You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Don Cheadle

    ACLU Bill of Rights Gala to Honor Don Cheadle, Feature Appearances by Selena Gomez, Regina Hall

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will honor “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Monday” star Don Cheadle at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights dinner on Nov. 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Cheadle will be recognized for his activist work as an advocate for racial and gender equality, immigration reform, reproductive and LGBTQ [...]

  • Helen Mirren attends the LA Premiere

    Why Helen Mirren Considers Catherine the Great to Be 'Superhuman'

    It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles. Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.” Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content