Steadicam and on an Ultimate Arm. The 35mm camera package from Panavision included two Millennium XLs and a Platinum body with E and C series prime and zoom lenses. Pfister chose a modest palette consisting of KODAK VISION2 500T 5218 and 250D 5205 color negative films for both IMAX and 35mm scenes.
The opening IMAX robbery scene was filmed at an old post office building in Chicago. A team of robbers wearing clown masks enter a bank for a planned heist. In this sequence, the audience meets The Joker, and Batman, Harvey Dent and Lt. Gordon find out that there is a new villain in town.
Nolan asked for 70mm dailies in IMAX format of the scene. The negative was processed and dailies were printed by Technicolor in Los Angeles. “After that we were so confident about what we were going to see that Chris just asked for selected dailies in 70mm format on some Saturday mornings,” Pfister says. “We always had 30 to 40 crew members there who were totally inspired by what they were seeing. The images were crystal clean and sharp with extraordinary depth of field and incredible texture. It takes me back to being a kid and watching films that seemed much larger than life.”
Pfister describes an unforgettable scene that established The Joker as an arch villain with no conscience. It was staged outside of an empty, four-story factory building in Chicago that was dressed as a hospital. He and Nolan decided to cover that scene with five IMAX and three 35mm cameras from every angle because there was only going to be one take. An IMAX camera on an Ultimate Arm tracked with Ledger as he walked out of the building.
“There is a smug look on The Joker’s face as he presses a button,” Pfister describes. “The camera craned up to a wider shot as the entire building exploded and collapsed. We had a permit to bring in a demolition company to blow up the building. The scene ends with The Joker jumping on a bus and closing the back door mere seconds before the charges are triggered.”
Nolan and Pfister felt the camera only belonged one place at a time when they were filming dialogue scenes in the anamorphic format. They occasionally used a second camera when the lighting was right in fight and stunt scenes. “Chris was always around the camera keeping in direct contact with the actors, rather in a video village,” Pfister says. “He had a little, portable monitor hanging around his neck.”
While it is an epic, big-action film, Pfister took a painterly approach to lighting. “Batman is a creature of the night,” he says. “You just see his mouth and eyes. There is some sheen on the cowl and the rest of the costume, but the cape was absolutely matte black. It was like lighting a piece of Duvateen. We used eyelight to bring the person behind the mask to life. I used a Kino Flo Kamio Ring Light that was designed to go around the lens, but because of the matte box, I decided to put it on an armature that was attached to the camera. If it was too bright, I used an ND6 gel on the light and a 1/4 CTS filter to warm it up. That didn’t create shadows because it’s a soft light, but it was hard enough to put a ding in his eyes.”
In conclusion, Keighley observes, “I have worked on 227 IMAX projects during the past 36 years and have seen some amazing cinematography, but I have never seen anything like this done on a narrative film before. It’s a totally engaging experience.”