Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Odd Diffusion Material

Just for kicks (the tuff spun thread got me to thinking about this), I'm curious what people have used for diffusion that isn't made by Lee or Rosco.

For instance, I've used Xerox paper, paper grocery bags, curtains ...

Anybody got any good stories? Or anybody carry anything unusual in their kit that they like?

Phil Badger
Gaffer, LA

A gaffer in Atlanta I worked with years ago carried a roll of 4' wide tracing paper. In simple head shot lighting set-ups, he'd stick the tube on an ext arm of a C stand, unroll 3, 4 or 5 feet of it, stick some spring clamps to the top and bottom and boom - instant diffusion. The only drawback besides how close you could put it to lights, especially open face units, was a slight bluish cast that was easily fixed with 1/8 or 1/4 CTO.

It also served as a cheap fix for too dark or too bright windows in the background.

Randy Miller, DP in LA

Just a few things I've used off the top of my head -

Shower curtains -
Real parachute cloth -
The whole parachute -
Clear Visqueen - actually looks great on slightly overcast day exteriors, kinda like a lighter half soft frost

I've got some material that a retired key grip called 'dobie cloth' which is kinda nice. I've worked with people who really like nylon taffeta – much thicker than silk, a closer weave so that it diffuses better than silk, yet still can be sewn, and doesn't color the light as much as muslin.

In a pinch I've also used copier paper, paper bags, plastic bags, and once long ago I had nothing handy but the sleeve from a roll of gel - stuck it on the light and it worked. It was a small light, of course.

Ted Hayash
Los Angeles, CA

Ted Hayash wrote :

> The whole parachute

Tried this in a pinch as a butterfly outdoors.

When my C-stands lifted off the ground I felt like an idiot !

(Even worse, a passer-by who saw the parachute asked if I was doing a site specific environmental art piece

Sam "no Christo on a windy day" Wells


Tracing paper has been used for years, It is still a industry standard in most cameraman's bag of tricks. Most people know it as 1000H it is great for lighting a women's face.


Bing Sokolsky, ASC

> Just for kicks (the tuff spun thread got me to thinking about this)

I have quite a collection of old vinyl translucent shower curtains that I use. I've found that you can shoot light straight through them, or drape them on a gobo arm like a shower curtain for varying diffusion, "bunching them up" on the edges to give a variable degree of diffusion.

My wife thinks I'm off that I won't let her throw any of these away, but the do make some nice light, and I don't have a problem cutting them to pieces or throwing them away when they start to color from the heat.

Gerry Williams
San Diego

Phillip Badger wrote:

> For instance, I've used Xerox paper, paper grocery bags, curtains ...

The white polyethylene closed cell foam used as packing material. Comes in big rolls in varying thicknesses. I used some once about 5/16 (8mm) thick in a large sheet. Socked a 1 k open face into it, 2 feet from the lamp. lost 1 stop but was amazed at how big an area the light was diffused over and how evenly it was spread. basically a person standing 4 feet from the hanging sheet was lit *almost* evenly from head to toe.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.

Gerry Williams wrote:

> I have quite a collection of old vinyl translucent shower curtains that I >use.

Oh yeah. There was a type of shower curtain that had sea shell ( classic Shell Petroleum logo kind of shell) shaped pattern in it, with each shell having radial ridges in a fan shape tight at the small end of the shell and fanning out to the large end. A point source coming through a 2x3 foot piece of this can illuminate a 25 x 30 foot space.


Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.

Mark's story about using foam packing material reminds me of another odd diffusion material - the familiar bounce material, bead board. I was never on a set when we pushed a light through it, but I did hear a few stories about people using it as diffusion material in front of big lights, and how it was continually melting. Sounds like a terrible idea from a health perspective, but I can imagine that the light was quite nice, if you could get enough of it...

Ted Hayash
Los Angeles, CA

> Anybody got any good stories?

Back in the day I used to carry a couple of the shear(ish) vinyl shower curtain liners which I would use as shower curtain...duh

They were cheap and great looking and smelled hot before they melted (good warning) keyed many a talking head with a shower curtain draped over a Lowell Pole stuck into an interlink on a KS stand with a blonde blasting
into it.

Mark Weingartner

I was assisting a friend many years ago on a very low budget film in Philadelphia. On a drunken stagger home we noticed some discarded "frosted" glass shower doors. We dragged them back to set and banged some light through them the next day.

Quite lovely, actually.

Flash forward years later, I'm hanging outside the building where I teach, catching a smoke before class, and one of my students is excitedly telling me how they got some beautiful soft light pushing an open face 1K through the shower door in the bathroom they shot in the day before, and I smiled, remembering the excitement when you re-invent the wheel for yourself.

George Nicholas

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