Core notes that the film’s visual style also hinged on another concept: "Murdock lives between two worlds: daytime and nighttime. He’s a creature of the shadows at night, and he can never escape his shadow or darker side, even in daytime. The night world is always present." Shadows happen to be one of Core’s specialties. "Most of the films that have inspired me from a lighting standpoint fall into the category of film noir and were shot by cinematographers like [ASC greats] Stanley Cortez and Gregg Toland. I love that type of hard light, and it’s the way I’ve always lit. Of course, it’s not a very hip style today; most contemporary cinematographers use soft light they create with Chimeras, Kino Flos, bounce cards and layers of muslin. But I’ve stuck to hard light. I find it very interesting to move a character in and out of the shadows."

Daredevil opens with a sequence detailing Murdock’s childhood, his relationship with his father, and the traumas that left him blind and orphaned. The sequence has a warmer, more saturated look than the rest of the movie, and the camerawork is more "objective, or God’s-eye view," in Core’s words. After the boy is blinded, shadows begin to overtake his world. After the prologue, the film introduces the adult Murdock in his daytime world, arguing a case in a courtroom. "For that scene, we tried to make him appeared trapped in the room, like a caged panther, unable to escape," says Core. "The entire scene is shot with extreme dutch angles, almost like The Passion of Joan of Arc. If Ben moved through the frame, we didn’t adjust the camera to give him more breathing room, which you’d typically do while operating. It’s a small courtroom with low ceilings, and we lit it with hard lights gelled with Plus Green and used some garish fluorescents as practicals."

The sense that Murdock is trapped in his day environment is underscored in a few more sequences, but after he breaks free and becomes Daredevil, "the universe of the rooftops takes over," says Core. "Traveling through the night and jumping from building to building is his mode of transport. We used a lot of Steadicam, which was manned by A-camera operators Colin Anderson and Jacques Jouffret, and there was also a lot of Super Technocrane work on those rooftops – and you can imagine the challenge of getting that up eight or nine stories! We carried four cameras most of the time, and we often used all of them. I’ve worked with Malcolm Brown, the B-camera operator, on five films, and he played an integral role in Daredevil’s compositions."

The A- and B-unit cameras were Moviecam Compacts, and the visual-effects unit used Arri 435s. All of the cameras were equipped with Zeiss Ultra Primes. "Super 35 seems to favor slightly wider lenses, like 24mm and 32mm, so those became our standard lenses," Core notes. The extremes ranged from 12mm to 600mm. "We tried to get a lot of the Japanese anime style into the movie, and we did that with wide-angle lenses. The telephotos were used mainly for Bullseye’s POV because he’s a sniper.

"Daredevil’s night world appears to be very open, very liberating," Core continues. "He’s less restrained compositionally, and he travels freely in and out of the shadows. Those sequences also feature a cool, bluish night tone, which I accomplished mainly in timing. I generally shot balanced to white, at 3200°K, and kept [the look] pretty clean."

In terms of Daredevil’s rooftop acrobatics, the filmmakers wanted a very different style than Spider-Man, which is one reason they set up shop in downtown L.A. for five weeks. "The vastness [of the urban landscape] is something that we just couldn’t have done on stage," says Core. "We would’ve had to do a lot of greenscreen work and set extensions, which would’ve given the movie a more theatrical look. It was important to us to keep it gritty, keep it real, and give it a street vibe.

"We shot on a complex of about a dozen rooftops, and we did most of our work on six of them," he continues. He likens the experience to shooting on an island, one bounded by Broadway to the west, Spring Street to the east, Fifth Street to the north and Sixth Street to the south. The block included the glass-topped Arcade Building, which basically functioned as a studio for the production. "We put in construction elevators and bridges from roof to roof, and we had equipment rooms, catering offices and restrooms one floor below the roof. We went up to the roof at call and didn’t come down until we wrapped."

On the northeast corner of the block is the Alexandria Hotel, which is separated from the other buildings onscreen by a CG alley. The six main rooftops were often used simultaneously by different units. "While we were shooting on Roof 1, the second unit was working on Roof 3 and visual effects was working on Roof 5 – all with matching lighting setups, looking in different directions," Core details. "At night, we occasionally had to turn off lights at one set so we could do a background for a reverse direction, and so forth. All of this had to be pre-rigged; we basically rented every piece of cable in the city. We did foamcore models of all those rooftops and made huge lighting diagrams to figure out how to make it work. We weren’t on a stage where we could create a large grid, so the buildings had to work as a grid for us.

"The one person I couldn’t have done the movie without was my gaffer, Carl Boles, who is quite extraordinary," he continues. "He was largely responsible for pulling off the rooftops, with the help of dozens of electricians." Boles, who at age 78 is celebrating his 56th year in the business, recalls, "The downtown work on Daredevil was really something. We had 360-degree shots that would extend forever in all directions, and we’d go down to the edge of a building and see another street for three to five blocks. All of that had to be lit."

Background architectural lighting was supplied mainly by Nine-light Maxi-Brutes on 80' Condors and scissorlifts, along with 20Ks, 10Ks and other tungsten sources. "Instead of going out with HMIs, which are really expensive, I talked Ericson into going out with Maxi Nines because they give you more control and more options, and they throw nice shadows at night," Boles says. Cutting and shaping the light were flags on adjacent Condors and scissorlifts, all from the ground. Each morning, everything on the street – which included rigging for a dozen generators – had to be cleared away and stored in a nearby parking lot. In the evening, everything was driven back to position. Boles recounts, "Before we got started at night, we tried to minimize our big shots for a while so we could tweak. It’s very difficult in the daylight to know which lights are aimed where, no matter how well you tag each lamp and mark the sidewalks."

The gaffer, who first worked with Core on The Fast and The Furious, shares the cinematographer’s fondness for hard light. "I’ve done everything, soft light and hard," says Boles, who started out as an electrician on Hopalong Cassidy movies. "But I prefer hard light because it’s richer and more controllable." Core adds that it can also be more challenging: "You have to be incredibly specific about what’s happening in the scene, because if the actors miss their marks they can shadow each other or miss the light entirely. Using hard light is very hard on the electrical crew and the grip department. My key grip, Jim Shelton, is truly a lighter; he can do the rigging in his sleep, but he really understands light."

One of Daredevil’s most important roof sequences is a climactic face-off between the superhero and Elektra, which becomes a three-way conflict when Bullseye enters the scene. "Daredevil is on Roof 1, and when he hears sounds he slides down a pipe to Roof 2," Core details. "Elektra’s hiding there, and they wind up fighting." The characters do flips over the CG alley and land on Roof 3, which is the Arcade Building. The fight continues until Daredevil ends up flat on his back, with his true identity revealed to Elektra. At that point, Bullseye shows up. "In order to protect Daredevil, Elektra jumps to Roof 4, north of the Arcade, and throws her sword at Bullseye, who is across from her on Roof 3. He catches it and throws it back."

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© 2003 American Cinematographer.