One of the hottest topics in film circles today is the intense debate between film and digital technology. While the ordinary consumer and some professionals have given up film for a relic of the past, many are reluctant to give up using film, particularly in the motion picture business. Is this fondness for film merely a sentimental attachment, or is there more to capturing images on a celluloid base (polyester, to be more up-to-date)?
It’s not a sentimental attachment. Film is better.
Not sure how hot a topic this is anymore. Five years ago, sure. But now, most people have drank the Kool-Aid.
Yeah, in terms of the Kool-Aid. I don’t think anyone is under that illusion that the image acquisition of digital is better than film. But I think the switch has more to do with the inherit benefits of shooting digital that allow other opportunities and creative freedom for the filmmaker. I’d say those that have made the switch have judged that the freedom outweighs the qualitative difference for their particular style.
Check the video at the bottom of this week’s Noteworthy for a discussion at Bologna about this very topic.
Not an expert on this.
I just love how color shows up on film. When you can do that with digital, then the battle is really on.
I didn’t realize they were in opposition to each other…
Is there a pay-per-view cage match I can watch? Will it be shot on Beta, just to maintain neutrality?
The only thing laughable in these debates are the people that are so masturbatory towards what comes down to strips of tape they lose the ability to actually judge the medium beyond it.
I got to accept that it usually depends on the filmmaker’s vision and resources. I personally prefer film, but digital also works well from time to time. However, I still believe digital requires a lot of development for the coming few decades. It may shoot more realistically in comparison to film and it can be also a far cheaper and more convenient option in production, especially post-production. It is also a better and easier option for most beginning filmmakers.
But, to me, film photography surely holds the superior position due to the degree of all masterwork involved for the purpose of the better end result (shooting on film better pays off than digital, which often requires software), and other particular aspects such as clarity of focus, highlight manipulation, handling of noise and explosure (all digital’s weak point), and finally the nostalghic and almost irreplaceable feel the film camera gives your viewing.
Digital has revolutionized certain realms of cinema.
In The Philippines, for example, Lav Diaz does not exist without digital. Neither do many of the other filmmakers working in that nation right now, which has become maybe the most important independent film producing nation on earth.
In China, too, digital has completely opened up the system of filmmaking. Before the early sixth generation there were no independently produced films in China. And the only attempts (Tian Zhuangzhuang’s Blue Kite) often netted years of punishment from the government. The early sixth generation all followed a similar arc, they began on film, made one or two independent films and then became ingratiated within the larger Chinese film system.
However, around a decade ago digital opened up that system. Filmmakers can now shoot a film, store it on an external drive and edit it anywhere in the world, without fear of domestic retribution. There isn’t a governmental force looking over their shoulder; could Ai Weiwei have recorded the beating the Chinese government gave him on 35mm?
So there’s a breakage in discussion whenever this topic comes up. Are we talking about the formal characteristics of these media or the practical usage of them? And that’s usually the bridge no one tries to gap.
“One of the hottest topics in film circles today is the intense debate between film and digital technology.”
If today is 1999.
Theatres project in 4K. Deal with it.
I consider myself a digital filmmaker, I really have no connection or nostalgia for using film and I really don’t care if I ever do.
To me, things seem faster, cheaper and easier (technically) with digital. This allows me to concentrate on artistic decisions and not so much on monetary and technical ones (there are still tons of technical things to learn and monetary worries).
I can go out with a tiny camera and film things and it’s more affordable, faster, and there’s less of a chance of me screwing it up, needing a permit, or having to wait for it to get processed.
This trumps any of that other nostalgic trash.
SlashFilm: Do you miss film at times?
Roger Deakins: Am I nostalgic for film?
SlashFilm: Yeah, exactly. That’s what I–
Roger Deakins: I mean, it’s had a good run, hasn’t it?
SlashFilm: [Laughs] Wow.
Roger Deakins: You know, I’m not nostalgic for a technology. I’m nostalgic for the kind of films that used to be made that aren’t being made now.
I’m nostalgic for when Roger Deakins used to be good.
If that were the point, then I’d agree with you.
I must say that I have never shot on film or handled a strip of motion picture film. But I’ve been to festivals that have projected both digital and film prints. To the discerning eye, the difference is noticeable. Film gives greater depth to the image (I’m not talking about depth in terms of content- that is a totally different subject) which is not possible with digital cinema unless it is a 4K resolution screening, which is an expensive affair, at least for now.
But I have to admit the video cameras do offer a good training platform for budding filmmakers to practise their skills in terms of using the medium’s possibilities like camera placement and editing, even sound design. But i fail to see why we should brush aside analogue photography. The main difference lies in that in digital you are dealing with images and sounds composed of a multitude of 0s and 1s and which has to be accessed through another medium (a computer, in this case). But with film, you are dealing with something very tangible. You touch and feel each frame as it passes through your fingers.
I only love film, fuck digital (including film and music). I admit, with no shame, of being dogmatic and a purist. I started working in film and have never, nor ever will, touch digital.
People who shoot film can shoot digital.
The reverse is not necessarily the case.
I really loved what Tinker, Tailor did. Filmed on optical then digitally scanned it at 4k to shape the period and whatever they wanted to do visual effects wise. This thread made me think of that, interesting integration of the apparent “battle” of analog and digital.
Polaris: c’mon, nobody was really talking about it then unless you were a Dogma disciple :-) or George Lucas.
Santino: Although a lot of the old greats made shot looking digital films. E.g Altman, Coppla(with the exception of Tetro, which is one of the best looking digital films to me)
I think there is a certain flatness to the digital image most of the time but skilled practitioners will learn to make it work to their advantage, and many already have.
“Polaris: c’mon, nobody was really talking about it then unless you were a Dogma disciple :-) or George Lucas.”
Well, the thing is, I literally just started getting into cinema itself around 2002/3 where miniDV movies were finding their way to big screens and people were all a tither about the whole damn deal. By the time I actually got around to studying cinema seriously and learning how to make it, let’s say not just going into college in 2004 but around 2006-8, it was pretty clear general audiences weren’t noticing the difference between digital and film, and when that happens, the cheaper format wins out no matter how much we try to ‘educate’ people to preserve an inefficient expensive older technology.
I do have a fondness for film but it’s ‘better quality’ is overstated. Technically, yes, but our eyes aren’t really, honestly, that good.
The predominant and unignorable reason to preserve film, in my opinion, is that it archives longer than any other hard media.
“People who shoot film can shoot digital.
The reverse is not necessarily the case."
THIS, though, is true. My friend went to film school in Chicago and recently reconnected with some of his production classes professors. They’re having a difficult time telling people how to use cameras well, because they are so used to using cameras easily. It took me half my 16mm class to adapt, and the best user of that camera during that class was a photography major — none of the film majors could get exposures and prints quite right.
“Filmed on optical then digitally scanned it at 4k to shape the period and whatever they wanted to do visual effects wise.”
Fact is, almost all ‘film’ movies that we watch these days went through a digital intermediate. That’s not just a service but a full on career now — DIT, digital intermediate technician, whose job is to preserve as much quality as possible while changing formats altogether.
So the thing is, if everything goes through the digital intermediate anyway, wouldn’t whatever increased quality gained by film be crunched back down to digital? This is a legitimate technical question maybe Santino can offer. If not, I’ll ask a couple friends. (Weee, new thought!)
I’m sure if you gave a “filmmaker” today a changing bag and a film mag, they’d freak out so hard they’d probably faint. lol
In all the time people have spent bickering back and forth for and against either one, they’d realise at some point that this time is better spent making movies.
“In all the time people have spent bickering back and forth for and against either one, they’d realise at some point that this time is better spent making movies.”
Santino and I are on that in our non-Mubi time. How ’bout you, why do you come to Mubi?
(Basically that argument is an Internet variant of the ‘If you had a life…’ argument. It presupposes the time we spend on here overshadows the time we spend making movies. I spend very little time on Mubi, relative to all the other shit I’m doing. I know it doesn’t look it based on the amount of posts I have and their length, but it helps that I type fucking fast.)
^Geez, I hope you type fast! It would take me all day to type all the stuff that you type. haha
I wasn’t pointing fingers. It’s a general observation. It really comes down to the fact that these are just tools. You choose your preference or what best suits the project you’re commited to or whatever that is essentially available to you. There no sense in purism. You automatically restrict yourself from furthering your knowledge of the medium.
I come here to learn because no one can ever learn enough. But that has become more and more difficult as of late. Seems like good topics often dwindle into idiotic superiority banter.
It happens. So I move on then to the next thread or take a break.
Are we really talking a loss in quality from a 4k or even 6k scan though from film to a digital intermediate? I would think that would be harnessing the majority of “digital” information. I’m not saying your wrong Polaris it’s a general question I’m putting up.
The point is Tinker, Tailor still felt like a physical “film” shot, even though they purposely went in and digitally altered it later. Still had that texture. I get that editing is rarely happening in the actual “cutting room” anymore.
That cutting room is long gone.
Don’t get to the theatre much anymore but when I saw MI: Ghost Protocol it was a digital edition (not IMAX) and it looked amazing. First time in years that the focus was correct throughout. If digital means a clearer viewing experience, bring it on.