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35mm vs. Digital video


Benson Marks
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Yes. . and I was just attempting to add on that there is a problem with even beginning to classify films as merely a visual work, they are also temporal.

 

OK, I'll agree with you on that. I just thought you were going off the main subject of the last few posts which were arguing over where wikipedia's reference to realism was. So, anyway, can we please move back to the main subject now? I want answers, not arguments.

Edited by Benson Marks
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I am interested in making films that use realism as an artform. With this in mind, which of the two formats do you believe would be better for movies that use that kind of style?

 

I'm thinking digital, mainly because the sharp quality tends to show blemishes and wrinkles, which would be more like everyday life.

 

Whatever your opinion is, please post it. It would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

I'm still uncertain. You've used the words "art form" and "style". I think of those as a separable topic group from "format". "Format" works well as a subset within "art form" and "style", though. Is "format" what you want answers to? If so, wouldn't realism require the format that most replicates what and how the human eye sees? While video/digital is getting closer to the human eye, I'd hazard the statement that, overall, film still looks more like reality.

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I'm still uncertain. You've used the words "art form" and "style". I think of those as a separable topic group from "format". "Format" works well as a subset within "art form" and "style", though. Is "format" what you want answers to? If so, wouldn't realism require the format that most replicates what and how the human eye sees? While video/digital is getting closer to the human eye, I'd hazard the statement that, overall, film still looks more like reality.

 

When I was using the words "artform" and "style," I was talking about realism. When I was talking about "format," I was talking about the two camera mediums (35mm film and digital video). All I'm asking from you is which, ahem, "format" is better for that type of, ahem, "artform." Comprende?

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Again, you run into the problem of trying to define aesthetics/art to a set format. In truth, EITHER of them can produce "Realism," which in and of itself is a tricky term to properly define. None of us here, I don't think can adequately answer without you qualifying your question a lot more. What part of realism? As Paul points out, "While video/digital is getting closer to the human eye, I'd hazard the statement that, overall, film still looks more like reality." Which I would hazard to translate as "Video looks more real because of how it records the world and it's use in documentary, but film feels more real in terms of cinema [narrative] because of it's history."

Also, what do you mean by Digital video? MiniDV/HDV? HD? Digital Cinema?

What is your budget?

What is your intent on final delivery (theatrical/DVD?)

What is your length?

And most importantly, what do you think is right? Not in terms of realism, what format do you feel the script calls for within the realm of the budget?

A lot of this cinematography stuff, I feel, comes down to your gut. Take a step back from it all and just go over what the project is about-- for you-- and then try to decide how you feel it should go. Trust yourself as you are the only one who can state and then justify your artistic choices.

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Again, you run into the problem of trying to define aesthetics/art to a set format. In truth, EITHER of them can produce "Realism," which in and of itself is a tricky term to properly define. None of us here, I don't think can adequately answer without you qualifying your question a lot more. What part of realism? As Paul points out, "While video/digital is getting closer to the human eye, I'd hazard the statement that, overall, film still looks more like reality." Which I would hazard to translate as "Video looks more real because of how it records the world and it's use in documentary, but film feels more real in terms of cinema [narrative] because of it's history."

Also, what do you mean by Digital video? MiniDV/HDV? HD? Digital Cinema?

What is your budget?

What is your intent on final delivery (theatrical/DVD?)

What is your length?

And most importantly, what do you think is right? Not in terms of realism, what format do you feel the script calls for within the realm of the budget?

A lot of this cinematography stuff, I feel, comes down to your gut. Take a step back from it all and just go over what the project is about-- for you-- and then try to decide how you feel it should go. Trust yourself as you are the only one who can state and then justify your artistic choices.

 

What part of realism? I already told you it was visual arts, and if you still don't understand, I'm sorry, but I don't know what else to tell you.

 

Anyway, let me answer your other questions.

 

What do I mean by Digital Video? Anything that is digital videotape (MiniDV, HDV, etc.)

 

What is my budget? Oops, silly me. I'm planning on being a writer/director. I'm not even in the business yet. So right now, it's pointless. (But, mark my words, I will be in the business.)

 

What is my intent on final delivery? To the silver screen, thank you.

 

What is my length? Well, if it's going to be my first feature film, it's going to be a 90-minute movie.

 

And the question that is most important to you, What do I think is right? or, what format do I think the script calls for? I'm still working on the script, so to answer your big question, I don't know.

 

Have I made myself clear, now?

Edited by Benson Marks
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No, Benson, you haven't. By "What realism," one of course understand that it is going to deal with the visual aspects. But, even in that, there is a myriad of "realisms." Straight photography, for an example, is "real," or as they state specifically:

"In the broadest sense, realism in a work of art exists wherever something has been well observed and accurately depicted, even if the work as a whole does not strictly conform to the conditions of realism. For example, the proto-Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone brought a new realism to the art of painting by rendering physical space and volume far more convincingly than his Gothic predecessors."

The problem is in that whole "accurately depicted" as well as the "well observed." To be 100% realistic, either system will accurately depict anything which is well observed. The lens will create a mirror image of what is being photographed accurately (or as accurately as possible). But, if you just look at the two paintings on that wikipedia page dealing with Realism in the Visual Arts, do they look the same? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/comm...et_Gleaners.jpg and http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/t...hopper_1953.jpg

No.

But they are both examples of visual arts realism. If you can't understand that broad definitions such as "realism," "modernism," "baroque," et. al are really vaccuious terms for many different specific works which needs MORE qualification to be properly addressed, then I think you might be on an uphill battle to get a proper answer to this question.

I would seriously suggest you write the script first, then decide on formats. Though, if it's for the silver scree, you can discount anything but HD, Digital Cinema, and Film as they probably won't suite you too well once projected.

Also if you're a writer director, find a cinematographer and go through with them a book of paintings on realism and start to pick out individual paintings or looks from photography, or films, that you and s/he think are appropriate and from that you can really pair down what you're looking for. That really is all the advice I can give you, not much I know but I don't think anyone else can really give you anything further either.

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No, Benson, you haven't. By "What realism," one of course understand that it is going to deal with the visual aspects. But, even in that, there is a myriad of "realisms." Straight photography, for an example, is "real," or as they state specifically:

"In the broadest sense, realism in a work of art exists wherever something has been well observed and accurately depicted, even if the work as a whole does not strictly conform to the conditions of realism. For example, the proto-Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone brought a new realism to the art of painting by rendering physical space and volume far more convincingly than his Gothic predecessors."

The problem is in that whole "accurately depicted" as well as the "well observed." To be 100% realistic, either system will accurately depict anything which is well observed. The lens will create a mirror image of what is being photographed accurately (or as accurately as possible). But, if you just look at the two paintings on that wikipedia page dealing with Realism in the Visual Arts, do they look the same? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/comm...et_Gleaners.jpg and http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/t...hopper_1953.jpg

No.

But they are both examples of visual arts realism. If you can't understand that broad definitions such as "realism," "modernism," "baroque," et. al are really vaccuious terms for many different specific works which needs MORE qualification to be properly addressed, then I think you might be on an uphill battle to get a proper answer to this question.

I would seriously suggest you write the script first, then decide on formats. Though, if it's for the silver scree, you can discount anything but HD, Digital Cinema, and Film as they probably won't suite you too well once projected.

Also if you're a writer director, find a cinematographer and go through with them a book of paintings on realism and start to pick out individual paintings or looks from photography, or films, that you and s/he think are appropriate and from that you can really pair down what you're looking for. That really is all the advice I can give you, not much I know but I don't think anyone else can really give you anything further either.

 

Ahhh... Now I see what you guys are getting at. Good question. I really just know what the broadest terms of art are (like expressionism, realism, baroque, etc.). So, you're looking for the core of my artform. This is gonna be hard to explain, since I really know more about broader artforms than I do narrower ones. In all honesty, I don't know. And since I don't, all I can do is give you a definition of what I'm after, and even then, I'm not sure if it will make enough sense.

 

So here it is. I just want my movies to be so real that they literally seem to breathe life. Again, I don't know what kind of artform that is called. Is it Hyperrealism? Naturalism? Anybody out there who knows art better than I do?

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Hmm. . ok. . I'll take a stab here.

It will depend a lot on the movie per say and it will be a synthesis not only of the visual look but also the acting, and sound (sound is very important for that in fact). I would also say that a lot of how we experience "life," will relate to how other arts from the past have relayed that to us. Now, you take a film like Barry Lyndon, it's based on a lot of the paintings of the time, and because it's so faithful to them, I feel that it is "alive," for that period. Now, the reverse is also true, and again I'll use some Kubrick here, 2001 was based a lot on what futurists said the future would look like, and also on what we had seen in documentary footage of the space-race. That being the case, the visuals of that film seem "real," and "alive to me.

So, in essence, a great way of infusing that life for a start would be to look at documentary evidence (painting/photography/film) of whatever era/location/situation you are trying to get into (say war; look at WW1 and Civil war photographs, WW2, Vietnam photography, Korea all the way up to now, and see the "look" of war in terms of it's kinetic motion, speech patterns of soldiers (if applicable) gestures, looks, and also in how the cameraman/woman is using the camera (hand held mostly for WW2 for example-recreated well in Saving Private Ryan's "Normandy" Sequence)).

From there you can start to stylize a bit to give your film some emotional-visual motifs which help an audience to connect with the film, repetition of colors, or framing, or lighting, or what-have-you. This too will bring a film -visually- to life.

I would talk about sound here. . but I don't know enough on that, so;

Format:

the realism of what you want to do will in a lot of ways depend on the type of story you have at hand. Cloverfield is a very real look film, all hand-held, imperfect. It feels real despite the giant monster, and that style, they figured and I would agree, worked for that specific film (It wouldn't've worked for "Signs," though as an example). Cloverfield was shot, also on HD Video.

At the same time, many films-- most of them in fact-- feel "real" despite being shot on film. Casavette's work is a great example of this.

Now, what do most of these films have in common? Well, the lighting is there and the "cinematography," is there, but it looks "normal," to us. A lot of times, this may be an idealized normal, or an Aesthetic Normal (Children of Men), but it doesn't look lit. It doesn't look "framed." We don't find ourselves being destracted by what's going on with the camera-- that dark shadow here (a'la Film Nior) or there, this crazy glowing effect on x or y (Lord of the Rings, Galadriel for an example, Indiana Jone's and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the Russian Woman's closeups).

Now, for a case study; what if we had tried to have shot Cloverfield in the style of 2001; would it have worked? Or to keep it in 1 Director whose films I feel all feel realistic, would Barry Lyndon's style have worked for A Clockwork Orange, or Full Metal Jacket for Paths to Glory? The answer, I would think (though no one can know) would be a resounding no, yet all of the films exhibit similar tendencies: Great sound design for the environments and emotional states the characters are in, visuals which match those environments as culled from popular and factual understandings of the environment, pitch-proper acting (acting that suits the environment and character) and editing which serves the progression of time. Format, however, is not really in there as much (though I would think that you can get away with HD/Digital Cinema for a good deal of today's "Real" stories if you used lighting properly and protected for your highlights. Highlights are always an issue on digital systems, whereas film seems to see them more akin to how my eye sees. Of course, Focus, on digital video is closer to how my eye sees as opposed to film as the Depth of Field is deeper).

 

I hope this in some way helps and by all means feel free to keep asking away if I didn't help. I'll be up all night in an editing bay with a director and an editor. . .so I'm sure I'll be back on the boards.

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Okay. The industry has been trying to achieve some of what you are looking for. Various photography and projection tricks have been employed by film people. As well, the same quest exists with the electronic folks. Digital cameras are getting better and projectors/monitors are getting better.

 

But... they all have to pass through the filter of the human eye before getting to the brain. That's where all the tricks get averaged out. The way to achieve your goal may require a tap into the brain. The reason I mention this is because, sometimes, people in the arts want to replicate the interior experiences in and around lucid dreaming and similar perceptions. Neither film or digital can do this at present. Nor can they deliver a true replication of what the eye can see and perceive.

 

Within the limits of the exterior perceptive capabilities of the human eye, some tricks work better than others. Keep in mind that the human brain redefines the standards of reality so that no matter how impressive a trick may be at first glance, the brain quickly accommodates the trick and forgets about how impressive it is in favor of what it is more concerned about- the unfolding story or whatever the point to the presentation is.

 

In other words, the brain cares more about the content of the images than the context. Which is why a crummy, sub 1K print projected in a stinky theater is generally good enough for most viewers as long as the story is good.

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In other words, the brain cares more about the content of the images than the context. Which is why a crummy, sub 1K print projected in a stinky theater is generally good enough for most viewers as long as the story is good.

Damn Paul, all my typing and references and you say it much better than I could.

Story always comes first. And from it flows all the tricks.

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Alright, I think I've got a better description of the style I'm looking for. I just want the whole thing to look and seem completely realistic. The cinematography looks real. The acting looks real. The directing looks real. And after reading the last quotes from you two, The story should be real as well. That's what I meant by saying that my movies would look so real that they literally breathe life. Everything is being done in the most natural way possible. Does this make more sense?

Edited by Benson Marks
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Yep it does. For look on that; window light and lighting motivated by whats in the frame should help (just a lamp on at night should look just like a lamp on at night on your friend, for example). That's what i call "naturalistic," lighting, inasmuch as it's light as it naturally appears.

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Yep it does. For look on that; window light and lighting motivated by whats in the frame should help (just a lamp on at night should look just like a lamp on at night on your friend, for example). That's what i call "naturalistic," lighting, inasmuch as it's light as it naturally appears.

 

Ah ha! So the style I'm after is naturalism. In that case, the question is now which of those same two formats (digital videotape vs. 35mm) are better for movies that are highly naturalistic.

 

Good work, Adrian! :)

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Either or again. Naturalism will come through in the lighting. As my dad once said to me (himself a lighting director for 30 yrs) the camera is just a holder for the film. This was before digital god big, so in today's term's, my saying, "the camera is just a holder for the imaging medium." It's the lighting (or when/how you un-light/don't light) that you do on locations that will create the natural feel.

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Ah ha! So the style I'm after is naturalism. In that case, the question is now which of those same two formats (digital videotape vs. 35mm) are better for movies that are highly naturalistic.

 

Good work, Adrian! :)

 

Oh man, I can't believe I'm doing this! I hate to bring people back to being stumped again, but after thinking about naturalism again, I just don't think that's what I was asking for (I knew being a slow-thinker was a weakness of mine.). So now that it's back to the drawing board again (and unexpectedly, too.), I think we should look at what I was after again so that we can figure out what I'm after.

 

Everything should be realistic. The cinematography should appear real. The acting should look real. All the directing skills should make the movie appear real. For goodness sakes, even the story should seem real.

 

I think I went the wrong way when I said in previous posts that everything should be done in the most natural way possible, when I should've said that everything should be done in the most realistic way possible. That must be what screwed me up (and, unfortunately, everybody else, too.) on this whole realism style I was looking for.

 

Now, I have to go to something else right now because this is depressing me.

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No need to depressed. Hell Philosophers spend lives trying to figure out what things mean (Heidegger comes to mind).

If you want to see a film with a lot of realism in it, look at 2001. All the mechanical aspects of space are about as realistic as they come. . .

For "real" acting.. I dunno exactly where to look for that, maybe something like. . . I can't even think of one right now.

For "real" cinematography. . . well, that can mean a lot a lot of things, as discussed. I think we might all need some film references here to get onto the same page; things you consider "real," in a cinematic sense. I would say, though, maybe watch a lot of documentary for this as that's come to be associated with filming the "real," if that makes any sense.

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Film studies are generally film specific, as opposed to director specific. It's best, generally, to focus on singular films as opposed to the corpus. I mean, do all Spielberg films look alike? Some look similar, but even in a trilogy, such as Indiana Jones--the original 3-- there are variations of how it looks.

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You know what, Adrian? I've been thinking about this whole realism front and after reading your quote, I think whatever realism there is doesn't really matter. After all, if Spielberg's films don't look the same, should all my movies look the same too?

 

I think it would be good to sum it up this way. I think any and all realism styles are what I'm after, so any of them will work. I don't know about whether that should be taken as a valid conclusion, but I'm thinking, hey, just pick realism and put it in whatever style you want. I think that's what art was meant to be.

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That's a very valid thing to say, of course. And, in the end, no all films shouldn't look a like; it would get boring. I am of the belief that you always arrive at the style via a simple formula; ((what the script deserves-what production can afford)^(personal ingenuity))+luck=final style.

meaning, you start from how you think the particular script/scene/shot should look, subtract from that what production can afford (e.g. . no helicopter shot for a sweeping vista), then you raise that up by your own ingenuity and resourcefulness-- ok, no chopper, well we're shooting on minidv let's say, how bout we try to strap a throw-away camera on an RC plan, and then you add the luck of it not falling off!

As you go along you and your tastes and style will evolve and you'll always be reassessing yourself and your choices. I can say I've never shot a film I am really happy with, that translated exactly from my mind to the screen and I probably never will. Maybe that's lack of talent, self-honesty, or just being "too hard," (Thankfully directors/producers are happy with what I shot!) but I see it personally as a method for my own growth; that each time I try to do something better and new to me, which fits--- so i feel--- for that shot/sequence/film

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Benson,

 

I think your pursuit for movies that are real and or natural is valid and admirable. Keep in mind that the larger body of viewers go to movies to get away from reality. Movies provide essential services to the public. They give us experiences that are not available to us in ordinary life. We need those experiences to some degree. Principle among these experiences is emotional catharsis (investment: tension: resolve). One of the reasons movies lean in favor of slight fantasy instead of utter realism is that catharsis is far easier to achieve through fantasy. Reality (life) is usually devoid of catharsis, dynamism or resolve. Reality (life) is rather more of an endless supply of ordinariness and seamless ambiguity.

 

I'm not saying this to steer you away from realism or naturalism. Only, to help you understand what's already going on out there in movie land.

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I don't know if I can add anything of value to this conversation, Adrian and Paul have already listed all the films I would have used as examples - Cloverfield, Children of Men, Saving Private Ryan, etc.

 

To a certain extent the originating format has little to do with depicting 'realism'. It may add a certain quality to the story telling to make it "feel" more real - HD in Cloverfield, 16mm in American Grafitti 2 or Tigerland, but overall you could depict 'realism' using any format. The Dark Knight and Lord of the Rings are both comic/fantasy films shot using IMAX, Anamorphic and Super35 respectively, but they were both made to feel real to the audience - despite the fantastic nature of the story and characters, the originating format of either didn't really play into that depiction, it being more to do with other factors - the characters, action, lighting, production design, sound, etc. Blade Runner is also probably a good example of a scifi-fantasy film made to feel real by utilizing clever production design and lighting.

 

Shooting in real locations, using existing lights, not using fancy camera moves might help give you some of that realism that your looking for. But being able to find the artistic side of that is going to come how you compose the frame, where you place the camera and how you move it.

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