October 2, 2019

Learn How to Make a Powerful DIY LED Light Out of a Cake Pan

High-end LEDs are tasty lights, but this DIY alternative is even tastier for frugal filmmakers.

We live in a beautiful time when you can get some pretty decent lighting equipment for very little money. However, as you move toward pro-grade gear, naturally, the costs go up, and pretty soon you're looking at price tags in the thousands of dollars...for single units.

LEDs like the Aputure 120D LED are staples of indie filmmaking and relatively affordable compared to other high-end lights, but if you're not in the position to drop upwards of $600 to $1000, you might be looking for a DIY alternative.

Luckily, Daniel Schiffer has got one for you. Check out his video below to learn how to build a powerful LED light out of some household items for just $40.

The key to making this DIY LED light work is finding a "fixture" that is round and reflective. A cheap cake pan is an excellent option, as you can see from the video, but I'm sure there are other household items you could use. (I'm looking at my Kitchenaid mixing bowl like, "Hey, cutie.")

Okay, the fixture is covered. Next: LED lights. Schiffer went with a daylight-balanced LED strip that only cost him $8. And he recommends going with daylight for maximum output and better skintone rendering.

There are a few other items you'll need to get to complete the build, so let's just get a little list going:

Materials

  • 14" cake pan
  • Daylight LED strip
  • Diffusion sheet
  • 12V AC to DC adapter
  • Smallrig Clamp Mount

(Schiffer has links to all the products he used in the tutorial in the video's description.)

As you can probably tell, you'll need an AC to DC adapter to power your light, a diffusion sheet (or some other diffusion material) to soften and spread your light, and then a clamp to mount your DIY light to a tripod.

All in all, this build is going to cost you around $40, but it could be even cheaper if you have some of this stuff lying around. I definitely have a cake pan lying around and you know I'm not making any damn cakes with that shit.

Are you going to win any beauty contests with this thing? No, honey. But from the looks of it, you will be able to get some professional-looking lighting. 

If it works, it works!     

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A couple things I learned from building these: First, the $8 LED strips are no good. They just don't put out enough light. Buy a triple-wide strip with a CRI rating over 90 or so. About $25 on Amazon. Second, make sure the LEDs aren't too close to the diffuser, otherwise you'll be able to see the individual diodes. Third, you can get good, free diffusion from a broken LED TV (as was illustrated in a previous NFS post.) It's pretty easy, just grab a small screw driver and take out all 5,000 screws. Just make sure the TV has been unplugged a while so you don't get zapped. Having disassembled about 5 TVs and building a few lights, I would suggest just getting the $100 RGB LED light on Amazon. It is not that expensive, it can run on battery or AC, and while it's not pro level, it isn't hokey.

October 4, 2019 at 1:40PM

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Galin McMahon
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