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Edward Butt

Will digital ever be as good as film

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Great discussion....lots of old points but some new observations since the last time this came up.

 

I agree that there are some amazing digitally-acquired images being created these days---I just got off a big Alexa job and was stunned at what the camera was delivering for many of the shots.

 

But at the same time, I still have experiences like seeing Inside Llewyn Davis, where I find it hard to believe that any digital camera could have created the same visual experience. It was easily one of the best-shot films I've seen projected in a long time. For some reason, everything that a film negative brings to an image came shining through in that project. Delbonnel really took advantage of everything the negative had to offer. Even after appreciating some fantastic digitally-acquired stuff, projects like that remind me why film still has a place in modern cinema and I hope the hype factor does not push it out too quickly. If it does, we will be missing out.

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If you are talking about the way the picture looks and the dynamic range I don't think a digital camera will ever look exactly like film. However in post software may be able to make the two indestinguishable.

Edited by Sam C Roberts

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This is somewhat off-topic, but - could anyone with the experience/insider knowledge/local oracle offer an opinion on the long-term health of film as a viable option for capture medium in professional productions, or in general?

 

At this point, I've no issue with the quality of digital. My concern is that it will end up as the only thing available. Oil paints and watercolours didn't need to die for Photoshop to thrive, and I just have an easier time with them.

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The problem is - though I agree completely in principle - that the process for making oil paints and watercolours is comparatively trivial.

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Kinda bringing this thread back from the dead, but in my eyes, there's just no comparison. I love digital, it can look insanely good & gorgeous (Hugo, Drive, The Social Network, Life Of Pi, The Hobbit movies, etc, etc) but I love film more (at least 35 mm), no matter what plugin you use, it will never look like film although Filmconvert does a nice job, there's just this beautiful texture, emulsion, the colors imo are clearly better, it feels like magic. I look at movies lately like Mud, Man Of Steel, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Out Of The Furnace, etc, could you capture them as beautifully on digital? No way in hell.

 

Digital imo (once again) has no soul, film can be felt if that makes sense, it comes alive, I was just watching a trailer of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (in Pro Res quality) and it's just so beautiful, TASM on the Epic looked fantastic, sharp as hell, perfect definition, but here, the colors pop, the imperfections in the image are charming, the grain, real grain.

 

Another great one on film: Moneyball, shot by Wally Pfister, a masterclass, that scene from the opening with Brad Pitt sitting on the bleachers in the stadium, in the shadows, with those inky blacks, that light texture, just oh my god.

Edited by Manu Delpech
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Kinda bringing this thread back from the dead, but in my eyes, there's just no comparison. I love digital, it can look insanely good & gorgeous (Hugo, Drive, The Social Network, Life Of Pi, The Hobbit movies, etc, etc) but I love film more (at least 35 mm), no matter what plugin you use, it will never look like film although Filmconvert does a nice job, there's just this beautiful texture, emulsion, the colors imo are clearly better, it feels like magic. I look at movies lately like Mud, Man Of Steel, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Out Of The Furnace, etc, could you capture them as beautifully on digital? No way in hell.

 

Just a matter of my humble opinion, but while Drive looked utterly fantastic, the Hobbit movies aren't very impressive at all. On the other hand, Mud and Walter Mitty were awesome, while Man of Steel was graded so aggressively it might as well have been shot digitally.

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Man of Steel was graded so aggressively it might as well have been shot digitally.

It was graded that way because the filmmakers wanted the colors to be very muted. It wouldn't have achieved the same effect had they kept the colors normal looking or over saturated them. You can still tell it's film by the grain and of course the lack of clipping in the highlights as per usual.

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Yeah, I don't see the problem with the grading in MOS, it's a style, it's got many breathtaking moments (Clark floating in the ocean with the whales, the whole sequence from Clark's rescue of the bus to Pa Kent showing young Clark the ship he arrived in, in the barnyard, etc, etc). The texture is beautiful.

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Yeah, I don't see the problem with the grading in MOS, it's a style, it's got many breathtaking moments (Clark floating in the ocean with the whales, the whole sequence from Clark's rescue of the bus to Pa Kent showing young Clark the ship he arrived in, in the barnyard, etc, etc). The texture is beautiful.

I wholeheartedly agree, and not just because it's a superhero movie and I just so happen to love superhero movies (and hope to one day direct one if I'm lucky) but because Zack Snyder and Amir Mokri and co. did something DIFFERENT with the visual look of this film. As far as I can remember, this is the first ENTIRELY handheld superhero film (not counting green screen and maybe a handful of crane shots) Mokri also chose to shoot with one stock (IMDB lists the film as having used Vision3 5219) and mostly with a 100mm lens (which considering it was anamorphic is more like a spherical 50mm)

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You can still tell it's film by the grain and of course the lack of clipping in the highlights as per usual.

Sorry, but clipping of highlights is exactly the problem. Not in most scenes, but in enough to make it annoying. Again, it's just my taste, but while the whole uber-contrasty-desaturated Zack Snyder look is meant to say "this movie is dark and serious", it really says "I'm trying too hard".

 

http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/screenshot.php?movieid=51265&position=18

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It really says nothing but what you yourself are reading into it.

Of course, there are very subtle grades and very noticeable grades, and Man of Steel is the latter. If you're going to grade something that boldly but in the end it says nothing at all, doesn't that defeat the purpose?

 

How is it trying too hard?

I see no problem with any given use of this technique, but in this case it's overcompensating to enforce the mood because the writing never achieved it naturally.

Edited by Dan Dorland

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For me it's also "mechanical vs digital". There is a very tangible approach to shooting film that I don't get from shooting video. With film, I'm capturing light onto a physical object with a set of mechanical choices that I control. With a specific set of combinations, I create a moving picture one solid frame at a time ranging from very rapidly to very slowly. Mind you i have never shot digital with an industry grade camera like Alexa or RED, but when I do shoot video it does not resemble photography to me at all.

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I wonder if it's possible for Tim Tyler to create a an internet filter for this site that automatically drops a grand piano on the head of anyone that starts a thread entitled 'Film vs. Digital', or 'Is Film Dead?' or any variant on those themes. Doesn't have to be a grand piano, could be an anvil, or a pickup truck, anything really, as long as it's heavy enough to dissuade further discussion.

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I don't think that the one piano kills all approach is reasonable. Some usefull discussion might be possible under a title containg "film vs digital". But if the ideas contributed are repetitive and not particularly insightful or perceptive (and this decribes most of them) then it is quite wearing.

 

A human moderator is best. Using a kill filter is, what can one say, provoking the analogy of film vs digital. On the one hand (film), lively photons, dense with information that is actually challenging to understand, drape themselves variously over tiny elements in the film emulsion. On the other hand (digital), they arrive at a tiny bucket to be simply counted.

 

So the piano, anvil, truck idea is bad. All that's needed is to lift the quality of the conversation. Tim will do the rest.

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I wonder if it's possible for Tim Tyler to create a an internet filter for this site that automatically drops a grand piano on the head of anyone that starts a thread entitled 'Film vs. Digital', or 'Is Film Dead?'

Thumb up.

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Thumb up.

 

Hahaha, That's a bit mean. I know there have been many recent threads across the Internet, debating whether digital is as good as/better than film, but the purpose of my thread wasn't to pit digital and film against each other, but rather to discuss the ways in which digital technology is changing to emulate that filmic look we all love.

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Hahaha, That's a bit mean. I know there have been many recent threads across the Internet, debating whether digital is as good as/better than film, but the purpose of my thread wasn't to pit digital and film against each other, but rather to discuss the ways in which digital technology is changing to emulate that filmic look we all love.

No one should ever shoot digital to get a "film" look. If you like digital, shoot digital. If you like film, shoot film. That is it.

 

I shoot film because I like the look and, TBH, I like the workflow. The cameras are simpler to operate, the DR is such that I have a hard time making it look bad, and the nature of things pretty much requires that I keep a great colorist in the chain which ensures higher quality. If I shot digital, I would take a million takes of every scene, obsess over getting a "film look", and try to grade myself to save money and time.

 

No thanks, I'll keep shooting film as long as I can. But others disagree and I applaud them. If I was just starting out today as a 19 year old, I would probably shoot digital. but I am old now.

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No one should ever shoot digital to get a "film" look. If you like digital, shoot digital. If you like film, shoot film. That is it.

 

I Hear you Matthew,

 

But in reality the different camera companies (ARRI & RED mainly) are definitely trying to compare their cameras to film and to make them look like film, and have said directly and indirectly many times they aim their cameras replace film cameras.

 

During the 40's when the transition from B&W to colour started, I'm sure everyone where saying similar things, like: B&W should be kept around and we just use each one when we need it, but in reality B&W has become a niche market, maybe 10-20% of films in the 70's where shot B&W, which was about 30 years after the transition started. I'm sure it would be the same with film and digital.

 

I'm totally aware it's not the same in the sense it's colour to colour, but in many ways it's very similar, people adapt new technology, learn it, then put the old technology behind.

 

In the end of day, if there is a market for it, it'll stay. We Cinematographers and Filmmakers need to keep using it! :-)

 

btw - I personally love film and will keep using it and will make anything possible to preserve it, the same as the old generation of filmmakers kept using B&W and preserved it for us to use today.

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But in reality the different camera companies (ARRI & RED mainly) are definitely trying to compare their cameras to film and to make them look like film, and have said directly and indirectly many times they aim their cameras replace film cameras.

.

Different people have different priorities and differing sensitivity to nuance. I, personally, do not think a RED or Arri looks anything like film. Some stuff shot on film looks like it could be digital because of the desaturation, sharp highlights, etc. Camera companies say what they want because they are trying to get sales. Fanboys buy into it because they want to feel part of something bigger than themselves, I suppose.

 

I am more of an audio guy than visual anyway but I look at film and digital like the whole Klipsch vs Bose debate. Personally, I think that Klipsch Reference are the best speakers to ever be made and are a joy to listen to. Others think Bose is fantastic (I think they sound awful but what do I know?), and others still fall in between those extremes with other brands (Polk, Kef, etc.)

 

People will always have their opinions and digital will, no doubt, take the lion's share of sales and popularity. I realize this now and I am fine with it. It will just make my stuff look that much more unique. :)

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Different people have different priorities and differing sensitivity to nuance. I, personally, do not think a RED or Arri looks anything like film. Some stuff shot on film looks like it could be digital because of the desaturation, sharp highlights, etc. Camera companies say what they want because they are trying to get sales. Fanboys buy into it because they want to feel part of something bigger than themselves, I suppose.

You need to remember this is an industry. I'm not sure I agree about the "fanboys buy into it", some of the best DP's in the world have decided to shoot digital, even when they wanted the image to look like film. Roger Deakins said that after he tested an Alexa it looked like a perfect replacement for film to him (he said it in other words), I'm sure Deakins is no fanboy...many Dp's agree with him, so it's more complex than that.

 

But I also agree with what you said, camera companies want to sale more cameras, since digital cinema cameras were introduced they're selling more cameras than ever!

Edited by Oron Cohen

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But I also agree with what you said, camera companies want to sale more cameras, since digital cinema cameras were introduced they're selling more cameras than ever!

I cannot speak for Deakins but I can say that DPs, in general, are not beyond being fanboys or even shills. You are right that this is an industry and with any industry there is money at play and people will effectively whore themselves for money or notoriety. I hope this post doesn't get deleted because I am speaking generally and not naming names but I will say that some people that I thought would always be fair and unbiased have started to compromise their neutrality and reputation by saying some sketchy stuff to make a certain company named after a color to look good. The rest is up to your imagination.

 

Edit: Just a case in point: Look at other industries...do you think Synester Gates of Avenged Sevenfold (dont know if you know them or not) actually thinks Schecter Guitars and amps are the best? Or maybe he is sponsored and gets free gear and cash in exchange for his promotion of them. In music, this sort of thing is common place...maybe cinematography is next?

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