Tuesday, January 24, 2006


So, digital or film, what's it gonna be?

Scott the Reader recently posted about the release of Bubble, to be released simultaneaously on DVD, in theaters, etc. This is supposed to be some revolutionized release and they are trying it with this art-film. So, when it bombs, will they say this type of strategy won't work?

Well, roll the dice a little, people. This movie wouldn't make 9 cents anyway (combined DVD & theater gross) so how is this a good test of this strategy? Why not try it on a movie like this Summer's Superman. Then we'll see. Oh, they won't? Why? Oh, because the theatrical release won't make as money. I think it's a neat idea, and might be good for these smaller releases, but it's not gonna change anything with how studios release movies unless they up the ante and send something like a Superman or X3 out like this. And if I was them, I simply wouldn't.

His comments then veered into what's better - Film or Digital.

What do you guys think? Is digital the wave of the future? Will it bury film? I hope not. Film is a beautiful thing. I think they can co-exist, but can you picture a movie like Glory or Lawrence Of Arabia or Saving Private Ryan shot on digital? People that love digital swear up and down about it, saying how CLEAR the picture is. Well, to me, that's its problem. Give me a nice grainy film anyday. Although I am for digital projection and love digital sound.

How about you guys? Thoughts on this? Film? Digital?


christopher said...


although it hasn't been up to the level of film in the past, it's quite quickly catching up and in many ways surpasses it.

im a colorist for a feature film vfx house in los angeles and i welcome with open arms the day that we shoot and project digitally.

we just got the new infocus sp777 digital projector for digital dailies. omg. that thing makes dvds look amazing! and it's only 720p resolution. and it's only $15k. it won't be long before owning your own digital movie theatre will be affordable.

the amount of control, flexibility and consistency digital gives you is outstanding and rapidly getting exponentially better and more affordable. i'm shooting a short this year using a dvx100 modded with the redrock micro35 adaptor and the andromeda uncompressed 10bit data-stream capture. that camera gets amazing pictures.

i guarantee you, with a good dp my film will look ten times better than 90% of the independent films shot on film.

we've not begun to tap into the potential for digital cinema. digital can capture and display color that film can't. potential benefits include simultaneous 3-stop bracketing, on-set color-correction and who knows what else.

oh trust me, it's all about digital baby.

Thomas Crymes said...

Film is dead. It just doesn't know it yet. The cost of film will be its own demise.

I appreciate your love for grain, but to me its about the movie goer. Film copies that make it to the multiplex are not as good as the prints they are struck from. And as soon as the projector light his the film, the film begins to fade. Add to that, picture movement, focus issues, dirt issues, and scratching issues, there really isn't even an argument.

Pat your argument for the aesthetics of film is valid for now, but where does that leave the movie goer?

The argument is largely moot. We are moving out of the film age and into the digital age. You can't stop it. As soon as all the major studios are releasing only digital movies, film will fade away. You might think art houses will have film projectors (and they will), but if you are an Independent filmmaker and you can make a feature for 20% less on digital, and you are scrounging for financing, what format will you be "filming" on?

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Film isn't dead Crymedog. Just because digital is around and more people are using it, doiesn't mean it will kill film.

But might it? It could. We'll see though.

Yes, for the indie filmmaker, digital is perfect. I should know, I used it several times.

But the movies I made on film look 100000000000000 times better. If you can afford it, film is the way to go.

There are ways to add "grainyness" to digital, I am well aware.

I like the technology and all that, trust me, I love many things about digital, it is easier.

Also, there are ten bazillion DV, digital projects out there going NOWHERE because they look like home god damn videos. For digital, I think the technology needs to improve even more.

If you take 1 movie and shoot it two ways, 1 on digital and 1 on film, it's almost a guarantee that the FILM project will SELL. so, even though some Idnei guys are sfraping together $$ for a digital feature, what's the use if it goes nowhere?

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Christopher makes a point, too, that if you do have a good DP, and light it the right way, digital can look good. so there's hope.

At least I can see ALL sides, Mr. Crymes, and can say that digital has its positives, and when shot and lit correctly, it can be good.

Closing the door on film and saying its dead is ludicrous though.

Thomas Crymes said...

The writing is on the wall. You can choose to read it or not.

Economies of scale. As soon as the major studios stop developing film, the price Kodak (or whoever) charges for developing will increase. And pretty soon it won't be cost effective for them to even keep open their labs and developing will fall to lesser companies with smaller capacities.

I'm not saying film is dead NOW. I'm saying (my statement was a bit imflammatory) that film is circling the drain (dying). It might take 10 or 15 years, but motion picture film, will die a frighteningly quick death when the time comes. It won't be like still photography, which will be around for some time, if not forever.

Thomas Crymes said...

Pat, I'd like to differentiate between digital filmmaking on formats like DV and the Digital Cameras used by people like Lucas and Robert Rodriguez. DV can't compare to film, you are totally right, and won't get an argument from me. Even HD quality cameras, which are out now for like around 3 grand, I think, pale in comparison to the digital cameras used by the major filmmakers.

DV is only good compared to SVHS or maybe even half inch.

Patrick J. Rodio said...

I still prefer 35mm film stills instead of digital. I have both but I think the 35mm pics are better.

My point is the look, rodrigues has certainly used digital the right way, my concerns are how the movies LOOK.

If you can make a digital movie look close to film (colors, light, etc) then I'm on board. And I can see that it's getting there, certainly with the cameras rodrigues and Lucas have used.

Robert Hogan said...

You're not saving any money by shooting digital. The cost you save in film stock and lab work is spent in pipelines and workflows in post.

Film has about 10 years before digital takes over as the primary format for shooting Hollywood films, and that's only if the theater owners can agree on a standard for digital projection.

With popularity of HD TVs audiences are going to get used to the crisp image of digital and that will lead to a smooth transition away from grainy film images to crisp digital images.

I'm afraid film is on the way out; I'm just worried that studios and producers are going to start choosing quantity over quality.


Patrick J. Rodio said...

It'll be interesting to see what does happen. For now I think they can co-exist just fine, like CDs and cassettes did for a short time, who knows.

Everybody has made great points here. The kicker is cost and yes, the quality of the picture that won't diminish after repeat viewes with digital.

Like I said, I do like the technology, but at the low end, if you can afford film over say shooting with a Panasonix or Canon Dv, I say go film. IF you can afford it. In the long run your film will simply look better and havea better chance at distirbution. Unless it sucks.

But if it comes down to shooting it on DV or not at all, then hell with all the BS we're talking about here, grab your DV camera and go make it! Just get a good DP!

christopher said...

interesting perspective on the issue from a filmmaker:

rain in the mountains production blog

although being in digital vfx i have to disagree with this statement:

"Don’t get me wrong - I don’t think video can every truly replace film, because pixels are decidedly not the same as grains, and the chemical nature of film will always give it a look that is basically inimitable in an analog or digital video system."