Grip Tools: Scrims, Silks, Flags & Tape
And when you do have the location, when you do have to contend with certain environmental variables, here is two of the more common ways to work with an environment that you cannot control. And these are what I'm using when we are outside on location in the second shoot. This is a Westcott Scrim Jim. And there are different manufacturers for scrims. They are probably one of the more common ones. This is a six by six. It's a six by six, they call 'em silks, scrims. They have different levels of diffusion on them. So you will find half a stop, quarter stop, full stop, different levels of diffusion. You can also put different fabrics on the outside. So sometimes, it'll be a white fabric. Sometimes, it'll be a silver fabric. And you can make a reflector or a black fabric, and you can turn it into a tent. All different ways you can modify this. I'm a huge fan of using silks, because they give you a lot more flexibility in what the quality of light looks like. Not just as a way to block ligh...
t but as a way to shape the quality of light. So if you think about a soft box, and you buy the soft box, and it's pretty configured to have the light mounted a certain distance back from it, the light will always be the same quality within that box, right? You can modify the distance of the soft box or change baffles, or do all of these different things that'll help you modify the light. But imagine if you could do this, bring it closer for like a hazier look or really far away for an even softer look. What using silks does, or scrims do, it's not just about diffusing light. You can change the quality of light of the source by changing the distance behind the silk. So when it's close to the edge of the silk, it's a little bit of a harder light. As it moves further away, it's a softer light. Or maybe you can put a modified light behind the silk. So you put a soft box behind the silk, and it makes it even bigger. So it makes your light softer. So a lot of different ways you can use this. I'm gonna use it in the outside shoot. We're gonna use a couple of 'em to block and shape light. The other one that's pretty commonly used, it's super cool, is something called a sun swatter. Same idea, totally the same concept. It's portability versus putting something down. So with a scrim, I've got two C-stands on each scrim, with weights and everything else, and it's a much larger system. It's also gonna be in my shot. Whereas with a sun swatter, you obviously need a dedicated assistant, but they're standing off to the side, like the Kacey pole adapter blocking the light. They're out of your shot, and it's a little bit more mobile. So just a different way to go about it. They're both really cool. I've seen the sun swatters a lot in action, and they're really, really cool. But I tend to use scrims a lot more often, just 'cause I'm not moving around as much. Alright, now the other way that we modify the light, besides scrims, are using flags. And I use flags all, all, all the time. 'Cause when you're using a scrim, the light's soft and it's big, but it usually goes everywhere. So, generally, there are times when you wanna block light to go in any particular place. And so you'd use a flag to do that. You can use a flag either to block light, but as you saw in the demo in the hallway, I also use it as a way to absorb light. And so when I brought it in really close, it made the shadows darker on the unlit side of the face. I mean, obviously it's blocking that, but it will also do that. Flags come in a zillion different sizes. Some are super tiny, real tiny, and some are huge. This is a smallish flag. I wouldn't use this to block the light from a scrim, necessarily, unless it was really close to me. And you're gonna see this in a couple of the shoots. But I use this all the time. Scrims come in either something like this where it's one size and it doesn't change, doesn't collapse down. These are always a little bit cheaper, and these are totally fine if you have the space to store it. You can just kinda tuck it behind something. But if you are looking to save space, these also come foldable. And so the frame just basically comes out, locks into place and then collapses down, and then you put the fabric on it every time. If you have the space to put one of these, you just kind of take it out, you put it up, versus having to assemble it, which is always, you know, the extra hassle having to do it but it saves you space. The nice thing about the foldables are they usually come in kits. And so what that'll mean is you can see that the nets, you can see the nets over here, and that's varying degrees of diffusion. And so there are, you know, some will cut light. Some will diffuse light. They all kinda serve a different purpose. The black ones are more about cutting light. The white ones will also cut light, but they're also gonna diffuse it. So just different approaches. And they come in varying levels of how much light they're gonna cut. And with the foldable kits, you can change that out. So sometimes, and this'll regularly happen, I'm in the studio. I'm shooting. I've got my big, soft light raking across the screen, raking across the image, but I've got a foreground object that's relatively close, and it's getting a lot of light. So I'll put a net over it to cut some of the light that's getting to it, instead of putting up one of these where I would block the light totally. And so it's just different uses of these kinds of materials. This is wrapped in a material very similar to something like a duvetyne. So it's not going to reflect light at all. It's gonna absorb it. The black V-flats, for example, because it's paper will sometimes reflect a little bit of light when you bring it in close. This will not do that, and so it's a little bit better for that effect. Alright, now something that goes along with flags a little bit is cinefoil. And if you don't keep cinefoil in your kit or your studio, you really should. It's basically really high temperature, it's kinda like aluminum foil. And it's matte, so it will absorb light. And you can use it to shape light. So think of it like barn doors. You can make a snoot or barn doors out of it, and it's really, really heat resistant. Sort of, I mean, it gets really hot. It just, it won't catch on fire. That's really what I mean to say. It won't catch on fire, but it does get insanely hot when it's right up against the light. But we used it when I was wrapping the Pro Tungstens. And so like, that gets really hot around the bulb, way more than like a regular modeling light, and that holds up fine. And so when you want to modify the light a little bit more regularly, and you don't have barn doors or a snoot or things like that to help you out with that, cinefoil becomes a really good way to do it. One of my little tips, you see it tears kinda easily. You can also cut it with scissors. But, you know, it tears like aluminum foil, something like this, right? So something that filmmakers use when they are, we call this augmenting practicals, when you are, or dealing with practicals. Let's say you have a lamp, k? And you have a lamp in the back of your scene that's relatively close to a wall. And you turn that lamp on, and it creates the glow that you want in your frame, but it doesn't stay in the, like in the shade, in the area. It's going up. It's going out behind on the wall, and it just looks a little bit sloppy. So what do you do? You take this, and they do it a bit with, it's commonly done with like beer cans, and so they kind of turn the beer can into, they give it like a mullet shape. So it goes across the top. It's high here in the front, and the back is longer. And so it, more or less, looks like this. So it goes around. And so think of kinda like... (rustling foil) Does that make sense, kind of, sort of, right? So on top of your light bulb... this sits. And what that's gonna do is it's gonna prevent light from spilling out the back, and it's gonna prevent light from spilling out the top. But it makes that light bulb that you have in your lamp project light forward, causing the lamp to glow, giving you the practical effect, but giving you all the control that you want from that lamp. Really easy way to do it. You can, like I said, put these into like any shape you want, and they're really heat resistant. So you can set it right on top of a light bulb, gives you total control. Cool? K, this is also something that's useful to have. I don't have any of these to show you. But these are called T-markers. And you can give different subjects different colors, so that they know what their mark is going to be. But it's a little bit better than taping gaff on the floor. And so you can just go, "Hey, here's your mark. "Put your feet, you know, where the T happens to be, "and you're gonna hit the green marker, "you're gonna hit the red marker." And when you're doing motion it's helpful. But sometimes when you're just like on set, just say, (pops mouth) "There you go." That's just kind of a quick and easy one, but a little harder to come by. Like, you have to special order 'em from production houses. But, you know, you can find them. They're not too expensive.
We got a question from online just real quick. PhotoMaker asks, "Is there a make or manufacturer "recommended for the net/flag option?"
I believe I use Westcott. I believe it's what I have. I have the kits for the Westcott kits, yeah. But, you know, they all kinda serve the same purpose, yep. Same with like C-stands. Matthews is probably the more common brand of C-stands. But, you know, they're fine. Like, there's a lot of good ones out there. It's just a matter, like they're a little bit more expensive than a regular light stand. I think they're around 120, 130, in that range. Don't quote me on that too hard. But it's somewhere in that ballpark. They just, they're a lot more stable. And they're a lot, you know, the last thing you want is someone bumping into your light and knocking it over, and just, peace of mind. In terms of tape, the two tapes that we use probably the most are gaffer tape, or gaff tape, and paper tape. I'm probably, I lean more to this. But there is a time and a place for this. And these all come in all kinds of different colors. But you don't wanna use duct tape. You wanna use gaff tape, because this is gonna give you less of a sticky residue when you need to tape stuff. It's less likely to damage things like floors. Although if you've got like a painted studio floor, and it's been freshly painted, which is not uncommon when you're in studios, this will sometimes take it up. So, you know, just, wood floors, it's generally okay. You can put it on objects. This has a little bit of a shiny finish. Paper tape has less of a shiny finish. And so I've seen cinematographers do things like take black paper tape and put it on the inside of a barn door to eliminate the sheen when they wanna create like a harder point light source. So I've seen them use 'em for things like that. Gaff has just a zillion different applications. It is a little bit more susceptible to heat, but it's pretty heat resistant. I'll tape gels onto lights with it. Or hey, I've got, you know, fill in the blank, I've gotta make this mount to this, and the end of it where it's mounted isn't in the shot, but I don't have anything that's holding it. Just get some tape, start wrapping around it. We did this, I was helping who is in the videos, helping Lindsay out there with a shoot the other day. And we had to configure some really irregular lights, and it's like, "Alright, what do you do? "Alright, we're leaning them together. "Let's just tape 'em together." And, you know, you make it work. And gaff tape is a really handy thing to have. I'll also say like, in addition to things like gaff and things like clamps, everyone should have a multi-tool. You should definitely have something with pliers and a knife and scissors and all that kinda stuff in your bag. You should really, really, really have that in your bag. Just don't forget to take it out of your bag if you are flying with it. (laughter) And the other thing is just a flashlight. Have a flashlight in your bag, super useful to keep in there. We ended up using this in one of the shots. But it also works as a way, it's like, "Hey, I'm shooting in a dark situation. "I need someone to help me focus it. "Assistant, hold it on. "Got the focus? "Great, move it away." Really useful. So always keep, like I said, multi-tool and a flashlight in the bag.