Claudio Miranda, ASC, Talks Tron: Legacy

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Our wait is over. TRON: Legacy is finally here! Don’t let the trend in the movie industry fool you, this film is not a reboot, remake or whatever you may call it. It’s a sequel to the 1982 classic. A very cool and kickass sequel directed by Joseph Kosinski.

You’ve probably read about it, you’ve definitely already seen it or if you are a “nerd” like me, you were at the unveiling of the “Light Cycle” teaser at Comic Con. The crowd erupted with applause and cheers when this teaser exploded onto the screen. I turned and looked at my friend and said, “Holy crap. This. Is. Awesome.” Little did we know at the time, Kosinski had been developing the film for awhile, and Comic Con was the stepping stone to show the producing studio, Disney, he had the right team for the job.

In TRON: Legacy, Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn for the December 17, 2010 release date. Bruce Boxleitner also returns to play Alan Bradley. The story follows Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) the tech-savy son of Kevin Flynn, who decides to look into the disappearance of his father. He soon finds himself pulled into the new and exciting digital world of Tron. The two reunite and begin a life-and-death journey across a visually stunning universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

To help tell this digital tale, Kosinski turned to friend and cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, ASC. The two met and worked together while Kosinski was directing commercials. Miranda was excited at the opportunity to collaborate with Kosinski on Tron, but on the other hand, the studio was a little hesitant about Miranda (more on that later).

Before stepping into the world of Tron, the South American born Miranda began his career as a stage manager in 1984. From there, as Miranda puts it, things kept landing in his lap. He found himself saying yes to every new opportunity that came to him. Miranda ended up meeting director David Fincher while working as a lighting technician for one of his music videos. They soon became close friends and worked together a lot.

Olivia Wilde, director Joe Kosinski, Jeff Bridges & Garret Hedlund discuss a scene

Se7en became Miranda’s first feature collaboration as a gaffer with Fincher. While shooting The Game, Miranda mentioned to Fincher he had interest in becoming a cinematographer. David gave him his shot on a Nike commercial called Filmstrips. From there, they worked together on Fight Club and Zodiac before Miranda became the primary DP on Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. “I owe a lot to David, he really gave me a chance when I wanted to step up,” says Miranda.

Like I mentioned before, Disney was cautious about Kosinski’s DP choice. It wasn’t because they didn’t like the Oscar nominated cinematographer, they just IMDB’d the wrong guy. Apparently when Kosinski approached the studio about Claudio, they spelled his name wrong and came back with a porn star. After the confusion was settled and the studio realized “oh, the Benjamin Button guy,” they were more than enthusiastic about him.

Claudio is non-traditional in his approach to cinematography. He drew early inspiration from Harris Savides and references things he’s learned while working on films. If someone tells him you’re not supposed to do it that way, he usually responds with a “why not” and then tries it out himself. He likes working in different depths of field and took a lot of his father’s ideas in architecture about not repeating yourself and staying loose. “I tend to do a lot of homework before shooting,” says Miranda, “Tron had a lot of homework.”

“Joe had a confident vision from the very beginning,” says Miranda. As time passed in the world of Tron, its technology became more advanced. Kosinski developed a mesmerizing look that incorporated both concepts for TRON: Legacy. “Working on the teasers that were shown at Comic Con really helped us shape the world and define things visually for Tron. It also assisted Joe in compiling an advantageous workflow for production,” says Miranda.

In the background, Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund) faces the Tron identity disc

Shot mostly in Vancouver, the film has two worlds; the 2D reality world and the 3D Tron world. Kosinski sought to use 3D in a naturalistic approach rather than something you’d see at a theme park. To capture these images, they used Sony F35s. The production was about to go ahead with F23s, but switched at the last minute during testing. “Kosinski wanted to create a different type of 3D project. The F35s depth of field gave it more of a film feel,” says Miranda.

They brought on eight F35s that were being used with fusion rigs. The rigs had to be made custom to fit the F35s and were treated as a single camera; one recorded the left eye image and the other, the right. Three rigs were used throughout with a fourth rig for second unit. “In the Tron world, everything had to be precise. It’s a perfect world so our framing had to be the same,” mentions Miranda. To provide this “perfect look,” they shot almost everything at 3200K and used Zeiss Master Prime lenses. Recordings were made to digital portable devices with dual hard drive storage systems and Kosinksi used traditional motion capture to create CG characters which were animated later. “The crew we had was fantastic. They were so flexible and switched from 2D to 3D and steadicam, with such dedication. We even rigged an F35 to a GF-8 crane too,” says Miranda.

Another reason why Claudio was so interested in the project was what he saw during pre-production. “It was really unbelievable how many sets were built in Tron,” says Miranda. “You’d think it was all CG, but most of them are real working sets.”

Experimenting with a lot of LED lights, Claudio got to use his out-of-the-box style and explore with lighting configurations. The suits worn by the actors even had LED lights on them. This provided a more life-like set for Miranda and the actors. In the rooms with glass flooring, Miranda had lights coming up from underneath to elevate the surreal feel of the Tron world. “The film was a lot of fun and anywhere I thought we could improve Joe’s vision, we tried,” says Miranda.

During the two years of development before the move was even greenlit and the four months of production, you can see why TRON: Legacy is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Kosinski, Miranda and the rest of the Tron team put something special together that has never been seen before on the big screen. It’s a visual spectacle that certainly beats the original — at least in this “nerds” opinion.

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