Modular and Reusable Diffusions

Custom diffusion rags for 4×4 and 2×3 gel frames

When I spec out a lighting and grip package, I generally request a number of 4×4 and 2×3 gel frames be pre-strung with various densities of diffusion. Oftentimes it’s just the basics of 410 Opal, 250 half white, and 216 white diffusion. If you add in 1/4 and Full Grid options, the number of pre-strung frames on the order starts to really add up. And these little things will also start to add up and impact your budget.

You can always just order a handful of open gel frames, and have your crew string diffusion when you call for it…but that can slow you down on a fast-paced commercial project. So when putting together a gear list, I always find myself balancing the diffusion options I absolutely need vs what “extra” options would help in a pinch.That all changed when I learned a handy trick that has greatly simplified this dilemma.

On a project with Portland gaffer Scott Walters, he showed me a set of hand-sewn diffusion rags that he has created to fit 4×4 and 2×3 frames. They have a hemmed edge and elastic corners sewn in, so you simply snap them over the outside edges of a gel frame. But what Scott does then is really clever…he strings his gel frames with a very light level of diffusion like opal, and then simply snaps on thicker diffusions over the opal as needed.

This technique makes a lot of sense if you like to work with thicker diffusions like Half or Full Grid, where you likely won’t notice the additional transmission loss of the thin gel underneath (410 Opal Frost only loses about a half-stop of light). It also lets your gel frames pull double-duty, so you need fewer pre-strung frames and you can change them out on the fly, oftentimes without even pulling the frame down off the stand.

I immediately ordered my own set of small frame snap-on rags from Scott. He sewed me up a set of 1/4 Grid and Full Grid fabrics for 4×4 and 2×3 frames. Since then I’ve been using this technique in my own gear package, keeping thin diffusion on my frames and simply slapping on additional rags as I need something thicker. It has also simplified my travel work…nowadays I just spec a small number of frames with light diffusion pre-strung, or even just open gel frames, and then I simply bring my own heavier diffusions to set. It simplifies my pre-production communication, and my gaffers love it. I intend to continue to build my rag set out to include snap-on frosts and muslins, until I have a custom rag kit that can solve any setup.

If you are interested in ordering your own custom snap-on rags like these, I am sure that Scott Walters would be happy to work with you. I believe mine were about $25 for the 24″x36″ size, and $40 for the 48″x48″ size. And if you’re looking for a great gaffer with a fantastic gear package in the Pacific Northwest, he’s your man. You can reach him at sasquatchlightingandgrip.com.

These custom rags would also probably work well in a travel kit, paired with Matthews Road Flags. The Road Flags II kit is great because it offers a 4×4 break-down frame, but diffusion options are limited. This would be a good way to expand your options with that kit.

There is another option as well. Advantage Grip sells what they call a Slipper, which are similar to Scott’s rags and sold through Barn Door Lighting. However they are a little pricier than Scott’s rags, around $60 each, and only appear to be available in 4×4 sizes.

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Matthew Jeppsen - DP Notes

Matt Jeppsen is a working DP with over a decade of experience in commercials, music videos, and documentary films. You can view Matt’s cinematography reel and contact info at www.mattjeppsen.com and editorial ethics statement at provideocoalition.com/ethics-statement

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