On Reflection

On Reflection

For most of us using reflectors is such an integral part of the way we light our sets and subjects everyday that it becomes easy to disregard the possibilities for experimentation and innovation.

I’ve always liked the quality from bounced or reflected light, from buildings, glass, water and from vehicle bodywork and chrome (come back 1974) and I enjoy replicating it when lighting sets. 

The progress of photographic sensor design and expansion of useable ISO range is ever opening new possibilities for photography and I’ve become very interested in a technique that Cinematographer Christian Berger has been developing since 1999. It’s a system for lighting films that utilises reflected light almost exclusively. Dubbed Cine Reflect Lighting System (CRLS) the technique involves reflecting beams from a light source that produces a parallel and concentrated beam of light as close as possible to the parallel light produced by the sun.  The RLS 70, specially developed for this purpose, uses a 1200W HMI lamp and is manufactured by Pani Projection of Austria together with a range of reflectors also designed by Berger and creative partner Christian Bartenbach for the CRLS. In association, Dedolight have also created a Parallel beam lens attachment for their 200,400 and 1000 series of lampsmaking them more suitable for use with the CRLS range of reflectors. Competition comes from Kaczek Visuals with their KFLECT system.

I’ve yet to get my hands on any CRLS kit but I continue to use reflection a lot and at the moment it’s the ideal way to pick outsome black leather boots on a moodily lit set without spoilingthe contrast and feel of the overall picture. 

Aside from the usual pop-up reflectors, California Sunbounce, Scrim Jim and mirror board options I often carry celotex insulation board (other brands are available) Lee Mirror Silver (No. 271) and Soft Silver Reflector (No. 273) both useful for making hard / soft reflectors of whatever size and shape you need. Mirror, or silver-backed acrylic can be cut to any size and I favour using small piecesfor still life sets adding accents of light when direct light doesn’t have the right feel or the set is just too crowded to squeeze another lamp in. 

Adjusting the quality of light from a reflector is achievable with diffusion gels, I usually carry 1/16th white diff and Hampshire frost.  When time allows applying dulling spray is a good way to make very fine adjustments. I also have a range of nets, both black and white, to soften the reflection from harder reflectors. These can be standard double or single nets as carried on all our Gripvans, but I’ve often found the local haberdashers a great place to pick up a wide range of different mesh, perfect for diffusing mirrorboards, household mirrors or any other hard reflector.

In the past I’ve custom mounted reflectors to armature wire or fixed them to baby pins to make it easier to Grip them, now I’m excited to explore the versatility that the magnet based systems offered by Pani and Kflect have to offer. Much as I’m looking forward to working with a full set of Paniflectors or K-flectors in the near future, I cant ever imagine not needing to improvise at some point. You can use so many materials as reflectors and often on set I’m scrounging mirrors from make-up artists or raiding location kitchens for shiny saucepans, silver trays or the old favourite bacofoil. I’ve used shaving mirrors, stainless steel plate, glass windows, aluminium of various finishes and the case of my Macbook Pro in the past and who knows what I’ll use in the future, I knew I kept those old CDs for good reason...