Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Vs. Digital

"Bennett Miller clearly knows how to work a roomful of media types without acting like a showboater or coming off like a man undergoing a root canal. He's a low-key fellow who sweats the details of his projects. We talked for a bit last weekend, and what he really wanted to talk about wasn't "Foxcatcher" but the drastically limited avenues of shooting on film, and projecting it, in the digital age.
In Toronto Bennett Miller told me straightforwardly, "I think we were better off as filmmakers 100 years ago." He does not prefer shooting digitally. He doesn't like the postproduction process as much now. And the clinical crispness of digital projection bugs him.
Miller picked up his iPhone midconversation and started fishing around for some recent texts. Look here, he said. Read these. They were from Paul Thomas Anderson, whose latest film, "Inherent Vice," plays the New York Film Festival next month.
The texts picked up a conversation Miller and Anderson had earlier the same day, about the inferiority of digital. The vitriol came through in every unpunctuated word.
We really were, Miller told me. "We were better off before."
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Friedkin's Pro- Digital discussion
These two articles are another card thrown in the long debate of film vs. digital. I've always enjoyed film. But I can't just overlook some of the visuals for some of my favorite films of the last 8 years.

The biggest problem with digital film for me is that is creates laziness on the part of the filmmaker. Also, with the advent of digital, everyone and their dog wants to be a filmmaker. It’s shouldn’t be a point and shoot, just let the camera roll medium. It should be a job that requires discipline, dedication and lots of hard work.

That being said, when it is used properly and with integrity, it can go far in terms of telling the story the filmmaker wants to tell. I am not one to dismiss digital entirely and call it the death knell of cinema. When given the choice, I will choose film over digital. The last thing I want to see is film disappear completely and thanks to the passion of Nolan and Tarantino, it is still being used.

Here are eight films, filmmakers & cinematographers who do it right.


Director: David Fincher
Cinematographer: Harris Savides
Camera used: Thompson Viper

Fincher’s best work has revolved around crime. Zodiac is the perfect argument for this. But along with it, is the color compositions allowed through digital photography. The yellows and browns of the first half contrasting with the sharper blues of the second. Harris Savides work has always impressed me. His team up with Fincher allowed for a sublime look of the 70’s crime picture. The ‘All the President’s Men’ type of investigation backed by the score by 70’s composer David Shire (The Conversation) only adds to the feel of the picture. Fincher shot this on the Viper Thompson. The same camera utilized by Mann for Miami Vice.

Savides would sadly pass away in 2012.

Inland Empire

Director: David Lynch
Cinematographer: David Lynch
Camera used: Sony DSR- PD150

The digital aesthetic Lynch used for this picture is married to the image so that his stream of consciousness visual grammar is now freer than ever. It is incredibly difficult to think of this being shot on 35mm. Which is probably the best reason why the filmmaker should turn to the format. Inland Empire is proof that when digital is needed to tell the story, or in this case, the experience, it should be handled in as much an artistic way possible.

What Lynch and his magical hand have to say:

Miami Vice

Director: Michael Mann
Cinematographer: Dion Beebe
Camera used: Thompson Viper

Nobody can shoot night time scenes quite like Michael Mann. This can be traced back all the way to Thief lights bounce beautifully off the hood of the car. Or how he wet down the streets in order to capture the shots more effectively. The man knows his stuff. Miami Vice sees Mann continue what he was doing on Collateral. Though not entirely shot on digital, Collateral showcased Mann’s love for the format and with subsequent work he would prove that it was not a one night stand. The boat scenes shot at night particularly stand out in Vice. As does the opening of the director’s cut. The camera submerged underwater and slowly rising out. 


Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cinematographer: Emmanuelle Lubezki
Camera used: Arri Alexa

What can I say about Gravity’s look that hasn’t been said time and time again by other people? Lubezki has an Oscar to show for it (an example of the Academy get it right).


Director: Sam Mendes
Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
Camera used: Arri Alexa

One of the best looking Bond film at the moment. One of my favorite things about the James Bond franchise was visiting all the exotic locales around the world. Deakins does all of us Bond fans a favor and uses compelling scenic imagery along with lush interior scenes.


Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cinematographer: Peter Andrews
Camera used: Red One M

“I don’t wait for the tool. I have the tool wait for me.” This Welles quote was used by Soderbergh on the enlightening documentary Side By Side. In it, he uses that quote as a means to tell us how he shot his most difficult project yet- Che. With Che, Soderbergh got his hands on the RED camera. Hot off the production line. The RED camera has evolved from RED EPIC (used by Fincher on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) to RED Dragon (used for the first time on a feature for Fincher’s Gone Girl). Soderbergh’s features have been shot on digital for a while. With The Knick being the peak of his shooting on digital, Che is a reflection of his better photographed digital films.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Director: Sidney Lumet
Cinematographer: Ron Fortunato
Camera used: Panavision Genesis

What if a cinematic legend decided to go to digital? What if Hitchcock or even Kubrick was around during digital editing and camerawork? We’ll never know those two possibilities, but what we did get was another master who used the format- Sidney Lumet.


Director: Martin Scorsese
Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
Camera used: Arri Alexa

I’m not a huge fan of this film. But it is also one of the best looking Scorsese films. Thanks to the master of hot light, Robert Richardson.

For more information on digital vs. film seek out the documentary Side By Side.
It is available via streaming on NetFlix.

No comments:

Post a Comment