Jay P Morgan: Understanding Grids

20 Degree 1710

For this assignment Jay P Morgan shot at the YouTube Space for the first time. He was going for a film noir look so he experimented using grids and strobe heads. This article shows how Jay P used grids to his advantage and demonstrates how you can mix them with tungsten light.

Grids are honeycomb metal inserts that fit inside of a strobe reflector. They restrict the area of light coverage and help give you more control.

First, Jay P took a look at how the different sizes of grid light with a subject against a white wall. In the first example, the light is six feet from the wall and the camera is set to f6.3 aperture with a 1/60sec shutter speed. With a 10-degree grid, there is a very small area of coverage, about 3 feet across. Each time he stepped up the grid, he got a larger area of coverage and gained about two-thirds of a stop in exposure.

The area of coverage with a 20-degree grid is about five feet.

It increases to six feet with the 30-degree grid. Less restriction of the light allows more light to pass through and create a brighter exposure

The last grid is the 40-degree. It covers about eight feet across and is bleeding into the shadow area more than the other grid options.

Grid light is very directional and not soft. The spill in the shadow areas of the image increases as you go to larger grids. Grids are perfect for a film noir shoot with hard light and deeper shadows.

The Set
This is a simple set: a black curtain in the background, and black plastic on the floor with some water puddles to make it look like it just rained. For this shoot Jay P created DIY street light poles made out of ABS pipes with carriage lights on top. To make the light poles, he took a four-inch ABS pipe and stepped it down to two inches using a step down collar. This gives the light some shape. Jay P then bolted an end cap to a piece of 3/4 inch plywood and shoved the pole in. The carriage lights came with screws that simply tightened to the top of the pole.

The Mood

Jay P used a Rosco V-hazer to fill the room with haze and create a film noir mood. It is not an exact science but once you get it balanced, it will give you constant haze all day long with a gallon bottle of fluid. He also used the Rosco Vapour Plus Fog Machine to add smoke at times and give the image depth.

The Light
To mimic a car, JayP took two Arri 650s and put them on a cross bar and used this to emulate head lights. For the street lights, he used a Source 4 light on a stand aimed down toward the floor. Source 4 lights create a very pinpoint light source and can focus so that the light shaft will be sharp. He shaped the smoke with the shutters so it looked like the light is coming off the street lights created. White balance was set to tungsten and a gel was added to the strobes with CTO.

The first strobe was a PhotoFlex FlexFlash400W in the background. No gel was used on this light to utilize the blue cast and add depth.

The second strobe is a Photoflex FlexFlash400W on camera right with a 20 degree grid spot. This will light the "dead guy" and imitate the light coming off the car. A full CTO or orange gel is added to correct the strobe, which is daylight, to tungsten.

The next element is the key light on the subject's faces. This is a FlexFlash 400 watt second light with a 10 degree grid. Jay P had an assistant hand hold this light and keep it pointed at her nose. That is the downside to grids, they are very narrow in the area of coverage so you have to babysit them.

Next, a Dynalite RoadMax head with ND was added as a fill from the front.

The last light is a rim light from camera left. It has a 40-degree grid and lit her hair while also covering his face. It can pan right or left to increase or decrease the light on each subjects face.

Jay P was shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III using a 24-70mm Tamron lens. Using grids for this shoot was the perfect choice. They are directional and hard looking and look more like Fresnel hot lights. The different degree grids allowed Jay P to light only the area that he wanted. This is an effective way to work and can produce some amazing images.

Here are four retouched images from the shoot:

Now the real test of a good film noir image is how does it look in B&W. Jay P took the four final images into Silver Efex in Nik Software and converted them there:

They produced some very cool vintage looks but Jay P still wants to see a little bit of color, so he went back to the colored images and used the Bleached Bypass filter in Color Efex:

Jay P loves doing this type of shoot and is looking forward to doing it again. He reminds us to “Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.”

Equipment List:

Photoflex FlexFlash400W

7-inch Reflector Grids

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