Creating a large top bounce light. (3 replies and 3 comments)

8 months ago
leonbrehony 8 months ago

Hello all,

I'm creating a dance hall scene for a short film and plan to light the space using a piece of 10ftx20ft bleached muslin suspended above the scene and bouncing 2k fresnels (or blondes) into it to create a large soft top source. I plan to hang the muslin from two c-stands in the balcony above the doorway (around 12-15ft tall) and hold the other side of the muslin using two c-stands raised with extension arms around 12ft tall, all held with super clamps.

I wanted the hotter area to be the center of the space and for the width of the room to allow the edges of the room to be a couple of stops darker from the fall-off. The width of the room is about 18ft and so it may or may not be necessary to hang some black cloth from the edges of the muslin.

Due to the size of the rig and difficulty in terms of accessibility to the location, I'm not going to have time to test this out before the shoot. Can anybody offer any predictions or negative experiences using a similar set-up?

I've attached a photo of the room (shooting direction will be entirely facing the doorway and I will attempt to cut the frame below the ledge of the balcony) and my rough diagram.
8 months ago
Wouter 8 months ago
  1. you have to make sure it hangs high enough. Wide angle lenses might see them.
  2. you have to be able to really stretch the muslin, otherwise it would drape down quite a lot. Not sure if c-stands will hold this weight/force.
  3. why not bounce off the ceiling and create a black skirt around the hotspot on the ceiling to keep spill on the walls to a minimum? Do you really need the muslin so low to get a shallow fall off effect or something? 
8 months ago

Thanks for the tips! The lens shouldnt be a problem as we're staying above 40mm for the 2 set-ups in this scene.

The reason for the muslin being low is because I can't really rig anything to the ceiling because if the strict budget and schedule. And general lack of resources. My aim was to get the muslin as high up as possible.

I'm also looking into attaching the c-stands to something weightier than sandbags so they don't buckle.

8 months ago

well if you go down that route, maybe try have the gaffer figure out a rigid construction to make sure it is safe because the size of the muslin and the tension to pull it stiff should probably not be underestimated.

If you want the muslin as high as possible.. why not just bounce off the ceiling. You're pretty lucky considering it is white ^^

8 months ago
KrishanAgarwal 8 months ago

For anything over a few pounds, especially something that will be over people, I would highly recommend splurging for combo stands with a "ball-buster" sandbag for each leg. Ideally you would have the muslin stretched over a frame and have some sort of back-up safety system to make sure this did not fall.

Bounced light will spill everywhere, so if you want to keep it off those white walls, you may want to skirt the frame with duvetyne. This will add to the weight, which brings me back to using combo stands.

If you want a hot-spot in the middle, you could use a combo stand with a menace arm to put a light in the center of the room without having a stand in your frame. You could also try working with art department to see if they can hang some practical strings of lights or practical china balls from your frame. Not only will they help with creating more illumination in the middle, but low-hanging soft practicals will act as great edge and eye lights for your dancers, helping to separate them out so they don't blend together into a mass like zebras.


Hope this helped,


8 months ago

sound advice right here!

Roger Deakins
8 months ago
Roger Deakins 8 months ago

I do not see the advantage of hanging the muslin when you have a white ceiling. To try and restrict the light to the center of the room when you are bouncing your lamps from the sides of the space seems to be a big ask. Personally I would consider stretching a wire across the center of the ceiling and hanging some lightweight units that direct more light down rather than to the sides. These could be purpose made and something similar to a 2.5K Space light but lighter. You could probably do the job with four or five 2.5K Space lights if you could hang these.

Years ago I had a similar problem in a ballroom in which it was not possible to rig anything to the ceiling. I just hung wooden battens on wires across the center of the room and mounted on each rows of 150 watt mushroom bulbs. The effect was a very soft light that was somewhat contained to the center of the space.

To create a soft light it is not always necessary to bounce and it is many times just not practical. A multiple source can appear just as 'soft'.

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