Building a DIY Soft Light


There are many different types of lights that can be used on set. The standard three-point lighting setup involves a triangular positioning of your lights at different distances and diffusions to your subject in order to get the perfect lighting for your scene. One particular type of light that can serve many purposes is a light bar, which provides soft and even light perfect for a fill light or other situations where flat lighting is appropriate. With a cost effective DIY light bar, you add production value to your project without having to break the bank.

For this you will need the following:


  • Light bar Fixture (available at any appliance store or on Amazon) at about $20
  • An outdoor extension cord – $10.69
  • Wire nuts – $5.85
  • Screws – $5.66
  • Wing Nuts (of the same size as the screws) – $6.98
  • A combination connector – $2.89
  • Electrical tape – $4.09
  • A baby pin wall plate – $19.95
  • Tools:
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Drill

You might be able to save yourself some money if you have some of the parts lying around your house, such as the electrical tape, or any of the tools.

The first step you need to take is opening up the light bar by removing the socket caps and unscrewing any nuts holding it together.  Once inside, you should see three wires, black being hot, white being neutral, and the open wire is the ground wire. [image:magazine_article:61072]

Now you take your extension cord and clip off the female end, then strip back the protective layer to reveal the three wires inside the cord (again these are hot, neutral, and ground). You strip back a small amount of their individual protective layers.[image:magazine_article:61073]

Once you’ve done this it’s time to break out the connector hole in the back of the fixture so that your connector will fit in. Ensure that your connector is fitted correctly then put the stripped wires from the extension cord through it and tighten it. When the wires are secure and in position you can connect them with the wires from the fixture. Make sure to match the wires correctly, hot to hot, neutral to neutral, and ground to ground.[image:magazine_article:61074]

Use the wire nuts to secure these wires tightly and then wrap them with electrical tape to give them some extra protection.

Now that your wires are all connected it’s time to add your baby plate. The baby plate is a very important and useful part of this build, as it will allow you to mount your light to various lighting stands, such as C stands or any other type you might have. Align it along the back at the positioning of your choice (I would recommend the middle because it adds more stability and makes it easier to handle). Mark the position of the screw holes of the plate and drill them out on the fixture. Once you’ve done this you can add your plate to the back of the light bar. When securing it in it’s better to use wing nuts instead of regular ones because they are easier to handle.[image:magazine_article:61075]

With the baby plate on you can now close the whole thing up, put the caps back on and screw everything into position and there you go, you have your light![image:magazine_article:61076]

The good thing about this type of light fixture is that you can put on any bulb that you would like on it, from Tungsten to CFL to LED. Just make sure to pay attention to the color temperature of the bulbs you buy to make sure they match each other and any other light sources you will use.[image:magazine_article:61077]

You can diffuse the light with simple diffusion sheets which softens it even more — don’t put the sheets too close to hot lights — but if you don’t want to peg small diffusion sheets all over your set while you film there is another option that gives you more range with shots: create a large diffusion sheet using a clear shower curtain.

As strange as it might sound a $7 shower curtain is a great way to diffuse your light, and it’s even used by the pros on film sets and saves you a bunch of money. The beauty of a shower curtain is that you can hang it on a stand pretty much anywhere you want.

As strange as it might sound a $7 shower curtain is a great way to diffuse your light, and it’s even used by the pros on film sets and saves you a bunch of money. 

I personally run the rings of the curtain through the top bar of a green screen stand which not only holds it in position but also spreads it out as much as it can. With the curtain being so large it gives you a bigger source of diffusion. The basic rule to follow is, the bigger the source, the softer the light. With a shower curtain you can move it as close as you want to your actors and get a great soft light as opposed to a small diffusion sheet pegged on the light source which makes a smaller source of diffusion and results in a  sharper light.

You can even change your light temperature by using some colour gels, or if you don’t want to have gels flying around your set you can buy extra bulbs and spray paint them red, orange, blue, green or any colour you prefer with heatproof spray paint in order to create the desired look for your scene.

Another advantage to a light bar like this is that it has 8 or more bulbs across it which means it can cover a wide area of a scene, and if they are too much you can simply remove a few to get a narrower light cover. 


So there it is, your guide to building your very own DIY Soft Light Bar. Not only is it easy to build, but it’s also affordable and very practical on set. The total cost of this build is around $56.11 (prices on items may vary at different stores or locations) which is a much cheaper option compared to some of the professional lighting set ups out there, some of which start at $195. If you’re an Indy filmmaker or someone who works on a budget, this could be perfect for you.

With a passion for filmmaking and exploration, Antonio is always trying to push the limits of the industry, often working as a one man film crew using DIY techniques where budget was not available. 

Antonio Pavlov
From freelance video work, to feature films, I aim to learn as much as I can about the industry and grow my skills as I go along.For the past 6 years I have been writing, shooting, editing, and even compositing visual effects as a freelancer, and now I have moved into the world of feature films with two major motion pictures under my belt.With every project I learn something new and I always look to share that knowledge and experience with as many people as I can!


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