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class="Paragraph" Black Silks

Published : 15th March 2004


Could someone explain the use/concept of black silks? I've always assumed it was an attempt to hide the source when seen in a reflection or suck, ie so the 8x8 does not appear as a glowing source in the picture window.

John Roche, gaffer
NYC



John,

See Road to perdition article...

http://www.theasc.com/magazine/aug02/perdition/page2.html

Nick Hoffman NYC 600 DP



>John, See Road to perdition article.

That's one answer. There are others, but I don't know what they are because black silks never caught on up here.

What other uses are there for black silks, and why? Is it just that they soften the light somewhat without causing it to wrap?

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/



Hi All,

I am on a show right now where the DP uses Black Silks to get into the eyes of actors or actresses on close ups without bringing up the whole face.

We usually put a small fixture over top of camera and place the black silk in front of the fixture.

Sometimes, the fixture can be as large as a 2K Ziplight.

The effect is quite pleasing, particularly on HD, as image contrast seems to be something that needs close attention.

They are not for every close up, not for every situation but used where appropriate, a very nice look.

Andrew Gordon
Gaffer
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada



Andrew Gordon wrote:

>I am on a show right now where the DP uses Black Silks to get into the >eyes of actors or actresses on close ups without bringing up the whole >face...

I'm still trying to understand how the effect of this differs from simply using a weaker source. The black silk just diminishes the intensity a lot so that 2K Zip looks like, what--a 100 watt Zip?

How does the effect differ from simply using the same size source with a weaker lamp? Is there something about the silk adding a sort of pattern to the shape of the source? How close to the source is the black silk placed?

I don't have any black silk to experiment with.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Wade Ramsey writes :

>I'm still trying to understand how the effect of this differs from simply >using a weaker source. The black silk just diminishes the intensity a lot >so that 2K Zip looks like, what--a 100 watt Zip?

I'm guessing (and it is a guess) that the black silk acts as a fine grained louvre array that allows the light to pass through very directionally without causing a large splash of light with it's attendant reflection problems.

It also sounds a bit combustible...

Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com



Hi Clive and Wade,

Yes, when using the black silk, we always fill it up with the beam of the light. I have, on occasion, used the fabric only to clip to a fixture.

There are fire retardant silks available for this type of use. I believe that when ordering, you must specify which type you need.

As for what the silk does to the beam of the light, I confess that I am not sure. It seems that the light is spread in the same manner as a regular silk but the idea of it being a fine louvre sounds like a good explanation to me.

Regards,

Andrew Gordon
Gaffer
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada



John Roche wrote:

>Could someone explain the use/concept of black silks?

The best way I can describe the effect of a black silk is that it is like a light diffusion with a couple heavy nets over it. It mildly diffuses the source while making it considerably less bright. It's been a while... I would guess a two stop (maybe slightly more) decrease in light? I've only used it stretched on largish frames so have no real sense of what it would do to a small eye light or the like. The thing black silk reminds me most was a day when we were shooting outside during a solar eclipse. The light levels plummeted way down but the light from the partially eclipsed sun was still hard... the (much softer) skylight felt more prominent and the whole effect was eerie and unnatural.

Standing under a 12x12 black silk outside in hard sunlight (cloudless day) with the silk a few feet over my head had the same feel. It's like being in shadow but where the light reaching you is still hard, but not quite as hard.

Cheers,

Piotr Jagninski
Gaffer - NYC



Piotr Jagninski wrote :

>...Standing under a 12x12 black silk outside in hard sunlight (cloudless >day) with the silk a few feet over my head had the same feel. It's like >being in shadow but where the light reaching you is still hard, but not >quite as hard.

I can readily see the value of black silks to diffuse sunlight. I've used white silks for this and the effect is a little too much. It doesn't really look like skylight because the big silk diffuses so much light in from the sides of the subject. Black would be ideal for this, I would think, and would like to try it.

Still can't figure out the virtue of using black silks in front of fill lights indoors, unless the smallest fixture you have is 2K or so. But I've never seen the effect, so I'm open.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



I'd think that it would let more specular light through than become a source itself, the way a regular silk would.

What Andrew's describing I've seen another episodic DP do, only with opal.

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



I'm still trying to understand how the effect of this differs from simply using a weaker source.

Hello, yes a black silk seems to cut back more light. However I think it's main effectiveness is to prevent a bounce back that you would have from a white silk. I think it works well when using a over head silk and you want to keep some dimension and not flatten out the light. Especially when working outside with so much ambient and reflected light everywhere.

I'm sure there's more uses such as cutting back light with a 24x36 black silk. It cuts back more than a silk and less than a flag. Best, Andy chicagogaffer.com

Andrew Cook



Andrew Cook wrote :

>However I think it's main effectiveness is to prevent a bounce back that >you would have from a white silk.

What I am thinking is that if you use a black silk to modify an eye light, you get light to where you want it without the white silk then becoming a large reflection in the subject's eye during a close up...

Mark Smith



Mark Smith writes :

>What I am thinking is that if you use a black silk to modify an eye light


That makes sense to me. No large white panel to catch other light or become a large reflection object in glassy surfaces such as the eye. And no need to wrap a bunch of blackwrap between the fixture and the silk to deal with all the bounce back light.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Mark Smith wrote:

>What I am thinking is that if you use a black silk to modify an eye light

Sounds Rube Goldberg to me. Use a smaller diffused source! I constructed a small soft light for this purpose. It has a 5"x10" opening and two 250 watt lamps (GCA) bouncing off the white reflector surface, individually switchable. No bounce back, no large source area. If it's too bright, scrim it with wire.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>What I am thinking is that if you use a black silk to modify an eye light

I wonder if this would help with the reflection when the subject is wearing glasses?

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



George Hupka writes :

>I wonder if this would help with the reflection when the subject is wearing >glasses?

Probably, but the best fix for that is proper anti-reflection lenses if the person being filmed is a regular.

If they're just a short term interviewee, then try spraying their face with matting spray. It'll annoy them and be fun.

Alternatively you could smear Vaseline on their spectacles or just knock the lenses out with a pair of pliers.

I suppose I should point out that I wear glasses.

Clive Mitchell



Art Adams wrote :

>I'd think that it would let more specular light through than become a >source itself, the way a regular silk would.

Has a Grey silk ever been used? Curious if this would split the difference between using white silk or black silk.

Denny Lajeunesse
dp/director/editor
Vancouver, BC



Andrew Gordon writes :

>I am on a show right now where the DP uses ...Black Silks to get into the >eyes of actors or actresses on close ups without bringing up the whole >face.

Call me foolish but wouldn't it be worth asking that DP about this? Let us know what he says.

Ruairi O'Brien
Cameraman
Ireland



A suggestion:

Those shooting within the next few weeks just rent a few and try them out and then report their impressions. Even a few stills for reference perhaps.

I am intrigued, I definitely will be doing that. I start shooting in 10 days and I don't think a few dollars extra rental will cause a big fuss with anyone.

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Directeur-Photo/Director of Photography
Montréal, Canada
demo à / at : http://pages.infinit.net/davil



Hello Wade,

I prefer using black silks or fabric scrims like Wescott's ScrimJim* rather than flags or umbrellas to flag off sunlight from talent. I agree with Andrew that this practice loses dimension in the shot. Generally I use a 4X 4 number 2 black silk butterflied overhead to knock down, but not lose the Sun. Of course, in a 20 knot wind, you may have to weigh anchor.

* Normal disclaimer applies.

Best regards,
Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.



Daniel writes....

>Those shooting within the next few weeks just rent a few and try them >out and then report their impressions.

What, and stop the endless conjecture and speculation???

Randy Miller



Randy Miller wrote:

> What, and stop the endless conjecture and speculation???

I'm now at more of a loss than when I first posed this question. Based on some of the responses, you'd think black silks would be the more the norm and white the exception.

Being black you would assume less reflective property, thus (?) less diffusion, less spread. The one application mentioned so far that makes the most sense to me is its use as overhead in direct sun.

One thing for sure, I rarely have seen them out east. But maybe I'm just on the wrong shoots. This is always the problem when you gaff and work with the
same people too often, you never get to see how the other half lives......

John Roche, gaffer
NYC



John Roche wrote :

>...The one application mentioned so far that makes the most sense to >me is its use as overhead in direct sun....

Seems that way to me, too. I've used a double black scrim as overhead and can see the virtue of using black silk instead. The scrim pattern shows a little, especially the seams. Roasting a black silk in front of a 2K for fill light just doesn't make sense to me. I'd like to see the result, compared to using a small, lower powered soft light.

If I had some black silk I'd try it.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614