Holzman films Miracles with Kodak Vision 500T 5279 and EXR 100T 5248. "On the pilot, I used 79 mostly for our interiors, although we went with 48 inside when I wanted a creamier, fine-grained look. I went with 79 on some exteriors when I was shooting with a tight shutter angle and a polarizer. Mostly, though, 48 was used for day exteriors and 79 for interiors. I also used Vision 800T 5289 when we were doing car-to-car, available-light night work with an 11:1 Primo zoom, because I really needed the extra two-thirds of a stop there."

For the pilot’s opening sequence, when the nun is unearthed in the cemetery, Holzman went for a cooler color palette by using 48 and 79 without 85 correction. As Callan examines the corpse in the local morgue, he is observed by a representative of the church, the medical examiner and a photographer. The sequence takes place in a dimly lit corner of the morgue; the only light is coming through two high windows. Holzman papered the windows with 1000H diffusion and pushed an 18K HMI as his key source. When he shot the close-ups, Holzman simply brought in a 4'x 4' frame of half-gridcloth to further soften the light from the windows. To add some extra illumination, the photographer in the scene was given an old Grafflex-type flash to use on his camera; Holzman lamped the flash with tungsten bulbs, which lent the scene a warm burst of light during each snapshot.

"As often as I can, I avoid lighting for the shot or the actors per se," Holzman reveals. "Instead, I try to light the set as an environment within which the actors can work and be naturally illuminated. Of course, we do have to accentuate and alter that concept from time to time, but for the most part I try to light the environment and let the actors move within it. That’s more in line with my philosophy, and it also gives the actors and directors a lot more time and leeway to do whatever they need to do. It works out really well because I can shoot more quickly and turn the set over to the director faster. Plus, it looks beautiful."

"Ernie’s lighting is really very painterly," submits Reeves. "We also did quite a bit with the production design to create a canvas for the subject. We didn’t just give the walls a wash of dark color; we modeled that color by giving it texture and aging it slightly. All of that preparation served to create a canvas upon which Ernie could carve out the characters."

Some walls were actually coated with a combination of paint and sand to lend them three-dimensional texture, while others were multi-coated with several colors to simulate that three-dimensional texture. Many of the set-wall surfaces were coated with semi- or high-gloss paint to allow light to reflect off them and play into the scene.

While reflecting upon his work on Miracles, Holzman offers a useful tip from his bag of tricks. During one sequence in the pilot, Callan is called to the monsignor’s office to report his findings about the unearthed nun. The scene begins with a wide shot of the grand office; the monsignor sits behind his desk, very small in the frame. The whole scene was set up primarily to be sidelit with soft sources from the office windows. Most of the sequence was shot at a T4 – Holzman’s "stop du jour" – but for the wide shot, the cinematographer blasted the monsignor with a hard-light source that read near T11. "If you have a big wide shot with this little guy deep in the frame, and you light him like you’re going to light his close-ups, he’s going to blend into the background," Holzman cautions. "To avoid losing that little person in the frame, I’ll increase the light falling on him by two or three stops so you can really see him; then, for the close-up, I’ll retreat to a ‘non-lethal’ light level. It cuts perfectly and no one notices the difference. It looks invisible."


4x3 (protected for 16x9)

3-perf 35mm

Panavision Platinum C-series anamorphic lenses

Kodak EXR 100T 5248, Vision 500T 5279, Vision 800T 5289

Postproduction at Encore

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© 2003 American Cinematographer.