The filmmakers made the most of the spectacular setting, which was quite expensive to build. “I wanted Chris to show me the precise spot where Wayne would first enter the cave,” Pfister says. “I spent an entire Saturday pre-lighting the first shot we did there, which took place on the following Monday; I didn’t want Chris standing around for five hours while we lit up a cave, so I roughed in all the lighting for the major directions. I relied on this notion of an edgelight coming through and across the cave. We added raking light from the side and some frontal light on the rock so that you could see the texture, color and moisture. We had a certain amount of atmosphere in there as well, because the waterfalls added a mist to the air. It wound up being a very realistic look.”
The Batmobile Burns Rubber
One piece of high-tech ingenuity that does appear in the film is the Batmobile, which is seen in several phases of its development. In the initial phase, it is a camouflage-colored prototype that Wayne Industries’ technical wizard, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is developing for the military. When Wayne takes a shine to the vehicle, however, it is refined and perfected in his preferred color, matte black.
Five working Batmobiles were built for the show, and the vehicle’s big moment arrives during the film’s climax, a wild car chase that begins on the Cardington set and continues on real streets in Chicago, including Lower Wacker Drive and a stretch of freeway north of the city. Tying together the studio sets with actual roadways became a primary challenge of the sequence. “When you look down the street in the real city, you’re going to see down 20 or 30 city blocks, whereas at Cardington we were lucky to see two or three blocks,” Pfister points out. “We had to pull out a few tricks to integrate those two looks, and one of the keys was finding a foundational color. That was my standard city night look, a 1⁄2 CTS color. It was a good conceptual match with the yellow sodium-vapor lights in the tunnel of Lower Wacker. I thought I could light the sequence minimally if we were looking in the right direction; Chris liked the idea of being able to shoot two-mile stretches of that road without running out of lit set.”
According to Geryak, lighting for this part of the sequence consisted primarily of existing fixtures in the tunnel of Lower Wacker, although supplemental units were used to highlight areas where specific pieces of action would occur. “Fortunately, Lower Wacker had been redone recently, so there was enough of a light level in the tunnel to get some exposure,” Geryak says. “We rigged some additional units, including lots of Par cans, to illuminate the spots where specific stunts would happen. The Pars were gelled with 1⁄2 or Full Straw to match the existing fixtures’ sodium-vapor look, and we added some Opal diffusion just to spread them out a bit. Once we were out of Lower Wacker and on surface streets, we did a lot more lighting with BeBee lights and other units. On the freeway, we hung Par cans on the streetlights to punch those up a bit, and the police helicopter’s Xenon searchlight lit up the Batmobile for a good chunk of the sequence.” He notes that his crew’s biggest lighting setup was atop a parking structure where Batman finally manages to escape his pursuers. (See diagram.)
During the nearly 10-minute chase sequence, the Batmobile duels no fewer than five police cars and a helicopter, and the filmmakers tracked the action from several vehicles. Borrowing an approach he had used on The Italian Job, Pfister had the top of a Mercedes ML-55 AMG rigged with a Lev Head mounted on an Ultimate Arm, which could swing completely around in 360 degrees as it tracked the Batmobile. (Both the head and arm were designed by Lev Yevstratov and provided by Adventure Equipment; the cars and additional rigging were provided by Performance Filmworks.) To capture profile shots of Batman’s car, the production employed a motorcycle with an attached sidecar equipped with a Libra IV Head. “Nick Phillips, the inventor of the Libra head, was nice enough to act as our Libra tech in Chicago,” Pfister says. “George Cottle drove the Batmobile, and we also had a fantastic team operating the Ultimate rig. Dean Bailey drove the tracking vehicle, George Peters operated the Ultimate Arm and Michael Fitzmaurice operated the Lev Head, and they all helped capture some of the most dynamic car footage I’ve ever seen. Chris was skeptical of the Ultimate Arm at first, but when I showed him what it could do, he was impressed. Soon he was asking me if we could just drive through stunts with it! We had several big stunt setpieces where the Batmobile blows past one cop car hitting another and then flipping over. Chris didn’t want to track with the Batmobile and then have everything come to a stop with five or six cameras covering the stunt in slow-motion. He wanted the chase scenes to be more integrated, to have more of a French Connection or Bullitt feel.” Adds Nolan, “To me, the chases in those films were always rooted in this kind of great automotive reality, and I wanted ours to have that same kind of feel. We didn’t want anybody ever thinking that we’d done this chase with a digital Batmobile; we wanted the audience to be very aware of the reality of it. By using both the Lev Heads and hard mounts, we were able to shoot in one direction on the street and then shoot more even during the reset on the way back, a system that allowed us to build up a library of footage. Wally understands the way I need to cut these things together and the types of shots I need; he knows we can just kind of grab these things as we go, rather than doing one shot and then waiting for 50 cars to reverse back into position. We tried to set up a more fluid, modular system for shooting this type of car chase.”
Creating a “Comfort Zone”
Pfister and Nolan did their best to keep stress at bay during the long shoot by creating and maintaining a “comfort zone” around the camera. “One of the reasons Chris likes me to operate is that it shrinks down the whole process for him,” says Pfister. “We could be sitting on the set with 150 people and huge setups, but when the camera rolls, it’s just Chris sitting next to me with a little monitor, and the actors right there in front of us. His entire universe is in that 12-foot area, which brings the process down to a more personal level. Chris is not one to succumb to pressure, but this approach helps him to maintain that sense of coolness and control. There’s a great level of communication and trust between us.
“Of course, because we’re on such familiar terms, we do occasionally get into intense discussions,” he notes with a laugh. “But those discussions are always constructive. We’ll analyze everything down to the point where we’ve argued both sides so well that the scene is certain to get photographed in the best possible way.”
Millennium XL; PanArri 435
E- and C-Series lenses
Kodak Vision2 500T 5218,
Vision 250D 5246
Kodak Vision 2383