Awards: Nominated for Oscar and ASC awards last year for “Batman Begins.”
Tools: Panavision cameras with Panavision high-speed anamorphic lenses; Kodak 5218 and 5205 Vision stock.
Aesthetic: “It’s a period piece, so we wanted to keep lighting natural and true to the period,” Pfister explains. “At the same time, we wanted to have a realistic and modern approach to the style of filmmaking, and part of that approach was to have an unpretentious, handheld style to the camera work. (Director) Chris Nolan likes a naturalistic style, but he also wanted to be able to block actors as he saw fit, and for the camera to be able to move around and keep up with that in a handheld style — not a documentary style, but a loose-camera approach. With that, we needed a flexible lighting configuration to be aesthetically pleasing.”
Visual references: “Generally, we looked at visuals of turn-of-the-century London. We wanted that flexible lighting approach, but also lighting to reflect that era — lots of practical lights and candles and overhead soft boxes. That’s why we largely shot on location, not on stages, which was very liberating. We did a great job creating turn-of-the-century London while shooting the entire thing in Los Angeles.”
Challenges: “The greatest physical challenge was having the camera on my shoulder so much, since we shot about 90% of the film handheld,” Pfister adds. “Creatively, the biggest challenge for me was the work I had to do in advance to research how magic shows were staged in the 19th century. That’s how I figured out what kind of lighting approach I should take, and how I made it authentic but also interesting-looking.”
What’s next: Pfister is in pre-production with Nolan, a frequent collaborator, on the next Batman film, “The Dark Knight.”