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Gregg MacPherson

Film vs Digital. Impact on Art, Culture, Experience.

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Hello, I just finished shooting a film on super16 with a arri sr2. It was great fun but REALLY hard work. The camera chewed some footage, but we got past that. We didn't have a monitor or anything .......Here is a film I just finished, ... I filmed on a 5DMK2 with Zeiss CP2 primes. https://vimeo.com/55944380

 

Post 10

 

Hey Will,

 

I just watched your film. Can I just talk about that as a film, without reference to the medium? It begins in a really interesting way, but the title typeface is completely misleading to me. The emotional tone established with the voice over (what I thought was going to be a voice over) felt mature, like this was going to be a really perceptive piece. When it's revealed as a spoken monologue, it became something else. Am I watching a play? I actually held up pieces of paper to the screen to mask selected parts of the image to crudely de-literalize what I was seeing. You are not alone or an isolated case with the approach you have taken. Some might even say you are less literal or obvious than most. The spoken monologue, being a bit overt, may be perceived as something a bit unusual, or cool.

 

If the film has a core idea, were the potential elements of that idea brought out? My pet thought is that most ideas are undeveloped. And there is some kind of weird attachment to the literal in modern emergent film making. Meaning. as an illustration, that if I hear the word "orange" I am either looking at the lips that said that word, or I'm looking at an orange. Theorists / film makers were breaking these boundaries early in the 20th century in a very definitive way. Well, sans a real education, I can say that at least Eisenstein was. So are we going backwards, as a film culture?

 

Thinking about the differences, hands on, working with 16mm vs the digital media that you are used to.

The film jam nightmare is an unusual thing. One would normally just get another camera (or another AC or loader). Ignoring that. What do you feel made the job harder? Genuinely curious to know. The video tap is not necessarily an asset on a lean shoot. Unless you are shooting without your eye on the finder you don't really need one. If you are less experienced with film or are trying new things, then you can schedule tests to see what things look like. Having the sense of direct connection to the image through the viewfinder is a pretty amazing thing. You don't have that with digital, unless you accept the pixel array as a "real" image of course (smile)

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FFS aren't people tired of this debate already? ...........

 

What debate is that? Are you actually reading anything, or did you just drop in, read one post and shoot from the hip.

 

The thread was started by a wannabe pointy head, an idea that he hadn't seen opened up before at all. Then it was taken over by some gladiators who weren't that interested in the original idea. And there are some others floating around also who may not fit either description.

 

So exactly who or what are you directing your response to?

Who would know?

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Hello Gregg,

 

Thanks for your feedback on the film, its really appreciated.

 

The film was intended to look like a stage, so I'm glad that came across. As for the font, its supposed to bring out a very vague "Western" theme to the film, a small hint of it. It co-insides with the smartly dressed protagonist and his cool nature, the name of the film (sounding western to me) if you listen carefully to the sound at the begging of the film you may think that (before the location is revealed) the location could be some desolate, a desert perhaps. I wanted to trick the audience at the begging to think the film was going to be something different. I see it as a very modern take on a Western, ripples of a long gone time, but human nature has not changed.

 

 

And working with super16. I was dop on the film, and we had a lot of dolly/pans/focus pulls all in one. Which was the hardest thing I've ever done. I didn't have an assistant, or a grip, or a focus puller, so all me. When I was filming/doing these movements I needed to push my eye against the eyepiece to see the frame, which made it very hard, and we had to rehearse a lot. Also Its important to mention we only had 800ft to shoot a 7min film, so everything was one take, unless I knew I messed up. Most of the shots turned out great, despite the difficulty. I will probably find myself working with film again soon. The images are real. As a dop I find difficulty in achieving what I visualize with digital. Film is a lot closer to what I visualize (for obvious reasons).

I will post the film here when I get a copy. It wont be till mid jan.

 

Thanks again for your feedback.

 

Will.

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Post 10 Hey Will, I just watched your film. Can I just talk about that as a film, without reference to the medium? It begins in a really interesting way, but the title typeface is completely misleading to me. The emotional tone established with the voice over (what I thought was going to be a voice over) felt mature, like this was going to be a really perceptive piece. When it's revealed as a spoken monologue, it became something else. Am I watching a play? I actually held up pieces of paper to the screen to mask selected parts of the image to crudely de-literalize what I was seeing. You are not alone or an isolated case with the approach you have taken. Some might even say you are less literal or obvious than most. The spoken monologue, being a bit overt, may be perceived as something a bit unusual, or cool. If the film has a core idea, were the potential elements of that idea brought out? My pet thought is that most ideas are undeveloped. And there is some kind of weird attachment to the literal in modern emergent film making. Meaning. as an illustration, that if I hear the word "orange" I am either looking at the lips that said that word, or I'm looking at an orange. Theorists / film makers were breaking these boundaries early in the 20th century in a very definitive way. Well, sans a real education, I can say that at least Eisenstein was. So are we going backwards, as a film culture? Thinking about the differences, hands on, working with 16mm vs the digital media that you are used to. The film jam nightmare is an unusual thing. One would normally just get another camera (or another AC or loader). Ignoring that. What do you feel made the job harder? Genuinely curious to know. The video tap is not necessarily an asset on a lean shoot. Unless you are shooting without your eye on the finder you don't really need one. If you are less experienced with film or are trying new things, then you can schedule tests to see what things look like. Having the sense of direct connection to the image through the viewfinder is a pretty amazing thing. You don't have that with digital, unless you accept the pixel array as a "real" image of course (smile)

 

Hello Gregg,

 

Thanks for your feedback on the film, its really appreciated.

 

The film was intended to look like a stage, so I'm glad that came across. As for the font, its supposed to bring out a very vague "Western" theme to the film, a small hint of it. It co-insides with the smartly dressed protagonist and his cool nature, the name of the film (sounding western to me) if you listen carefully to the sound at the begging of the film you may think that (before the location is revealed) the location could be some desolate, a desert perhaps. I wanted to trick the audience at the begging to think the film was going to be something different. I see it as a very modern take on a Western, ripples of a long gone time, but human nature has not changed.

 

 

And working with super16. I was dop on the film, and we had a lot of dolly/pans/focus pulls all in one. Which was the hardest thing I've ever done. I didn't have an assistant, or a grip, or a focus puller, so all me. When I was filming/doing these movements I needed to push my eye against the eyepiece to see the frame, which made it very hard, and we had to rehearse a lot. Also Its important to mention we only had 800ft to shoot a 7min film, so everything was one take, unless I knew I messed up. Most of the shots turned out great, despite the difficulty. I will probably find myself working with film again soon. The images are real. As a dop I find difficulty in achieving what I visualize with digital. Film is a lot closer to what I visualize (for obvious reasons).

I will post the film here when I get a copy. It wont be till mid jan.

 

Thanks again for your feedback.

 

Will.

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The film was intended to look like a stage.....the font, its supposed to bring out a very vague "Western" theme to the film, a small hint of it. ..... I see it as a very modern take on a Western, ripples of a long gone time, but human nature has not changed.

 

And working with super16. I was dop on the film, and we had a lot of dolly/pans/focus pulls all in one. Which was the hardest thing I've ever done. I didn't have an assistant, or a grip, or a focus puller......we only had 800ft to shoot a 7min film, so everything was one take, .......

 

Just reading you and adding a couple more things (not watching it again so what I "saw" hasn't changed).

 

The actor giving the monologue had the feel of theatre, a play. I didn't so much feel that from the "set", the way the environment was treated. It's quite comon for short films to be cocooned by their physical environment. So I didn't feel that. I got the Western reference with the title, but when the monologue began the title suddenly seemed ironic, something less interesting than the very real sense of the voice (refering to the voice before the actor is seen speaking).

 

On your 16mm shoot you were doing too many jobs at once. Can't you get some help? Also, the cutting ratio is putting the result at risk, yes?

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I'm gradually getting a sense of your unique perspective. Power of car (vs horse)......power of film (vs digital) to evoke emotion......power of car (vs horse) to evoke emotion.

 

So a car evoking a more potent emotional responses than a horse? Perhaps we have already arived at that dystopian future I suggested on the Fvs D thread. A cyborg spouse will evoke a greater emotional response than a human one.

 

 

 

i just had the opportunity to see "the master" projected on film. it was so powerful i went back again the next night and saw it again... powerful race car indeed! even though "the master" was originated on 65mm, primarily, the first time i saw it, it was projected digitally. by comparison, the film projection was like a magic potion...

 

that said, does the average movie goer notice the difference, or care...? sadly, probably not.

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Just reading you and adding a couple more things (not watching it again so what I "saw" hasn't changed).

 

The actor giving the monologue had the feel of theatre, a play. I didn't so much feel that from the "set", the way the environment was treated. It's quite comon for short films to be cocooned by their physical environment. So I didn't feel that. I got the Western reference with the title, but when the monologue began the title suddenly seemed ironic, something less interesting than the very real sense of the voice (refering to the voice before the actor is seen speaking).

 

On your 16mm shoot you were doing too many jobs at once. Can't you get some help? Also, the cutting ratio is putting the result at risk, yes?

 

I was doing was to many jobs, to make matters work the director we had had NEVER directed before, I was the only one on set with onset experience, so I had to keep things moving a lot. It was a very stressful shoot. But I can look past this and defiantly see why people are so passionate about film. I only every take stills on film, as I fell digital is so easy to get carried away with.

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i just had the opportunity to see "the master" ...the first time i saw it, it was projected digitally. by comparison, the film projection was like a magic potion...

 

that said, does the average movie goer notice the difference, or care...? sadly, probably not.

 

I still feel Matthew's metaphors were backwards. Horse should represent film. Having the metaphor with effectively a switched polarity was maybe an intriguing start point for some creative writing but was misleading here.

 

The Master doesn't come to New Zealand till 17th Jan. I don't know if I will be able to see it on film. I think most big cinemas have converted (yes, like a negative religious reference - they lost faith).

 

I don't think very positively of There Will Be Blood as a thing qualifying the director. I found that a quite grinding, ugly character study. The Master, what I can see in the trailers, looks a wonderful idea and is wonderful looking.

 

Have you read those other post where I talk about the way digital is conditioning our style of seeing? This has been going on for a while with our computer screens, then TV screens. But the cinema is or was a more sacred experience for most people. Even at the most crude level, eating popcorn and enjoying the event as a social experience, we have had a style of seeing that has been cultured for about 100 years. Now almost gone.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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To address the OPs initial post; if you look at the evolution of film stocks through the years, there's always been a step towards films that are more sensitive and deliver more detail and more vibrant colors (usually anyway).

 

Digital is just an extension of that, and even though it organizes light differently you're still getting the same net effect. And, if you don't like the result, you can always transfer that footage to film without too much information loss.

 

I think the film-geek audience member will comment on it, but when the stuff was first being fiddled with back in the 80s, I didn't hear anyone decrying its use, nor seeing it as a huge step forward other than a slimming of the weight and gear needed to support the camera.

 

I don't see higher resolutions as being neccesarily a good thing. Some of my favorite shows are Brit dramas shot on 16mm imported here to the USA. I can't say that a faster or sharper film stock or digital cameras would have improved the image quality in terms of the feel the shot was conveying, but they might have cut down on production costs and given more visual detail to the TV audience.

 

Just my take.

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To address the OPs initial post;......

 

Post 11

I'm not really convinced you actually read that. (smiling)

 

The idea of the photons making lively interaction with the actors skin then arriving at your retina to make a similar interaction you? Made no impression? Isn't film something analogous to the retina? While digital is not? I think we as a society have a kind of cultured inability to register these ideas or to see the value in them.

 

The ultimate potential of a film emulsion may come close to having the photon as its basic image unit. So an incredible density of information is possible. While conscious objective perception uses only a fraction of the available information, we are subconsciously receptive to much more. All this information may play a part in our evolving sense of self and our ability to experience.

 

Pixels on a sensor are sometimes described as photon buckets or counters. If we look at a pixel on a "4K" S35 sized sensor with (pixel) area of 35 square microns. On a bright day in the shade (1000Lux) we have 3.3million photons per 1/60 second arriving at the pixel (1). This is just averaged. So whatever subtlety was expressed by the relative value and distribution of those photons.....is gone.

 

Yes, techos or geeks will speak up about it, also hopefully, artists, poets philosophers, film makers and hopefully some people identified with the main stream film industry.

 

(1) Warren Marrs, Photon Behaviour,

http://warrenmars.com/photography/technical/resolution/photons.htm

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Hey Gregg;

 

I read through your original post again, and what you're arguing is that there's an element of the physics of light that human beings are responsive to that is lost in the translation from captured image to retransmission to our eyes and brain, and that this somehow alters our moods.

 

That's true and a no brainer. That's part of what making film and video is all about. Artistically, and I mentioned this on another thread (which, I can't recall) I think you come to a point of deciding how much information you want to convey via a filter, gel, or stock to convey the feel of a shot.

 

But beyond that, I guess I'm just not sure it's an issue.

 

*EDIT*

When I see an old black and white silent film verse something like "Superman Returns" or "Thor", I don't think to myself that I wish those old films were shot in hi-def digital 3D. Oh sure, it would be curious to see, but you accept the technology for the time and that's that. The more advanced we get the more options we have to alter image for the sake of the story, but it doesn't strike me as being all that important as to whether you shoot on film or digitally. Whatever's more economical, or whatever feel you're trying to convey is ultimately what works.

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George,

 

I wrote a few posts following the first one that attempt to expand on the ideas and offer others. May be useful if you are interested.

 

To be clear, I think a vast amount of information is "lost in translation" (actually just plain lost) as soon as light arrives at a pixel.

 

It's true that conscious "seeing" is selective or conditioned and subconscious "seeing" with some value to art can be assumed for any media. But no, the implication that any media might offer the same degree of usefulness in this respect is wrong. Digital represents a crude simplification. This is one of my core ideas.

 

After 100 years of conditioning from seeing film we are at a point where the conditioning from seeing digital is taking over. The fact that people in the cinema may not see the difference is a tragic indicator.

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Hey Gregg

 

Thanks for the reply. I guess I should have just come out and ask you about your post. I'm not trying to start anything here, just for clarification, but do you honestly believe in this statement you made?

 

 

My contention is that this interaction between the photons and the material structure of the actor is changing the physicality of both photon and actor. I mean on an incredibly microscopic level. Further, some would contend, that the microscopic contains functional principals of the macroscopic. I'm thinking that each single microscopic interaction somehow encodes a snapshot of the macroscopic, at that moment.

 

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......do you honestly believe in this statement you made?

 

Post 12

 

There are two ideas there.

 

The first idea, that the "interaction between the photons and the material structure of the actor is changing the physicality of both photon and actor". I qualified that idea later in my Post 8. It's late and I'm tired so I'll quote that.

 

"The sequence of interactions that occur between photons and object then photons and eye or emulsion could be considered at a very fine level, down to the quantum mechanical level or beyond. This is an intuitive but fairly safe and useful descriptive idea. To be fair, when I go on to say or infer that the photons effectively carry encoded information on the quantum level from their interaction with the actor, that is a speculative notion of mine. While this is a direction I would like to explore, it may not be vital to my theme at the basic level."

 

The second idea, "that the microscopic contains functional principals of the macroscopic. I'm thinking that each single microscopic interaction somehow encodes a snapshot of the macroscopic, at that moment." Perhaps this is what you are asking about, whether I believe in the statement. Again this opens into two parts. The first part paraphrases a quite ancient principal that the microcosm is a contained expression of the macrocosm. I guess one could say this was part of my philosophy and I believe it, yes.

 

The next part is an intuitive extension. The idea that each interaction between a photon and the actors skin is an event that somehow encodes an expression of the macrocosm at that moment.in time. A very fascinating idea to me. I believe in it enough to explore the possibility.

 

Some of these ideas may seem esoteric or seem inaccessible without being a quantum physicist or Unified Field theorist. But the basic value of ideas in my original and subsequent posts can be taken without reference to that stuff.

 

Cheers,

Gregg

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