DARK KNIGHT Cinematographer Wally Pfister Talks 3D, IMAX, and BATMAN 3

by     Posted 4 years, 212 days ago

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Cinematographer Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight) spoke with Cinematical about shooting the next installment in the Batman franchise and whether or not it would go 3D and/or IMAX.  Pfister revealed that neither he nor director Christopher Nolan have any interest in 3D and see the technology as a fad.  While both like shooting in IMAX (several scenes of The Dark Knight were shot in the format), they know that the camera technology don’t have the necessary mobility required to shoot all the scenes of an action film.  But no matter how they end up shooting the flick, Pfister and Nolan have already agreed that they will shoot Batman 3 on film and not video.

Hit the jump for more on what Pfister had to say about digital cameras, 3D, and the benefits of shooting in IMAX.

AICN reported on some more of the cinematographer’s comments.  Pfister has no love for 3D and says the technology is, “great for like amusement park rides like the ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’ ride at Disneyland,” but ” it’s a distraction. Can you imagine Memento in 3D? With Joey Pantoliano’s glasses sticking out ‘a few feet’ with his hair all the way back there?”  I can and it has given me countless nightmares.

Moving to more positive comments, Pfister says he does like IMAX and that director Brad Bird (Ratatouille) said his teenage sons, “thought that the IMAX used in The Dark Knight was more realistic than the 3D in these new movies.”  And while Pfister enjoys the image and expansive frame provided by IMAX, he says that 2.35:1 is his shooting ratio of choice.

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  • https://twitter.com/ColonialBoy1 ColinJ

    'Pfister revealed that neither he nor director Christopher Nolan have any interest in 3D and see the technology as a fad.'

    I love you, Wally Pfister!

    Finally, someone in Hollywood talking sense!

  • junierizzle

    I just hope WB doesn't go 3D 2 months before it gets released.

  • stef

    Wally is a great guy and he knows what he is talking about ! I have been fortunate enough to work with him and what's out of the can is looking fantastic, no need for post digital tricks ! Film is looking 100000 times better than digital.

  • Matt

    3D, if done properly without a studio-mandated PP conversion, is not a fad and serves as an incredibly transformative experience in theaters. Mr. Prfister wouldn't know much about that, considering that his cinematography is mediocre at best, poorly light during any action scene or chance at transporting the viewer.

  • Matt

    Plus, I guess this man doesn't know that 3D technology and post-production conversions without shooting natively are *not* the same.

    I've never been a fan of Nolan's pretentious, overstuffed and poorly edited films, but surely he's smart enough to comprehend that?

  • http://ciclotimia.blogspot.com/ [A]

    go Pfister go

  • http://fenfilms.blogspot.com/ Taylor F

    Seems we have a hater in the house. What wouldn't Pfister know, 3D or “incredibly transformative experience”?

    3D is subjective at best. I personally don't like it, and doesn't cause that incredible transformative experience. If it does for you great! But Pfister knows what he is talking about and knows how to light. If you don't like it, then again, subjective.

    • Anonymous

      I find 3D is fine in the right context (I enjoyed Avatar for what it was: a more visually exciting Dances With Wolves remake that went on probably a half-hour too long), but it should be used sparingly. The worst of 3D (and sadly, the most common) is the re-writing of scenes/storyboards to pander to the audience that seem to scream “hey, it’s 3D! Check out this thing zooming at you. WOAH!” The problem is that’s 95% of movies (leaving, umm… most of Up, half of Avatar, and Coraline, in my opinion.) Again, I can see anyone not liking it; even at 3D’s best liking it is a personal preference (like not liking seafood). At worst it makes you motion sick and distracts you from the plot.

      Devil’s advocate aside, 3D has no place in these movies. Not because it’s bad for everything, just because it wouldn’t really add anything. I mean, imagine batman’s cloak in 3D, and tell me that wouldn’t be distracting from the rest of the action/dialogue/whatever.

    • Anonymous

      I find 3D is fine in the right context (I enjoyed Avatar for what it was: a more visually exciting Dances With Wolves remake that went on probably a half-hour too long), but it should be used sparingly. The worst of 3D (and sadly, the most common) is the re-writing of scenes/storyboards to pander to the audience that seem to scream “hey, it’s 3D! Check out this thing zooming at you. WOAH!” The problem is that’s 95% of movies (leaving, umm… most of Up, half of Avatar, and Coraline, in my opinion.) Again, I can see anyone not liking it; even at 3D’s best liking it is a personal preference (like not liking seafood). At worst it makes you motion sick and distracts you from the plot.

      Devil’s advocate aside, 3D has no place in these movies. Not because it’s bad for everything, just because it wouldn’t really add anything. I mean, imagine batman’s cloak in 3D, and tell me that wouldn’t be distracting from the rest of the action/dialogue/whatever.

  • Chuckowsky

    Finally an opinion on 3-D of someone who's actually involved in creating the visual appearance of the film.

    I agree with what he said about 2,35:1 – if we shoot the movie that way it is supposed to be seen this way, not in the IMAX-cut edition. I mean, did any people who awarded Avatar with Best Cinematography Oscar actually saw it in the 2,35:1 ration it was shot in, instead of the version IMAX theaters screened?

  • http://fenfilms.blogspot.com/ Taylor F

    Thanks for the article Matt.

    I love Pfister for his cinematography, must notably because he shoots on FILM and in Anamorphic 2.35:1.

  • Corin Prendiville

    Finally, somebody in Hollywood who realizes that 3D is just a marketing ploy for big action/adventure flicks.

    I don't think it is a fad like it will go away, but every movie in 3D is outrageous, some movies just won't work in 3D just like some movies don't work in color.

    PS, Matt down there, you are a joke. Nolan and Pfister are not mediocre, Nolan is arguably better at crafting unique films than Cameron himself. The only thing Cameron seems to do well is take old concepts and make them better than other people have, and then have a million people copy his revamp – good for business, but artistically it is weak. [I know I'll probably get some hatred for critiquing Cameron's work].

  • Glass

    I'm banning you from the internet.

  • Glass

    Surely you're smart enough to get off my internet.

  • coreyatad

    That doesn't totally make sense. In the Dark Knight the IMAX sequences were not shot in 2.35:1. It was 1.44:1. On the Blu-ray they decided to crop those sequences down to 16×9 to maintain the effect of the screen ratio growing larger. It's not original ratio, but because it's for the effect it is the best compromise in order to see the film how Nolan and Pfister intended.

    As for Avatar. That film essentially has no proper ratio. It was shot to fit both 2.35:1 ratios, with the idea being that it is always taking up as much screen space as possible in any given situation. In some theatres the 1.85:1 matting is larger, and in some the 2.35:1 is larger, so the prints were distributed accordingly. On an HDTV the biggest space that the film can take up is 16×9, so that's what Cameron decided to use. As big as possible is the thing to remember.

  • Glass

    I'm throroughly disappointed in WB's decision to have a studio mandate for 3D. It should be the filmmaker's choice to shoot in 3D or convert to 3D or not. I hope they don't force this on Nolan.

  • Debo

    Nolan secretly is WB now. He makes everyone else's DP to shoot in 3D to make his stuff look better. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  • Corin Prendiville

    lol… that would be funny. But in all seriousness, he probably does exert more control over his own fate than the guys shelling out the cash, he is a commodity- you don't put demands on commodities, they put demands on you.

  • https://twitter.com/ColonialBoy1 ColinJ

    You're right in that 3D is transformative.

    It transforms me from feeling good to having a migraine.

  • Chuckowsky

    I just did some reading on Avatar's ratio and I can't take it anymore :P I mean, the film was shot in 1:2,35 which is the widest option possible. From that point you can only chop off the sides.

    I thought that the only cutting they did was for the IMAX screen, which needs to bring down the original ratio to 1:1,78. And to my understanding this was just to fill the screen and the original proportions were to make a comeback with DVD and Blu-Ray edition.

    But now I see on Amazon that they're selling only 1:1,78 cut. So what the hell happened with the original version? Aren't we supposed to see the widest version instead of the one which fills the plasma best?

  • http://www.thereelists.com Corey Atad

    Actually, Avatar, being that it was shot digitally, was framed for 1.78:1 and the top and bottom were cropped to create the 2.35:1. So the one with more image is the 1.78:1, and like I said, the correct ratio according to Cameron is the one that fills up the most screen space available.

  • Chuckowsky

    Sorry, I didn't get this before. I thought that you shoot a movie in wider ratio and if that's necessary, then cut the sides – that's how it's done for TV versions where I live :P

    So thank you for clarifying this. Now I get this whole picture ratio issue.
    I'll provide some links for people willing to do further reading on this matter, including the quote you were talking about:
    http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/05/31/3d-avatar-v
    http://www.leyshan.com/index.php?entry=entry100

    I would also like to apologize to the Academy for scolding them for seeing the chopped version of the movie, which was incorrect :P

  • https://twitter.com/ColonialBoy1 ColinJ

    You're right in that 3D is transformative.

    It transforms me from feeling good to having a migraine.

  • Chuckowsky

    I just did some reading on Avatar's ratio and I can't take it anymore :P I mean, the film was shot in 1:2,35 which is the widest option possible. From that point you can only chop off the sides.

    I thought that the only cutting they did was for the IMAX screen, which needs to bring down the original ratio to 1:1,78. And to my understanding this was just to fill the screen and the original proportions were to make a comeback with DVD and Blu-Ray edition.

    But now I see on Amazon that they're selling only 1:1,78 cut. So what the hell happened with the original version? Aren't we supposed to see the widest version instead of the one which fills the plasma best?

  • http://www.thereelists.com Corey Atad

    Actually, Avatar, being that it was shot digitally, was framed for 1.78:1 and the top and bottom were cropped to create the 2.35:1. So the one with more image is the 1.78:1, and like I said, the correct ratio according to Cameron is the one that fills up the most screen space available.

  • Chuckowsky

    Sorry, I didn't get this before. I thought that you shoot a movie in wider ratio and if that's necessary, then cut the sides – that's how it's done for TV versions where I live :P

    So thank you for clarifying this. Now I get this whole picture ratio issue.
    I'll provide some links for people willing to do further reading on this matter, including the quote you were talking about:
    http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/05/31/3d-avatar-v
    http://www.leyshan.com/index.php?entry=entry100

    I would also like to apologize to the Academy for scolding them for seeing the chopped version of the movie, which was incorrect :P

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