August 17, 2015

A Crash Course in Lighting Diffusion with Director of Photography Don McVey

Lee Filters Lighting Diffusion Test
As a cinematographer, diffusion is your friend. But with so many choices on the market, how can you choose the best diffusion for any given shot?

LEE, one of the world's largest manufacturers of both lighting gels/filters (as well as camera filters), recently teamed up with London-based DP Don McVey to perform a test of every type of lighting diffusion that the company makes. The resulting video is a masterclass of sorts in just how subtle the differences between diffusion types and strengths can be. In addition, Don's voiceover provides some keen insights into how and why some of these diffusions work for different lighting situations. Check it out:

Lee Filters Lighting Diffusion Test

The main thing to note here — other than the subtle, but not insignificant differences between different types and different strengths of diffusion — is that some of the colored diffusion and frost effects can wreak havoc on your white balance and introduce some strange hues into your images if you're not careful. Of course, many of those are designed to provide expressionistic lighting effects, so they're likely not something you'd use unless you were looking for that specific effect. It's still important to run tests with them though, just to make sure that you're not setting yourself up for a major post-production headache by using them.

If you want to read about Don's process and methodology for conducting this test, you can do so here. And if you want to check out any of these diffusions side-by-side, McVey has set up a page where you can compare any two of them at a time. The LEE website is also loaded with helpful interactive charts and tools which detail not only how much diffusion each product will give you, but also the light transmission percentages, how many stops of light each filter will cut, as well as the flame-resistant properties.You can also select multiple filters and compare them side by side. Lastly, if you're interested in testing out a few of these diffusions on your own, a small inexpensive variety pack like this one is a great place to start.

What are your favorite and most often-used types of lighting diffusion, and why do you prefer them? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

11 Comments

Great find, Robert.

August 17, 2015 at 4:46PM

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Benjamin Lebeau
Cinematographer, Colorist, Editor
356

Cool, everything seems so clear now

Get it ;)?

August 17, 2015 at 5:49PM

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Matt Robinson
Film Educator & Cinematographer
254

I like the ones that eliminate shadows.

August 17, 2015 at 6:41PM, Edited August 17, 6:41PM

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next at the end of the video there are few of them very colorful. lily, maroccan... why are them so colorful? what are they made for?
thanks

August 17, 2015 at 6:45PM

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These are just colour effect gels mixed with diffusion. So you might use the Moroccan for an evening, golden hour look possibly.

Personally, I tend to use colour filters and separate diffusion.

August 18, 2015 at 3:08AM

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Awesome. I didn't know 216 was exactly minus a stop. It's probably my new favorite.

August 18, 2015 at 9:13AM, Edited August 18, 9:13AM

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Zachary Will
Cinematographer
864

I wouldn't put too much faith in those stop values Zachary. As I explain in the VO, we allowed a little bounce light off the white floor in front to give the model a little fill. This definitely effected the T-Stop values (not much, but a little). But I was much more interested in the aesthetic than exact T-Stops. If you go on the LEE Filters site, they say it takes out 1.5 stops.

However, that will only be the case if you were to replicate THEIR test conditions. I don't think they tested the diffusions by hanging large sheets as I do. When you hang a large sheet and light that sheet of diff, it essentially becomes a large light source, wrapping the light around your meter. So there were some cases where LEE say a diffusion should take out 3 stops, but I only saw it take 1.5.

So, my conclusions were to take T-Stop values as a guide, but they will vary in almost every situation, the size of the diff area, the type of light, how close it is to diff/subject etc. Hope that makes sense :)

August 19, 2015 at 4:53AM

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Thanks. Yeah that makes sense.

August 22, 2015 at 6:50PM

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Zachary Will
Cinematographer
864

Extensive and Appreciated.
The model has the countenance of Margarita Terekhova from "The Mirror"

August 20, 2015 at 6:06PM, Edited August 20, 6:06PM

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The model was The Bride of Frankenstein in Danny Boyle's stage play. She's excellent!

August 21, 2015 at 4:20AM

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November 4, 2015 at 12:24PM, Edited November 4, 12:24PM

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