First of all, what is a scrim? A scrim is a term used to refer to a type of gauze, which is made of weaved, coarse cotton material. It is lightweight and translucent, and because of its versatility, has many functions. Some of the functions a scrim is used for include as curtain material, and more popularly, as a way to control light in photography. That’s because scrims are ideal for ensuring smooth and even lighting, and for controlling highlight flares. Scrim can also refer to small metal sheets used as a dimmer; for this function, they are dropped in front of the lighting fixture to dim the lighting.
In theater, a scrim is also considered to be highly useful since it can appear alternatively opaque or transparent, depending on the angle by which it is lit. With all that being said, making this useful material doesn’t have to be very expensive. So if you’re looking for ways on how to create a scrim on a budget, here are some pointers to help you out:
Prepare your materials. For this project, you will need a piece of translucent cloth (just big enough for your purposes), PVC pipe and 4 90-degree PVC joints to create the frame. If the type of scrim you need is the metal sheet kind, you will need a screen mesh, available at hardware stores, some electric tape and scissors, and a marker to trace the outline of the mesh that you will need.
For the metal sheet scrim, you should not use one made of nylon material, since nylon can get burnt by extreme heat. Also, you should also consider the size of the holes in the screen mesh; the wider the spaces in between holes, the more light can get through.
Put the scrim in the frame. Measure how much scrim you’d be needing. If you’re using the cloth scrim, use the PVC pipes and joints to frame the cloth. Remember, you should be using just enough cloth and not too big: you will need tension to make the scrim effective.
If you’re using a metal scrim, cut out the screen mesh according to the dimensions of the light fixture you’d be working with. Remember, you’d slip your scrim over the light fixture so it should be just big enough for this purpose.
Once you’ve cut out the size of the scrim that you’d need, apply electrical tape throughout its perimeter. This will effectively serve as the scrim’s frame. Double check to see if it adequately covers the lighting fixture that you’d be working with. If it’s too big, you can cut it further and easily apply electrical tape all throughout its perimeter.
There you have it! These are just some of the easy steps to create a scrim on the budget. Remember, photography and theater are areas where creativity and resourcefulness are essential parts of the job, so you should really develop your ability to create props and tools from tools that are virtually free. Good luck!