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Todd Terry
Shooting windows
on Jan 7, 2011 at 11:02:15 pm

Hey kids...

I ran across some great stuff today and thought I'd share it...

We were doing a big commercial shoot today for an airline in the waiting area of an airport gate. I was sweating the planning a little bit because of all the huge windows and killer bright sunlight outside (the windows were to be in a lot of the shots, seeing the jetway and airplane in the background). We had shot in this location for them before, and even with screening the windows (with black hardware cloth) and a full compliment of HMI instruments it was very difficult to fight the bright exterior.

Well... now some backstory. We have long used this translucent vinyl material for silking (diffusion for either sunlight, or lighting instruments)... we call it the "shower curtain," because that's exactly what it is. We buy it by the yard from big rolls at the local fabric store (at the store we use it's back where the upholstery fabric and car headliner material is). I use this a lot because it almost exactly emulates Lee 250... except you can just wad it up and stuff it in your rags bag to use it again next time. Even though it's vinyl I regularly put it in frames to diffuse 1200w HMIs with never a problem with the heat. PLUS its less than TWO DOLLARS a yard.

Well, en route to the shoot I stopped by the same fabric store for more of this "shower curtain" stuff... anticipating the need to be able to fill a couple more 4x4 frames. Right next to the "shower curtain" was this big roll of see-through but dark smokey vinyl... I'm not sure what it's really made for, but it's basically a big wide roll of neutral density material. Quite durable and thickish, too. Only about three bucks a yard. I bought a half dozen yards of it just for kicks and headed to meet my crew at the shoot.

We taped it up on the big windows, and it WORKED LIKE A CHARM. It was a perfect ND window covering, I'm guessing about two or three stops. And I covered a large run of gigantic windows for about $20. I didn't even need all the HMIs I had because it worked so well.

I shudder to think what it would have cost to use "real" ND film to cover such a big area... and it would have been a lot more trouble too as this stuff was really easy to work with. It didn't take more than a few minutes to put it up and it looked perfect. We done, we took it down, rolled it back up.. and it's ready for the next time we need it.

I think it's my new favorite thing this week.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 5:17:52 am

[Todd Terry] " Right next to the "shower curtain" was this big roll of see-through but dark smokey vinyl... I'm not sure what it's really made for, but it's basically a big wide roll of neutral density material."

I want it. What's this dark smokey vinyl stuff called?


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 6:55:55 am

Well Bob... I was just about to say "I have no idea what this stuff is called, I just saw it and grabbed it."

But then it occurred to me that the fabric store I went to is a national chain (Hancock Fabrics) and that I might be able to find it on their website. And sure enough, I did.

Turns out, it actually is window film. In the store it was with the bolts of upholstery stuff. This is it...

http://www.hancockfabrics.com/UV-Rated-Window-Tinting-Film-Clear-Vinyl_stcV...

It's a little more expensive on the website than the in-store price I found... but not much. We didn't really "apply" it to the windows today... we just stretched it across the 20-footish span of windows we needed darkening and gaffer-taped the edges when needed. But apparently you could really install it properly, like cling film.

Incidentally, this stuff...

http://www.hancockfabrics.com/Clear-Vinyl-Frosty-width-004-Front-Page_stcVV...

...is what I use to make my own non-silk silks. I cut pieces for our 4x4 and 6x6 frames, "hem" them with gaffer tape around the edges and put in elastic loops on the corners and grommets/ties along the sides. You can fold them up, or roll them up, or just wad them up after a shoot wraps and they come right back for the next one. In use they are just about like Lee 250 (maybe a cross between 250 and 252) and give really beautiful diffusion. For pennies. And as I said before, even though they are vinyl they don't seem overly affected by heat. I shoot 1200w HMIs though them in 4x4 frames all the time sometimes as close as 18" or so between the instrument face and the diffusion and I've never had one even remotely start to melt or burn (or even really get warm). But I wouldn't leave it unattended, just to be safe.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Nick Griffin
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 5:58:19 pm

Great tips, Todd. Thanx for sharing!

A few decades ago when I was studying studio still photography the teachers had us buying white plastic shower curtain material and using canvas stretchers from an artist supply store as the frames.

The plastic gets attached to the wooden stretchers with a staple gun. With this combination of materials a series of enormous diffusers could be put together dirt cheap and by removing the staples and taking apart the stretchers, they could be broken down to a very small size for easy transport.

The downside was that over a couple of years the shower curtain would yellow and, in the film days, this color shift was no where near as simple to deal with as it is today. Then again, getting more shower curtain was, and I presume still is, a very inexpensive proposition.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 7:04:53 pm

[Nick Griffin] " getting more shower curtain was, and I presume still is, a very inexpensive proposition."

Absolutely, Nick... that's the beauty of it. The stuff I buy is only about a buck and a half a yard.

It really gives a beautiful diffusion, too. I have a decent set of Matthews rags, but I find they rarely make it out of the bags... almost always opting for the shower curtain instead.

We just don't tell clients what it really is. Or how cheap it is. :)

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Rick Wise
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 7:15:02 pm

Todd,

Fantastic information. However, I notice on the web site for the "ND" stuff some serious Don't Use instructions. Looks like if one flies it out in front of the window, no problem. But for some reason rolling it directly on to the window can cause significant problems.

Rick

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
part-time instructor lighting/camera
Academy of Art University/Film and Video (grad school)
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 10:22:26 pm

Yeah Rick... I noticed that too on the website (although there was no mention of that in the store).

I'm betting that would mostly come into play in more of a permanent install situation. I can't imagine this stuff would cause problems just putting it up on windows long enough to shoot, and then taking it right back off when striking.

At any rate, the way we used it didn't touch the glass at all. It was just taped to the metal window frames that held the big glass windows in place... the film was floating probably three or four inches out in front of the actual glass. I'll note though that it is reflective. We didn't have any bad reflections because of where our instruments happened to be placed... but I can see where that could come into play in some situations. Maybe another layer of black hardware cloth over it would kill those if they became troublesome.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 9, 2011 at 12:08:18 am

[Todd Terry] "another layer of black hardware cloth"

By hardware cloth do you mean window screen?

You've seen those NFL announcers' booth shots, where the play-by-play people sit facing the camera, with the football field behind them, usually just for the opening of the show.

The lighting scheme is very low-tech. They keep a roll of black fiberglass porch screening material, rolled up and sitting above the window. They turn on the lights inside the booth, unroll the screen, and get a balance between the daylit field and the booth.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting windows
on Jan 9, 2011 at 12:22:12 am

Yes Bob, exactly... black fiberglass screen door material. We buy it in big long (and wide) rolls from Lowe's. Strangely enough, I've never seen the big rolls of it at Home Depot... they only have the narrower stuff in the stores here.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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david grantham
Re: Shooting windows
on Sep 5, 2011 at 6:55:27 pm

Just noticed this excellent string after rigging a system for DFN for a regular location with relatively large S-facing wood-framed residential windows. (My -sort of budget - method's described at the bottom of this post)

I've got training in architecture, and - for what it's worth - a thought below about the (theoretical, at least) risk of heavily gelling multiple (and possibly single) pane windows on sunny days when weather is extremely cold.

The risk is that the light-absorbing gelled assembly gets so incredibly hot against the window that it causes the superheated inner pane to expand much more than the frigid outer pane. Like a two-strip thermocoil, the window then is subject to curving forces. This could cause the window to break. Or it could bend and thus crack the seal at the bottom, damaging the window's performance by a) compromising the insulating vacuum between the panes which also b)causes fogging and droplets to form on the colder outside pane. This wasn't a risk in a summer assembly for me, but I'm planning to use it in winter for a few days at a time when the outdoor temp could be -40 celsius. I"m quite sure the temperature differential on a winter day across the window pane could be at least as high as 80 degrees celsius, and I'm not sure that wouldn't stress even a single pane of glass to the breaking point.

Maybe someone can confirm or refute this possible risk (I hope I'm wrong) but I know there are severe limitations to how differently manufacturers will treat inner and outer panes for this reason. I'm going to ask window manufacturers, but I think they will almost certainly say there's a risk so as to indemnify themselves against liability.

If this is a genuine risk in very cold cimates (I'm sure it's not a problem in mild ones) the cumbersome solution would be to sandwich the layers of soft gel material between 2 layers of plexiglass (or stretch them all tightly enough to sell them as looking like glass) mount it on spacers in front of the windows, and perforate the assembly at the top and bottom well enough to allow for circulation of air to moderate the temperature at the inside face of the glass. (An unvented space probably wouldn't work as convection currents conduct the heat to the oustide very efficiently.) Would have to figure out how to let air - but not light - through the assembly into that gap. Fussy, time-consuming and expensive, but I'm thinking about it to ensure the windows are safe in a Canadian winter.

For my recent (summer) DFN assembly I used 3 layers of ND9 - wish I'd known about that cheap vinyl - under a layer of ND9 plexiglass. (Not $$$ hard gels but std - much cheaper - 1/8" plexiglass which is avail in the same transmissivity ranges.) Held this assmbly wrinkle-free against the windows with 3/16"x3/16" window stops stuck to the window sash with outdoor carpet tape. Looks perfect no matter how close the camera was to the window. (Stops need to be pushed against window sash every couple of hours as carpet tape softens with the accumulated heat.)


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