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panagiotis agapitou

Is it really cheaper to shoot in digital ?

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Film is cheaper. When exposing film you need a lab where someone develops your pictures. You come in contact with lab people which typically is priceless. If you want to buy yourself into such human relations in the digital world, you need a lot of money.

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11 hours ago, panagiotis agapitou said:

Thats not really a like-for-like comparison. The article is question is discussing the increase in domestic use of reel to reel players nothing to do with how music is generally produced. Its no different to the hardcore of super 8 and 16mm collectors that run movies for nostalgia reasons.  This is a response to the intangibility of mp3 and the desire to have physical copy.

Film production has its own demands

The reel to reel domestic revival is also very limited by the tapes being produced in the format. The proper analogue 15 inch per second recordings are v expensive to make: https://tapeproject.com/product/the-band-stage-fright/ . So even in this case digital is vastly cheaper and no domestic analogue tape is not going to sound better then a 24bit 96Khz uncompressed file with even a mid range DAC. 

In terms of the use of analogue tape for music production, it never went away and there are plenty of studios that track on 2" prior to editing on Pro Tools. Blank analogue tape (even 2") is of course a lot cheaper then filmstock and can be reused and re-recorded - so the comparison is becoming tenuous.  Analogue tape is often used in music production a much for its technical flaws e.g harmonic distortion 

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26 minutes ago, Phil Connolly said:

Thats not really a like-for-like comparison. The article is question is discussing the increase in domestic use of reel to reel players nothing to do with how music is generally produced. Its no different to the hardcore of super 8 and 16mm collectors that run movies for nostalgia reasons.  This is a response to the intangibility of mp3 and the desire to have physical copy.

Film production has its own demands

The reel to reel domestic revival is also very limited by the tapes being produced in the format. The proper analogue 15 inch per second recordings are v expensive to make: https://tapeproject.com/product/the-band-stage-fright/ . So even in this case digital is vastly cheaper and no domestic analogue tape is not going to sound better then a 24bit 96Khz uncompressed file with even a mid range DAC. 

In terms of the use of analogue tape for music production, it never went away and there are plenty of studios that track on 2" prior to editing on Pro Tools. Blank analogue tape (even 2") is of course a lot cheaper then filmstock and can be reused and re-recorded - so the comparison is becoming tenuous.  Analogue tape is often used in music production a much for its technical flaws e.g harmonic distortion 

Before getting into film I used to work in a boutique studio that did 2" analog recording. I loved the way it sounded, and sometimes we even ran 30 ips which chewed through the tape in double the time. But like you said you can re use it (i never personally would, but you can) and it's not tremendously expensive. 

I thank god that I like the look of Alexa footage because the uphill battle of analog vs digital today is too tiring. Film and digi are both good looking, unlike the gap between digital vs 2" tape based music (all my opinion of course). 

In hypothetical world, I would entertain shooting film if the budget was big enough, but even then it seems like why not shoot it on an Alexa with amazing glass and put that money elsewhere? 

 

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2 hours ago, Dylan Gill said:

In hypothetical world, I would entertain shooting film if the budget was big enough, but even then it seems like why not shoot it on an Alexa with amazing glass and put that money elsewhere? 

 

I mean, I can't afford a 4k Alexa... even the Alexa XT's which are only 3.8k, are still way out of my price range. I mean even a Red Dragon package is around $14 - $18k and you're dealing with something that WILL FAIL at one point during your ownership. Red's are notorious for software glitches and they charge a fortune to service them. So then you talk about Sony, but again the price range is astronomical for a true cinema look like an F65 or Venice with all the bells and whistles. Reality is, owning a true digital cinema camera that you can garnish gigs from, is unfortunately cost prohibitive, unless you're using the equipment every day and have enough connections to have consistent work. 

So then you've got the other aspect which is, everyone shoots digital, so what separates your production from the guy's film that shows before or after yours at the film festival? Sure, you can treat digital to look more filmic, but it never will look like film. How much attention does your production get when you say "shot on Alexa" vs "shot on film". Most people will stop and read an article on why you're using archaic technology to make your movie, but an article about shooting like everyone else, what interest is that? When digital was first coming around, this was the opposite, everyone wanted to read about the digital shoots. However, now that the roles are reversed, film has become the stand-out choice for indy filmmakers to define their production. 

The mandatory discipline that's built into shooting on film, is in essence the saving grace of the format. Thus, the results are generally better for less production time. You COULD be disciplined like that with digital, but when the shooting time is endless, EVERYONE becomes lazy. Plus, in today's world, when actors know you're shooting film, they step up to the challenge because they know it's special. Back to the results part of shooting on film, it does make a difference. Where it may be less apparent on bigger productions, on smaller one's, I've physically seen the difference first hand and it's pretty amazing if you actually did an A/B comparison. 

Finally, digital is not just one's and zero's. It's an encoded media format which will fall out of date very fast. As technology moves forward, we find ourselves at a precipice where in 10 - 20 years, the files we have today will not be playable on modern hardware. So now you're having to keep old hardware around to playback your files, which again are stuck at whatever resolution you shot them on initially. Plus, can you afford to store 20tb for 20 years? No spinning disk or SSD will last that long, so there goes all those raw file drives. Now you're going to back them up onto LTO tape, which is great, but in 20 years the current LTO format will be long gone as biometric tech takes over. So again, how will you ever watch your final production without A LOT of money being put into properly archiving every few years to a new medium and transcoding to newer codec's? The studio's have rated the cost of doing this archiving at several thousand dollars per month, per show. Where camera negative is completely agnostic to these issues. It can sit on a shelf in your closet for 50 years without fading. It can sit in a cool vault for 100 years without any damage. If you want to re-edit, simply re-scan the scenes you need and re-conform your cut. Recording back to film today is cheaper than it's ever been, with costs as low as $100/minute for 2k. So now you can store a print along with your negative in a vault for what, few hundred bux a year. 

I understand digital, I think it's great technology for television, streaming/web and making videos for fun. I don't understand digital for anything that has any long-term integral value. 

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2 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Finally, digital is not just one's and zero's. It's an encoded media format which will fall out of date very fast. As technology moves forward, we find ourselves at a precipice where in 10 - 20 years, the files we have today will not be playable on modern hardware. So now you're having to keep old hardware around to playback your files, which again are stuck at whatever resolution you shot them on initially. Plus, can you afford to store 20tb for 20 years?

Tyler, while this is technically true, in most situations it doesn't apply.  If we originate on film, it gets scanned and finished through a digital pipeline.  And at that point, the project really only exists in the digital realm.

I shot my last film origination in 2008 and it went through a DI to a film out for theatrical release on film. 

Cut to: 6 years later I get a call from Sony Pictures.  They have not been able to contact the producers, so they wanted to know if I would like the original camera negatives.  All 100,000 feet of it.  They kindly offered to deliver it to me, or it would be destroyed in the next month. I declined.  I hope that they have saved the master digital to film negatives, but who knows?  But without a master cut/conformed film negative, there is really nothing analogue to archive unless one desires to reproduce the entire post production process...

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58 minutes ago, Bruce Greene said:

I hope that they have saved the master digital to film negatives, but who knows?  But without a master cut/conformed film negative, there is really nothing analogue to archive unless one desires to reproduce the entire post production process...

I have seen lots of local early 2000's movies which went through a DI and digital grading and in the recent years the producers/distributors wanted to do a new dcp or hd tv release out of them. that has been proved to be surprisingly difficult considering the early days of DI where they recorded the graded movie directly back to film for striking 35mm prints and then did the tv master on beta or digibeta tapes and that's it (no hdcam sr yet). the graded DPX intermediate was generally not saved (hdd space was expensive back then) and one can't really scan scratched and high contrast print copy to get a 2k quality version of the film for re release. Meaning that one basically does not have any decent quality color graded version of the movie at all in good enough quality and one needs to reconform and rescan and re grade the whole movie from the original camera negatives to be able to make a 2k digital version out of it. AND do the vfx again if there was any. 

The whole process is extremely cost prohibitive (will cost at least tens of K's to do) and they may give up the idea when hearing how close to impossible it actually is to do for reasonable price. 

another thing is those rare D6 tapes used for doing the hd masters in the early 2000's. One is extremely lucky to find a working machine to play back those (those are extremely rare, only couple of them in working condition in the whole world) and that is basically the only graded usable master one has apart from the film prints. the alternative is to again rescan and regrade everything.

the hdcam sr masters made it a little bit easier because there were actually an existing hd quality tape you could find a working deck for and could actually play it back and get the image out of it. That was very helpful after the erased dpx nightmare and the D6 times 🙂 

---

anyway, nowadays it is best to stick to the most useful standard formats I think. Audio as separate .wav or .aiff 24/48 files, the picture in both prores 444 and dpx or tiff files. clean versions without bars and separate subtitle files if available. archive to LTO and do the other copies to the mediums of choice (ssd, hdd, raid, network storage, cloud, etc.) and migrate to new media types as needed.

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basically it gets easier and easier the more standardised and widely used the same technology is outside the very niche film industry. For example the introduction of HDCAM and HDCAM SR (designed for TV use) simplified the post workflows here a lot and enabled making reasonable priced hd masters of the movies for later use. The file based workflows have simplified it even more because basic computer gear can be adapted to work for movie post production use. and LTO for example is used for lots of other uses outside the film industry so there is always a working LTO deck somewhere which can be used if the company's own machine breaks. No more those super rare expensive tape formats with one working machine for each continent...

both the availability of the technology is much better but it is much cheaper as well. for example a basic LTO system as a whole is maybe one tenth of the price of what a HDCAM deck would have cost years ago

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5 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

Tyler, while this is technically true, in most situations it doesn't apply.  If we originate on film, it gets scanned and finished through a digital pipeline.  And at that point, the project really only exists in the digital realm.

Well sure, but if you do your own work, you'll most likely keep your camera negative. If you're a gun for hire doing work for other people, I guess it's up to them or the studio to figure out how things are stored. Many films are lasered back to film in either an IN process OR RGB separation negatives for long-term storage. 

For the record, studio's generally only destroy camera negative that has no value to them. There are dozens of vaults in Los Angeles alone that store pretty much every major film ever shot. There is no reason why the studio would throw something away, unless it lost them money and they didn't care about the asset. The cost to shelf 100,000ft isn't that much, that's basically 100 boxes of film, not the end of the world. 

 

 

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I think film out records are a useful solution for long term archiving. But on films that are mastered as a digital file (most of them), they are an optical generation away and re-scanning in the future could result in shifts in colour and density compared to the digital original.

Its perhaps a cost effective solution compared to migrating the digital files from one medium to the next every 10 years or so. That process gets expensive. But technically its not the best possible version, it being an analogue generation from the digital master. It would be technically preferable to retain access to the uncompressed digital file in its original form (or a lossless copy). From an archive perspective thats better and allows for perfect digital copies to be distributed (the advantage of digital)

Of course we know the archiving of digital files is a really difficult problem and the current typically magnetic solutions are not good enough. I've worked with LTOs and 1", D5 - the future long term stability of those formats isn't great.

However, it is a problem that needs to be solved, the vast bulk of Human knowledge and information is sitting on magnetic media. Not just movies, but the entire internet. So more stable long term digital storage technologies will need to be created. 

Right now we are in a transitional phase where current tech can't really deal with the mid to long term archiving of everything being created. I wouldn't not be surprised if  firms like Google and Amazon are throwing millions into R & D for the next generation of data storage.  Quantum computing technologies that seem sci-fi now, will at some point become practical. 

Ideally we need to find a way to secure these digital film masters long term.

Holding onto the camera neg is useful for revisions of films,

But If I wanted to watch a film I'd rather have digital master if thats the format the film was produced in, then a new version created by reconfirming and scanning to OCN.

For instances:

Take 'O Brother Where Art Thou?" - one of the first 2K DI's. Thats the version of the film, I'd want to watch, the 2K version that had Deakins in the suite making the grading decisions. Digital scanning and grading has moved on since that film was produced. But the film is an achievement,  partially because it is using the then available tech. 

Sure, you could go back to the camera neg, re-scan in 4K+, reconform etc... Technically you could create a "better" version  of "O Brother Where Are Thou?".  It would be sharper more detailed, more subtle grading, perhaps be HDR etc..

But it wouldn't be the version that represents the filmmakers original intent, or the version that audiences saw in cinemas.

It would be close to impossible to recreate a matching version of "O Brother Where Art Thou?" By going back to the OCN and rescanning. Not matter how careful the restoration team would be, its going to risk changes e.g the scanner may be different, the grading tools different, it could be close but its different. 

I might event enjoy watching the new Dolby 4K HDR, ATMOS version of "O Brother", but not at the expense of loosing the original. 

Now, I'm not against restoration, I'm glad Lawrence of Arabia was restored by Robert Harris, because it he hadn't done it the full version of the film would have been lost. Restoration should rightly happen when the original elements are damaged or faded and work is needed to try and match the film makers intent. 

But its preferable not to loose the film in the first place.

 

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11 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Well sure, but if you do your own work, you'll most likely keep your camera negative. If you're a gun for hire doing work for other people, I guess it's up to them or the studio to figure out how things are stored. Many films are lasered back to film in either an IN process OR RGB separation negatives for long-term storage. 

For the record, studio's generally only destroy camera negative that has no value to them. There are dozens of vaults in Los Angeles alone that store pretty much every major film ever shot. There is no reason why the studio would throw something away, unless it lost them money and they didn't care about the asset. The cost to shelf 100,000ft isn't that much, that's basically 100 boxes of film, not the end of the world. 

 

 

Yes, "lasered" (not really a word :), back to film does not suggest that film origination is a factor in in the benefits of film as a long term storage solution.  Any digitally originated film can be ultimately stored on film for the long term through this process.  But film origination is not a necessary part of this work flow.

So, shoot digital if you'd like.  It ultimately won't make a difference in the long term archiving of the project.

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9 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

Yes, "lasered" (not really a word :), back to film does not suggest that film origination is a factor in in the benefits of film as a long term storage solution.  Any digitally originated film can be ultimately stored on film for the long term through this process.  But film origination is not a necessary part of this work flow.

So, shoot digital if you'd like.  It ultimately won't make a difference in the long term archiving of the project.

"Arri Laser" is a film recorder, so what would a film that has used that scanner be called after the process is done? Wouldn't that be "lasered" as in past tense of "laser"? 

Where it is true that anything can be recorded back to film and quite a few movies have for archive purposes alone, my point was that if you DO save the negative, you are insuring the film does withstand the test of time. Yes IN's or separation negatives aren't the same thing if they've been made from digital sources. However, it is the only long-term archiving solution we have today. 

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Is it cheaper, digital? Anyway, think of a pair of shoes. What's best, a cheaper pair, or a more expensive pair. Think about that a moment. It's deep.

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15 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

"Arri Laser" is a film recorder, so what would a film that has used that scanner be called after the process is done? Wouldn't that be "lasered" as in past tense of "laser"? 

Where it is true that anything can be recorded back to film and quite a few movies have for archive purposes alone, my point was that if you DO save the negative, you are insuring the film does withstand the test of time. Yes IN's or separation negatives aren't the same thing if they've been made from digital sources. However, it is the only long-term archiving solution we have today. 

I was just joking about the word "lasered".  It did make sense to me though!

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On 6/1/2019 at 10:38 AM, Jon O'Brien said:

Is it cheaper, digital? Anyway, think of a pair of shoes. What's best, a cheaper pair, or a more expensive pair. Think about that a moment. It's deep.

To test the metaphor, digital is a nice pair of "Doc Martins", sensibly priced, versatile, good value for money and looks cool and functional.

Film is a pair of  "Jimi Choo's", very pretty but crazy expensive and only worn on special occasions, mainly in Hollywood.

Nether is a "better" shoe - they both have their strengths. But personally when you've got a lot of miles to walk, in all weathers - I'm most likely going to be putting on my pair of Doc's, I don't have a Jimi Choo budget (and they don't come in size 12). 

Which reiterates the theme of the thread. You don't see any web forums arguing that Jimi Choo's are cheaper then DM's, mainly because they aren't - that facts are against it. Its no different with film, its more expensive. 

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The whole thing is very simple.. cutting out no budget indie shot on ancient Arri,s or self funded vanity productions.. I,ll talking only main stream.. , normal, paid work.. ..  crewed by people who make there living just doing that job.. from corporate to features.. 

The answer is.. if film was cheaper.. we would all still be shooting film.. Digital would have died a death..the fact that the exact opposite has happened means ... drum roll.. to shoot on film,  is not cheaper than digital ..and thats why it has died completely in the TV ,internet realm.. and by a massive percentage in feature films /commercials... the bean counters, who have no care for the ascetics either way..   ultimately green light every single "real" shoot.. if film was cheaper ..rest assured they would decree.. that we MUST shoot on film..  but they dont ,in fact they say you must shoot digitally.. because its cheaper, safer  and easier.. end of story.. 

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6 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

.and thats why it has died completely in the TV ,internet realm..

I would agree on some terms, we shoot 85% digital and i like what i can get out of a Alexa & Venice especially in Lowlight. But i also just shot a Internet Beauty AD on 35mm because the American Celeb Actress Woman wanted to have her skin looking the Kodak way… just saying. There are still some "normal" jobs and even also some Television Shows shooting on Film. Its also a Trend in the AD world right now especially in Europe & North America. Its much less than in the past, but still not dead. 4 Years ago there was this almost film is dead scenario with a close death of kodak… but its rising again because of filmmakers whiches. We got more and new Labs in Europe. B.T.W. i got more **(obscenity removed)**-Ups shooting digital as shooting on Films in terms of Stock & DataSafety… especially with RED…

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Same with personal projects. I just completed filming a self financed short film. I ran the numbers on what shooting film would cost vs digital. Super 16 would have added £3000 to the budget minimum.  I didn't have that money to hand, hence digital.

Perhaps I could have made savings in other areas to cover the cost of film stock. Sure it would have been possible but then I wouldn't have been able to get the cast of the calibre I had. When the film comes out I'm 90% certain the thing thats going to help get it selected into festivals and find an audience is that I got a really excellent cast. All things being equal festivals will prioritise films with marketable cast over films shot on film. If you can afford both, great, but if you can afford one thing invest in good actors.

If I was really passionate about shooting film, perhaps I could have waited, raised more money, shot film later. But I have no idea how long that would take. I would have almost certainly lost the actors other products, this film was a case of the actors have a window now, lets take advantage of it.  I made the film I could afford to make, which is more useful then not making the film and waiting, my fiction directing career on hold.

And in terms of archive stability of digital? I don't really care, I'm not worried about people being able to watch my short in 30 years time. I need it to show my directing ability now, its an investment in my career now. I don't need it to be future proof.

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16 minutes ago, Phil Connolly said:

All things being equal festivals will prioritise films with marketable cast over films shot on film.

As far i know most "professional" festivals will bring a good story and a good movie to the top, no matter if shot on whatever or who played in! The medium should be always the last choice! Most important is always what happens in front of any light catching machine at first place…

Edited by Philip Reinhold

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25 minutes ago, Philip Reinhold said:

I would agree on some terms, we shoot 85% digital and i like what i can get out of a Alexa & Venice especially in Lowlight. But i also just shot a Internet Beauty AD on 35mm because the American Celeb Actress Woman wanted to have her skin looking the Kodak way… just saying. There are still some "normal" jobs and even also some Television Shows shooting on Film. Its also a Trend in the AD world right now especially in Europe & North America. Its much less than in the past, but still not dead. 4 Years ago there was this almost film is dead scenario with a close death of kodak… but its rising again because of filmmakers whiches. We got more and new Labs in Europe. B.T.W. i got more **(obscenity removed)**-Ups shooting digital as shooting on Films in terms of Stock & DataSafety… especially with RED…

haha yes a bit of blanket comment.. and slightly tongue in cheek.. but fact remains ..its indisputable that digital has "pretty much " taken over.. I work in TV land and really 99.99999% of all work is Digital ..sure there are maybe some actresses ,directors and even DoP,s with enough clout to demand film..(or some sort of bogus hipster backlash fad for film to show how groovy they are.. in the AD world.. that will last a few months).. but this is a very very small club of less then probably  10 people ..and really at the end of the day ..the concrete reason.. if film was cheaper.. well we would still be using it. its a business ...born from projecting images on a white sheet at the circus  the goal is to make money..if film was cheaper we would be being forced to shoot on film.. 

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4 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

born from projecting images on a white sheet at the circus  the goal is to make money..

Sounds like a terrible attitude… so i am glad that I live in another bubble, where the goal is to entertain an audience with art in the first place ... and earn a good living by doing that.

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I know that on a 30 min short film, running the numbers, 2 perf is cheaper than shooting on an Alexa would be. The cost of the camera package alone with digital is quite a bit. A 2 perf package from an estimate I got works out about $8,000 less than digital. Adding stock, processing, scanning and it still ends up cheaper. 

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58 minutes ago, Philip Reinhold said:

Sounds like a terrible attitude… so i am glad that I live in another bubble, where the goal is to entertain an audience with art in the first place ... and earn a good living by doing that.

Don't be so precious Philip..  🙂   it does come from the circus and a white sheet... my point is what ever the artistic endeavors of the crew.. obviously everyone is working at their best level to achieve a good product.. it is a product .. films are made to make money.. and if it were cheaper to use film.. the producers would insist on it.. the fact they 99% of the time insist on shooting digital .. is because .. drum roll.. its cheaper .. thats all Im saying ..

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4 hours ago, Manu Delpech said:

I know that on a 30 min short film, running the numbers, 2 perf is cheaper than shooting on an Alexa would be. The cost of the camera package alone with digital is quite a bit. A 2 perf package from an estimate I got works out about $8,000 less than digital. Adding stock, processing, scanning and it still ends up cheaper. 

That would be under very specific circumstances and probably a very expensive rental deal on an Alexa.

An Alexa body can be hired in the Uk for £300 per day. In most cases the camera package between say film and 35mm would be almost the same. The tripod would cost the same, the lenses, the matt box, the follow focus etc...lighting, grip. On any shoot the cost of the camera body is only a fraction of the overall cost. With Alexa's costing £300 per day and Reds even less. I doubt 35mm bodies are much cheaper to hire and even if they were 50% cheaper, it wouldn't be a massive saving once you priced out everything. A set of S4's costs the same on both a film. 

A 1000ft roll of 35mm is £387.50 - then you still need to add the camera body hire and lab fee's. 

Yes it might be possible to bring a 35mm shoot in under an Alexa shoot, perhaps if you already owned the camera. But I suspect you'd have to work to a very tight shooting ratio, use short ends etc... 

But as I said earlier my most recent digital short would have cost at least £3000 more to shoot on super 16. Based on the amount of footage I shot (which was about a 12:1 ratio). I don't think I could have shot it on a lower ratio without compromising the film. I'm still paying bills on the film, so I'm very clear about what everything cost and film would not have been affordable. 35mm even worse.

I'd be interested to see your working out - I'd love to find a more affordable way to shoot film

In my case I was able to borrow an FS7 and Xeen lens package for free.  I could also have borrowed an SR3 for free, its the stock and lab costs that would have killed me

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18 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

The answer is.. if film was cheaper.. we would all still be shooting film.. Digital would have died a death..the fact that the exact opposite has happened means ... drum roll.. to shoot on film,  is not cheaper than digital ..and thats why it has died completely in the TV ,internet realm.. and by a massive percentage in feature films /commercials... the bean counters, who have no care for the ascetics either way..   ultimately green light every single "real" shoot.. if film was cheaper ..rest assured they would decree.. that we MUST shoot on film..  but they dont ,in fact they say you must shoot digitally.. because its cheaper, safer  and easier.. end of story.. 

Film died  because of convenience , not cost. 

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