August 21, 2014

Build Your Own $30 Wooden Diffusion Panels Without Having to Make a Single Cut

Diffusion PanelAs no-budget filmmakers, chances are we're spending a lot of time trying to navigate the placement of powerfully bright lights as we shoot scenes in cramped areas, and having a way to diffuse light is imperative in order to avoid blowing out your shot. There are so many solutions to this issue, like using bounce cards, reflectors, umbrellas, softboxes, ect., but, like most things, these pieces of gear can be a little (or insanely) expensive. However, also like most things, there are DIY builds that'll save you tons of money without sacrificing quality, and product photographer Tony Roslund is here to show you how to build just such a diffusion panel for only $30 without having to bust out your bandsaw.

Here are the materials you're going to need:

  • Canvas stretcher bars (x4)
  • Diffusion material
  • white gaffer tape
  • Razor blades
  • Double-sided tape
  • A clamps (optional)

Roslund using inexpensive canvas stretcher bars as the frame is a great solution, since they'll only cost you $2 to $3 each and are available in virtually any art supply store in various lengths. So, you could build several of these diffusion panels in different sizes that fit your needs. The diffusion material he uses, Rosco #3008 Tough Frost (which offers medium to light diffusion -- good for close-ups of faces), costs a pricey $125 per roll, but if you buy them in individual sheets, the cost ranges from $8 to $20 depending on the dimensions.

Check out Roslund's tutorial below to learn how to assemble this DIY diffusion panel:

One concern, I imagine, with these panels is finding a way to fly them without damaging them with a C stand clamp. That's where the A clamps come in handy -- just attach a couple on either side of the panel and run a grip arm under them and allow it to hang. However, you might have to get a little MacGyver to keep the panel from sliding around if you choose to angle the C stand arm for whatever reason.

As nifty as this DIY build is, there are plenty of variations you can (should?) try out to make it the right diffusion tool for your shoot. You might want to try out different diffusion material and framing options, like PVC pipe, lath, or even 1x4 lumber -- even though that might prove to be too heavy. Hell, I could even see myself getting all DIY hipster and making one out of recycled wood pallets. (Oh my gosh, like, I totally need to make a Pintrest for "Super Cute DIY Wood Pallet Cinematography Builds <3 <3" now!) (Seriously -- I probably should. Totes adorbz.)

Do you have any ideas on variations for this DIY diffusion panel?

[via PetaPixel & DIY Photography]

Your Comment

21 Comments

Okay, I'll go ahead and ask, where do you get the diffusion from? Seems to be the key ingredient here.

August 21, 2014 at 6:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Josh

You can get gels from plenty of online shops but I get mine from Barbizon in MA because it's close enough to drive and save some money.

August 21, 2014 at 6:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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August 21, 2014 at 6:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bryant

Click on the product number in article and it will redirect you to supplier...

August 21, 2014 at 6:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gabriel Lane

Save a step: gaff tape the diffusion to the frame.

That's an elegant, cheap, simple solution, with a big caveat. As designed, it's only good for hanging. And you could hang a diffusion sheet from a gobo arm with four A clamps, two on top hanging on the gobo arm, and two on the bottom weighing the diffusion sheet down.

To use a frame in any other orientation, or outdoors in the wind, the frame needs a spud to work with a gobo head or arm. This might work, if the wood isn't too thick.
http://www.filmtools.com/ligdep/rosliggel/lighting-gel-frames/aluminum-f...

Working dowels into Tony's frame would be great. But that would probably require tools.

August 21, 2014 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Charlie

Yeah, I'm afraid that I agree w Charlie, Dan and others. This DIY solution is smart but leaves a lot to be desired. I would worry about damaging these during transport (they seem way too fragile) and then without a 5/8 inch spud, not having any place to secure them onto a grip head. You'd also lose time in trying to make on the fly adjustments them without this proper support. Better to invest in good Mathew's metal knife-blade frames and net scrims - they'll last you throughout your career if you take care of them, so I think they'd be worth the investment. I would use these DIYs for still work in a studio if I needed a really large softbox. I'd build an A- frame to sit on the floor. Also, be careful hanging flammable material w hot lights!

August 28, 2014 at 7:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jean Y.

Or for $45 you could just get a 4x4 open frame and add whatever you want to it. I don't think I would waste time and energy trying to save $30 or $40 total. Real open frames will last forever and be compatible with proper gripware. My 2¢.

August 21, 2014 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

You could also use white ripstop nylon instead of the gel. It cheaper and works well!

August 21, 2014 at 9:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Trifilmer

...if you're using cold lights - LED, fluorescent, etc. Hot lights would melt nylon faster than you can say deoxyribonucleic acid. ; ) (Although maybe there are some forms of nylon coated in heat-resistant something-or-other.)

August 28, 2014 at 7:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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You could buy a 4x4 frame, but these you can customize in any size you want. You can fit the frame into a knuckle and not have to hang it, thereby making it much sturdier than hanging on A-clamps, and you could position it in any angle. It's just a fun project, it's not for everyone.

August 21, 2014 at 10:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tony Roslund

It's impressive, especially in that you can make it without tools, and your execution looked beautiful.

August 22, 2014 at 1:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Charlie

Diffusion fabric with PVC is the way to go. See below link...
Even shower curtains make good diffusion.
You can make the the bounce collapsible with some bungee cord as well.
For bounce try coroplast (the double thickness). It's waterproof light and rigid.
I would also recommend old real estate signs if you can find them. Great as flags...

http://www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thread_id=868225

August 22, 2014 at 3:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pietro

I also highly recommend the tinker tubes book...it was
Really helpful when I started photography over a decade ago and I think it really applies now for new filmmakers!
http://www.software-cinema.com/page/13/tinkertubes

August 22, 2014 at 3:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pietro

Been doing this since forever….. nothing new to this, but it is a great solution.

The largest panels we have are over 2metres high about 1.5m wide (made by taping two sheets together).

Ofcourse you have to be two persons to log them around, but they never leave the studio so it's ok.

August 22, 2014 at 10:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Torben Greve

I just go with some pac and a fitted white crib sheet from target and you get a diffusional panel that breaks down and needs no tape. Less than $30.

August 22, 2014 at 5:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sorry, that was PVC not pac.

August 22, 2014 at 5:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Where you buy stuff for painting they have a tiny fabric blanket to put on furniture...
I find one white and very cheap for the size, you have a kind of fabric tissue look like but it's work.
It's cheap because it's made for 1 or 2 use... less of 8$

August 28, 2014 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pierre Samuel Rioux

I'm a professional still photographer, and I build my diffusers out of PVC pipe for a lot less than these, and with a lot less work. there are fittings for whatever supports you may want to use, and the diffusion material is held on by simply sewing diagonal elastic straps across the corners to be slipped over the corners of the PVC frame. For reflectors, I use survival blankets (silver reflective) either bare, or with a diffuser sheet over it for softer light.

August 29, 2014 at 2:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harvey Madison

hi, we r using this type of technic at india long time ago……tell us something different ….thanks...

August 29, 2014 at 11:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jacksijohn

since you are so ahead of the game, what do you have to share with the rest of us?

September 1, 2014 at 7:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Moviemaker Mike

One can use staple gun for diffusion paper or fabric. when you are done you can remove pins and store your diffuser to save it from damage.Only usefull for studio and if you are not carrying 4by4 or any other frames for a small work.

August 29, 2014 at 2:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mulchand