These shots, which had to cover a span 60' to 70' across and 30' to 40' deep, were accomplished with a Cablecam motion-control system, which zipped back and forth on a track in both directions. "We were asked to get the camera up to about 40 mph in a couple of seconds and then suddenly stop it," says Cablecam’s Jim Rodnunsky. "The key was our ability to preprogram a move with specific limits built in, and then speed up or slow down the move manually with a joystick as the action changed. This way, we could maintain safe starts and stops and yet move spontaneously with the actor."

The scene ends with both Elektra and Bullseye on Roof 4. Backlighting the entire sequence was a 100K Lightning Strikes SoftSun positioned on a 120-foot articulating Condor north of Roof 4. "We used the SoftSun because it’s a dimmable single source and creates a singular shadow," says Core. "Even though it’s meant to be city light, which is expansive, we were trying to achieve a stylized, hard-light look, so we wanted to use a single source. Depending on our shot, we could manipulate the Condor to move the light; if we were looking toward Broadway, we hid it behind the higher part of Roof 4 as a way to flag it away from us." The SoftSun was one of the few 5600°K sources on set, but as Core explains, "One advantage of CCE in terms of lighting is that a light can be gelled with half CTO or half CTB and it almost reads the same. So we only corrected the SoftSun with half CTO."

"We also had 12K Pars on the roof of the Alexandria Hotel creating a back edge," he continues. "On Roof 4 and the area just east of it, we had quite a few tungsten units keying the actors; they were mainly 10K Fresnels used as back-cross edges, adjusted and flagged just outside of the frame. On Roof 3, below them and behind us, we put up three 20-by muslins that we bounced dozens of 500-watt and 1K Pars into, just to make sure things didn’t go too dark. Based on the setup, we’d sometimes use other tungsten lights as low back-crosslights."

That left the backdrop, which in wide shots encompasses a "pretty vast northeast and northwest view," says Core. Nine-light Maxi-Brutes and other big units, including a Bebee NightLight, lit up the far distance. Closer in, Core says, "The Alexandria Hotel was lit with 5Ks and 10Ks laid flat on the rooftop below it, and we aimed those units up to create architectural patterns. On the buildings to the west of that, we had a slew of Par cans uplighting fire escapes and windows." Some building interiors were also lit to help bring the city to life. "We asked a few locations to leave on certain lights inside," Core recalls. "In the Alexandria Hotel, we went into several rooms and placed 20 or 30 Tweenies between different windows. To the east or west of where we were, at either end of the Arcade Building, there were two very large towers. They were empty, so we had to make them look alive by placing lights in the windows. On each side, we had 30 Tweenies that ran up and down different flights."

One major interior, Murdock’s apartment, was filmed inside the Arcade Building. According to Core, the challenge was "how to light a blind man’s apartment at night. After all, he’s not going to flip a switch and turn the lights on. I lit more underexposed than I’ve ever done, which is especially tricky when you’re planning to do a special post process. I hid Tweenies in corners and kept them distant so they wouldn’t feel so sharp or directional; on film, it looks as though the light’s coming from the street. Tweenies were the Wheaties of the film – we lit with them everywhere! We wrapped them in black wrap, shoved every scrim we could into them and kept them very low. That created the feeling that Murdock was walking through a shadowed, dark apartment, with a little bit of ambient light occasionally peeking up from the city streets."

The largest set built for the film was Kingpin’s modern midtown office, which was constructed at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, California. During a fight scene in that setting, the audience is given a more subjective view of Daredevil’s experience. The set’s glass walls contained a series of built-in Kino Flo 2' 4-banks, as well as water that sent a bluish ambience into the room, complementing the light from an overhead rig. To even the playing field with Kingpin, Daredevil knocks out the overhead lights, but the Kino Flos remain on. He then smashes a panel of the wall, and water sprays out into the room. Says Core, "He hears where the water drops fall, so he can envision outlines and see more clearly where people are in the room. In order to suggest that, we used the Clairmont strobe system."

The strobes, which Core discovered on his numerous music video and commercial shoots, "are really designed for beer pourers – you take two or three, light a close-up, and it’s really crystal clear and beautiful. They fall off a lot, and because they had to be 20 or 30 feet from the actors in Daredevil, we used 40 or 50 of them, just about every one that Clairmont had. We crated units of six or eight of them together. The entire set was lit with those sources, which makes the water drops appear to stop in midair. It sort of crystallized things and aligned the audience with Daredevil’s perspective."

The hero’s heightened sense of smell is the focus of another sequence, an elegant ball that was filmed at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. Because the Biltmore is a historic landmark, nothing could be attached to the walls, so Core floated lighting balloons to provide an overall ambience. "Everything else was done with hard, beautiful backlight, very much like films of the 1940s," he says. "We also hung a lot of sparkling, Christmas-type lights from every column and archway to create a magical vibe." This is the moment when Elektra is introduced, and Murdock finds her at the top of a staircase by following his nose. "We shot that sequence on a Steadicam with close-focus macro lenses," the cinematographer recalls. "The camera travels up the stairs, past a tray of hors d’oeuvres, into a guy with a cigarette, into and out of a glass of bourbon, past a lady’s perfume, and into Elektra’s shoulder. To get those intense close-ups, we had to light to a T11 or T16 base. The room was full of Big-Eye 10Ks, and in front of each one we placed probably a dozen flags to cut and shape the light. There was a jungle of C-stands." In all of her scenes, Elektra, who represents a ray of hope to Daredevil, is keyed through 4-by-4 frames of Lee 216 for a slightly softened effect.

To a remarkable extent for a comic-book fantasy, Daredevil is a location picture. In fact, at the time of this interview, Core had just finished shooting some additional material in New York City. "We came to New York in October 2002 to do some establishing shots and helicopter work, and it grew into a little bit more," he says. "We were here for about six days, and as a result, there’s more New York in the movie than we expected. Mark and I are really happy about that, because Daredevil’s world isn’t a fantastical Gotham that’s removed from reality. That’s one of the things that makes this movie unique."


Super 35mm 2.35:1

Moviecam and Arriflex cameras

Zeiss lenses

Kodak Vision 250D 5246, Vision 500T 5279

Printed on Kodak Vision 2383

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© 2003 American Cinematographer.