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Need to Bounce Some Light? Here's an Inexpensive DIY Reflector Solution

07.29.13 @ 1:03AM Tags : , , ,

Video thumbnail for youtube video DIY Reflector - nofilmschoolSometimes you need a solution to a problem on set and you’ve got limited resources and limited time to solve it. Recently for Luke Neumann, that problem was figuring out a way to have a number of sturdy reflectors for fill light that wouldn’t blow in the wind, and would also be relatively easy to set up with a small crew. In this video below, Luke shows you how to make some inexpensive DIY reflectors:

Here are the materials used in the video:

Are there other solutions for this? Of course there are, and you could always buy more foldable reflectors or bounce boards and rig them down with C-stands, but if you’re tight on time, money, and resources, it should do the job. I could also see the reflective film being used in plenty of other custom situations where you need to bounce a lot of light back into a large area — as you could simply use the entire sheet (and it’s going to be cheaper than something made specifically for filmmakers). If the silver is too much or too direct, there are plenty of materials you could buy at any hardware store that are white and reflective, though if you want closer to the same quantity of light, you’d have to bring the white reflective material much, much closer to the talent.

I know I’ve used all sorts of materials to add some fill, from an old door painted white to a sheet of paper, but what are some of your DIY reflector solutions?

Link: Neumann Films


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  • I was just thinking this would be by Neumann Films and guess what? IT WAS. Love his DIY stuff, thanks Luke Nukem

  • They sell similar stuff at my local cinema supply house–no gluing required. $20 a sheet. Or you can go to Home Depot and get some polystyrene insulation board–same thing but with some lettering on it.

  • I use a similar concept that is cheaper and easier. Picked it up from a DP friend and have seen many gaffers using it since I started paying attention.

    There are 3 elements, Silver styrofoam insulation, usually silver one side green the other, plain white styrofoam insulation and tape to hold it all together. No glueing required. Both sheets of insulation come in 4×8 sheets and are cheap. The single most expensive thing is the tape to hold them together. Cut to size and put the plain white styrofoam on the green side so you wind up with silver(hard bounce) on one side and white (soft bounce) on the other. Total cost of multiple sized bounces is less than $30.

    Bounce away.

  • I think the ingenuity of using Home Depot is great for those that don’t live in a city with film supplies, but if you do have even a modest film industry, you should be able to buy a 4×8 foot sheet of foamboard with silver backing for about $60 at a place that sels expendables.
    The material is very light but highly rigid. You can cut it into various sizes that can travel in the trunk or back seat of a compact car and mount them easily on grip heads. If you reinforce the edges with duct tape (or gaff) they can last for years. Here is some for sale at the Set Shop:
    That said, saving $30 is sometimes a great thing for indie budgets!

    • Blaine Drayer on 08.2.13 @ 8:06AM

      If you use the aluminum tape for ducting it works even better on the edges and you don’t lose the reflection from the edge area.

  • I carry an emergency space-blanket with my kit to use as a reflector. It’s the same type of silvery-mylar only it’s very thin and hasn’t been applied to anything to make it rigid. However it folds away into a very small space and they are really cheap (I think I got a 3-pk for $5) so you don’t feel bad taping it to the side of a building or draping it over a bush and throwing it away after the shot.

  • The problem of using reflectors at ground level is that the light looks unnatural. During daytime light comes from two source, the sun and skylight. Both come from overhead, duh!

    What I find interesting is that several times a week someone re-invents the wheel. Then posts a video on YouTube claiming a new discovery. Meh!

    • Good thing it’s not a tutorial on how/where to place reflectors, eh? I’d like to think a decision like that comes down to the scene and personal taste but hey, that’s just me.

    • Marcos El Malo on 08.6.14 @ 10:25PM

      Looks like someone needs to study photography. Fill lighting is a basic tool of the DP.

      Lighting itself is not natural. The idea is to create the illusion of natural lighting (assuming that is what you are going for). Film and video have much narrow dynamic ranges than does the human eye. Shadow areas easily seen by the human eye (such as the shadow side of a face in direct sunlight) can be a problem for the image capturing device. So we use fill on the shadow side to lessen the contrast, to bring the range between highlights and shadows closer together.

  • Excellent article and video, guys.

    Reflective film/mirrored insulation material can also prove very useful when working with interiors, because it’s so lightweight.

    If you need to provide a top/north light on a subject but have limited time or resources, try fun-tacking some lengths of reflective film to the ceiling and using a light (pref. something highly directional, like a Dedo) to bounce the illumination down upon your subject.

    The advantage of this approach is that you can vertically illuminate downwards, even though your light is angled diagonally at the other side of the room. This helps free up space and much time otherwise spent rigging lights with ratchet poles, and so on.

  • Blaine Drayer on 08.2.13 @ 7:56AM

    I have used a variety of material but prefer if I need to make them to use an industrial roll of aluminum foil I make one side with the dull sheen and the other with the shiny side, super 77 spray adhesive, and everything from foam core to 2″ styrofoam to hard board.

    • Daniel Mimura on 08.22.13 @ 11:47PM

      Super 77 is expensive! I used it on one side—I used rosco (or was it Lee) silver on one side and gold on the other—and after using a whole can on the one side (it was a pretty big piece of foamcore), I used plain old rubber cement on the other. It took a lot more if it, but it was still a lot cheaper…

  • Blaine Drayer on 08.2.13 @ 7:56AM

    I have used a variety of material but prefer if I need to make them to use an industrial roll of aluminum foil I make one side with the dull sheen and the other with the shiny side, super 77 spray adhesive, and everything from foam core to 2″ styrofoam to hard board. I

  • Seems like it would work pretty work good… considering a 40 x 40 Matthboard reflector goes for about $200. The only thing needed here is a yoke and a combo stand.

  • Or you know. 4×8 insulation at Home Depot. $8. Silver side and a soft side. Just need to peel the lettering off.