Mar 6, 2008

Shaping the Light with flags, silks and cukes-- Film Grip 101

Grip gear can be as important to crafting the lighting for a scene as the light fixtures. Often, more important--you can block, diffuse, shape, bounce and breakup the light using these tools. This is very crucial in creating a textured, realistic (or fantastic) look that is visually much more interesting than just blasting the light onto your subject.

Here's a look at the most essential grip items. These are all available to rent for very reasonable rates at film lighting rental companies. You can rent just a few items, or complete packages, even a grip truck to carry it all to the set. Or you may wish to buy. I’ve kept grip gear far longer than any camera gear. It never goes obsolete.

Century, or “C” stands are the most essential piece of grip gear:

Gobo Heads mount on top of the C-Stands:



These are used to hold extension arms:






Which in turn, hold everything else. The arms have fixed gobo heads with multiple holes for gripping flags, nets, silks, etc shown below :


Lighting Nets come as singles or doubles, like lighting instrument scrims, except the netting is thread, instead of wire. A red bordered net is a double, and cuts the light one stop. A green bordered net is a single, and cuts light by half a stop. Flags, nets, and silks come in these sizes: 18”x24”; 24”x36” ; 36×48 and 4’x4’.




Flags, (or cutters) are used to block or cut the light. You might use one to keep a light from shining into the camera lens, or to shadow a wall or another part of the scene.A silk is similar to a flag, but the black fabric is replaced with silk to diffuse rather than block light. Most of the time it is used to create a larger light source that throws softer edged shadows. But it can work as a flag, but one that makes a brighter shadow. It will cut more light than a net, and will also bounce more light into the scene.



Smaller versions of all three are called dots or fingers. These are used more for table top or product shots, but are also useful for many other purposes.


Long narrow flags are called cutters. These are usually 18″ to 24″ wide, and 4′ to 8′ long. When used as a “topper”, they block light from above, casting a horizontal shadow along the top of a set wall.

A cukoloris is a wood panel with random shapes cut into it. It’s used to break up light. Most of the time the light is focused through it so as to create soft, vaguely defined shadows, and not a hard edged pattern. Often these are made up quickly on the set by cutting random shapes into Foamcore boards.



Baby plates are special light stands that can be nailed to an apple box or a wall:




Reflectors are large 42” square boards mounted in a yoke, with a diffused silver side, and a shiny silver side.

They’re used outdoors to manipulate sunlight.


Butterfly overhead frames can hold large silks or nets for diffusing or reducing sunlight, or solid white or silver “Griffolyn” tarps for bouncing light, or large black "griffs" for blocking light.


They're strapped into 6’x6’, 8'x8' 12'×12’, and 20'×20’ frames and are held up by large “high roller” stands:




To keep all these stands from tipping over or blowing away, sandbags are placed on the legs.






Sandbags are usually available in 5, 15, 25 and 35 lb weights. When used with large reflectors or butterfly frames outdoors, several of the heaviest ones may be needed on each stand to keep everyone safe when it is windy.



Apple boxes have numerous uses from lifting props, to making actors taller, to seats for the crew. They come in full, half, quarter and pancake sizes.







Collapsible reflectors made of fabric are usually called Flexfill's or Photoflexes (brand names). Sizes range from small 24" diameter discs, unfolded, to 48" diameter, or even 48" x 96" rounded-off rectangles. The most common type are white on one side and silver on the other. But gold sided and other color variations are also available. They're light enough to hand hold, or can be clamped to a stand.

Grip Blankets (also called Sound-blankets) are multi-purpose, from deadening sound reflections to protecting location floors and furniture. Also called furniture pads, they’re usually considerably heavier than the ones found in moving stores.


This is just a very basic overview of the world of film grip equipment, to get you started. There's much more, and I'll be expanding on most of these in future posts.

1 comment:

  1. Hey this is extremely helpful - usually I just lurk - but big thanks!

    ReplyDelete