If you’ve ever had to lighten a scene and couldn’t do it properly without lugging around back breaking numbers of flags and other devices to stop the light from spreading and spilling, you should take a look at the LIGHTBRIDGE CRLS (Cine Reflect Lighting System), a lighting system based on lightweight aluminium reflectors that don’t spill. CRLS is used in cinematography but begs to be discovered by photographers.
The CRLS lets you literally paint with light and shadow without a need for flags or frames. The LIGHTBRIDGE C-Reflector produces a natural look by using the inverse square law for less fall-off than you can get out of traditional reflectors. The C-Reflector is available in five diffusion grades, ranging from a mirror to a muslin bounce. All C-Reflectors use a clear-cut, polished aluminium-coated, wrinkle-free surface that reflects 97% of the light which comes out beautifully feathered and without any colour shift. The way they’re made ensures they are free of spill light, reducing the need for flags and frames.
Each diffusion grade C-Reflector comes in five sizes: 7cmx7cm, 15cmx15cm, 25cmx25cm, 50cmx50cm, and 100cmx100cm. Except for individual reflectors, a variety of kits is available. I received the C-START kit. That one includes 15cm×15cm Diffusion 1 to 4 C-Reflectors, 25cm×25cm Diffusion 3 and 4, one C-Wheel male and one C-Wheel female mounting system.
I tried the system with continuous light and a manual off-camera flash. Below is the image of a shot with my LP180 flash pointing up to a 15cm Diff-1 positioned in an angle and at a distance of 2.5m.
The quality of the C-Reflectors is top-notch without a flaw or even a speck on the reflecting surface. Because the system relies on the C-Reflectors’ coatings to reflect the light accurately, you’re advised to handle them with gloves or at least with clean hands. I used a pair of cotton gloves — used to handle photo negatives many, many years ago — to keep them spotless.
The back of the C-Reflector has a rail to slide on a C-Wheel with a square safety wedge. You turn the wheel to fix the reflector in place and attach the other end to a light stand, a suitable arm or anything else that can hold a male or female spigot mount. I used the male wheel and fixed the reflector to a Manfrotto Avenger clamp mounted on a LumoPro 10 foot air-cushioned light stand. The reflector sizes I received all have a hole in one corner to run a provided cable through for extra safety.
The smallest C-Reflector (7cmx7cm) is meant to lighten smaller objects. You’d use it in food and jewellery photography, for example. The 15cmx15cm is good for portraits or bigger objects. Colour accuracy isn’t an issue; I measured my lamp’s output and the reflected light. The lamp’s colour temperature was 5060K, the reflectors came in at 5080K.
Because they reflect 97% of the light coming in, you can use a 25cm Diff-4 reflector on your subject and a 15cm Diff-1 for a catch light. The result I got with that setup was pleasing and natural looking, and at this scale it never becomes impractical as is often the case with traditional reflectors.
For portraits, the effects can range from the romantic to the dramatic with 15cm reflectors. For bigger scenes, like a shot of an interior design, the entire room can be lightened as you want it, using a combination of natural light and any number of the 25cm reflectors pointed at the subjects you want to draw attention to. I even used the sun coming in as the light source.
Contrary to its name, the €584 C-START kit has everything you need for portrait photography or video shooting in a small room. For more flexibility, e.g. interview videos as well as fashion photography, you’re probably better off with the €1,363 CRLS C-GO kit, which comes with
(1) 15×15 cm Cine Reflector Diff 1 Sleeve
(1) 15×15 cm Cine Reflector Diff 2 Sleeve
(1) 25×25 cm Cine Reflector Diff 2 Sleeve
(1) 25×25 cm Cine Reflector Diff 3 Sleeve
(1) 50×50 cm Cine Reflector Diff 3 Sleeve
(1) 50×50 cm Cine Reflector Diff 4 Sleeve
(1) Grip Bag (1x C-Wheel female 1 C-Wheel male).
In a large studio, you might want to have one or more 50cm and 100cm reflectors which you can also buy online. For even bigger setups, LIGHTBRIDGE can make any size to order.
C-Reflectors aren’t cheap, but then again, neither are high-quality traditional reflectors. And trust me on this one: once you’ve seen what you can do with light using the CRLS system and how easy it is using them, you’ll fall in love and never go back to traditional reflectors.
In the US, you can buy LIGHTBRIDGE products from BH Photo/Video. LIGHTBRIDGE’s website has a full list of distributors globally. For the low countries, a dealer who has most of the standard sizes and kits in store is BBP Light.
Film productions that have been shot with the CRLS so far: White Ribbon, By The Sea, FBI Most wanted, Jessica Jones, Free guy (Ryan Reynolds), Guilded Age, Downhill, Las Niñas and the new George Clooney movie.