Reports | Technology

Flexibility is the Name of the Game

1 Oct , 2001  

Written by Peter Bohush | Posted by:

Looking for a quick lighting tool and versatile chroma-key backgrounds? Check out these new products from PhotoFlex.

Shooting video, and digital video in particular, with auto-exposure turned "on," often results in little slivers of shadow in a shot causing overexposure of the brightest parts of the shot into blinding white. Now you shouldn’t be shooting with auto-exposure turned on anyway… and you know that. But even with controlled exposure, you must ensure that the parts of a shot you want to look evenly lighted are, in fact, evenly lit.

Enter the PhotoFlex MultiDisc, the cheapest way to fill a scene with light. And the PhotoFlex FlexDrop is the quickest and most versatile chroma background anywhere.

Many cinematographers haul around pieces of foam core to use as reflectors. These work quite well in many circumstances. But they don’t provide the kind of even disbursement of light that a good reflector will.

The MultiDisc is actually five reflectors in one, all folded up into a zippered pouch about the size of a small pizza. There is a translucent reflector/diffuser, plus gold, silver, soft gold and white reflectors on fabric that zip over the diffuser.

The MultiDiscs flip open much like the popular silver car windshield sun reflectors. They pack away in their little pouch for easy storage and transport, and won’t get banged up the way foam core will. Of course, these reflectors can be used in video, film and still photography situations.

Why five colors? PhotoFlex explains it this way:

  • Gold has a "sunset" effect and warms the scene, producing healthy-looking skin tones – great for fashion and portraiture.
  • Soft Gold combines silver and gold in a zigzag pattern, resulting in a warm, summery feel that’s a touch softer than the solid gold – excellent for photographing kids, wildflowers and just about anything else.
  • White produces a natural, true-to-life effect – good for filling in shadows and brightening up the subject.
  • Silver increases specular highlights and yields a high-contrast image – great for video, product shots and B&W photography. Also useful for signaling rescue helicopters if you get lost in the woods on a remote fashion shoot.
  • White/Translucent is used to diffuse light, producing a broad source and a soft effect – ideal for outdoor portraits and any situation where a softer light is desired.

PhotoFlex’s FlexDrop MulitDisc Reflectors.
[click to enlarge]

Given that it contains the word "multi" in its name, I tried to find multiple uses for the MultiDiscs, including as Frisbees, boogie boards, umbrellas and a pizza stone (marginally effective, but the pizza had a slight burnt rayon aftertaste). The best use by far is the one it’s intended for, that of a versatile and useful package of photo reflectors.

Chroma-Key Backgrounds

Everyone from George Lucas to the local weatherman uses a green screen (or blue screen) to key in different backgrounds behind the main actor. With the PhotoFlex FlexDrop, you can carry your own green screen with you wherever you go.

It pops open in one second, ready to hang from a stand or prop up against a wall. It’s perfect for digital video and photography. The green screen keys out completely in any non-linear editor or compositing program.

I tested the 5’X 7’ FlexDrop in both studio and exterior situations, and found it simple and effective. It set up quickly and the results were outstanding. I took it to a party and pointed to the green screen, pretending there was a low pressure trough barreling across North Dakota. My friends were thoroughly impressed. Through it all, the FlexDrop stood proud and tall, and never complained. What more could you ask for from a green screen?

The FlexDrop (street price $89 – $130) and MultiDisc (street price $49 – $99) should be in every moviemaker’s kit especially since it’s available from dealers everywhere. Find PhotoFlex on the web at