Just picked up a couple of the "shop lights" from Home Depot, the kind where there are 2 fixtures on top of a pole, about 4 feet tall. My question is, what kind of material should I use in order to diffuse this light? The light seems pretty harsh and I was just looking to add ambient light to the room. Thanks
These lights get extremely hot! Please, be very careful. These lights can easily start a fire.
To answer your question, you should only use materials that have been especially made for use as diffusion material with high intensity lights. Remember, these are not movie lights! Your best (safest) bet is to bounce the lights of a ceiling, wall, or white board (but don't get it too close!).
Be *sure* to keep the distance from the wall to the light sufficient enough that the paint on the wall doesn't cook off over prolonged exposures. These lights are illegal in some states for any kind of production, because they can explode and aren't safetied, can easily seriously burn someone because they're not safetied. There are plenty of cool/nonexposive options such as Victor Milt's Nanolights that are about the same cost.
Bouncing from wall or ceiling is the best way, but you can also buy nylon diffusion panels that are flame retardant. Set them at least 4' back from the lights, and you'll be in good shape.
Whiteboard is good for a bounce. If you can get a 4'x4' piece of foamcore or beadboard (aka 3/4" styrofoam) that's ideal. For bouncing light, think about how the ball bounces in a game of pool (or handball, which is more 3D, but less thought out).
A good way to check heat is the "hand test" If you can't keep your hand there then most diffusion will burn at the same spot.
You can also push the light through diffusion material but with two light heads you have more problems with doubled catchlights in the eyes. And fire is a risk, of course. One approach is to buy a roll of 1000h tracing paper and hang it way out in front of the lights. It's big, but bigger = softer.
i bought something similar.. 500w monster lights for some hard lighting for an outdoor night shoot.... turns out they suck the big one as the "protective" glass overheats and shatters to a billion pieces.. cheap arsed thin rubbish...
i stuck to my lowel totas after that episode..
If you're going the Home Depot route, & not buying daylight (or whatever they're called) fluorescents, cruise over to the isle where they sell dropped ceiling light panels. 'Course they will melt, don't know about burn, so take all appropriate precautions.
Are you looking for ambient beams of light or just ambient soft light? My suggestion would be to take the halogens back and buy flourescent light bulbs and use those. The halogen, although cheap, is a PITA in most cases and more expensive than other safer home remedies.
Lots of different configurations, Vic Milt's Nano light which you can buy and build with basically no tools. I've fixed sockets to a 12x12 piece of plywood and built a foam core box around it. Use 4, 100w flouro daylight bulbs and voila have a very soft 400watt light. (under $45)
I've also got 2, 2 light banks (48") hooked together, roughly 500watts of out put and very soft / ambient.
You can even buy flouro bulbs with a 500watt or close output (online) and stick one in an $8 reflector from Home Depot.
If you must keep the shop lights, bounce the light and remember that these are very dangerous in close quarters because they are super hot. DSE's suggestion about watching the paint is a must especially if you want to keep your walls intact :)