Behind The Lens With Cinematographer Claudio Miranda

We recently sat down with Oscar-winning cinematographer and friend of One76, Claudio Miranda, while he was on the Gold Coast filming Joseph Kosinski’s upcoming movie Escape From Spiderhead. During our conversation, Claudio discussed his techniques behind his well-known films ‘Life of Pi’ and Top Gun, and the experiences that lead him to the success he has today. For those unfamiliar with the role of a cinematographer, the cinematographer is the person responsible for making a film the magic you see on screen, responsible for creating the look, colour, lighting and for framing every shot in a movie. 

Before the big screen

Claudio Miranda was never the boy with a camera in his hand making home movies, the award-winning cinematographer got his start in the industry working as a stage manager. On stage is where he met director David Fincher who he would later go on to work with as director of photography on the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. From his early days as stage manager, Miranda worked his way through many behind-the-scenes roles, going from electrician to best boy before becoming Chief Lighting Technician shooting music videos for the likes of The Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Fincher discovered that Claudio was very technical and gave him the opportunity to shoot a couple of commercials he was working on, following this he offered him an award-winning role on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Biggest challenges

Having worked as Cinematographer on Disney’s Tron: Legacy, and Life of Pi (for which he won the award for Best Cinematography), Miranda is accustomed to the challenges of filming in both 3D and 3D in water. Miranda notes that one of the biggest challenges while filming Life of Pi was the water, mentioning that the crew worked extremely hard to ensure that water did not get on the lens by using Air Knives and two custom-built 15’ tall air compressors. Despite the technical difficulties and workarounds in filming Life of Pi, Miranda fondly recalls his biggest reward working on the film, a magical night shoot in which the water was filled with 120,000 candles.

Eye for detail

Miranda’s talent and eye for technical detail are what make him the amazing, award-winning Cinematographer that he is today. Staying current with new technology and collaborating with the design teams for Apple, Blackmagic, Fuji and even Sony where he has been working as part of the design team for the new Sony VENICE camera. He states that he is “really good at solving complicated issues”, and has contributed to the built-in NDs and the Realto of the new camera. It was these contributions Miranda made in the development of the VENICE that led to it being his camera of choice when shooting the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick film. Miranda said that the Realto became a useful tool, allowing the camera to be placed anywhere they wanted within the jet, so versatile that Miranda even set up a dedicated six camera system inside the fighter-jet cockpit. 

Never one to work on your typical films, in 2015 Miranda worked on the Robert Rodriguez film 100 years, a film that will not be released until November 2115. When asked why he committed to filming a movie he won’t be around to witness, he stated that he wanted to work with Rodriguez and Rodriguez wanted to work with him, it was that simple. 

Words of wisdom

When asked what advice he would like to share with up-and-coming cinematographers, the ever-humble Miranda says that people do not like to hear about his path because he was not in a hurry, nor did he have an agenda, he just wanted to be in the industry, taking him 16 years to reach the role he is in today. However, if you’re looking for an approach that is faster than Miranda’s, his advice is simple: ‘find work that gets you close (to where you want to be), camera department, camera house, work in any department. 

“There are a million people out there that can do average. Do not be one of them.’”

The cinematographer’s final advice to One76 creatives.

Ready to be more than average? Explore your creative potential and join us at One76.

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