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Toppy Key with an Eye Light

Lighting an interview in a big space is something that takes a lot of practice. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up shooting enough talking heads for two careers and eventually get halfway decent results 😅

This setup was different than the usual book light for an interview. We built a menace arm and used a 600D with the Lightdome 150 and control grid for the key. A top light will create a loop or butterfly lighting pattern instead of the Rembrandt we’re so used to seeing.

It can be tricky to find the right placement when going for the top light key. Too low and frontal and everything goes flat, too high and you’ll lose the eye light.

For this shot, were able to enhance the eye light with a little trick I’ve been calling “The Chicago Style Hotdog™️” It’s when you use a 24” Quasar and a 2x2 bead board held together with a quacker clamp. I usually put a paper tape barn door on the bottom of the light so nothing spills directly on the talent. It just gently bounces up the bead board for a super soft light. Sometimes I’ll hang a scrap of 250 over the top to create a tiny book light and make it even more subtle. I usually keep the Quasar at the dimmest setting so it doesn’t cast any weird shadows or interfere with the key. Just enough to catch a reflection in the eyes and bring them to life.


This location provided some great layers that helped give the final image a lot of depth. We just needed to create separation from the background and our subject. The Aputure 300x with spotlight attachment was placed high in the balcony to create the highlight on the chairs directly behind the subject. Two Fiilex Q5s added a little value to the back wall. Lastly we used the theater’s spotlights as an edge light (they doubled as practicals in another wide shot) But we diffused them with a frame of 216 to keep it soft when hitting talent.

What do you think of The Chicago Style Hotdog™️? Do you have a different name for the same technique? Perhaps you’re from the east coast and call it a Philly Cheesesteak™️?? 😂 Do you have a different technique you use for an eye light? Let me know!! 🌭🌭🌭

DP David Stewart @hiddenwoodsfilmco

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.


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