Westcott Scrim Jim And Matthews Bounce Boards. Perfect Combo
One of the toughest conditions for a DP is shooting outside. Weather changes all day. The sun keeps moving. Oh no! Now it’s cloudy. After you make the choices of how you’re going to setup for the shot the conditions change, so you really never know exactly what the shooting conditions will be until you’re actually shooting.
My main objective is to make the talent look good. That is #1 for me. Lighting is the key. I don’t have any HMI fixtures in my kit and even if I did I would need a generator to use them because when I shoot outdoors I don’t have a power source near by 90% of the time, So how do you light talent without lights? I use bounce boards and silks. The sun is the biggest lighting source there is but it’s never in the right position to make talent look good. It’s pretty hard to try and time the perfect shot while the sun moves around the earth. Also, nobody looks good with the sun in their face. Very harsh, and usually at a high angle. With just a few pieces of kit it’s easy to make the talent look good. Here’s how I do it.
Overhead Scrim or butterfly
The first part is to control the amount of natural sun light hitting the talent. I use a Westcott X-Large 96″ x 96″ Scrim Jim Kit with two C-stands and sand bags to hold everything down. An 8′x8′ is a pretty big panel but it needs to be because your subject has to fit in between the C-stands. This shot needed about mid-chest up so this panel was perfect. If I needed full body then the panel would have to be almost twice as big. The one in the picture below is a kit that has everything you need to mount it to stands. It comes with one silk and one black net. The kit is so light, coming in at only 13lbs. total including the clamps. See below for full kit. The clamps are the heaviest part of the kit.
- (1) 96″ x 96″ Scrim Jim Frame
- (1) 96″ XL 3/4-Stop Diffusion Fabric
- (1) 96″ XL 3/4-Stop Single Black Net Panel
- (2) Grip Heads
- (2) Scrim Jim Clamps
- (1) Scrim Jim Carry Case
I use C-stands because they’re heavy and add the support I need to make sure it wont blow over. The day I shot this it was a little windy. See the waves in the silk? The setup was solid. I did have my assistant hold the reflector. That tends to move in the wind and when it does the reflector loses it’s punch even if it moves an inch.
When I started setting up it was very sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. One hour later the whole sky went gray. Why did I still use the overhead skim? Because it softened the light even more, and now my background was also less bright giving the shot a more balanced look. Look at the ground in front of the talent. You can see the defused light by his feet. This was shot at 1:30 in the afternoon and the sun was behind him. I like to position the subject with the sun at their back. This gives me a really good bounce with the reflector to light the talent, and adds a soft back light. If its really sunny then using a heavier 1-stop silk will defuse the light even more, or use a solid black negative fill panel to stop all light. I prefer to have some light coming through because without it then it could be to dark creating a very hot background. Westcott makes several fabrics for all sorts of different looks and applications. This panel can also be used to bring the background down by using the black net fabric and placing it behind the subject. You can’t even tell it’s there. Westcott makes a few different size panels for different applications. I also have a smaller one that is easy for a grip to hand hold. See the video at the bottom of this article. We walked with a Scrim Jim and bounce board easily.
Bouncing The Light
Disk reflectors that fold up nice and small are great for a quick portable fill, but because they are made of fabric they tend to shimmer on the subject if it’s a little windy. I prefer a solid bounce board. The Matthews Matthboard – 40×40″ – Silver are great. They are called expendables, however the one I have is probably fifteen years old. I even gaff taped the edges because the frame started to crack to squeeze out another 5 or more years out of it. Still going strong even with dents in it. Great product.
This version has a yoke. I have the older clamp style. I like the yoke style better but hey if it works why spend money on something I already have.
The version I have has two different types of silver reflection. One is stronger than the other so if you need more punch you have it. The solid reflectors are much stronger than the fabric disk type and the light is much broader. I really like them. I should get another because having two would allow me to more modeling of the light. You can even put a silk in between the subject and the reflector to soften it a little. So many options.
I did a quick grade with one secondary mask on his face to add a little pop. I always do this. As you can see it’s a very natural looking shot with very little shadows on his face and a little back lighting on the shouldrs. Simple setup with the right kit equals talent looking good. Goal #1 accomplished.
Here is another promo I shot using a Small 42″ x 42″ Scrim Jim Kit with a Mathews bounce board. I had to grips walking with me shading and bouncing. That’s how light these are.
A big plus for me with these two products is how light and portable they are. I dont have to have a grip truck and crew to use them. The Scrim Jim breaks down to a nice small package and the bounce board is light but durable. This to me is a perfect combo.
If your a DIY type you could make skims out of PVC pipe and bed sheets. The bounce boards could be made with foil and foam core. Either way this technique is an easy way to make your subjects look great outdoors.
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