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The Filming of the Movie “Oblivion” Essay

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2020


The film analyzed in this essay is Oblivion. It shows a post-apocalyptic Earth that is almost in ruins. The main character, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a commander whose memory has been erased and he has been assigned to the repairing of drones (Oblivion). The movie is set in the year 2073 after the world has been destroyed by war. The earth is shown in ruins and has faced an alien invasion sixty years back (Oblivion). Harper soon encounters another human being, a woman, and then is captured by the Kavs, an underground band of humans who are living a secret life underground. Harper meets Malcolm Beecher (Morgan Freeman), the leader of the Kavs, and realizes the existence of humans living secret lives under the Earth (Oblivion).


The cinematographer of the film is Claudio Miranda. The filming of the movie was done with Sony’s F65 camera (Holben 2). Miranda used Fujinon Premier lenses and ARRI/ZEISS Master primes (Faueer 31). Though the film was shot in post-destruction earth, the landscape had to look attractive as that would induce Harper to stay back on the planet (Martin 55). The futuristic creation in the film demanded a lot of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Nevertheless, a lot was captured through the camera.

For instance, in one of the scenes where Harper and Beech converse, in a low-lit space, and the latter lights a cigar, shows incredible camerawork by Miranda. As the exterior of the movie is based on a volcanic mountain and rocky topography in Iceland, the set was mostly built in Los Angeles and shipped to Iceland. The glass structure shown representing Harper’s home was built to capture the movement of the clouds and the sun and show the change in the atmospheric conditions through the lenses (Holben 2).

Further, high-end video projectors were used to show the large expanse of the sky and create the sky all around the exterior set (Holben 3). For the background, Miranda shot the sky in Hawaii, which was then combined with 15K motion plates (Holben 3). They captured the sky in different forms – bright, cloudy, foggy, and so on. This then was played at a higher speed (“triple normal speed”) to make the sky appear more dynamic (Holben 3).

The tower scene is one of the most interesting scenes in the film. The production team prepared the set with glass. It gave the impression of a glass house hanging from a tower. Miranda used the backdrop as the screen for the scene instead of blue screens (Martin 56). Scenes from the sky shot in Hawaii were attached to the footage of the scene using 21 projectors (Khan 6). Another scene that I felt was interesting is the interrogation scene where Beecher questions Harper under a cold, synthetic light, and the rest of the set is pitch black.

This scene is noteworthy because it has used a household LED light, cleverly from top to illuminate the characters, keeping the rest of the set in darkness. When all the lights in the room are turned on, and the audience finds hundreds of survivors crowding the room. This creates a sudden sense of crowding, achieved very skillfully by Miranda.

The movie presents stunning images and digital cinematography that have added a different dimension to the futuristic scenes. The best part of the movie was the contrasting presence of the futuristic setting along with the rustic ruins of the earth. The use of glass as possible because Miranda used pre-shot footages of the sky as the source of light. The production designer had the freedom to use shiny material and glass while building the set, as there was no fear of reflection, as the light source was in video.

Miranda placed the projections under the set. The footages of the sky were loaded to the media servers. They were applied to the scene when required. Thus, the actors got the chance to act in the set instead of in a blue void as is usually done while shooting sci-fi movies. The use of fog in the sky tower was also possible because of the use of projectors, where the characters were completely surrounded by real fog. The light created a beautiful scene as it passed through the real fog in the set.


However, some of the limitations that I felt persisted in the movie are the extensive use of post-production editing and CGI that depleted the cinematographer’s credit. Miranda shot many of the scenes with a wide-angle camera but only to add the wide sky digitally to the scene. Further, in a scene where Harper and his female companion finally become clear to the audience, Miranda uses a large aperture resulting in a scene with shallow depth. Even though the cinematography has some shortcomings, but Miranda was exceedingly successful in creating a futuristic environment with glass and sky, which appeared realistic. The presence of the luminescence in the sky tower scenes shows the exceptional camera-work and digital innovation used in the film. For this reason, Oblivion can be dubbed as one of the most inventive, digitally shot films.

Works Cited

Faueer, Jon. “Claudio Miranda, ASC on “Oblivion”.” Film and Digital Times. 2013. Web.

Goodfellas. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perf. Robert De Niro. Warner Bros, 1990. DVD.

Holben, Jay. “Claudio Miranda, ASC puts Sony’s 4K F65 camera through its paces on the sci-fi thriller Oblivion.” American Society of Cinematographers. 2013. Web.

Khan, Maaz. “Oblivion: The Cinematography of Claudio Miranda.” DIY Photography. 2015. Web.

Martin, Kevin H. “Sky Fall.” ICG Magazine. 2013: 52-59. Print.

Oblivion. Dir. Joseph Kosinski. Perf. Tom Cruise. Universal Pictures, 2013. DVD.

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