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Stephen Perera

Dream 'job', massive budget - would you shoot digital or film?

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16 minutes ago, Miguel Angel said:

I would love to shoot on IMAX some day but I would really love to shoot on a digital camera that produces an image as large as that of a 8x10 large format photo / sheet film. 

Imagine a true large format digital camera!.. paired with some obscure vintage anamorphic glass that covers that sensor! That's the dream! 😍

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Guys there is something we have to realize here.. and I have been one of the main culprits .. Tyler is way more experienced than Deakins or Sher.. who lets face it ,are pretty much flying by the seat of their pants each job..digital guys what can you expect duh.. and certainly anyone on this forum.. !!! .he has shot way bigger budgets and a CV that speaks for itself.. now that Roger  has eventually got his gong from the academy .. .. surely this year is its Tylers turn..   

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In terms of the shooting format for my next film, I guess I don't really care so much. I don't think it matters that much anymore. There are sub $5k cameras that will shot an acceptable image that holds up on a big screen that audiences will engage with. 

My next project is likely to be low budget - so a small digital format with good low light ability makes sense. I want to work quickly with a small crew and lighting that doesn't require any linked Honda generators. The less spent on the camera/lighting the more I can spend on actors/time/art direction. At the budget level I'm working on raising, it makes more sense to proceed with the tools I have to hand, then wait on trying to afford film further down the line.  Also digital and low budgets gives the freedom to be your own client and not compromise your vision.

Its a nice exercise to think about money no object productions and expensive cameras... but to get that I have to sign with a studio,  give away final cut and be forced to cast James Corden to improve the "marketability" the film to pay for all the expensive film stock and sound recordists entourage .

Although some people seek out 35mm screenings, I do think its a pretty niche audience. 

A lot of people prefer digital projection to film, myself included.

Sure 35mm can look amazing, when I was an NFTS student we got "show" prints of movies and projected them on reference grade equipment and they looked great.

Unfortunately 95% of cinema projection on film, in my experience, wasn't like this. Outside of capital cities, the 35mm projection in most multiplexes looked like garbage. Especially on the big print runs of super 35 films like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. These prints were soft, grainy and low contrast. I remember the colour shifting dramatically between reels on the Two Towers for instance. Add to that the dirt, diagonal platter scratches and cinch marks, lab splices and the SDDS dropping in an out. 35mm in most circumstances was less then ideal and on the rep circuit forget it. I saw Bladerunner, 3 times on 35mm (in different countries) some reels were more scratches then image. 

Thats most peoples perception of 35mm dirty and scratchy. 1.85:1 films being noticeably worse with visible weave and more grain. 

Sure 35mm can look great, but in most cases it didn't, automated multiplex projection was too hard on the film and it would get damaged quickly.

Sure 2K DLP was a step back from the high watermark of "great" 35mm as seen in a premier theatre with a dedicated projectionist. But what about the 95% of people that don't live in Paris, London or LA? Or can't pay $20+ for a ticket - they get short changed by sub par multiplex 35mm. Digital Projection brought the bar up to a decent base line. Now you can go see a film 6 weeks into its run and not expect it to be scratched up. I think thats a decent compromise, for 90% of people cinema experience improved by digital.

And digital continues to evolve. 4K Laser projection to my eyes at the least matches or exceeds what 35mm is capable of, even with show prints.

People aren't staying away from cinemas because they don't project on film. They are staying away because the home experience has become much better.  I don't think 35mm projection would send people in their droves back to cinemas, if anything if multiplexes were running the sort of 35mm presentations they were doing 20 years ago, they would get more complaints over the current digital systems. 

Yes there are a some directors that are "film centric" and audiences that seek out 35mm/70mm screenings. That works for their audience, but its not ubiquitous. Had Guy Richie shot Aladdin on VistaVision and a roadshow 70mm distribution strategy strategy enacted I doubt they would have sold even 1% more tickets. Film doesn't matter to the audience of that film, where it does matter for Hateful Eight. Aladdin still commanding a much larger box office then Hateful. Yes "film" can contribute to the marketing of a film. Look at the discourse around Mark Jenkins excellent "Bait":

The story of his process making the film in 16mm is a key part of the way that films been sold to audiences. There is a reason its shot on film and the discussion of the process is worth while.  Its also a very unique film and not really one thats ever going to be mainstream. 

The rise of Vinyl record sales I think is a different thing to cinema exhibition. Vinyl is about wanted to own a physical product, something thats more tangible then a streaming copy, combined with the large sleeve  for artwork and the physical process of playing a record. Cinema is a different experience, you walk into a room and images are projected on a screen, you don't see the projector and someone else operates the equipment. People are less fussed about the specifics and less aware of the technical aspect of what they are watching. The relationship is different.  

I watched the Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Alexa LF) at my local multiplex last week. They have recently converted to Laser 4K, I still remember what their 35mm projection used to look like, the difference is night and day, digital being an improvement. I don't agree the look is of digital is unappealing.  

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2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

There's nothing wrong with having an opinion, but if you're expressing it as fact then you've got to back it up like Yedlin did.

I mean it would be nice to one day do what Yedlin did, but sadly that sort of money isn't something I can tackle. If someone has the money, I will gladly take time off from my life and do the same video's he did, but from a different perspective. 

2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

So, then it's a wash in terms of theatres closing/opening? As in the theatre industry is responding to the home viewing experience by adapting to the market? How is it a problem when an audience doesn't live near a city? (I'm getting close to conjecture here)

I mean, if you live in Brentwood and the Fox closed, you'd have to travel pretty far to get to a cinema. That may change your mind about going to see the movie in the first place. It's that sort of issue I'm talking about. 

2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

Forgive me, but I'm using my anecdotal experience with independent features to assume that musicians make most of their income from streaming/VOD. Do you have any stats to back up that they don't?

Not really, all the musicians I've worked with struggle on VOD. Many have to tour year round to make a buck. 

2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

I've shot 9 features so far and all of them are making money from VOD/Streaming. Furthermore, the case studies at Sundance and Film Independent confirm that VOD/streaming generates revenue for the filmmakers, putting them into profit territory.

I've personally done a few VOD contracts and helped get a few more films distributed. The payout's are pretty miserable and the contracts lock you in deals that prevent you from going anywhere else. I've had a film in VOD limbo for 3 years! Yes we've made our money back, but we haven't made any profits. That's generally what happens with the low budget shows, they just barely squeak by. In the last year, Netflix has gotten more stricter with what they're accepting and payout is even worse. You need to be on multiple platforms and they won't let ya. 

2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

How does the argument that a physical medium like film or a film theatrical run can make more money for a movie, given the reality and nuance of distribution?

I mean all the films that have been released on 70mm recently, have made more per screen than their digital counterparts in the same complexes. That's why Warner keeps making 70mm prints, they know people will come out to see them. 

2 hours ago, AJ Young said:

So then, what does film have to do with it? What does shooting in a "reserved" fashion have to do with it?

I kinda already answered this earlier. 

I suggest going out and shooting a feature on 16mm as a director and figure out the marketing potential yourself. I work with directors and cinematographers daily who shoot film, many exclusively and they've noticed how much more attention their products get when shot on film. If you go to a festival with a print, people come out of the woodwork to watch it, even if they have no interest in the production. This has been the case for many of my students who have decided to go back to film. We've all noticed the turnout to be much greater than other screenings for 35mm screenings.

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VOD? Musicians make a living by teaching usually, and keep sane by doing gigs which fortunately contribute towards some milk, bread and pizza money each week. Videos are a huge amount of work for not much return, for the average gigging musician. Best policy for the average musician is to keep it live, keep it real. Back out of too much online stuff, I reckon, it seems to be a great idea but there's already too much out there. Stephen's thread has gone rogue. It's all good.

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I'm criticizing the concept that it was IMPOSSIBLE to capture "Joker" on celluloid and make it look decent.

Could they have just switched to film without changing anything? No.

Forgetting the focus problems that they would inevitably have had, they would also have been dealing with stock that was 1 1/3  stop slower than their digital sensor. Push process you say, well, pushing one stop doesn’t actually result in a one stop increase in density, it’s slightly less. A two stop push is even less accurate. Also, pushing affects the highlights far more than the shadows. The toe of the curve, which is where all their picture information was, would probably only gain around a stop of density, while gaining a lot of grain. Blocked up shadows would become muddy and noisy. Those low key moments would have looked a mess. So why not light to a higher level? Why not indeed? You’d have to ask Larry Sher why. Whatever his reasons, he and Phillips made a conscious decision to shoot in the way they did, and under those conditions, it would have been impossible to use film and have it look good.

Obviously, Larry Sher is just a ‘digital dp’, and he doesn’t have your huge range of experience. I’m sure your results would be much better.

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23 hours ago, Mark Kenfield said:

What human endeavour isn't? It the nature of consumption, it's a destructive process.

The chemical output and waste from photochemical processing sure as hell wasn't a nice thing. But I do wonder how it compared to the overall natural cost of digital, where the devices become obsolete and discarded so much more rapidly than mechanical film cameras ever were.

That argument  which everyone tries to use doesn't hold up when you're talking about a single use event such as renting a camera for a production.  Pick up a digital camera or a film camera, what is going to be more wasteful for that one production?  Pretty simple.    

Not talking about the endless disposable consumer cameras both film and digital produced over the years.  Planned obsolescence is a separate issue and a huge problem across many industries that's much too broad to unpack here.

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1 hour ago, Michael LaVoie said:

That argument  which everyone tries to use doesn't hold up when you're talking about a single use event such as renting a camera for a production.  Pick up a digital camera or a film camera, what is going to be more wasteful for that one production?  Pretty simple.    

Not talking about the endless disposable consumer cameras both film and digital produced over the years.  Planned obsolescence is a separate issue and a huge problem across many industries that's much too broad to unpack here.

Not really, because the single usages that we're individually responsible for aren't the issue (beyond simple, personal feel-good metrics) - it's the sum total of the waste generated by each medium that matters (for the sake of comparison/overall environmental impact and sustainability). 

I have no ideas what those respective numbers would be, but I'd be fascinated to know.

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To start - 35mm, Kodak, Panavision anamorphic. Every single frame of the movie would be on 35mm, and with a front-element PV anamorphic (no cheating w/ digital and flat lenses for nighttime aerials). If Vision3 Expression existed, I'd use that for some, because I liked the look of 5284 and 5229. If not a photochemical finish, then a 4K or higher DI.

4K DCP release, along with some 35mm prints. The premiere (Hollywood of course) would be shown on film.

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It's obvious that there's something going on behind the scenes in the film industry worldwide. It's like two people who love each other, but neither can come out and say it (yet). They were apart for a bit, trying to prove by their actions and words that all was fine and okay and there's nothing there between us. But they couldn't hide from the truth forever. Filmmakers, which includes anyone who works on a film production, including actors, do really have a soft spot for shooting on film (the real thing, not the thing in name only). Yes. Film will survive ... because of a love for it that's not going away anytime soon. It's growing.

Now how's that for waxing lyrical? A love letter for film.

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18 hours ago, Mark Kenfield said:

Not really, because the single usages that we're individually responsible for aren't the issue (beyond simple, personal feel-good metrics) - it's the sum total of the waste generated by each medium that matters (for the sake of comparison/overall environmental impact and sustainability). 

I have no ideas what those respective numbers would be, but I'd be fascinated to know.

Exactly.  So try to imagine with the amount of content currently being produced, if everyone was shooting on film how that would impact the environment.  Every show and every movie for every platform burning through miles of stock only to be transferred directly to digital and go through the same post process as if it was shot on digital.  It would be horrific.   Again, it's the medium's green factor.  Not an Ewaste issue.  Apples to Apples using the same camera on the same show.  After 12 episodes three film cameras will generate a  ton of more waste than three digital ones. C'mon.  

I totally agree though that digital cameras should be much more modular and upgradeable so that they aren't churned through and replaced so quickly.  That would be ideal.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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22 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

Could they have just switched to film without changing anything? No.

The changes would have been so minor, it wouldn't have phased a $50M film's crew. 

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22 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

I’m sure your results would be much better.

Better? I thought the film was shot very well, I don't think it could have been shot by anyone "better". 

I merely stated that it could have been shot on film in the same way, without much adjustment. 

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...not to be dragged into the 'debate' I am in no way qualified to give an opinion on........Im wondering on whether the big DPs are on manufacturer payrolls.......I personally think that Storaro sold out to Sony and keeps going on about the Sony cameras and digital cos he's on the payroll hahaha......blasphemy indeed but e.g. Wonder Wheel....the makeup on Justin Timberlake was painful to watch in the opening scenes.....the film looked soooooooo digital........he should have shot that one on film IN MY OPINION......saying that I'm a huge Woody Allen fan (notwithstanding his alleged private life) and enjoyed the film a lot.....

Edited by Stephen Perera

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31 minutes ago, Stephen Perera said:

...not to be dragged into the 'debate' I am in no way qualified to give an opinion on........Im wondering on whether the big DPs are on manufacturer payrolls.......I personally think that Storaro sold out to Sony and keeps going on about the Sony cameras and digital cos he's on the payroll hahaha......blasphemy indeed but e.g. Wonder Wheel....the makeup on Justin Timberlake was painful to watch in the opening scenes.....the film looked soooooooo digital........he should have shot that one on film IN MY OPINION......saying that I'm a huge Woody Allen fan (notwithstanding his alleged private life) and enjoyed the film a lot.....

Have you seen Cafe Society .. I think it looks great ..I very much doubt the big time Dp,s are in the pay of any manufacturer .. least of all Storaro .. 🙂 

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17 minutes ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Have you seen Cafe Society .. I think it looks great ..I very much doubt the big time Dp,s are in the pay of any manufacturer .. least of all Storaro .. 🙂 

I'm in no way qualified to criticise Storaro nor even anyone here but I ALSO loved Cafe Society but he took the 'magic hour' thing too far esp. in one scene where you could see it wasn't magic hour in the other parts of the frame in the exterior.....looked like MY shitty lighting lack of technique to be honest....and yes I'm just posing the question if big guns are paid to use and promote their stuff....PS whats a 'sustaining member' in here and whats whats the plus number in green? haha

Edited by Stephen Perera

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For good or ill the video tap introduced a great deal of 'noise' to the film set.  Once any eye from the costume designer to the script supervisor could see the frame, the DP had a new level of input to contend with.  Color video taps amplified the noise.

The level of noise (opinion) on the set grew to an epic level with WYSIWYG monitoring of video cameras.  Some very powerful cinematographers may be able to keep the noise level down but not many.  With the expansion of voices making their input heard on the set I think a couple of very important things happen:  Fewer mistakes are made and many eyes can point out problems or failures.  Maybe more importantly the set has become a committee with the director filtering out the noise as best she can.  The committee approach has produced a very high level of technical excellence AND in my opinion a terrible mediocrity. 

My happy fantasy is to shoot anamorphic film. 

Interesting discussion folks.

Neal Norton
DP

 

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Cinematographers aren't being paid off to use some manufacturer's piece of equipment.  And no cinematographer is going to pick a piece of equipment that doesn't perform to standards, the risks are too high.  So it doesn't matter if Sony or Panavision or ARRI wines and dines them (and certainly they don't pay anyone off) -- ultimately the decisions on gear are made for other reasons, not all of them noble and artistic of course, some practical, some due to budget, some due to decisions made by higher-ups, etc.  And the truth is that some cinematographers invest in equipment and then have a financial motivation to promote that technology, but that also means they believe in it enough to spend their money on it.

As for video villages, the culture on the set really depends on the people involved.  I've been on shows where we set up a village for hair and make-up and another village for producers and executives, every day, and the director and I never hear a peep from those areas or people, so there is hardly any disruption other than the poor assistants who have to build the villages and move them around.

Not all input or extra eyes on things is a bad.

I think the creeping mediocrity is more a function of scale and budget rather than technology -- more money at stake, more people feel a need to have some input, and that would be true no matter what camera is being used.  If you're shooting film, perhaps the executive notes would come from dailies rather than on the set, which is a good and bad thing -- there can be a lot more anger if the executive feels that it is now too late to fix something, so early input can sometimes be better than late input.

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5 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Cinematographers aren't being paid off to use some manufacturer's piece of equipment.  And no cinematographer is going to pick a piece of equipment that doesn't perform to standards, the risks are too high.  So it doesn't matter if Sony or Panavision or ARRI wines and dines them (and certainly they don't pay anyone off) -- ultimately the decisions on gear are made for other reasons, not all of them noble and artistic of course, some practical, some due to budget, some due to decisions made by higher-ups, etc.  And the truth is that some cinematographers invest in equipment and then have a financial motivation to promote that technology, but that also means they believe in it enough to spend their money on it.

As for video villages, the culture on the set really depends on the people involved.  I've been on shows where we set up a village for hair and make-up and another village for producers and executives, every day, and the director and I never hear a peep from those areas or people, so there is hardly any disruption other than the poor assistants who have to build the villages and move them around.

Not all input or extra eyes on things is a bad.

I think the creeping mediocrity is more a function of scale and budget rather than technology -- more money at stake, more people feel a need to have some input, and that would be true no matter what camera is being used.  If you're shooting film, perhaps the executive notes would come from dailies rather than on the set, which is a good and bad thing -- there can be a lot more anger if the executive feels that it is now too late to fix something, so early input can sometimes be better than late input.

great input from notable professionals on this thread throughout....one in which we're all going off on tangents.....perhaps My Mullen would offer up his 'dream job' to us......and what he would shoot and with which camera

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I like playing around with formats too much to pick one, but it would be a dream to shoot a feature in 65mm color negative and to shoot a b&w feature (though I'd be happy to use an Alexa for that, not a big fan of Double-X unless it fit the mood -- but if I wanted to do a deep-focus b&w movie where everything was shot at f/16, I'd rather use a faster digital camera).

If more than one project, I love shooting in 35mm anamorphic, it's a great format.

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16 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

If more than one project, I love shooting in 35mm anamorphic, it's a great format.

Hey David, have you tried 3 perf with 1.3x anamorphic before? 

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No, it's not that easy to get a deal on Hawks, but besides, we we are talking dreams, I'd rather get the bigger 4-perf 2X anamorphic negative, or shoot 3-perf 1.85.  3-perf 1.3X is more of an economic / practical choice to get 2.40 with slightly more negative than cropping spherical Super-35 to 2.40.  Other than the longer mag times and other practical considerations of 3-perf, I'd rather shoot 4-perf anamorphic if we are talking dreams here.

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1 hour ago, Neal Norton said:

For good or ill the video tap introduced a great deal of 'noise' to the film set.  Once any eye from the costume designer to the script supervisor could see the frame, the DP had a new level of input to contend with.  Color video taps amplified the noise.

The level of noise (opinion) on the set grew to an epic level with WYSIWYG monitoring of video cameras.  Some very powerful cinematographers may be able to keep the noise level down but not many.  With the expansion of voices making their input heard on the set I think a couple of very important things happen:  Fewer mistakes are made and many eyes can point out problems or failures.  Maybe more importantly the set has become a committee with the director filtering out the noise as best she can.  The committee approach has produced a very high level of technical excellence AND in my opinion a terrible mediocrity. 

My happy fantasy is to shoot anamorphic film. 

Interesting discussion folks.

Neal Norton
DP

 

The "noise" you speak of Neal... is why I don't like to operate the camera myself when shooting a picture.  I really want to be near the director and video village to help direct all the noise 🙂

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1 hour ago, Bruce Greene said:

The "noise" you speak of Neal... is why I don't like to operate the camera myself when shooting a picture.  I really want to be near the director and video village to help direct all the noise 🙂

Input may be appreciated if it directly relates to the commenting person's work and it is just them wanting to do their own work better. Like the makeup dept asking to do last minute improvements on the makeup when they see the monitor image even when the director thinks the makeup is already ok.

If it is for trying to dictate other department's or HOD's work then it is stepping on someone's toes so to speak (gives an impression that the person thinks he would do the same job better if he would be the Director or Cinematographer on the show and not the runner or PA or grip) . It happens a lot on student and indie sets but by my experience the noise levels lower down considerably as soon as working with a more experienced crew on bigger productions. Not common there anymore that random crew members comment how the scene could be directed or shot better or how the actors should improve their performances to make the scene better...

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