How many still shoot film?

Started Sep 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 650
Unfortunate Comparison


It's true that some cinematographers are particularly enthusiastic about what's possible with digital capture in principal photography. Stephen Soderbergh has been advocating RED from the start, and I know Roger Deakins has been very enthusiastic about the ARRI Alexa--which he put to wonderful work with "Skyfall."

But, (based on what I've read from them, anyway) I don't get the sense that either regards the digital work they do as comparable to what other people accomplish with film. In other words: both shoot digitally because they're exploring new aesthetic and workflow possibilities, not because they want a result that "looks like film." They're innovating, and we get gorgeous results like "Skyfall" for it. Roger Deakins has talked quite a bit about how digital (the Alexa, specifically) is capable of a kind of verisimilitude that he hadn't seen with Vision 3 stocks. But in doing so, he's not advocating that every movie ever made should employ that look, or that the look is "better" than what's possible with film stock. "Better" for "Skyfall," sure, absolutely. But "better" for "The Dark Knight Rises?" Obviously not.

Just reading around on what the various big names have to say about how they shoot--from Wally Pfister to Janusz Kaminsky to Deakins--I get the sense that cinematographers prefer *choice* over any allegiance to any specific technology, and that they're all troubled by the way in which other interests (studio financiers, the companies making the technology, etc.) posit digital as "progress" or a "replacement" for film. Film isn't going away because cinematographers want it to, or because they "prefer" digital. It's going away because Hollywood is a business and executive producers are bean counters, not aestheticians. By and large, cinematographers don't think that digital looks like film. And they don't necessarily want to it to. They want to be able to use either or both!

Martin Scorsese has talked very thoughtfully about the change--it's worth googling some of the interviews he gave after the release of "Hugo," which he shot with the ARRI Alexa. Essentially: he'd much rather have shot it with film, but he's convinced that by the time he's doing principal photography for his next picture, it won't a choice. So he shot *Hugo* digitally to dive in and figure it out, even though the look (and the workflow to get it) ended up not being exactly what he would have preferred.

What I'm getting at, here, is that you say movies like "Skyfall" and "Prometheus" are indistinguishable from those shot with Kodak Vision 3, but I disagree with you--and the folks who made them disagree with you, too!

And it's the idea that digital "replaces" film--that they "should be" indistinguishable--that will leave us all very much poorer for the comparison. As someone who loves great cinematography, >I< want these artists to have choices! If Janusz Kaminsky and Wally Pfister and Paul Thomas Anderson and Rian Johnson want to shoot film, >I< want them to have it to shoot! I *loved* the way "Lincoln" and "War Horse" looked. I *loved* the way "The Dark Knight Rises" looked. I *loved* the way "The Master" and "There Will be Blood" looked. These guys are in the prime of their careers; they're not old-timers who can't broker change. Digital is reasonable choice, but they *aren't* choosing it. Since I respect what they're cranking out, I hope they can continue to make what they make on their own terms.

If you love movies, you *don't* want film to die. You want artists to have choices. Lots and lots of choices.


marcio_napoli wrote:

Fogsville, that's one of the most well thought and well written replies I've ever seen on DP review.

Thanks for that!

And yes, I fully agree on all levels.

The only thing I'd like to add is that modern digital cinema cameras (Alexa, RED, Genesis, F65) are so good that we are not able anymore to spot that "digital" look on movies captured with these cameras.

If you watch carefully movies like Skyfall, Oblivion or Prometheus, it's impossible to tell them apart from those made with film stock.

No burnt highlights, no digital looking noise, not a single trace of artfacts on screen. It's simply as organic as a film capture.

Movie DPs are saying they're choosing more and more digital capture for the sake of convinience.

I don't believe so.

I think they're choosing digital because it's d@rn good, as good as film stock in quality terms, and with added flexibility.

Thanks again for the well thought post, Fogsville.

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Marcio Napoli

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