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How to Modify Quasar Lights (For Indie Filmmakers and Cinematographers alike)

Even the best of lights can’t do everything on their own. Modifying and shaping your light is a key part of achieving the look that you want. Quasar QLEDs look pretty good on their own, but even they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are professional solutions, but there are also more budget-friendly solutions that can approximate the same effects. So whether by DIY means or professional ones, here are a number of simple tricks to help you achieve more “cinematic” lighting - whatever that means to you.

Move the Light Closer (or Further Away)

The “hardness” of your light is controlled not by any special features of the specific light you are using, but instead by two simple factors: the size of the light, and the distance from the subject. Quasar Science QLEDs appear to be fairly soft because they are very long. If you set your key light closer to your subject, it will appear even softer; further away, and it becomes a harder source. It’s the cheapest diffusion method in the world.

Rule #1 - closer means softer
Rule #1 - closer means softer

Dimmers

But what if you can’t get your lighting fixture far enough away from your subject? Or maybe you have placed it perfectly for the hardness that you desire, but that the light is still far too bright. Low-budget indie films are frequently shot in small practical spaces, and over-powered lighting setups can become a frustrating mess of compromises. In this scenario, you can always use a dimmer. Simple, effective, and not too hard to build for yourself as this old Film Riot episode demonstrates.

Diffusion

If you want to cut the brightness and soften your light at the same time, you might want to try using diffusion. This means placing some sort of material in between your light and your subject that will spread it out. In essence, the surface being bounced off of *becomes* the new light source - and we now know that bigger is softer. 

For the professional gaffers and cinematographers, this means a net, a silk, or a similar tool. For the indie filmmakers, a bit more creativity and experimentation is required. A shower curtain, a bedsheet, or a white t-shirt might achieve the amount of diffusion you desire. Try a few options and find the one that works for you!

[shower curtain]

Bounce 

Earlier, we mentioned that larger lights are softer. Bouncing the light off a reflective surface is a powerful solution to make your light appear larger than it truly is.  Professional cinematographers have all sorts of carefully engineered bounce surfaces to play with, but most of the time a white piece of foamcore board will do the job just fine. Or even better yet, invest in a collapsible 5-in-1 bounce and diffusion kit. A decent one can be had for $20, and it will give you a world of options to play with.

There's nothing simpler than two clamp lights one piece of foamcore board
There's nothing simpler than two clamp lights one piece of foamcore board

Group Your Lights

Bouncing and diffusing are both inefficient processes - some light will be lost in transmission. What if you still want a very large source, but you need all the intensity that you can get? Maybe you should consider grouping your lights together. By clustering them, you can essentially create one very large source. This is harder with traditional tungsten fixtures due to the sheer heat, but with cooler LED lights like the Quasar Crossfades it is much more manageable. Quasar Science even re-purposes Kino Flo frames to group their QLEDs . 

Just don't stare straight into them
Just don't stare straight into them

Gels

And lastly, for those of us that can’t afford the pricier RGB Q-Rainbow Quasar lights but still want that multi-color magic, there are always gels. The life cycle of gels has been much improved by LED lighting, as the cooler operating temperatures of LED fixtures don't melt the gels like older tungsten and halogen lights did. This means that an investment in a few different colors of gel will last you a very long time. Grab yourself a cheap sample book, and when you find a few that you like, you can order them directly from Amazon. Isn’t the internet wonderful?


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