The entire front of our studio is glass. For some projects, the natural light that pours into our space is a blessing. However, for other projects we find it’s best to control our own light. As requests for product videography grew alongside the increase of clients using the studio for interviews we started to look into a better way to black out our glass storefront.
“We’re a group of problem solvers”
After measuring the space, we started submitting quotes for a track and curtain system. Prices started to come back between $12,000 and $14,000. Well, it’s a good thing we’re a group of problem solvers, because spending that kind of money on curtains just isn’t in our blood.
“The last thing we want to do is burn our studio to the ground”
We called around to some fabric stores and started explaining our needs. First, we needed to blackout out as much light as possible. Second, the fabric pieces needed to be large. The largest piece had to be 9×30’ preferably without any seams. Third, we wanted our fabric to have a bit of a knap. This means it has a fuzzy or velvety feel to it. This is helpful for absorbing sound. Last of all, it needed to be flame retardant. This fabric was going to be around a lot of hot lights, and the last thing we want to do is burn our studio to the ground.
After doing some research and calling around, we found a fabric warehouse in the heart of Chicago who had exactly what we were looking for. They offered reams of Commando Cloth/Duvetyne that could be cut to our desired length. So we hopped in the van and took a trip into the city to pick it up.
When we got it, the fabric was exactly what we were looking for, however, it looked like they cut it with a potato. The edges were crooked and fraying like crazy. Lucky for us, one of our wives owns a little sewing studio around the block from our studio. She graciously walked over, sewing machine in-hand and hemmed roughly 140’ of fabric for us. She even made color-coded tags on each curtain with size on it.
Next, we had to figure out how to hang this much fabric from our drop ceiling. The solution we came up with was relatively simple. We created something we call “Mag Clips”— we found tarp clips, and coupled them with small carabiners, and powerful neodymium magnets with a metal eyelet to allow some articulation and flex to each clip. The tarp clips use either a notched collar, or a tightening lever to clamp down on the fabric and can be hung to any metal surface.
When clipped onto the fabric (roughly every two feet), the clips are strong enough to hold the weight to the grid of the drop ceiling. Now, we are able to create a 20×30’ black box to shoot in, and it only cost us around $800.
Additionally, we are able to hang other materials such as muslin, or diffusion material like Grid Cloth or silk to bounce or shoot lights through, all without using any additional c-stands or rigging. No matter the material, it can all easily be taken down and transported and we have this flexibility no matter where we are shooting.
“Mag Clips… have quickly become one of those must-have items in our kit”
Mag Clips were built out of necessity to solve a small problem, but they have quickly become one of those must-have items in our kit that travel with us on location for every shoot. Heading blindly into a corporate shoot, having these clips and some rags on hand provide a quick way to throw up some negative fill or bounce light in confined spaces, maintaining a small footprint when you can’t necessarily afford wheeling in combo stands, t-bars, or speedrail to rig your light modifiers.
If you’re interested in creating your own ceiling clips, the material list can be found here: