to a scene. Include the RGB and built-in gel factor and your gel kit will be staying home.
The brand LEDGo was new to me, but a quick B&H search led to a variety of available LEDGo fixtures beyond tubes including fresnels, RGB panels, flexible LED mats, and even on-camera lights aimed at the broadcast and V-log world. If you snag a LEDGo Wi-Fi router, you’re able to control brightness and color temperature through an app on your favorite IOS or Android device. I always feel more comfortable making purchases when I know there’s an ecosystem supporting the device.
The company does have 4 ft. fixtures, but I was especially interested in trying out the 6 ft. version given the lack of 6 ft. RGB tube options out there.
Let’s start with the basics.
For $800 you’re getting:
- AltaTube 180C RGB 6 ft. tube light
- Soft carrying case
- Ballast with integrated feeder cable and power cable
- Velcro Supports x2
- Single ¼” 20 Mount
Additionally I tested the 180C tube with a dual C-stand mount (pictured below) as well as an optional grid accessory (not pictured).
The dual stand mount is infinitely better than the single 1/4″ 20 mount which is included (pictured below on the left). At 6 feet the light is simply too heavy for the included mount and there isn’t a great way to secure the fixture without using a tried and true Cardellini clamp or the optional dual stand mount. This is disappointing, but I’m guessing the 4 ft. version of the AltaTube would hold up far better with the included mount. I didn’t find the dual stand mount perfect for the 6 ft. tube either, so at this point you might be better off with the previously mentioned clamp mounting solution.
That being said, the Velcro-based mounts are fantastic and an excellent solution for creating high quality RGB ambient light from above in a small room where hiding fixtures from the camera is tricky. In fact, I used them so often I’d love to see them as a separate SKU that is compatible with other brands. I asked an LEDGo representative about this and was told their Velcro tube holders are slightly too large for other tube brands on the market, so that using the mount with other tube fixtures isn’t possible yet.
An optional grid accessory does work to limit the light spread, but it is made with soft semi-rigid fabric and I think a harder and more rigid material might be easier to slide on and off. Not all the accessory options are perfect, but many of the competitors out there tend to ship without any accessories so that’s worth keeping in mind when making purchase or rental decisions.
Both ends of the light have a slightly raised soft plastic padding that helps to prevent damage if the tube is dropped. This is a great idea and makes me feel better about Velcro’ing the fixture to higher places (obviously always secure your fixture safely) and the padded design should also be appealing for long term use in rental houses. Otherwise the LED diode design appears similar to other tubes in that you’ll see different diode types slowly fade up and down as you change Kelvin temp throughout the full 2700 to 7500K range.
In the onboard menu you’ll also find a seven built-in lighting effects that I rarely use personally, but are good to have when the moment strikes where you need a good fire flicker or flashing cop car look. There’s a debate currently in nerdy DP circles about the quality of in-light programmed gel settings versus normal physical gels and the AltaTube allows you to toggle a variety of gels like CTB, CTO and even Sodium Vapor within the menu. Without fully weighing in on the debate I find the gels work fine and Sodium Vapor is especially useful for city streets.
Most importantly, the AltaTube 6 ft. played perfectly with a variety of the other RGB fixtures (Gemini, SkyPanel, Astera, Digital Sputnik) present on the film without a noticeable color shift or green or magenta skew in-camera.
Controlling the AltaTube:
Controlling the AltaTube 180C is intuitive and this is one of those fixtures where diving into the manual isn’t, in my view, a necessity. A small LCD screen (see below) lets you know where you are living in the menu and two knobs (pictured above) lets you navigate quickly through settings. Selecting your Kelvin, intensity, or working your way through the color wheel is easy and the light is fully dimmable down to 1% — which isn’t true of all LED lights.
While I didn’t get to test DMX capability the 180C is also controllable through Wi-Fi with a router.
The 180-watt 6 ft. AltaTube cannot be charged by standard Gold or V-mounts in that it is wall powered only. Luckily, I’m usually near a generator or have available wall power, but this does make mounting to the ceiling a little trickier (you need to find a place for the ballast and power cable). The feeder cable for the ballast is also, in my opinion, too short in my opinion and which means you’ll be using a bongo tie or two to mount it on a C-Stand, that or finding another place to mount it. Perhaps this was an attempt not to lower the overall output with a longer cable, but I would prefer more mounting flexibility. Speaking of output — the probable reason for the lack of battery options is because the output of the AltaTube 180C is fantastic and also very power hungry. If you’re looking for a battery-powered option of the AltaTube, then you’ll need to go to the 4 ft. or 2 ft. variants.
The company claims 427 fc / 4594.5 lux at 3.3′ / 1.01 m at 2700K. While I can’t speak to the accuracy of those photometrics it is very clear to me that this is one of the brightest tube lights I’ve ever used and most importantly it looks great through the eyepiece of our Alexa LF while filming.
Quick Competitor Comparison:
Note: These are not exact 1:1 comparisons because the following are 4 ft. options, versus the 6 ft. 180C AltaTube, but it will give you an idea of other available RGB tube fixtures on the market.
- Digital Sputnik Voyager 4ft: $690.00
- Quasar Rainbow RGBX 4ft: $524.99
- Astera Titan FP1 (Slightly under 4 ft.): $850.00 (Charger not included)
Work on the current film confirms the AltaTube 180C is without doubt a professional fixture and a useful tool in a variety of circumstances. It holds up alongside our SkyPanel and Gemini fixtures and trounces the Digital Sputnik Voyagers in terms of output. There is room for improvement on the accessories and feeder cable length, but I am convinced this versatile LED tube light will remain part of my arsenal well into the future.