Today on the Slanted Lens we are going to take a look at different lighting diffusion materials Rosco makes. We will see how soft and how hard different diffusion materials are and how they wrap around the human face and affect the background as well. Lighting diffusion has been a critical part of lighting in the Movie and Video world for years. In the beginning it was sheets or shower curtains. Lights needed to be softened and shaped in a way that only diffusion could do. We moved away from the hard light of the 50’s to a softer look which demanded diffusion. On a steampunk set with beautiful Cynthia Chavez we will shoot diffusion tests and then do some fun Steam punk photos. Rosco makes one of the best lines of diffusion in the industry. For our test we have set up a 2K aimed directly at our talent. It’s very bright and needs to be diffused. Let’s look at how different diffusion effects to a human face. I hope this test will give you good information and practical examples to make your decision on what to use. It is crucial when working with continuous lighting that we have good diffusion. Select your favorite and keep them in your lighting kit. Keep those cameras rolling and keep on clickn’.
Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at the different diffusion material that Rosco makes. We’re going to see how soft and how hard the different diffusion materials are. We’re going to see on a human face just how they wrap around and what they do not just to the face, but to the background as well. Let’s go ahead and get started to see and what we can do.
We built a Steampunk set to shoot beautiful Cynthia Chavez on. You know, I love building sets, and this was really a fun one to build. We had a large, old clock from a past shoot that we did for Federal Express, and we paired that with a large, red industrial fan. The wall itself is simply a 4 by 10 sheet of quarter-inch luan that we glued plastic bolt heads to. You know, in Hollywood, in Los Angeles, you can find anything. There’s a shop that makes plastic bolts of all different sides you can glue to a sheet of plywood, paint them brown or whatever color, and they just look like riveted bolts. Very cool look.
Our goal is to have a background to shoot diffusion tests against and then to do some fun Steampunk photographs. Diffusion has been a critical part of lighting in the movie and video world for years. In the beginning, it was sheets or a shower curtain. Lights need to be softened and shaped in a way that diffusion can only do. We moved from hard light in the ’50s, that kind of film noir look, to a softer light that demanded diffusion.
I’ve been using Rosco on-light diffusion for 25 years. It really has a great look. So let’s look at some of the different diffusion materials out there, how they react to a human face, and just a give a good introduction idea to what diffusion does.
We have set up our 2K aimed directly at our talent. It’s very bright and needs to be diffused. Here’s our talent with no diffusion. This is just a straight 2K aimed at her. It’s very hard. It’s not very flattering. Our starting exposure is 1/50th of a second and an aperture of 4.5.
Our first diffusion is a Rosco one-half white diffusion. It’s a 3027. We’ve lost about one full stop with the addition of this diffusion. The shadows on her face are more open. The background is more open as the diffusion has spread the light on the set, acting like a soft box. You know, this has very similar characteristics to a tough white diffusion but is a little less dense.
We then change to a Rosco one-fourth white diffusion. That’s a 3028. It’s less dense and allows for a stronger highlight. It’s not as soft as a one-half white. We only lost about two-thirds of a stop. Very pretty look, similar characteristics to the tough one-half white diffusion, but less dense.
We then change to a Rosco full white diffusion 3026. It’s a dense diffusion and creates a very soft look. We’ve lost one full stop. It’s very pretty though. It’s a nice look. It’s a moderate diffuser with properties that are very similar to tracing paper. This is going to create a very even field of soft light that’s not going to mess with your color temperatures, not going to shift your color temperature. It’s a tough, heat-resistant base, and you can stick it right on those hot lights and it works great.
We then change to a Rosco grid cloth. We’ve lost two full stops. Look at the transition on her arms. It’s very soft and open. This is the softest diffusion that we’ve seen so far. This is a great diffuser that can be sewn and grommeted. It can be used as a tenting material. You can use it for silks and things. It’s similar to the material they use on creating flags.
We then change to a Rosco light grid cloth. We’re going to lose about a stop and a half. There’s now more shadow on her arms. It still gives a very soft look. This also can be sewn and grommeted and be used for tenting material.
We then a change to a Rosco opal frost. We lost one and one-third stops. This is a very popular medium diffuser, probably one of my very favorites. This is not too soft. We see shadow on her arms and on her face.
We then change to a Rosco silent one-fourth grid cloth. We lost one stop. This has the same look as the one-fourth grid cloth, number 3034, but it’s quiet because it doesn’t have the heat-resistant coating on it, and it gives you that flapping noise in the wind. This also comes in very wide rolls, 60 inches wide by 20 feet long so it can be sewn together and used as silks.
We then change to a Rosco silent grid cloth. We lost one and two-thirds stops. This is a reinforced, woven diffused material. Again, it’s the same material as the light grid cloth, 3032, but has that coating taken off so you can let it flap in the wind and it’s not going to give you that plastic sound.
We then change to a tough Rolux. We lost one and two-third stops. Being so dense makes it so you can put several lights behind it and it will create one light source. It’s great for doing that. If you want to put two or three instruments behind this one piece of diffusion, it will give you a direct, one-light look because of the density.
We then took a look at a very interesting diffusion called Velvet Frost. It’s a very light diffusion. We only lost about one-third of a stop, so it really doesn’t cut down any of your light, but it’s not a heavy diffusion at all. It has an embossed surface, so it’s kind of a pebbled surface. That helps diffuse the beam as it goes through the diffusion material. It doesn’t have that whitening effect that some of the frosts do. It doesn’t affect your color temperature like some do.
Now, let’s take a look at how we lit our Steampunk set. I started with a single beauty dish with a grid on her face. This is a very controllable light that’s only going to light her face and nothing else. I don’t want the front of her dress lit, it’s too frontal. I want a nice butterfly on her face, but I want to light the dress separately than her face.
We will now add a strong rim-light from behind the set on the camera left side. It’s one and one-third stop hotter than the key light. There’s also a mirror on the camera-right side creating a nice highlight on her left arm. So those two are set up at once. We have the strong rim light from behind, with a nice mirror giving us a nice rim on her left side. This light will rim all the elements of the set and open up the background just a little bit. Mirrors are a cheap solution that gives you a second light on set.
We then added a mirror on her legs from the camera-left side. It’s just going to pick up a little bit of that rim light from behind and reflect it back into her feet. At this point, we added a silver P22 reflector, placed on the camera-right side. We’re going to reflect that rim light now into the side of her dress and kind of give us a little bit of interest there.
We then added a small pool of blue light just coming through the fan on the camera-left side. You can’t see it in these verticals very well, but when you see the horizontal images we shot, you’ll see the blue coming through the fan on the left side.
Our last light was a Rosco tough diffusion on the camera-left side. We have a head aimed through it that will just open up the clocks on the wall and kind of give us a little bit of interest on that background.
We’re ready to start shooting. We’re going to work her around the middle area of the set and keep the grid aimed at her face. We’ll move her in and out, but I’ll have an assistant that kind of follows her and keeps that grid aimed at her. Teri Groves from Makeup Magick did a great job on her makeup. She kept it fairly simple, fairly clean on this first shot. Here are some of the images from that first setup.
Now, we’re going to put her in a more Victorian dress and make the makeup a little more aggressive. Julia Perry did the clothing for the shoot and did a great job. She found some great Steampunk clothing. I will keep shooting close-ups and full-body shots to take advantage of the whole set and the scene. I want to just shoot this from all different angles, interesting places to give me a lot of options in the end.
Here are some of the final images from that second setup. I have found this to be very informative. Different diffusion material create different looks. Some are more open than others, but need more light. Others are a bit more hard, but need less light. It’s always a balancing act. If you’re working with continuous light, you really need to have diffusion material. I would get at least two or three types of diffusers to keep in my lighting kit when on location, especially when shooting with hot lights. That being said, I use them with strobes, as well as hot lights all the time.
My favorites are the Rosco opal frost, the 3026 tough white diffusion, the 3027 one-half tough white. I hope this has been helpful. I really wanted to give you a taste of what’s out there in the diffusion world and help you to make decisions about what you want to put in your personal lighting kit. So go out there, keep those cameras rolling and keep on clicking.
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