From Filmmaker magazine (complete interview:http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/spring2009/girlfriend-experience.php).
This camera has caught on. “TGE” used available light, but for two shots. T., you’ve shot with Red, yes? Did you have a lighting package, or was god your gaffer?
Caught on, perhaps, but caught on in a good way? I can count the number of films that use digital photography as if the filmmakers knew they were using digital photography—and using it well—on my two hands.
Daniel, if you’re referring to the practice of shooting digital and going to great lengths to make it “appear” as film, then I would agree with you. If I’m reading you correctly, this is an argument that continues to create a divide like that between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Over at reduser.net, this very thing is occurring over Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” (not shot using Red). For some, the idea that he would even use video for a period piece, has set them off, but to dare to actually go for a video look is driving this faction bonkers. There is another similar discussion going on over “Antichrist” (Red user). Some are missing the fact that von Trier has never been much interested in the production of industrialized images, not to mention, the gleeful way in which he goes about breaking the rules. It’s as if cinematography were only about crystalline images. Pretty pictures, perfectly lit and composed. It’s curious to me, this embracing of new technology, while still preferring the aesthetic of the old. Clearly, it’s going to take some time before all this is settled.
God was my gaffer.
Actually, I was my gaffer.
I’m not God, although my wife accuses me of behaving as if I am (the old Testament style God, circa Book of Job) a lot.
Anyhow… yes. I agree with you KJ.
The Red, it seems, presents a revolution in decoupage and not images. It’s like the Arriflex. Under good lighting conditions, it creates a traditional (i.e. celluloid-like) filmic image, though it still has that color palette specific to HD—those gradient pastels that make it look like a little like Gevacolor, the old Belgian color process. It doesn’t create a discontinuity in the look of a movie, just in that invisible but invasive aspect—production. So it’s inoffensive—it “looks like a movie,” the only difference is that you can work differently.
The CineAlta, by comparison, seems somehow more offensive—it doesn’t “look like cinema.” Video has this strange aspect, which Mann has talked about extensively in interviews, that causes it to pick up the background movement hyper-realistically—the swaying of trees, that sort of thing. It seems to negate traditional notions about the importance of camera movement: the video image doesn’t sit still.
KJ is right—the Red has somehow already become the camera of reactionaries, because it’s praised for its ability to mimic more than for its versatility. But despite that versatility, I still prefer movies shot on the CineAlta—because there’s nothing else that looks quite like it.
Yes, Ignatiy. That’s pretty much it. But I like all these cameras to be honest. They… each have different tonal and workflow possibilities. In this sense, a camera is a bit like a piano. It all depends on how you play, and which technique you use to achieve the sound— and this is always done through the instrument, with the instrument, from a knowing and understanding of the weight and impact vibration of the keys. In terms of film, there’s a new generation of cinematograhers in waiting— and they will embrace new aesthetics in line with new technology. The classical ways simply don’t apply anymore. If it’s a revolution, then I’ve yet to see a molotov cocktail thrown with any serious intent at burning down the old school… it’s all still so much in its infancy.
Lest we forget, the greatest experiences are in the cinema watching a FILM projector. A digital projector is like paying 10 dollars to watch a big screen television. Even when the film is digitized, the minute that film is run through a computer and spat out in zeros and ones, that 24 frame black-image-black-image-black magic is evaporated.
Don’t get me wrong, the better digital can get the better, and it’s fooled me a couple of times, but regardless, it’ll never be the same.
Also Mann seems to love shooting at very low shutter speeds, which increase the “video smear” look. I actually love the look as well. For certain things of course. Collateral and Miami Vice, both great looking films IMHO. In all their 1/24th glory!
I like the RED, CineAlta, film, dv…. all have their purposes/pros/cons.
With my dvx, I prefer 60i and low shutter speeds. Play around with the in-camera settings, and you’ll be surprised at what you will discover. This whole 24p “film look” thing is a bit overdone, for me.
For this record, while I’m here, as if it needed repeating on this interweb: I find INLAND EMPIRE to be truly beautiful. I love the smear. Likewise, Mann knows what’s up. The paradoxical mechanics of aperture and shutter speeds makes Mann’s argument that much more interesting, too, since a lot of what seems to have motivated his shift is his interest in the speed (and the ramping up of the speed) of story and of action to the point where it gets hardly representational. I think this impatience operates differently in Soderbergh, though both men are interested in working and how one works and how much one works. It’s never a question of why one works. One simply works. That is, if they do not work, then they die. What’s cool about Mann is how much he’s after a vividness of the world over against the remove of Soderbergh; both are fascinating, but the world Mann makes is the world I want to live in; or, at least, the world I want to see every day. Then again, one might say that those are the same (though different, of course).
With only seeing the trailers, I don’t care for Mann’s video look of Public Enemies – looks like a Discovery Channel re-enactment special. But in Collateral the digital worked very well, maybe it is just that many of use are trained not to expect such a “clean” look for period-pieces. I hope I am proven wrong come July 1st, but I am still looking forward to this film.
Che looked absolutely brilliant especially in the jungle scenes. I like how Soderbergh is playing with the RED, TGE also looked good to me.
Fincher is probably my favorite director who uses HD Digital cameras, he knows how to use very well, Zodiac and Ben Button looked stunning with the Viper (also thanks to Claudio and Harris and their great jobs.
Sigh, this is one of those fights that will go on forever and leads nowhere. I have trouble that Soderbergh brings this issue to the forefront because he is much smarter than that. He makes Red word so well because he regards it as merely a tool and pushes its creative boundaries to the edge. Many many many people view it as a film stand in which it isn’t, it’s a completely different beast entirely. Same goes for Michael Mann for that matter.
One should remember that this issue was never discussed by laymen before the advent of digital. Could you imagine fanboys discussing whether a film was shot on an Panaflex or an Arri 20 odd years ago? No, because it doesn’t matter. How about lens choices, film stocks, etc. Pros rarely talk about this stuff because it is utilitarian, it does not get to the heart of the art form. Hrmphf, ANYWAY….
This is more of a formalist argument, which is fine, but what does Red off that enhances the form? The trouble with all of this film emulation is that these forms are yet to be offered to come into their own. I absolutely adore the look of 30 frame video shot out to film. Just look at The Celebration or Dancer in the Dark to see such cameras put to beautiful use without trying to look like anything but what they are. Does that make sense? 24p video has a style, and time and time again Michael Mann is realizing that style beautifully. I agree that making a period piece in that manner is bold, but I am very excited for Public Enemies anyway.
One more great example of video enhancing a story is Slumdog Millionaire. Not only did the grain video in that film resonate with me, it started to feel like the modern answer to the Super8 cameras of old, which is basically where vid-cams are on the food chain now.
A year ago I ranted about the Red camera on my blog , so you might as well check it out if you haven’t had enough of me. Great dicussion folks, keep ’em coming.
A few years ago I ranted about the Red camera on my blog , so you might as well check it out if you haven’t had enough of me. Great dicussion folks, keep ’em coming.
nice argument, esp. re: the Scarlet, about which I was once excited but in which I have now lost all interest. you make good points.
Scarlet has been canceled supposedly.
Scarlet def aint canceled.
www.scarletuser.com and www.reduser.net
have a look around, see for yourself.
“I absolutely adore the look of 30 frame video shot out to film. Just look at The Celebration or Dancer in the Dark to see such cameras put to beautiful use without trying to look like anything but what they are.”
What you said, Jonathan.
A little something else about digital photography: where it sucks is on the workflow end. The myriad steps are a nightmare. And it doesn’t end with your work in Final Cut. If you’ve shot with Red, you have then to launch Scratch to complete your final assembly. The steps involved, oy! Film is bliss by comparison: Shoot. Make workprint. Edit. Cut your negative. Print.
KJ: the workflow of digital is nowhere near the headache of film. There is no processing or labs involved with digital, everything is instantaneous and available at hand. Granted, there are rendering times and transferring times but to go through the hassle of working with the actual film negative, to me, does not compare.
Also, set-ups and shooting times is much more flexible and expedited with digital. With film, it’s nearly impossible to just run into a scene and shoot; there is the necessary light readings, focus checks, etc. With digital, if the style of the movie demands it, you can jump in, hit record, and keep shooting until you’ve got what you need.
Dude, I said “workflow”, nothing about shooting. Here is an acquaintance’s emailed program:
1. Shoot on RED and record footage on CF card or RED Drive.
2. Offload. Backup shots and get your R3D files in MacBook Pro.
3. Open FCP. Set your project sequence at QT proxy resolution 512×256.
4. Import QT_P proxy files from R3D folders.
5. Cut your footage.
6. If prepared, add music.
7. Export EDL.
8. Close your project and quit FCP.
9. Launch Windows XP from Boot Camp.
10. Launch Scratch.
11. Set up new Scratch project (in this case with 4096×2048 resolution), Media and Export Directories.
12. Load FCP EDL file in the Scratch Construct.
13. Start with Player.
14. LUT – load if you have one.
15. Edit – you can do it if it is an additional need or correction.
16. Matrix – a full set of CC tools for grade a footage and if you would have Tangent Wave you are also a real colorist.
With MacBook Pro’s DVI out could even connect Barco XLM H25 projector that is the first DLP™ projector with a native wide-screen aspect ratio,native 2048 × 1080 resolution and light output of 27 000 Center Lumen, the XLM is the most powerful projector available on the market today.
Just to be sure about your BLACKS.
17. Pipeline, Process and Confirm your footage in this case to 4K DPX 4096×2048 RGB 10 bit Lin.
18. Output on external drive(s) or SATA RAID because DPX files are huge and each frame/file is about 32MB.
Ta da! Now your footage is ready with a full 4K resolution for a film or digital print.
Everything is at hand, yes. I don’t know if I’d call it instantaneous, exactly. Cutting film was never a headache for me. I rather it enjoyed it. The tactility, you know? I will give you this, the advantage is that if you need to go back to the development stage of the raws, you have to go through all the steps again. I guess that is quicker than having to go back to the lab and scan your negative.
i understand the tangibility of film and how that can lend to a more organic process. spielberg even talked about how he still edits the old fashioned way by smelling the film, looking through the negatives, and all that. but it just seems so outdated in 2009. cutting film is arduous and imprecise in comparison to non-linear point and click.
i can totally see how there is nothing like working hands on with actual film. maybe i’m just from a different era. my first entry into editing was adobe premiere. i only started splicing film in college. perhaps i got spoiled?
Film is a technology, not an art. “Film”, whether that be celluloid or digital, is just a medium in which to communicate ideas with. The technlogy does not dictate the content.
I have been a member of the ScarletUser and RedUser (and DVXUser) communities for years now, just to go ahead and give you my bias. The film versus digital debate has been raging for a while now, and it is hard to get both camps to meet on some sort of common ground.
Different uses of technologies can give you different aesthetics. People talk about Mann’s new project as looking “digital” because of the video smear, but if you were to slow down the shutter speed for a film camera, you would achieve similar motion blur. Though blur and video smear may look a little different, they both achieve the same kind of effect. When you slow down the shutter, you are going to create a departure from what we percieve as the “Hollywood look” whether you are shooting film or digital.
From the film camp, it just seems silly that one would want to discredit a new motion image medium. If you take film as an example, there isn’t “one film look”. A different film stock is essentially a completely different look, just as a Red One looks different from a Viper. There isn’t this unified film look out there to conform to.
The main problem with digital has always been dynamic range. The latitude of film has always been higher, but digital is quickly catching up (already has in the still world). If digital can exist or exceed film in the still world, why can’t this happen in the motion picture world?
With the Red One, digital has come exponentially close to film in terms of dynamic range. With the next generation of cameras, digital will have every advantage that film does. At this point, it is using the right tool for the right job. In the end, you will be able to create films that audience members will be able to connect with, regardless of aquisition medium.
For the record, you can do a period piece successfully with digital: i.e. Zodiac. If Mann chooses to slow down the shutter and such with his digital camera, then that is more of his utilization of the medium rather than what is indicative of what the medium can accomplish. (Who is to say what aesthetic is the “right” one, anyway?)
KJ, there are easier workflows for the RED than that. Just google around.
Ideas trump format. Thats all I’m saying.
Film can exist without digital, digital cannot without film I always come back to. I have not seen a narrative film I care for visually that was shot digital that does not have a film out master attached to it. Digital skin tones look grey to my eye most of time, and i’ve seen a cine alta produced film projected digitally and it looked like the news and the actors performance seemed effected as well. I just wouldn’t want the master of my film to be a QT file or any other file, needs to be in the tangible world for me. Yes, production is quicker with digital, but I do not agree that ideas trump format, the entire process to wardrobe, emulsion, wigs, are the ideas to me. I would never want to see Annie Hall on the red cam. I just feel these cameras belong to the big budgets, with FX, and action, and the world is ending or turning into machines storylines.
I for one would rather Hollywood take it over and push it as far as film has been pushed then they can hand it off after they are done or until virtual reality hits. Meanwhile labs, kodak, fuji and film camera companies that are all closed out because of digital projection will come looking for the indie filmmakers to keep film alive, give it our 100 years go with emulsion, I will take the scraps, let the power play with the new technology until it goes. Then that would bring back the Repertory Theatre for indies and the power can have their Regal, Santikos for the remakes and the star vehicles using the new tech.
I really enjoyed the film “Edukators” which was shot on an SDX900, but it was transfered to what? I enjoyed “ONCE” as well, but same thing. And these films are filmed out because it is part of the workflow and look to me. Not just for theatrical projection. If I was able to get a film out for a digitally shot film, I would do it, I think for sure. If no film out, I would just shoot film all the way as I am not really interested in seeing a digital chamber narrative film that does not have a film out. I have plenty, and don’t enjoy it. I will watch a doc anyway I can get them though.
Kristian, I’m with you here. Ideas most definitely do not trump format. As I’ve said elsewhere, the scaffolding of your elaborate ideas must be supported by the materials you choose.
“I just feel these cameras belong to the big budgets, with FX, and action, and the world is ending or turning into machines storylines.”
I agree with that, as well. That’s where they’re making their mark. We’re indeed seeing power co-opt this new digital technology. Viva la revolucion, eh?
I just saw “Frownland” again. We know what it cost Ron Bronstein emotionally to see it through, but I’m glad he chose 16mm. Conventional thinking is that at that production level, with little or no money, why risk the cascading effect of backend costs: processing, neg cutting, telecine, etc., when digital video is available to you, right? You don’t have to be concerned about film ratios, scrapping together short ends and begging for processing to be done on the cheap. Further, unless a theatrical release is what you’re intent on obtaining, shoot digital. And how many filmmakers with nothing but lint and a few dollars in their pockets can even imagine a theatrical release? Less than $10/$20k in your budget? Better go with digital. It was all stacked against him. The aesthetic and feel he was looking for was from certain films from the fifties and sixties which originated on 16mm. For him, there was no other choice. As it was, “Frownland” had no production values to speak of, but had it originated on video, it would have been unwatchable. Spending years shooting a film is not ideal, but he did it. Lance Hammer shot “Ballast” on 35mm, using available light- woo hoo Steven Soderbergh. (I wish I knew what his budget was). Andrew Bujalski has yet to use a video camera, and his budgets are tight. The Safdie’s newest, “Go Get Some Rosemary”- 16mm. And you would think these guys, due to their young age, would have chosen digital for sure. I’ve been trying to locate their budget numbers, would you know? I’m guessing a couple hundred thousand. Maybe less, even. I give digital filmmakers a huge break. It ain’t easy getting it done. But frankly, I’m over shitty looking video.
“Meanwhile labs, kodak, fuji and film camera companies that are all closed out because of digital projection will come looking for the indie filmmakers to keep film alive, give it our 100 years go with emulsion, I will take the scraps, let the power play with the new technology until it goes. Then that would bring back the Repertory Theatre for indies and the power can have their Regal, Santikos for the remakes and the star vehicles using the new tech.”
That sounds like a plan.
“If I was able to get a film out for a digitally shot film, I would do it, I think for sure. If no film out, I would just shoot film all the way as I am not really interested in seeing a digital chamber narrative film that does not have a film out.”
You’re making entirely too much sense today.
THANK YOU, Jacob Ross! I worked with a RED (as AC) earlier this year and could second most of the things that have already been said for and against it (the importance of the lens, the learning curve, the painfully slow workflow depending on what you’re working with, etc). I prefer working on film because it makes me feel more alive and involved in the process but, hey, we got a movie made on a budget and it looked great. However, no matter how great our DP or his equipment, they were absolutely no substitute (as many on set thought they would be) for excellent writing and direction. All the work I’ve done has been low budget, so mostly shot on video, but I’ve also had the chance to work a couple times with film. If I’ve learned anything through this (very limited) experience, it’s that people always seem to talk about what equipment we’re working with as though it’s what will make or break the film, and I have yet to work on a film that’s “made it.” I always point back to the fact that one of the most compelling films I’ve ever seen was shot on miniDV. I guess it’s my complaint with most movies made today… worry more about creative ideas, writing, direction, design, etc. The camera will record what you tell it to.
“…worry more about creative ideas, writing, direction, design, etc. The camera will record what you tell it to.”
Just needed to be repeated. If more people thought like that the majority of independent cinema wouldn’t be in the shitter in terms of quality.
Brittan, thanks and I’m right there with you.
I always point to the very cinematic documentary “Iraq In Fragments” as one of the shining examples of ideas/direction/design TOTALLY TRUMPING format. Hell, it was one dude (James Longley, a DVX100, and the people of war torn Iraq) and he crafted one of the most amazing looking films ever laid to tape (nominated for an Oscar! and won the best cinematography award at Sundance). Because beauty in cinema has way more to do with editing and narrative and acting and music and how they are all INTERCONNECTED, than it does with resolution and grain and noise and jargon.
RED rules, so does 8mm, so does video shot with a cell phone…. these are all tools for the artisan to use to tell his story. They all serve a purpose.
last film I worked on… (2 weeks ago)
director was hellbent on RED… HAD to be RED….. HAD!! to be 4K! Producers too! HAD to be 4K!
none of these people gave the slightest attention to the fact that the sets were poorly designed, the locations were horrible, props looked beyond fake, the acting was tragically melodramatic, there were plot holes, the overall film reeked of bad indie filmmaking.
They hired a DP that would tinker with big silks and lights and flags… he and his lil army of gaffer grips…. tinkering, toying, for hours… none of them noticing that the location was sh*t… the art direction was sh*t…. its like they were all stuck in lighting for the stage mode… and thats what the film turned out to look like, very bad theater.
just an observation.
Jacob, how big was the budget?