Lighting Control Grids, or LCG’s, have long been a contrast helper for both film and photography, and I’m always impressed when crew members haven’t heard of them. I try to have them on set when using soft lights- especially in narrative work.
There are two different types of grids available: fabric grids (shown in photo) that are very lightweight and quick to add on and hard grids that are plastic and framed for more stability. They both have instances where one works better than the other– but overall they both help narrow the focus of a light source.
This is an example of hard grids of different narrowing degrees being added to a photo strobe. Notice that the light quality doesn’t change- but the spread narrows.
I am a fan of well placed/well cut soft light—cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is great at this. Using big soft light sources are beautiful, but tend to wrap things too much and take away a lot of the subjects contrast and shadow shape. Adding a lighting control grid will allow the soft light quality to pass through, but not allow objects to get any part of a light other than what is aimed at them. I often use Chimera soft boxes in areas that are just out of frame in order to sneak in an edge or eye-light, but the problem is always the broad spill of light where I don’t want it. Instead of asking the grip team to box in the lamp with flags (and all the rigging and time you need for that), you can add an LCG to manage a lot of the spill.
The grids come in various control options from 60º-20º and are made to fit any size softbox or cinema size fame set (12×12′, 8×8’, 6×6’…)