Watch: Inside the Cinematography of 'Life of Pi' DP Claudio Miranda

Oblivion Life of Pi Claudio Miranda DP Brad Bird Tom Cruise No Film School Video Essay
A new video explores the camera and lighting styles of a modern master in the making.

Chilean cinematographer Claudio Miranda's relatively brief career as a DP has been, in the words of One Perfect Shot, "like winning a lottery based on skill." His first film, the 2006 comedy Failure to Launch, was followed by David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination (he would win his first Academy Award for Ang Lee's Life of Pi). He's even shot a movie that won't be released for 100 years.

This video essay from wolfcrow explores Miranda 's signature style, which blends humanity and VFX in a seamless fashion, making him "a magician of the green screen, and a naturalist when it comes to lighting." 

For a DP whose work is usually filled with hundreds of VFX shots, Miranda has a lighting style that is strikingly naturalistic, and indeed, the essayist notes that Miranda assiduously keeps notebooks of visual references and photographs from visits to locations. This decidedly analog method, when combined with his mastery of digital cameras and workflow, helps give Miranda's films a signature style. 

The video also notes that "most times [Miranda] tries to light in the way the original location looks, and only deviates if necessary." The DP also favors a low contrast ratio (the ratio of key light to fill), and simplifies his lighting by using as few lights as possible, thus "obtaining a super-soft, almost shadowless light." Miranda is also notable for his extensive use of a waveform monitor, which allows him to dial in the look he needs on set. 

Miranda also recently lensed the Robert Rodriguez film 100 Years. Sponsored by Remy de Martin Cognac to promote their Louis XIII Cognac (which takes 100 years to age), it won't see the light of day until November 18, 2115. No details of the film's plot have been released, though three teasers are out there, each featuring a glimpse of possible worlds that may exist 100 years from now. If the present is any indication, Miranda will have left an enduring legacy.     

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Criticize me all you want but I still can't understand how they call what we had in Life of Pi Cinematography.

Tend to love Miranda's work, what he did in Oblivion to light the base by projecting footage of actual sky shot from high altitude? Just brilliant.

But Pi? Has as much actual cinematography in it as Avatar...

August 26, 2016 at 1:19AM


Also...what's up with the greater than 180° shutter? It makes it look like "video". It kills me. I can't stand the scene with all the little flames/candles or whatever.

September 3, 2016 at 11:18AM, Edited September 3, 11:18AM

Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op

life of pi though... he had almost no say in the final vfx. Ang Lee directed the vfx. By then Claudio was done.

His work on Oblivion was noteworthy but sorry I can't agree with life of PI.

September 8, 2016 at 9:25PM