December 23, 2016

Zylight's Electronic 'Active Diffusion' Filter is Finally Coming to Market

It has taken 6 years, but Zylight's electronically adjustable Active Diffusion panel is coming in 2017.

If you payed attention to NAB 2010, you might remember when Zylight unveiled their patented "Active Diffusion" technology—and then forgot all about it after years passed with no word on when we'd ever see it in stores. However, that day has come now that Zylight has partnered with Chimera to bring the this remarkable electronically adjustable diffusion filter to market.

The Active Diffusion filter is a flexible LCD screen that you can house in a gel frame or mount to a softbox to provide you with varying layers of diffusion. A handheld controller gives you full control over different diffusion effects, from an opaque to almost completely transparent, by filling the screen with liquid crystal. You can use the Active Diffusion filter with any kind of cool fixture, like LED of fluourescent lights.

To catch a glimpse of it in action, check out these demonstrations from both NAB 2010 and NAB 2011.

The potential benefits of using a filter like this are pretty substantial. Not only are you able to control the amount of diffusion you're using with a simple push of a button (or turn of a knob, I guess), but you're also free of having to carry around and swap out different diffusion filters.

Here's what Chimera president Bob Winters had to say about the Active Diffusion filter:

Active Diffusion is very useful to film, video, and photography lighting professionals. Being able to remotely and infinitely adjust your diffusion saves time and labor. We are excited to partner with Zylight to bring this exciting and innovative diffusion technology to customers worldwide.

According to Digital Trends, the panels will become available in April after NAB 2017 and come in two sizes and cost somewhere in the ballpark of $400 and $1,200 (depending on the size).      

Your Comment


People have become so lazy that they're willing to pay $400 and up for a gimmick like this? What's wrong with swapping out a filter or two?

December 24, 2016 at 7:04PM

Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer

I'm definitely lazy enough to consider this gimmick. It's not so much the convenience factor: it's more the WYSIWYG factor. You know -- it's easier to experiment, try different levels of diffusion, adjust to taste.

I think the same sorts of consideration apply to having lights on dimmers (you can more easily work out what brightness looks good), or to things like the Digital Sputnik lights in Rogue One (you can play with and tweak the colours more easily).

December 24, 2016 at 10:23PM, Edited December 24, 11:08PM

Adrian Tan

it must be tested if we can afford
usually i'm not fan of auto XXX, but it can be confortable, like gradual ND, you risk to polarized interesting light angle, but it's very confortable when you need to control better amount of light, or need to do in a few times like when you are shooting a documentary, instead of 4x4 filter, i have both, to use better when i need.

December 25, 2016 at 2:34PM

Carlo Macchiavello

There is one place this makes sense - a big light up on a condor where changing anything is a time eating process... Except this product cant take the heat of a typical hmi you'd be using in such a situation.... Not many leds good for space lighting. In a far more limited situation maybe a light mounted up on a grid where it could be hard to get at. Otherwise this is sort of a solution in search of a problem. $1200 buys 10 full rolls of diffusion which would go a lot further than one of these things - assuming thats something like a 4x4 in size.

December 25, 2016 at 5:09PM

Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist

Another way this thing could be useful, although it's a very niche way: what if you wanted to adjust diffusion smoothly in the course of a take? How could you do it otherwise?

December 27, 2016 at 11:55AM

Adrian Tan

Had a think about this. The 2x2 diffusion paired with a light like the Wasp 100s could make a pretty efficient self contained kit.

One fairly common use case that comes to mind is interviews, many times I am working with little or no crew and have the subject for a short period of time (and limited space in some cases. A 2x2 could be combined with the light into what is essentially a single unit that cuts footprint and setup time.

There are other issues I'm curious to see if they are resolved when these are in the wild but there are applications for this IMO.

January 4, 2017 at 12:16PM, Edited January 4, 12:16PM

Kaiel Eytle
Director of Photography/Executive Producer