Sometimes you just have to try something that’s never been done before to get killer shots.
by Christophe Nolan The black Knight captured something sinister and fantastical about the beloved superhero that fundamentally changed our perspective on how the Bat (Christain Bale) should and could be viewed. Working on Nolan’s three Batman movies, cinematographer Wally Pfister brought Gotham to life while taking the Caped Crusader to new heights.
After being impressed by the IMAX presentation of batman beginsNolan suggested combining IMAX with the 35mm anamorphic format to The black Knight. Nolan and Pfister shot a series of IMAX tests in Nolan’s backyard, then put the camera in the back of a van and shot a night test on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood using only the existing light . Like the first film, Nolan and Pfister wanted to find a camera grounded in the real, gritty environment of Gotham.
In an interview with EmpirePfister revealed that “[Nolan and I] the two still really, really love each other Batman begins, but for me, in terms of style, it’s still a bit more fantastical, and in terms of looks, I was probably still playing a bit more conservatively. Even though we’re aiming for that grittier style, I still felt obligated to the studio to give it a sort of polished, big-budget look.
At the time of filming, Nolan had to convince Warner Bros. to try something that had never been done before: shoot in IMAX in 35 mm. Due to its high cost, only four major action sequences were planned for IMAX, including the opening sequence and climactic closing sequence. pfister said American cinematographer that he and Nolan would end up shooting all the aerial work in IMAX when they had the money and the cameras because they were in love with grain in resolution.
“It’s ironic,” the cinematographer said, “because a lot of filmmakers are trying digital cameras that capture less resolution and less information, and we’re going in the opposite direction, upping the ante by capturing images with unparalleled resolution and clarity.”
What cameras were used on The black Knight?
Three MSM 9802s and one MKIII were used throughout production, with the MSM being the lightest IMAX camera and the MKIII being capable of frame rates up to 60 fps. The MKIII proved to be more durable and was used on car mounts, while the MSM was used on a Steadicam rig, Libra IV head, and motorcycle rig.
Steadicam operator Bob Gorelick said the MSM in its smaller configuration was only slightly heavier than a Panavision Genesis.
The production used four medium format Hasselblad lenses: 50mm, 80mm, 110mm and 150mm. Pfister and Nolan preferred 50mm and 80mm throughout production but began using 110mm towards the end of filming.
A common problem with these cameras was the strobe. Fast shots and specific movements had to be edited to be captured properly, and Nolan realized that in extremely difficult shots with shallow depth of field, they would blur. Those little learning curves were part of the process of capturing the great photos all along. The black Knight.
That’s the good thing about cinema: no matter how talented a filmmaker is, there’s always room to learn and grow. Filmmakers will never stop testing their limits, taking risks to create a shot or sequence that will leave audiences amazed.
There are many fantastic shots throughout The black Knight which were the creation of Nolan and Pfister’s years of collaboration and desire to ground this dark hero in a reality that makes the world react for better or for worse. It’s a whirlwind that pushes the audience and Batman to his emotional limits. That’s the beauty of The black Knight.