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Muslin Balls

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Ok, my questions and confusion about muslin balls / musballs / muzballs breaks down like this. I guess people have a preference for them over china balls because of the different diffusion material (muslin) that they are constructed with. I have heard two main reasons in my research 1. able to take a higher wattage bulb (more than 500 watts? So does that mean they are constructed with something other than the 650w rated porcelain sockets? And don?t people put 500w bulbs safely into china balls?) 2. The different light quality you get from the muslin as a diffusion material. Different material means different characteristics ( no real confusion with that, but if anyone would like to chime in with thoughts about the different materials I would love to hear some personal views (although I have read the diffusion topics in the achieves ) To keep away from a lot of reposting of the earlier discussions on diffusion we could keep the discussion to diffusion materials for china balls and muslin balls.


So are people generally putting more than 500w in them to make them ?useful?? If so does anyone know what type of socket is used in these higher wattage versions? For that matter what bulbs would one go with in these higher wattage units.


I am looking to build a prototype unit to see how it will potentially work for me on some upcoming projects, so any helpful hints or words from the wise would be appreciated.


I guess another question would be what type of muslin is used? Does it come in strengths? So maybe like thread count? Or is it all mostly the same kind of generic muslin you could pick up at any fabric store?


Muslin balls have come up in some of my reading of older AC magazines and I was interested in finding out more about them and peoples thoughts on the use of them. Most recently found the mention of them in the lighting of ?The Game? shot by Harris Savides.



Student cinematographer

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  • 14 years later...

Well, these days we can shoot at such low light levels that... 500w in a ball seems like overkill 🙂

And those balls... the light just goes everywhere!  I find very few situations where I'd want a ball light, but it was a cool fad while it lasted!

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Newer technologies allows for mat lights with curtains to be stuck to ceilings which saves space. Or a ceiling bounce with cutters. But if you're on a budget, lanterns are a great option.

I use lantern-style space lights all the time in studios where there is no natural white ceiling for fill, or if I need to light from above. I use Mogul base 1000w tube-style lamps dropped into 30" paper lanterns then boxed in a 4x4 cube muslin lantern. The muslin lantern is built with clamps and c-47s and fabric from a sewing shop. Curtain it for spill control. This is a fairly soft box. If you wanted the hard bulb to act more, then remove the 30" lantern.

I'll take a picture next time I build one. I've actually taken a 10'x10' muslin cut an create a HUGE pancake overhead.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I will always use lanterns, regardless of budget. They are omnidirectional, which is a fundamental property you can't fake - at least in the way I like to use them. 

It's not a substitute for bounce light and bounce light is not a substitute for a ball. They have very different properties. The only exception is if you had a ball at a distance and bounced a light into it! Bounce light is usually softer than lantern light and still puts light in one general direction. 

An omnidirectional source looks sourcy, and that is it's strength. Coming up through indie film, a sourcy, implied lamp around the corner was a trick to give a crappy white wall some interest. It at least had a gradient to look at and lead your eye somewhere. I put them very close to the wall and play with the distance from the surface in tandem with the dimmer to get the fall-off and reach just right. Even now when I usually have good walls I still just like sourcy interest.

Personally I definitely would use, and have used a 500W in a lantern - you then get to use the thickest, most luscious fabric you can: the thickest, fluffiest, twill molton fabric, or go warm and unbleached with irregular tea stains. Or you have the latitude to go warm via dimming.

It's also nice to use a 500W lantern as an omnidirectional "streetlamp" for night exteriors.

I like to go to fabric stores in the fashion district and pick out fabrics I'm not normally offered in the film industry. One of my quirks.

For fill light, a lantern or ball would not be my choice - it's just too much of a distinct source. That's where bounce light wins.



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You could also use a china ball with an Aladdin inside, black the sides and diffuse it through a thick diffusion frame as a quick setup for close ups! 🙂

Although if  you could use a blanket Litetile (I love them but they are not widely available in Ireland / Spain) the light would be softer..  and it takes, literally, 2 minutes to walk it in!


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