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Old June 15th, 2013, 11:53 PM   #1
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Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Hi

I needed some common sense suggestions on which materials are safe to use for bouncing, diffusion or when in close proximity to 650W upto 2K Tungsten Fresnels and/or Red heads/Blondes. I've been trying to Google about this for a month, but can't find definitive answers.

Here are the materials:

Muslin, bleached and unbleached, for bouncing
Foam boards, for bouncing
Black cotton cloth, for negative fill or blocking
Tracing Paper, for diffusion
Cheap black velvet cloth (in the absence of duvetyne)

Vinyl flooring
Painted walls and ceilings
Carpets
Wooden furniture

If you know of any 'replacements' for the above materials, available commonly, please share. Some custom video 'brands' aren't available in my country, and I'll have to import them if it comes to that.

Thanks!
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Old June 16th, 2013, 02:29 AM   #2
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

All of the materials on your list can catch fire if they come in contact with the light.

Usually any material you use as a *reflector* will be far enough away from the heat source not to catch fire. I use foamcor, which is slightly less that 1/4" thick (5mm?), white paper on both sides with a solid foam core. Here it comes in 4x8' sheets, cut them down to two 4x4's for less than $20 USD. I've seen people use ridgid polystyrene foam insulation board, perhaps 1" (2.5cm) thick, but it's a little blue, not quite white.

Holding such a reflector is a different matter. They work well with C-stands and sand bags, if you have them. If you don't, an assistant can hold one for short shots. For interior shots they can be propped up, taped to things, etc., use your imagination.

For exterior shots with any breeze at all large reflectors can be quite a problem.

The diffusion is the bigger fire danger. It's quite easy for the material to come in contact with the light. DON'T use flammable materials here! Rosco sells a product designed for the purpose called "Spun", or "Tough Spun", very inexpensive if you can get it.

There is a product here called baker's parchment, it's a non-stick sheet for pastries and is used by many bakeries for some of their products. It is designed to go into an oven, and is quite fire resistant, though it does yellow a bit at high temps. Perhaps this is available in India?

Yes, a 650w or 2k can catch rugs, upholstry, drapes on fire quite easily, and should never come in contact with flammable materials.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 03:36 AM   #3
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

In the past tracing paper was used for diffusion on lights, but it's been replaced by the range of diffusion gels from filter manufacturers. These are clipped to the outer edge of the bard doors, rather than on the light itself. Some diffusion filters are intended only for use on diffusion frames (these aren't mounted on the light, but held on C stands etc), so you shouldn't use these directly on lights.

Greaseproof paper may be the UK equivalent of baker's parchment, it's used for cooking, If using this, attach the material to outer edge of the barn doors, rather than the light housing, close to the lamp.

You can use tracing paper in diffusion frames similar to the specialised non heat resistant diffusion filters, however, don't mount it too close to the light.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 10:14 AM   #4
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Thank you, guys!

Yes, I can get grease paper, that looks like a solid option. I think I can get Rosco stuff as well, so I'll look into that.

What about muslin? If that is flammable, how foolproof is soaking it in water and wringing it, so it's wet but not dripping?

And let's say I keep the lights clear of all objects, about one feet all around; is that a safe enough distance if the lamp has to burn for at least an hour?

Thanks again, really appreciate it.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 10:42 AM   #5
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

I'd use material like muslin on diffusion frames, rather than on the lights. You can get fire retardant spays to coat fabrics that helps to prevent ignition.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 02:35 PM   #6
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sareesh Sudhakaran View Post
...What about muslin? If that is flammable, how foolproof is soaking it in water and wringing it, so it's wet but not dripping?...
Muslin is flammable. It's all flammable.

I'd hesitate to soak it. First, it is going to dry out, and it might do so without you realizing it. Second, water and electricity don't mix, any water on a set needs to be very closely controlled.

OTOH, as Brian points out above, controlling the muslin by having it on a frame should mean that it never comes in contact with lights.

I tend to be pretty conservative about safety issues, burning down the house is never a good idea, and there are a few ways to do it in video production. Avoid death, I always say.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 05:00 PM   #7
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

One of the things I love most about switching to LED is that there is no chance of starting a fire. Anything can be used for diffusion or bounce.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 10:53 PM   #8
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
One of the things I love most about switching to LED is that there is no chance of starting a fire. Anything can be used for diffusion or bounce.
Thought of buying the new Arri L7-Cs, but they cost double in my country, and I need three of them. Can't justify the expense....and the weight.
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Old June 16th, 2013, 10:55 PM   #9
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Thank you, Seth and Brian. Will try to stay safe for sure!

Would you say one or two feet is a safe enough distance from the face of the light - for the reflector or diffusion? Like a rule of thumb, i.e.?
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Old June 17th, 2013, 02:11 AM   #10
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

The further a light is away from the diffusion or reflector the larger the area, so the softer the light. I suspect for diffusion frames and reflectors you'll be further away than one or two feet. The poly board reflectors melt if you're too close.

The Blonde is the most likely light to cause heat problems, I've heard of them cracking windows if too close.
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Old June 17th, 2013, 03:20 AM   #11
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Do your googling on these search terms

NDFR - non-durable flame retardant
DFR - durable flame retardant
IFR - inherently flame retardant

then try flame retardant proofing.

The problem is you used 'proof', which nothing really is.

Some natural fabrics, some cottons, for example resist catching fire, some go ZAP!

You can by fluid like flamebar, which you can google - and this can be sprayed on fabrics to slow down the catching fire process. Some fabrics burn, some singe, some melt, and some seem to just combust with little effort.

This should help you. In the UK, fabrics are often labelled clearly, but many people when presented with other people's fabrics, spray them routinely, just in case.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 06:44 AM   #12
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Thanks Brian and Paul!

I'll try to find some fire-retardant materials. Otherwise I'll just try to be extra careful.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 06:21 PM   #13
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

Yeah, be extra careful and also make sure your liability insurance is up to date.
Wait a second . . . do I smell smoke??
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Old June 18th, 2013, 06:41 PM   #14
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

In some countries the penalties might be more than civil/financial. There are some materials whose flame retardancy is part of the requirement of their MIL-SPEC rating, so you might have luck finding a material that complies with a particular spec. If you have a vendor of Rosco gels I'd try to get a swatch book and order a roll of something intended for the purpose. They have some fabric materials as well as polyester based diffusion materials that are manufactured for heat resistance. For a DIY flame retardant you might try something like Homemade Flame retardant but do a flame test after you treat your muslin. Good luck!
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Old June 18th, 2013, 09:04 PM   #15
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Re: Are commonly available materials fire-proof?

This fire, which killed 100 people 10 years ago was three miles from my house and was fueled by foam insulation that wasn't fire proof. I spent about a week afterwards doing live shots from across the street. I understand it was caused by people also trying to be "extra careful". Don't be stupid using materials for purposes they aren't designed for.

VIDEO: The Station Nightclub Fire
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