Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996
Published : 14th August 2003
Does Rosco (or anyone else) still make Tuff Spun diffusion material? Rosco doesn't seem to show it on their website. Was/is it made by anyone else?
Half-Tuff Spun is wonderful material for very lightweight lighting kits: You can layer it to get wide variations in diffusion, and you can fold it up a thousand’s of times -- even stuff it in your vest pockets -- and it won't break down.
I used it a lot in the old days, and still have some small pieces of it, but I haven't seen it around lately. Anyone have any leads?
Marin County, CA
To me, Tough Spun is a lousy diffuser when you compare light output to the amount it diffuses -- it practically scrims the light as much as it softens it. I prefer Grid Cloth when it comes to hardy material that you can stuff in your pocket. I think the decline in the use of Tough Spun is mainly because we have better material these days for softening light.
Cinematographer / L.A.
>Does Rosco (or anyone else) still make Tuff Spun diffusion material?
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Tuff Spun was outlawed because of it's carcinogenic properties. Essentially it is spun glass and exhibits similarities to the old fibreglass batting used for insulation. Once fibreglass began to be regulated, spun and woven glass products followed shortly thereafter. Someone probably has a couple of rolls tucked away somewhere, but I do not believe it is commercially available anymore in the US.
Walter Graff NY wrote :
>You got to love those urban myths. Tough spun is not made of glass but >retardant polyester.
However, in the really old days, it was made of glass. Spun glass -- fibreglass -- was used as diffusion material for lighting. It is extremely heat resistant so it was ideal for carbon arcs. Because it was glass and not polyester it had beautiful diffusion characteristics.
It's drawbacks were that it was very fragile -- electricians cut it with their thumbnails -- and could shower people with glass fibres. The fibres are not carcinogenic, but they can be very irritating.
The name "Tough Spun" comes from a marketing idea that it was not fragile and did not break up into tiny fibres, as diffusion it is really not very good. It is made by Dupont and used industrially to wrap trash. It is very tough.
IA 600 DP
>Essentially it is spun glass and exhibits similarities to the old fibreglass >batting used for insulation.
You got to love those urban myths. Tough spun is not made of glass but retardant polyester.
Lee sells it as does Rosco. A search on the web will turn up a hundred places that sell it.
Rosco has it on their website at
And Lee has it at
>However, in the really old days, it was made of glass. Spun glass >fibreglass was used as diffusion material for lighting.
Exactly right. I remember using the left over "real" spun in the 70's, but on second thought I would rather forget that stuff. It was really like insulation material as far as the itch factor was concerned.
Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Directeur-Photo/Director of Photography
Demo à / at : http://pages.infinit.net/davil
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Tuff Spun was outlawed because of it's carcinogenic properties.
Actually, Rosco "Tuffspun" and Light Tuff spun are not spun glass. I worked in TV with the real spun glass a bit and hated working with it for all the reasons you would imagine, not the least of which was itching and fear of subsequent health issues.
The Rosco product is matted fibre, not a woven one, probably a type of polyester, and as far as I was able to determine, it was a "re-purposing" of a material that is used in garment and upholstery trades to stiffen material. It is known as interface material, and can be found between the layers of fabric in many collars, cuffs, etc of shirts.
Now the cool part :
It can also be found in various densities stapled across the bottom of bed box springs to keep stuff out and is fire retardant (or at least will not sustain burning.
That means if you can't get it from Rosco, you can find it under the bed of the hotel room the job puts you in. I will not admit to having taken some from under a bed in desperation on a location job, but I certainly understand how that might have happened.
Tuff Spun should be called Tuff Scrim instead.
To me it just acts like a scrim and really doesn't diffuse much.
I actually dislike it rather strongly. I would only use it in a real pinch.
Phil "not a fan of silks either" Badger
Now the cool part: It can also be found in various densities stapled across the bottom of bed box springs to keep stuff out and is fire retardant (or at least will not sustain burning.
When my now ex first (not a "film person") lived with me and saw me using it, she insisted "that's same as the stuff on the bottom of box springs" I always said "well I'm not sure about that...."
When I tell her what you said, I'm sure she'll say "I always knew it".
I like grid cloth and 1/2 Opal. (I've also used various grades of Whatever Is Lying Around and clothes pinned it on and it worked....)
I too never liked it on location, but used to use it on Cyc lights just to smooth out the light. We'd just saw the roll in half so that it was 2' x 24' and roll it over the ground row. These days I find that Opal or any other diffusion works much better, but you still can't beat the price of tough spun.
Los Angeles, CA
I never cared for it either. When used on a sharp light I always felt I could see the pattern of the fibres on plain, smooth surfaces.
The best attribute of the stuff though was that it was nearly silent outside when flexed by the wind unlike any of the gel products.
At the TV stations where I got my start, spun diffusion was the only thing they used. Thankfully there are so many alternatives to spun now.
Randy Miller, DP in LA
> To me it just acts like a scrim and really doesn't diffuse much.
I've found that for me Tuff Spun is my least favourite thing in the field, but in studio lighting designs, I find it to be much more useful especially, for instance, when I am looking to soften a 5k without dispersing too much light as frosted diffusions do. The spun softens but still gives me a pretty sharp beam of light.
I've used plenty -o- curtains, nets, and shower curtains over the years (well, not that many years).
I always thought one of the primary advantages of Tuff Spun was it's quietness in wind and rain - AND the fact that getting wet doesn't seem to change it's diffusion properties all that much.
What else is good for sound and precipitation like that? I know a lot of folks go with Grid Cloth but that still seems a bit noisy to me.
Roderick E. Stevens writes :
>I always thought one of the primary advantages of Tuff Spun was it's >quietness in wind and rain…
I like it for the same reason. Also, its odd balance of softness, stiffness and sheer weightlessness makes for easy handling and moldability. You can do things with TS I don't think you can do with the droopier grid cloth.
Granted, it *is* scrimmy, and there are conditions under which I'd certainly prefer other materials.
Just bought a spanking new tota-brella (not the silver kind -- the white kind you can pass light through). Boy, does that look *good* as a portrait source....
(My old one is embarrassingly past its prime... Might spray some bleach on it and see if it helps...)
Marin County, CA
Dan Drasin wrote :
>Just bought a spanking new tota-brella (not the silver kind -- the white >kind you can pass light through).
Boy, does that look *good* as a portrait. Works with the silver kind, too...very effective, and quite pretty in close quarters.
Gourmet Images, Inc.
144 N. 38th Ave.
> It was really like insulation material as far as the itch factor was >concerned.
Not just an itch factor. I have a director/cameraman friend of mine who has had a small fibre of spun glass embedded in the inside of his eyelid for about 15 years now. No practical way to remove it. It was good diffusion (and you could split it down the middle to make "half spun." Gaffers called it "funny spunny," (as least Bobby Dolan did).
Not something I miss; anymore than I miss smoke cookies.
Blain writes :
>Not something I miss; anymore than I miss smoke cookies.
I put smoke cookies right up there with burning tires. Available for years in NYC even after they were outlawed, and the nasty little buggers kept popping up on music video shoots and student films. Ug.
Mark Weingartner wrote :
>That means if you can't get it from Rosco, you can find it under the bed >of the hotel room the job puts you in. I will not admit to having taken
Hmmm....I always wondered who took that stuff off the bottom of the bed's box spring in my hotel rooms! Thanks Mark.
>Hmmm....I always wondered who took that stuff off the bottom of the >bed's
My mind is in a sudden fantasy...
The film opens with a close-up of Jims face. He sits in a chair motionless looking out the window. Slits of deep red light that pass through a half open Venetian blind wash across his face and the papered hotel wall. The light comes from a tall neon sign the adorns the cheap motel. The camera cuts to a wide stationary shot of the room from the direction of the door.
We see Jims silhouette take shape within the horizontal slits of dirty hand streaked window. The muffled sound of a TV game show can be heard through the wall from the room next door. There is a staleness to the air that can almost be seen. Jim, gets up from the squeaky half-stained wooden chair and looks around. He takes a seat at the edge of the bed. A whining sound is heard as he sits down, the noise of dry springs that have seen their share of weight and abuse through the years. His body sinks into the uncomfortable mattress. He slides open the draw next to the bed and takes out Gideon's bible. He opens the book which has been in the hotel draw for years, yet remains as new as the day it was placed there except for some browning around the edges of the pages and a musty mouldy smell. Dropping it back to the crypt it came from, he looks around the room for salvation.
Jim disappears from the shot as he drops off the bed towards the shag carpeted floor. The camera cuts to a shot from under the bed that reveals his face half in light and half in darkness. Jim reaches up into the bottom of the box spring. His hand passes further than his mind expected into the frame,
once adorned in spun...
Walter Graff wrote :
>The camera cuts to a shot from under the bed that reveals his face half >in light and half in darkness.
And of course, the first line of dialogue in this film noir is
LOL - Hey Walter, are you sure you were never on location with me ??
> He takes a seat at the edge of the bed…
Walter, you should be writing and not just lighting for movies!
You had me rolling on the floor laughing!