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Photon Management
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Old February 26th, 2005, 01:16 PM   #1
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mini version of those screen things that are huge except small and homemade and cheap

1. So if you live in l.a., you're always seeing TV shows shooting everywhere on the street. So last night I saw this twice: giant HUGE lights thirty feet tall that are very very bright.

Then, standing in front of those very very bright lights are these kinds of magical shimmery screen things, sort of like a drum skin. So it's like a very bright light shining thru a whitish, diffusing drum skin-like thing.

What is that thing called?

2. The thing I keep noticing about hard lights is that it seems to be blinding--like you can't use undiffused key lights without blinding the talent. I would like to get some work lights and stuff, but I'm wondering, is there a way to create little mini diffusers? Like wrap a bedsheet around a tennis racket and tape it front of the light/?

Are there any well-known or useful DIY ways of doing this?
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Old February 26th, 2005, 01:55 PM   #2
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The Chimera style soft boxes do this.

You can also clip 'diffusion' in front of a light with clothespins. You can use diffusion gels, of varying density, or even baking parchment.

You can hang a diffusing cloth or scrim made of muslim, and focus lights through it.

You can hang a diffusing 'gel' made of a shower curtain and focus lights through it.

As you can see, yes, there are pleny of homemade approaches, the advantage of the pro versions are usuallly that they allow you to controll the ammount of light/diffusion/spill in a much more efficient manner.
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Old February 26th, 2005, 03:47 PM   #3
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Ya know, re: softboxes, I recently got two JTL softboxes, and absent a dimmer there isn't really any "control" at all: you get one type of light and that's all. You can move it, you can put a different power bulb in and you can run it through a dimmer. It's not clear to me why these offer so much more "control" as everybody is CONSTANTLY saying.
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Old February 27th, 2005, 01:15 AM   #4
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The device to which I think you refer is often called a "butterfly". They are used to either reflect light or to diffuse light for large scenes.

As Richard remarked, soft-boxes mounted on an instrument produce the same diffusion effect. The general principle at work is that the larger the light surface, the softer (more diffuse) the light. Butterflies intercept a direct beam and in effect provides a larger light source. Soft-boxes do the same job, albeit on a smaller scale.

In my experience and observation, the most common mistakes that new video filmmakers make with lighting are (1) they apply too much of it, and (2) they put it in the wrong places. If your talent is being "blinded" by your lighting you may be committing both of these errors. That is, you may be blowing harsh point-source lights far too low into their faces.

DIY lighting setups can certainly be accomplished on low budgets. But it's essential to first study basic photographic lighting techniques. (There are many good books, and even a few videos, on the subject.)

To answer your "control" question, the intensity of professional lighting instruments (such as tungsten fresnels) is generally moderated through the use of graded scrims mounted to the front of the lens. These are wire screens designed to cut the amount of light in terms of F-stops (of T-stops). Scim sets are generally provided with good instruments (such as Arri's). Home improvement store worklights, of course, have no facility for such control (or any control, for that matter), which represents one of the challenges of low-budget lighting setups.

If possible, may I suggest that you consider renting some good lights for a shoot if possible in your area. The cost should be fairly modest and it will give you a chance to see how pro instruments actually operate. It should also help guide you in constructing a more effective "DIY" kit if you choose to do so.

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