DIY Cucoloris for Photographers and Filmmakers made with black foamcore, Do-it-yourself

A cucoloris has to be the strangest name for filmmaking and photography gear aside from a butt plug. If you want to know what that is search for it on B&H, but do not google it. DO. NOT. GO. TO. GOOGLE!

Ok you don’t do that, I have one right here. It’s an adapter that turns a stand that is more common in film making in to something that works with smaller lights, like strobes.

Back to our story!

A cucoloris is a patterned gobo (funny phrase #3) that “goes between” a light and your subject or background in order to create shadows in your frame. Like this!

You can buy a professionally made one, or you can make your own for just a few dollars in about an hour.

The first time I tried to make one, it was kind of a fail. I took a piece of foamcore and drew a bunch of random shapes on it, cut them out and then discovered that my little amoebas were probably too close together because there wasn’t enough black material left to cast much of a shadow.

So today, I am going to finally try again.

So, step one: Draw some random shapes on this 20″x20” (50x50cm) piece of black foamcore. Now, you need to leave about two inches (5cm) around the edges so you’ll have room to clamp your cucoloris to a stand. You could make a rectangular cookie, but a square should work since it will more closely mirror the shape of your round light.

Step two: Cut the shapes out with a box cutter and or an X-Acto knife. Do not cut yourself. I swear, that has never happened to me!

I started out using the box cutter, but then I realized that i needed the X-Acto to navigate the tight turns.

Step three: Place your cookie in front of a hard light and let the bake off begin! Photographers are probably not going to have a Fresnel attachment like I have for my LED video light, so if that is the case, just use a 10-20-degree grid on a strobe. If you have a pair of barn doors — even better. The point is to restrict hard light so it only lands on the gobo.

The farther the gobo is from the light the harder the shadows will be, so you will want to mount it to a separate stand. You could use A-clamps, but you’ll get a lot more precision with a magic arm, super clamp and a mini clip.

After I made this cucoloris today, I realized that my shapes may be too large, but I am not sure yet. So, for this video, I layered my old cookie with my new one.

A lot of the times when I light my backgrounds with these mods, I will add a gel. If you want to simulate moonlight, use a blue (CTB) gel; if you want to make it look like sunlight, use a CTS or CTO gel.

If you want to cast shadows, you’re going to need hard light. However, when using a soft light source, you could use the cookie to cut light on a small area of your composition if you place it just outside of the frame.

Also, you can make other shapes too, such as windows and mini-blinds or you can just forgo the cucoloris altogether and use a plant or branches.

If you guys have any questions or comments please leave them below, and please share with all of us your top three funny gear names. I can’t wait to hear what you guys use in Europe, Africa—and you know the Aussies are going to have some F-up colloquialisms!

Stay safe and have a great day!

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