Matthew Mindlin

"Dear Stephen,
Thank you for creating and providing the Medium CUFocus fabric egg crates. They worked as planned on their maiden voyage in London." More...

I was tasked with shooting a series of three camera interviews with Madonna and a rotating supply of journalists. We were required to shoot in a rather small room in the lobby of the boutique hotel'The Arch London. The space, named the Martini Library, consisted of two small rooms joined by a narrower passageway. The walls were off white. Typically, I have Madonna in one chair facing the interviewer in an opposite chair. My main camera is behind the interviewer shooting a medium shot of Madonna and an identically placed camera behind Madonna shooting the same shot of the interviewer (this shot varies slightly as the interviewers differ in height, hair color and style, as well as skin tone). The third camera provides a wide two shot which serves to link Madonna and the journalist in one shot and provides a better sense of the location.

I key light each subject (Madonna and the interviewer) with the largest, soft source I can fit in the space. In this case, I was able to crowbar two Barger 6-Lites with Medium Chimeras into the room. I prefer tungsten key lights for the indescribable quality as well as color consistency. In order to leave some flexibility with the background lighting of the rooms and architecture, I brought stage LED units and a lighting board to wash the walls. This allows rapid color adjustments as well as variety between interviews. Often when Madonna arrives, she suggests a color palette that suits her wardrobe, the chair, and her mood. If I used gels on constant source lights, I would be trapped with one look and no options. Of course this set-up is highly dependent on controlling the spill from the large soft lights on the background.

In the past, I have used standard fabric grids and metal honey comb grids to control the spill. Since discovering the CUfocus for the Large Chimera, I have been lusting after a Medium version since I am never in a location large enough to accommodate anything bigger (and even the Mediums at 36x48 are often borderline). When you made the Mediums, I could not wait to test them out in a real world environment and this shoot turned out to be ideal. I was able to travel from LA to London with two Medium CUfocus units, stretcher frames, and one Barger 6-Lite (I used two, but could only secure one locally and decided to bring the other). This all fit nicely in one box which flew with me and my baggage.

When we set up the lights in the Martini Library, I wondered if the results would live up to my expectations. I had been describing the effect of the CUfocus to my gaffer Dom Seal, "It allows for full edge to edge use of the face of the Chimera, but it cuts massive light out from around the target area and leaves very little spill or fall off." I think he was skeptical, but as soon as we had it up, he became a believer. We had the big and bright single source key that I expect, but the walls were more than dark enough to allow the LED units to do their job and create a distinct and separate quality. Dom kept bringing anyone who would listen over to the units to show them the magic. There is nothing complicated about using these - they set-up just like a standard fabric grid, but the results speak for themselves.

The next experience I had with the Medium CUfocus egg crates was here in Los Angeles filming an interview with Cher. I was consulting with DP/Gaffer John Tanzer who had been hired to shoot a series of interviews with Cher and her mom for A+E Network for a special to air on Mother's Day. Cher asked that I oversee the lighting and work with John. We shot at Cher's home in Malibu during the day and into the evening. John chose HMI units and keyed her interview with an Arri M18. We used a Medium Chimera and the CUfocus as the single source key. Cher was the only person on camera for her interview and we used two cameras for coverage. Again, we were able to control the key to background ratio beyond what would normally have been possible with flags or standard grids - especially on a location with limited time, space, and manpower. John was extremely happy and has since inquired about the CUfocus for upcoming projects.

So far, I am two for two (Madonna and Cher) on my success with the Medium CUfocus. Of course there are still very good reasons to shoot without light controls like the fabric grid; for instance when looking for a high key environment, or when lighting someone on green screen. But when faced with small space and the desire to provide a large flattering soft key without losing control of the surrounding area - this is a revolutionary and elegant solution.

Thank you again for getting these to me on short notice. I look forward to using them often on upcoming projects.


I shoot a lot of interviews - regular clients include Madonna, Cher, Stevie Nicks, and Bonnie Raitt. I always tailor my lighting to the individual characteristics of the person being interviewed, but certain constants make the job much easier. More...

Whenever possible, my preference is still tungsten lighting - I rely on its color temperature consistency and indescribably flattering quality. Since I am often on location without significant power, I use Barger 6-Lites and Large Quartz Chimera Lightbanks. This gives me a wonderful, large and soft key.

Since I tend to key pretty flat to create a beauty light glow without shadows, I look for a strong fall off on the background to allow for a nice separation and control over the walls and other elements. This builds in contrast within the frame. Additionally, often the location wall colors are the direct enemy of nice skin tone! In the past I have utilized Lighttools Soft Egg Crate Fabric Grids (usually 40 degree) or Honeycomb Metal Grids. Each has their pros and cons; Fabric Grids are portable and don't add to the weight of the lightbank yet they don't always cut enough and Honeycombs are hard to travel with, expensive to rent, and adversely add to the weight of the unit. The Honeycombs cut more overall light and deprive the subject of the full face of the lightbank.

Recently I discovered the Lighttools® CUfocus® Soft Egg Crates. They combine the best qualities of the Original Soft Egg Crate and the Honeycomb metal grid without any of their drawbacks. With the CUfocus®, I can place a key light close to my subject providing the soft wrap that I expect and still have significant fall-off in the background - even when challenged with limited space. The first time I used the CUfocus® I was amazed by its capability. When looking directly at the large front face of the lightbank, I saw corner to corner light, no fall off. I observed a minimal amount of spill or excess light on the background. It is now a regular part of my arsenal. This modifier has provided me a great deal of freedom when planning and lighting. I never worry about using large lightbanks in small, tight spaces.