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Old February 13th, 2004, 09:41 AM   #1
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Very cheap diffuser - or not?

I was presenting a corporate video a week or so ago and the lights were diffused with tracer (you know, the stuff that comes on a big roll and looks like tracing paper).

It looked and felt just like cheap domestic greaseproof paper and I was wondering whether it was safe/desirable to use the stuff my wife buys from the supermarket (ie at a fraction of the cost). I have 3 x 600w mini redheads which are often too harsh.

I'm going to assume that because the stuff was designed to go in an oven there is minimal fire risk. But is the result the same?

Anyone got any views?

Thanks . . . Ian . . .
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Old February 13th, 2004, 12:33 PM   #2
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Recently I was doing a shoot for a fellow who had NO budget. All he had for lighting were some Home Depot worklights, which were very bright and fairly even temperatured, but were prone to having hotspots at certain angles. In a rush in trying to make these lights work, I raided his kitchen and found good old fashioned cooking wax paper, which is probably what you're describing.

It did a tremendous job of diffusing the light, and is essentially heat resistant. There were occasions where the material made solid contact with the framing of the cheap lamps and started burning off the wax, but it definitely will not catch fire or do any actual damage to anything.

Best part is, it didn't reduce the brightness of the light too much. So would I use the wax paper again? Definitely. Will I ever shoot with Home Depot work lights? Heck no - but I had no choice in that shoot; the budget wasn't mine. But I learned something new about wax paper's uses, so it made the experience worthwhile.
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Old February 13th, 2004, 01:33 PM   #3
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You can use just about anything transluscent to diffuse light. But be careful with that yellow tracing paper; it's highly flammable.

But perhaps the best way to soften a light is to bounce it off of another surface such as foam board or a dedicated reflector. This has the effects of removing hot-spots and creating a much softer light than fixture-mounted diffusing gel can produce. (Remember, size matters when it comes to soft light; the larger the effective light source, the softer the light.) Used this way, even inexpensive work lights can be made to do great things.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 08:26 AM   #4
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Definitely true, we also used the heck out of good old foam core white boards, which you can get for a couple of bucks each from your neighborhood crafts store.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 11:51 AM   #5
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I've had very good luck with a white translucent material my local art supply store simply labels "mylar." Its thicker and softer than other mylar I have seen. I comes in 36x42 sheets for <$6. I've found it to be as heat resistant as toughspun, better at evenly diffusing light, and much easier to get. Sorry I cant provide a more specific reference on it.
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Old March 1st, 2004, 09:21 PM   #6
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Interesting........ Dr WAtson

Wax paper..............
Diffuser


Quite an interesting idea......


Touche
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Old March 2nd, 2004, 03:19 AM   #7
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I don't know how much they cost in the states, or anywhere else, but professional paraflene(?spelling?. the lighting diffuser tracing paper) is not expensive at all. I get two lights worth for maybe 30 cents. Or are they selling fake stuff?
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Old March 18th, 2004, 05:13 PM   #8
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And I've been suspending furnace filters from a c-stand in front of a 1k baby for years. More filters=more diffusion (and they are cheap and come with a built-on frame!)
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Old March 18th, 2004, 06:58 PM   #9
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I've been using a couple of sheets of Opal (Rosco) gels on my Baby Solarspot and really like it. It's a little pricey, but the gels are holding up really well and I expect I'll be able to use these two sheets almost indefinitely. No worry about them burning.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 12:33 PM   #10
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You can hang a frosted shower curtain in front of your lights. Don't get too close because it'll melt.

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Old March 20th, 2004, 02:58 PM   #11
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Cokin's filters are inexpensive, and they sell a number of diffusers.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 07:24 PM   #12
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I think the product that Ian was referring to was bakers parchment. It's a silicone impregnated paper that is rated for up to 400 deg F ovens and it's transparent. Ibuy it at Costco 3 rolls for $8.

Mind you I use it for baking but that is a darn good use for it, beats waxed paper.
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Old March 26th, 2004, 11:44 AM   #13
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On the advice of someone on another board, I use a fabric called unbleached muslin. I picked up a yard of it at Wal-Mart for $0.88US. It works really well and is extremely heat resistant. I cut pieces to fit all of my lights and I still have a lot of material left over.
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Old March 26th, 2004, 12:02 PM   #14
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Unbleached muslin worries me as a fire danger. I could see it lasting a while, but not under a 1000 watt light spotted down. Sorry, but I'm concerned about that.

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Old March 26th, 2004, 12:50 PM   #15
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That's something I keep a very close eye on. Then again, I don't have anything in my kit over 500 watts, so that might be why it hasn't been an issue for me so far. If I ever step up to a 1k, I'll probably build some sort of holder to keep the material away from the light (might not be a bad idea to do it now).
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