Blind Justice - The DD Cinematographer Shed's some Light

A great article from the guy that provides lighting and camera work for the Daredevil movie-- Not that DD needs anyone to light the set for him.
Blind Justice
Ericson Core sheds some light into the dark world of Daredevil

Daredevil is the story of a Superhero who walks a fine line between hero and antihero. Matt Murdock’s upbringing would have almost certainly led to a life as a criminal. Growing up, he was surrounded by violence. Toxic chemicals blinded him at 13. Matt promises his father, as he is dying in his arms, not to take the road of the underworld thugs who just killed him, but to walk the line of good.

Matt eventually becomes a criminal attorney with a second job. At night, he takes on the identity of Daredevil, a masked avenger who patrols the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.

"I was intrigued by the script," says cinematographer Ericson Core. "This character is a dark and burdened person. His handicap is not only blindness, but also heightened sensitivity to sounds and touch. The sounds of the world are inescapable to him. They torture him with their constant onslaught.

"As Daredevil, he tries to overcome these burdens and use them to his advantage to right the wrongs that he cannot correct in the courtroom. Yet, he is constantly struggling with his dark side. I found this an interesting approach to a different hero. And, it provided for the possibilities of a very dark visual design."

Core’s ability to bring a darker mood to films like Payback and 187 and his boldness in tackling massive chase sequences like in The Fast and the Furious was exactly what director Mark Steven Johnson wanted. The director’s idea was to give a mystical quality to the nights and the locations, whether they are the rooftops of buildings or the churches and alleyways of the city.

"Mark and I agreed that the biggest challenge for us was to create the world of Daredevil, a man who lives without light," says Core. "One of the first things we discussed was finding a way to keep the theme of darkness––bringing in the light only to emphasize specific moments."

One of the filmmakers’ first suggestions was to make the picture using the bleach bypass process. This way, they could give the story less color and more of a dark edginess.

"I had shot Payback full bleach bypass through Deluxe," he explains. "So, I had some idea of what the colors looked like.

"However, it was a great challenge to achieve the right level of red for Daredevil’s outfit," he explains. "That, and finding the lighting level that we would see with the eye and knowing how it would transpose to the final print.

"We decided to do the bleach bypass in the print and not in the negative only when the studio gave us the assurance that we would be allowed to follow through," he adds.

"I have a tendency to light everything I shoot darker," he continues. "I like single source lighting for mood and I like to let things fall off, letting the highlights be hard. Yes, I could still do this with the bleach bypass in mind. However, I had to add a lot of additional fill and be aware of how quickly things fall off. I knew that if I weren’t careful, I would end up with a lithograph.

"I also had to set the printing points much higher," he adds. "We had a thicker print to deal with. By maintaining the silver on the stock, it makes it harder to print. The shadows can block up a bit and the lighter areas have a tendency to blow out, creating a great deal of contrast.

"In many cases, this goes against the eye," he explains. "In the churches, for example, I had a tendency to light with candle light or single sources to light up columns, allowing the light to rake the walls. That’s fine, when you are doing the regular process. However, shooting for bleach bypass meant adding an overall amount of fill to make sure, when the film is finished, it will turn out to be what we visually preconceived."

Core and Johnson decided to shoot Daredevil in Super 35mm, giving them scope for the action and allowing them to accentuate the grain in the blow up, which gave the story an added dimension. Super 35mm also has several added benefits. "For a film with a great deal of visual effects, the format allows edge to edge sharpness, not always possible with anamorphic," Core explains.

"Spherical lenses allow a great variety and consistent quality, so color matching is possible with all filming units.

"And, one of the greatest benefits of Super 35mm for me is that it allows me to be more intuitive, because of the small size of the camera compared to anamorphic," he adds. "I find that the cameras we used were more capable of being placed in tight spaces and allowed us to find unique filming angles. Using the Moviecam Compact cameras from Clairmont allowed us infinite maneuverability."

Because of the process, Core chose to shoot the film with Kodak stocks––5279 (night interiors and exteriors) and 5246 (daylight exteriors and daylight interiors).

Core teamed with his trusted collaborators once again. "Gaffer Carl Boles’ experience and energy is unmatched," says Core. "I have an old fashioned sense of style, when it comes to lighting that is more influenced by the Film Noir of the 1940s than modern films. So many gaffers have a tendency to solve lighting situations with soft light. Carl has no problem tossing around hard light.

"Key grip Jim Shelton masterminded rigging for our massive night lightings and designed numerous truss rigs for flying green screens, Translights and cameras. Jim has a great eye for lighting that makes him a great collaborator. So much of hard lighting is about how you cut the light. Jim always says the key grip is responsible for shaping the light, and on a hard light show this is truly the case.

"Camera operators Collin Anderson and Jacques Joufret served as A-camera operators and on Steadicam. So many of the shots that were designed in Previs on the computer and in storyboards were next to impossible to operate. Yet, both Collin and Jacques somehow pulled them off. Malcolm Brown on B-camera has a great sense of composition and instincts that are fantastic. He has my full trust to find the moments that will visually define the scene.

"Camera assistants Mike Weldon and Kevin Potter provided experience, leadership and flawless focus allowing me to push the limits of what tools we could use and the images we could achieve."

The opening sequence in Daredevil is a perfect example of "getting into the head of a character." The story opens with a look at the New York skyline. What makes it unique, however, is the drop of blood that hits the image and obliterates it. It is then that the audience realizes this is not the standard New York skyline, but a reflection of it in a puddle.

"This is a way to put the audience in Daredevil’s world," Core explains. "
0 Yes
0 No
International Cinematographer's Guild