Interview with Julian White, gaffer, on his use of the Big Eye on Kenneth Branagh new film Murder on the Orient Express

When did you first “met” the Big Eye ? On which movie ?

We first used the Big Eye on Cinderella in 2014.
It was very effective !
One of our references in prep was a stills photographer from the golden era of Hollywood called George Hurrell. His portraits of Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis and many more classic actors had strong front light which although beautiful and dramatic nowadays is quite an usual look. It’s a tricky way of lighting someone which can be very flattering but counter intuitive as soft light is always preferred.
One of our main concerns was which which fixture to use.
After some research in Los Angeles looking at Mole Richardson and Warner Brothers’ vintage fixtures, (namely the Bug Eye 10kw and some large Fresnels) we decided to go with a big diameter lens and a smaller source to maintain some kind of soft light with a slightly more aggressive quality.
I had seen the K5600 Big Eye at a trade show years ago and although unusual looking it seemed that it might be the perfect fixture.
All the older fixtures we looked at were incredibly heavy and cumbersome as the heat proofing created a much bigger unit than necessary. We also found it difficult to find fixtures that had no asbestos in them or had to be retrofitted..
They weren’t easy to get close to or above camera quickly or efficiently amd the smaller bulb would need some adaptation to get it in the centre of the lens. It became a bit of a problem.
The Big Eye solved all those problems.

What do you like about it ?

The Big Eye has a very nice and quite unique light quality as it has a large diameter (acrylic) lens with a small bulb (400/800w). It’s an unusual light in itself but we have used it now on two films for close up work and it’s been fantastic. Most lamps with that size lens would have a bulb 10x times brighter and would need to be dimmed or netted down with layers of colour correction added to bring it into line with our needs.

What are the unique benefits ?

It’s a small, relatively lightweight unit with a basic housing covered in neoprene. In essence it is a lens and a bulb. Focus is simple and has very few parts to go wrong. It’s easy to re rig and adapt.

How do you use it ?

We would always it next to camera or just above it as a classic eye light or slightly top front light depending on the actor.
Usually rigged on a boom arm or small stand.
Weither using a daylight or tungsten fixture we would add a thin layer of unbleached muslin or opal and 1/4 CTS.

Which other K5600 product do you use ?

I like the Alpha range very much as the design is unique with multiple uses. They are smaller units intelligently designed which can be easily mounted in various tight positions and have great light quality. On Ridley Scott’s movie “The Martian” we used the 18Kw Alpha to throw a light through the centre of the evacuation rocket in the closing act. As uniquely it can be pointed straight down without melting self it was my first port of call. It worked a treat.