×

Claudio Miranda on ‘Life of Pi’

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Cinematographer

Claudio Miranda and Oscar are already on speaking terms; the Chilean d.p. and frequent David Fincher crew member (“Fight Club,” “The Game”) was nominated for an Academy Award for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” But the experienced Miranda, who toiled in the trenches as Tony Scott’s gaffer on “Crimson Tide,” “The Fan” and “Enemy of the State,” says nothing he’s ever done compares to “the enormous demands and technical challenges” of shooting Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” with its indelible images of the young castaway adrift in a lifeboat in the limitless ocean, with only a ferocious Bengal tiger for company.

Indeed, for Miranda “Pi’s” story of “the determination of the human spirit to keep going against all odds” paralleled the sheer difficulty of the three-month shoot in India and Taiwan — with the majority of that time spent in “a huge, specially constructed wave tank at an abandoned airport in Taiwan, where we could simulate all the different looks of the ocean, from storms to calm.”

The d.p. shot “Pi” in 3D with six Arri Alexas mounted on three Cameron-Pace rigs, and reports that his 3D work on “Tron: Legacy” helped him “land the job — along with my work on ‘Button.’ Ang knew he had to shoot this digitally and (in) 3D to make it really work, and the technology we needed didn’t even exist a few years ago.”

That technology included the extensive use of visual effects, cranes and a Spidercam, a specially designed four-point cable system that allowed the d.p. “complete freedom to fly the camera anywhere in the tank and get shots otherwise impossible to achieve.”

But capturing “the visceral intensity and terror” of the voyage was only one part of the equation for Miranda. “I think people have responded so strongly to ‘Pi’ because it offers them so many looks and transports them to this other world, this magical ocean. They believe the tiger and love the beauty of the morning golden-light scenes and candle-lit ones, which I love too.”

The d.p. singles out, “a favorite scene of mine, where Pi says to the tiger, ‘We’re dying, Richard Parker!,’ and the lighting’s so soft and non-directional, and it works so well for that particular moment. And then there’s the pool scene, where we used 120,000 candles to create the lighting effect, which is pretty stunning — and something I’ve never done before. We kept shooting it all night in the end.”

Shooting “Life of Pi” also presented the d.p. with another first: “the chance to shoot underwater 3D.” Add in all the zoo and storm and sinking-boat scenes, and it’s obvious that, “there’s a lot of work here — and a lot of eye candy.”

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Cinematographer
Cinematographers in tight race
Roger Deakin | Janusz Kaminski | Seamus McGarvey | Claudio Miranda | Robert Richardson

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:

    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content