DIY Cake Pan Light Delivers Pro Quality Results

You know I’m a sucker for a good DIY film gear project. I’ve got several in various stages of completion that I hope to show off soon. But then along came the $40 DIY Cake Pan light. And one filmmaker says it’s nearly as a good as a $1,000 light from Aperture. Could that really be true?

When you’re just starting out, lights can be very expensive. Sure, you can head over to Home Depot and get a few clamp lights, or pick up that cheap photo light kit off Amazon, but those options are unprofessional looking at are more hassle than they are worth.

But a recently YouTuber Daniel Schiffer has created a flat LED light based on a 14″ aluminum cake pan, that not only looks the part, but it can deliver similar results to the Apurture 120D, costing $1,000 or more. And he only spent $40. Here’s a brief look at his parts list:

The key thing about this build is to make sure you get the right strip of LED lights. You want the daylight LED strip. Not the multicolored RGB lights. This will give you the brightest throw, that can then bounce around the silver aluminum interior of the cake pan.  You’ll also want to be sure that you get an AC adapter that has the same voltage as the LED accepts. This will prevent a burn out.

Speaking of the cake pan, while Schiffer got his at Amazon for about $20, I was able to find a similar pan at for under $8!   It pays to look around your town for a restaurant supply store, where you can get this stuff for cheap, plus you won’t pay for shipping. That means you can probably build a pair of them for just a tad more than what Schiffer paid for one.

Once you collect all your pieces, you affix the LED light strip on the interior walls of the cake pan, not the back This will enable the light to bounce around and off the silver coated back, providing a bit of diffusion, and even some additional brightness. The only thing left to do is diffuse it, which Schiffer did with a sheet Nylon diffusion fabric. You can save more money here by using either a bed sheet, pillow case, or do as I do and pick up a plastic frosted white shower curtain from the $1 store.  Now you’re really saving some cash.

From there, it’s a matter of cutting a circle in the fabric the size of the cake plan, plus an inch or two for overlap, attach it to the light.  I think if you know how to sew, you can sew in some elastic to not only keep the fabric in place, but make it look cleaner and professional.

I would also recommend drilling a hole in the back of the light for the LED power cord to slip through unimpeded. Or, you could mount it with some hot glue. Either way, then it’s time to add your clamp and mount it to a C stand.

Voila, a DIY LED light for under $40, that gives you the bang of a $1,000 Apurture!

About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.


  1. Interesting DIY concept. To be usable as film lights, however, you need to buy significantly higher quality LEDs, with a CRI above 90. Otherwise a scene lit with these will be missing colors from the spectrum. Tint to the cake pan and diffusion could also create color issues, but the light source itself is the most important.

    Read the reviews and Q and As and you’ll see complaints about the quality of these cheap strips. People experienced not just poor color, but also flicker, which makes them unusable for film.

  2. @Tim – You’re right on getting the high-CRI strips – people need to realize that LEDs are generally pretty narrow-bandwidth sources – each chip only outputs well across a certain span of wavelengths, which is why you’ll sometimes see higher-output professional light panels with several types of LEDs in clusters. They’ve been getting better with the chip-on-tape ones, though.

    The flicker, however, is related to how the LEDs are dimmed. If you aren’t using a dimmer, and the power supply is a well-regulated one, it won’t be an issue. LEDs are constant-current devices, and are dimmed using PWM – pulse-width modulation. Essentially, it’s a circuit that’s turning the LEDs on and off – if you want them to dim to 40%, they’re off 60% of the time. This is done at a frequency the human eye generally can’t detect – but the cheaper ones operate at a low enough frequency that a camera will.

    There are 25kHz and up PWM dimmers that operate fast enough to not be an issue with a 59.94 or 60fps frame rate – but they’re more expensive, like the 90+ CRI strips. However, this design shouldn’t see this issue, since there’s no dimming, and most small “wall wart” AC/DC power supplies operate at a much higher frequency than the dimmers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.