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"The cinematographer of Knives Out wants to end the film-vs.-digital debate”


Alex Anstey
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3 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Big name DPs are courted, wined & dined, given access to prototype cameras, given input into R&D, and all kinds of flattery, but they are not paid.

Directors too. If you’re David Fincher or Michael Bay, you may even get a highly customized personal camera or two as well. ARRI basically made the Alexa Studio based at least in part on Roger’s personal request. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

Everyone else got to use an Alexa with an optical viewfinder because of Roger. IMAX film cameras got tuned up and put back into rental circulation because of Chris Nolan. Ultra Panavision lenses are back in the rental catalogue because of Robert Richardson. These are all good things and open up options for a lot more filmmakers that would not have existed otherwise.

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5 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

Will digital be able to ‘beat’ film? Yes. People are looking at digital like it’s a medium, it’s not. It’s just a series of switches that are getting smaller and smaller and faster and faster. People seem to look at digital in a way that it lacks art. It doesn’t look ‘good’. Well that’s entirely the persons fault. Unlike film which is a negative that has been designed by someone else a digital file entirely comprised of 1’s and 0’s that are entirely up to your interpretation to present in whatever form you wish. Nowadays the 1 and the 0 can be the same at the same time. Yet people still feel like they are stuck with a ‘bad’ digital image. The truth is we are just all too lazy to learn how to fix it. 

There's a popular misconception that video (especially if not debayered in camera) somehow stores 'raw info' about the scene and can be color graded to any palette and tonality while a negative image somehow has a color palette 'baked in'. Actually, it's rather the other way around. 

Film's main properties - sensitivity, contrast, grain structure (grain size statistics & edge effects) - can all be manipulated with exposure, latensification techniques and development. On top of that you still have color correction - printer lights and digital grading. 

A video camera sensor is stuck with a specific sensor's photodiode signal-to-light curve. You can't even vary the analog gain and pre-knee on most D-cinema cameras. And the digital stream coming out of your camera's ADCs isn't somehow more 'correctable' than a scan. The noise floor is usually lower, but other than that it's technically the same. If two hues can't be distinguished due to the deficiencies of the sensor's color filtering, not only color information, but also detail is lost: say, if two non-metameric reddish skin tones (the 'blood vessel hue') are filtered into the same R:G:B ratio, you could get visibly paler cheeks on a portrait. No way can you 'fix' it in a color room.

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10 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

Without evidence or proof your basically talking out of your arse.

Oh no doubt Arri has helped Deakins a lot. He's paid to travel the world and talk about their cameras. Whether he is on salary or not, I don't think so, but he is for sure a spokesperson. 

10 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

Yet people still feel like they are stuck with a ‘bad’ digital image. The truth is we are just all too lazy to learn how to fix it. 

You mean they're too lazy to make it look like film. Because that's basically what people do. They work SUPER HARD to make digital look like film. 

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5 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

These are all good things and open up options for a lot more filmmakers that would not have existed otherwise.

Oh couldn't agree more. Directors and DP's have pushed the technology forward for generations. 

If you look at Jean-Pierre Beauviala and his entire business model. It was basically developing cameras that filmmakers wanted/needed, many of which never hit the retail market, but were available for rental of course. 

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On 8/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, Robin R Probyn said:

So you are publicly saying that Roger Deakins is getting paid by Arri, to sing the praises of Arri cameras .. rather than it being his own personal preference to shoot Arri digitally ..

He was already a brand ambassador prior to his switch to digital. He was being wined and dined by Arri for years. 

Sony and Red do the same thing, DP's who are attracted to their cameras for whatever reason, they try to retain as much as possible. 

You'd think in 2020 there would be another camera made that these DP's would want to try? 

On 8/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, Robin R Probyn said:

 film is dying because the big dogs are all on payola ...  wow thats clutching at straws ..

I don't know how many times I have to say this, film died in 2013... it flatlined. It's been resuscitated and the people who use film for a living, have seen a precipitous increase in the amount of use. You can sit there and argue all you want, you don't work in the film industry, so you don't know. 

I just shot an international ad campaign on 16mm, no digital. 

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6 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

However, I don't think you can assign responsibility for the continued use of film to a few big name directors and DPs. It's not their job to try to influence market forces, and they are often beholden to the demands of producers, just as everyone else is.

Kodak would not be in business without the big projects, they would have closed years ago. They can't stay afloat making one sheet a month for small productions. They need those 65mm shows that shoot a million feet of film. They need all those 30 - 40 narratives that combined are 10's of millions of feet. They need people to make millions of feet of prints as well, that's very critical. The hobbyists, commercial and music video "artists" can't keep film alive, it would have DIED without the support of the top 5 filmmakers who are film devotee's like Nolan, Tarantino and Scorsese. Without them, we would not have motion picture film today, period. 

Quote

To use the Vinyl/CD analogy, Vinyl isn't still available because of the actions of big name artists, it's because of grassroots support from independent artists, record stores and DJs. If you want to film to endure, then the best thing you can do is keep using it.

Vinyl is inexpensive to manufacture and it's a consumer product, so where I love using the analogy with film and vinyl a lot, it is different due to the much lower cost to manufacture. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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Deakins was a very LATE converter to using digital, so what, does that means Kodak was paying him off through the 2000's and then when the Alexa came out, ARRI paid him more than Kodak???

Why not take Deakins at his word? I think he's earned that much respect -- and has shown to have fairly high standards.  Or maybe that's exactly the reason why some people feel the need to question his motivations, because for some bizarre reason, they can't accept that he actually likes what he gets with the Alexa?

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The Alexa is great, film is great. They can look similar, they can look different. 
 

When I can’t afford film, I choose Alexa. 
 

I think the medium choice is different enough to warrant discussion. 
 

I think what Steve does is interesting, if you’re Steve. I don’t really want to make digital look like film. 
 

Choose the medium that works for you. 

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2 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Why not take Deakins at his word? I think he's earned that much respect -- and has shown to have fairly high standards.  Or maybe that's exactly the reason why some people feel the need to question his motivations, because for some bizarre reason, they can't accept that he actually likes what he gets with the Alexa?

Most cinematographers don't have relationships with a particular manufacturer in the way Deakins has. Can you name another cinematographer in the modern age that hasn't even shot a commercial on a different camera package? Deakins didn't even want to use the Arricam's when they came out, he likes a big camera, with an extension viewfinder and a geared head. That's just the way he likes to work and a lot of people find it odd, but reality is, if it works, why change it? 

I don't question his motives, I just question how he throws film under the bus, in a world that so many new movies are being shot on film and don't have anywhere near the issues he has. It's sad because he's such an expert on the subject and really refuses to talk about his life on film, I think that's what sets people off. 

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Since 2011, I've only shot on ARRI cameras, either Alexas or Arricams -- and ARRI doesn't wine and dine me.

There are hundreds of cinematographers who regularly use ARRI equipment either as renters or owner/operators, most simply aren't as famous as Deakins. If he wants to have a negative opinion about working with film, or a more positive one about working with digital, that's his prerogative...  Ultimately he would probably say that the whole technology issue is relatively unimportant compared to the bigger artistic issues of making movies.

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3 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Since 2011, I've only shot on ARRI cameras, either Alexas or Arricams -- and ARRI doesn't wine and dine me.

There are hundreds of cinematographers who regularly use ARRI equipment either as renters or owner/operators, most simply aren't as famous as Deakins. If he wants to have a negative opinion about working with film, or a more positive one about working with digital, that's his prerogative...  Ultimately he would probably say that the whole technology issue is relatively unimportant compared to the bigger artistic issues of making movies.

Correct .. and Tyler san , if you listen to his pod cast with Joel Coen ,and  Linus Sandgren FSF ASC..he talks about this very subject, .. he has positive and negative things to say about film and digital ..   and most importantly he says, as always .. the camera work always serves the story ,not the other way round ..because thats actually the job of a DoP  ..  did your "international" ad campaign need to be shot in 16mm , what if that wasn't the look ..what if there was none in your fridge but only beer like a videographer , what if Alexa 65 was a better choice ..or IMAX..  how come every director you work with is always happy with 16mm ... something's not adding up.. something is fishy here ..   I think you are on Kodaks payroll ! , nothing you say can be taken seriously, you have let down all the film fans with your dishonesty . shame on you sir .. .. we cant trust Roger Deakins.. BSC ASC.  and now.. Tyler Purcell  exposed. .. the greats have feet of clay ..paper gods ! who will the young guns look up to anymore ..  videographers will rise to the challenge .. we are no ones puppet .. better to shoot Digital on your feet than Film on your knees ..  camera (Digital as its better and cheaper ) dollies through mist and rumble .. a distant bugle sounds .. a back lit red flag enters frame and  snaps in the wind ..(thanks Vittorio ).. we reveal the barricades .. young chiseled videographers  face the enemy .. too young to be at war .. to have seen things no one should ever have to see.. too proud to bow before the forces of Babylon ..  each, an Fx9 clutched to their breast .. crane up .. a city in ruin but there is hope , yes there is hope .. ..  fade to black..  silence ... 

Edited by Robin R Probyn
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I, for one enjoy Tyler's contribution in here and it just would not be the same without him.....I don't always agree...sometimes I'm aghast (good word) and that's fine.....I like all the characters that rise above the flatlining in here....makes the place fun and entertaining and......with the truly top tier people with real IMDB profiles in here....extremely helpful and informative.....

 

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10 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Kodak would not be in business without the big projects, they would have closed years ago. They can't stay afloat making one sheet a month for small productions. They need those 65mm shows that shoot a million feet of film. They need all those 30 - 40 narratives that combined are 10's of millions of feet. They need people to make millions of feet of prints as well, that's very critical. The hobbyists, commercial and music video "artists" can't keep film alive, it would have DIED without the support of the top 5 filmmakers who are film devotee's like Nolan, Tarantino and Scorsese. Without them, we would not have motion picture film today, period. 

Vinyl is inexpensive to manufacture and it's a consumer product, so where I love using the analogy with film and vinyl a lot, it is different due to the much lower cost to manufacture. 

exactly my point.......people like me....nobodies.....cant keep film alive......I have my freezer full but that's not enough......it IS up to the big guns to choose and shoot film and keep it as an artistic option......thats the whole point of me opening my mouth about it in here....proof being Nolan, Scorcese, Spielberg et al got the studios together or whatever they did, signed deals, and kept it alive.......not me....them.....and thanks to them the youth have become enamoured with film!!!! call them what you want....the hipsters...whatever......thank you all too.....YouTube is saturated with all these people trying out 35mm and medium format and large format film.........I can STILL shoot my beautiful 16mm stock for commissions and personal projects cos I can buy it.....and I can still shoot my beautiful BW, colour negative and slide film for my photography commissions and personal projects.....

Edited by Stephen Perera
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11 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Kodak would not be in business without the big projects, they would have closed years ago. They can't stay afloat making one sheet a month for small productions. They need those 65mm shows that shoot a million feet of film. They need all those 30 - 40 narratives that combined are 10's of millions of feet. They need people to make millions of feet of prints as well, that's very critical. The hobbyists, commercial and music video "artists" can't keep film alive, it would have DIED without the support of the top 5 filmmakers who are film devotee's like Nolan, Tarantino and Scorsese. Without them, we would not have motion picture film today, period. 

 

You missed my point entirely, but whatever.

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13 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Ultimately he would probably say that the whole technology issue is relatively unimportant compared to the bigger artistic issues of making movies.

Yep, that is accurate. There is also no doubt digital solved a lot of his personal issues with consistency and insuring you have the shot before moving on to the next. 

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10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Correct .. and Tyler san , if you listen to his pod cast with Joel Coen ,and  Linus Sandgren FSF ASC..he talks about this very subject, .. he has positive and negative things to say about film and digital ..

I'll have to check it out, but I have heard him discuss these things quite a bit and it's always the same stuff. I don't blame him for thinking the way he thinks what so ever. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

and most importantly he says, as always .. the camera work always serves the story ,not the other way round ..because thats actually the job of a DoP  ..  

Yes and the way low budget works with film vs the big shows is very different. On the bigger shows, there is really NO difference on set when shooting film vs digital outside of a DIT. They have HD tap's, with high resolution monitors, they have replay, they have a video village, the whole 9 yards. On smaller shows, the difference is more dramatic. If we have a monitor at all, it's a 5" and it looks like shit.  The key crew trust the person looking through the lens emphatically and stay close to them, rather than being huddled around a monitor 20 feet away from the action. Remember, I also shoot digital and the #1 thing I hate about it, is the over-perfectionism that comes from it. People nitpick a frame for way too much, they tweak the background for way too long, they replay takes for way too long, all of it slows down production and does not make a better show in the long run. I'm tired of the democratic process happening moments before and after the camera is running, rather than months and weeks before. Our job is to spend weeks or months preparing and all we're doing on set is capturing what we prepared. When I work on film, things go MUCH faster on set, that is the #1 reason I like it so much. "We got 50ft left" and the director says; "Ok lets move on" instead of "keep rolling" like digital. Everyone I've worked with feels the same way, they MISS working on film when they're on a digital show because people are so less nitpicky on a film show because there is no way to really see the image until it's processed. So they know they've just gotta do their best and move on. Plus since I cut a lot of what I shoot, I hate having dozens of 15 minute takes for a 2 minute scene. The director saying "keep rolling" after a great take so they can maybe get something else, but after another 12 minutes finally gives up. Well ya know what, that's 12 minutes we now don't have to prep the next scene and probably an hour worth of post time nobody is going to get back as they watch through that extra material. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

did your "international" ad campaign need to be shot in 16mm , what if that wasn't the look .

They wanted a old school Kodachrome look and the director only shoots film, period. In fact, she was the one doing the stills for the campaign and shot with a Mamiya RZ67, no digital back. For the client, she had a digital still camera that she popped some shots off so there could be a reference, but it was all very quick and the final images for the campaign will come from the medium format film camera and the 16mm movie camera. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

.what if there was none in your fridge but only beer like a videographer , 

A world without film is not what we're talking about tho, that will never happen in our lifetime unless there is a permanent dramatic change in our economy and the entire film industry dies. 

For the record, I shoot digital all the time, but I don't own any professional digital cameras anymore ( I don't consider the Blackmagic cameras professional). Owning a $30k + digital package is financial suicide these days, especially with the resolution game. So many of my friends who invested, thinking they'd be inundated with work, are literally sitting on their cameras wondering what to do with them now that the prices have dropped. They can't sell them because they'll loose money and clients are wanting > 4k resolution and as we all know, the Alexa's in that price range are 3.2k or less and very few cameras can even get close to competing. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

 how come every director you work with is always happy with 16mm ...

Because it doesn't look like digital. It's that simple. Doesn't matter what film we shoot on, the client wants that grainy and dirty look. I've been asked to ADD NOISE AND DIRT to my 16mm shows before because they're so damn clean. We've recorded finished products to film, had the client scratch the living crap out of it, clean it and then re-scan it as the "final" piece. Why? Because it doesn't look like digital and they want that aesthetic. I really would love to show you samples, but alas after post, I disconnect with shows and rarely know where they go. Sometimes it takes years before I get to see them again. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

better to shoot Digital on your feet than Film on your knees ..  

I will gladly shoot film on my knees, just to insure it doesn't look like everyone else's product. 

10 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

 (Digital as its better and cheaper )

Says the guy who shoots TV and industrial films. 

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14 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

. .. the greats have feet of clay ..paper gods ! who will the young guns look up to anymore ..  videographers will rise to the challenge .. we are no ones puppet .. better to shoot Digital on your feet than Film on your knees ..  camera (Digital as its better and cheaper ) dollies through mist and rumble .. a distant bugle sounds .. a back lit red flag enters frame and  snaps in the wind ..(thanks Vittorio ).. we reveal the barricades .. young chiseled videographers  face the enemy .. too young to be at war .. to have seen things no one should ever have to see.. too proud to bow before the forces of Babylon ..  each, an Fx9 clutched to their breast .. crane up .. a city in ruin but there is hope , yes there is hope .. ..  fade to black..  silence ... 

Robin, I’d nominate you for a Pulitzer or maybe a Hugo, but alas too many elipses!

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6 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I'll have to check it out, but I have heard him discuss these things quite a bit and it's always the same stuff. I don't blame him for thinking the way he thinks what so ever. 

Yes and the way low budget works with film vs the big shows is very different. On the bigger shows, there is really NO difference on set when shooting film vs digital outside of a DIT. They have HD tap's, with high resolution monitors, they have replay, they have a video village, the whole 9 yards. On smaller shows, the difference is more dramatic. If we have a monitor at all, it's a 5" and it looks like poop.  The key crew trust the person looking through the lens emphatically and stay close to them, rather than being huddled around a monitor 20 feet away from the action. Remember, I also shoot digital and the #1 thing I hate about it, is the over-perfectionism that comes from it. People nitpick a frame for way too much, they tweak the background for way too long, they replay takes for way too long, all of it slows down production and does not make a better show in the long run. I'm tired of the democratic process happening moments before and after the camera is running, rather than months and weeks before. Our job is to spend weeks or months preparing and all we're doing on set is capturing what we prepared. When I work on film, things go MUCH faster on set, that is the #1 reason I like it so much. "We got 50ft left" and the director says; "Ok lets move on" instead of "keep rolling" like digital. Everyone I've worked with feels the same way, they MISS working on film when they're on a digital show because people are so less nitpicky on a film show because there is no way to really see the image until it's processed. So they know they've just gotta do their best and move on. Plus since I cut a lot of what I shoot, I hate having dozens of 15 minute takes for a 2 minute scene. The director saying "keep rolling" after a great take so they can maybe get something else, but after another 12 minutes finally gives up. Well ya know what, that's 12 minutes we now don't have to prep the next scene and probably an hour worth of post time nobody is going to get back as they watch through that extra material. 

They wanted a old school Kodachrome look and the director only shoots film, period. In fact, she was the one doing the stills for the campaign and shot with a Mamiya RZ67, no digital back. For the client, she had a digital still camera that she popped some shots off so there could be a reference, but it was all very quick and the final images for the campaign will come from the medium format film camera and the 16mm movie camera. 

A world without film is not what we're talking about tho, that will never happen in our lifetime unless there is a permanent dramatic change in our economy and the entire film industry dies. 

For the record, I shoot digital all the time, but I don't own any professional digital cameras anymore ( I don't consider the Blackmagic cameras professional). Owning a $30k + digital package is financial suicide these days, especially with the resolution game. So many of my friends who invested, thinking they'd be inundated with work, are literally sitting on their cameras wondering what to do with them now that the prices have dropped. They can't sell them because they'll loose money and clients are wanting > 4k resolution and as we all know, the Alexa's in that price range are 3.2k or less and very few cameras can even get close to competing. 

Because it doesn't look like digital. It's that simple. Doesn't matter what film we shoot on, the client wants that grainy and dirty look. I've been asked to ADD NOISE AND DIRT to my 16mm shows before because they're so damn clean. We've recorded finished products to film, had the client scratch the living crap out of it, clean it and then re-scan it as the "final" piece. Why? Because it doesn't look like digital and they want that aesthetic. I really would love to show you samples, but alas after post, I disconnect with shows and rarely know where they go. Sometimes it takes years before I get to see them again. 

I will gladly shoot film on my knees, just to insure it doesn't look like everyone else's product. 

Says the guy who shoots TV and industrial films. 

"Says the guy who shoots TV and industrial films. "  

Industral films !... no no no..they are very important "Corporate Communications films " galvanizing the workers to move ever higher in their endeavors .. 

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2 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Robin, I’d nominate you for a Pulitzer or maybe a Hugo, but alas too many elipses!

Im embracing flaws and imperfections sir..  its the written form of Kintsugi. ... Ive been studying ... with a master .. in the mountains ..  around Kyoto... 

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