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The benefits of film over video


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#1 John Adolfi

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:32 AM

Shooting super-8 has its benefits over video. of course video has its benefits over film too. Let's all chip in and state our reasons to shoot film.

I'll start.

The benefit of film over video is the archival ability of film to store even in less than ideal conditions ie. basement and still have excellent color and detail for many years. I recently saw my Mom's 1949 graduation prom in 8mm kodachrome. The quality of the film looked like it was shot last week.
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#2 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:39 AM

i am going to be criticised for saying this, but OH MY GOD not another film to video discussion please. this is such a great forum but i have the feeling that we just keep talking about the same thing over and over again. film, video,hd,whatever...they are all cool tools we filmakers can use to tell a story. each one of them as something special. i cant stand this debate anymore
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 10:03 AM

Shooting super-8 has its benefits over video. of course video has its benefits over film too. Let's all chip in and state our reasons to shoot film.

I'll start.

The benefit of film over video is the archival ability of film to store even in less than ideal conditions ie. basement and still have excellent color and detail for many years. I recently saw my Mom's 1949 graduation prom in 8mm kodachrome. The quality of the film looked like it was shot last week.



The film program, at the university I attended years ago, was falling apart under our feet. So a few of us who were very interested in having actual careers (instead of just talking or writing about films) talked the department into letting us shoot a feature for our final 16 credits. Quite an undertaking for three guys who had mainly just video experience to draw from.

The options were few at the time. 16mm wasn't an option due to cost, or so we thought at the time anyway. There definitely wasn't anything resembling HD back in 1991. Being "filmmakers" we decided to shoot the entire thing on Super8 Kodachrome 40. We borrowed some money, bought into the propaganda from Super8Sound and purchased a really expensive Beauliea sync camera and the accompanying sound recorder. We bought some old lights from some guy in Toledo and away we went. The plan was always to shoot on film, then dump to 1" for the final master. The technological obstacles alone were many, but we figured it all out and we had our feature.

So, as I look back, there are a lot of things that I would have done differently with that production. With what we knew then, Super8 was definitely NOT the way to go, certainly not with the script we were shooting. The latitude was far too narrow for a newbie like me to fathom or control. I had a few nice looking shots, but those were by accident. I really didn't know what I was doing. The light meter might as well have been a nuclear reactor as I really didn't know how to measure light accurately enough for the narrow parameters that Kodachrome 40 put me under. Now? Sure, I could do it without hesitation, however it is a new world out there and if the same sort of situation arose (low budget feature film), I would more likely get an F900 rather than corner myself with Super 8 again. Everybody has their own opinions and can do what they want with it, but for me, every camera and every acquisition format is merely a tool each with its own idiosyncracies and parameters to work with. None is "better" than the other...merely different. Different tools for different circumstances. At that time under those conditions, Super 8 was our best choice and we did what we could with it. Today, some kid somewhere might decide the same. Film of any kind isn't necessarily inherently better or worse than standard def video or HD...these are all subjective arguments which are dependent upon specific circumstances. The bottom line is that you use what best serves your purpose under the given parameters at that given time. Learn the technology, whatever it happens to be, and make the best pictures you can with it. :)
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#4 Stephen Williams

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:12 AM

of course video has its benefits over film too.


Hi,

Instant and cheaper I cant think of any others!

Stephen
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#5 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:13 AM

Ah, the old film vs. video/digital dialogue. It is a great dialogue, isn't it? Sure it's tiring, but really it's a dialogue I think we should embrace because no matter how we approach it, it helps us look at things differently and become more tuned in to our filmmaking beliefs. Sure there are no set answers. That's fine. That's actually what makes the conversation so interesting, the fact that there is no answer. If the there was an answer we'd simply move on without thinking about it.

So, here's my answer. As for super8 goes, I'd avoid it for anything you're shooting sound on. I worked very hard to get a Nizo prepared for a shoot only to discover it was still going to be a lot more trouble than it should have to link up sound. Having a crystal sync motor is something that's important to me and aside from the quasi-sync motors provided by the film group, that's not an option. It's much easier to just step up to 16mm.

As for film vs. digital in general, I'm currently voting film. However, I'm not a film snob. If digital gets better--ie, as good as film--and is as easy to shoot as it is now, I'll have no problem shooting digital. Also, if digital loses the 'fake' image I always associate with digital images I'll shoot digitally. Until then, I'm a fan of the best picture you can get. 35mm or even 16mm is still a better image than even the best HD cams. Plus, I'm just a bigger fan of grain than pixels and digital noise.
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#6 John Adolfi

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 12:34 PM

Second reason I like film. The idea of a film camera not becoming obsolete every 1-3 years. That with each imporvement in film technology your camera becomes upgraded automatically. I love that feature.
PS This is not your typical digital vs. Film arguement but more of a let's embrace super8 film and tell why we choose it over mini dv.
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#7 Anthony Schilling

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 01:12 PM

The look of film pleases and excites me, the look of video nausiates and bores me. thats just my primal reason.
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#8 Oliver Ojeil

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 06:23 PM

Without a question, dynamic range.
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#9 Matthew Buick

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 06:40 PM

The look of film pleases and excites me, the look of video nausiates and bores me. thats just my primal reason.


Indeed, there is nothing like getting a roll or processed film back, unraveling some, and seeing a series of pictures of your beautiful house cat, rendered beautifully in Kodachrome, and know that you took that film with a 25 year old Canon camera. Super 8 is such a wholesome thing to shoot with, plain, simple and honest.

Matthew Buick.
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 06:50 PM

the look of video nausiates and bores me. thats just my primal reason.


You know, for a long time, that's the feeling I got from looking at crappy 16mm and some 35mm shot in the 1960s and 1970s. It all looked "rough," grainy, and overly yellow. And those are studio features I'm remembering! Even some features from the '80s look "flat" to me still. Film isn't an across the board "miracle" as many like to claim. It can look just as shi**y as video from Aunt Marge's 80th birthday party while HD in the hands of a professional can rival almost anything shot today.
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#11 chris dye

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 07:33 PM

I'm too in love with film. Nothing wrong with video, but I can't bring myself to make a movie on 'video'. Sorry. I don't let the cost of something stop me from doing something I really want to do (and that's make a movie and have it look like a movie).

HD video is looking great these days and it's getting harder to tell whether it's film or video right away (Click surprised me), especially from cameras like the Genesis. As a matter of fact, sometimes even film itself these days looks too clean and glossy. Like M. Night Shymalan, I, too, think video is too clean and glossy looking. I prefer the 70's look.

Funny how some people dislike the look of movies from the 60's and 70's, but I love it. I grew up on that (maybe that's why). It's got a slight 'grit' and grain to it, but you can still tell when something's shot on 35mm from those days.

I love the horror genre and I simply can't imagine shooting a horror movie on video. Half the fun of watching a Hammer movie or Mario Bava movie is the look of it.

I shot a little horror film on Super 8 about ten years ago. Nothing great. I cringe at the acting and script, but I LOVE looking at it. I shot in the fall and seeing the trees blowing in the wind on grainy Super 8 is cool. It helps with the 'atmosphere'. It's exactly what I was going for in terms of the look. It just wouldn't look the same on video (even 'filmlooked' video or HD).

Super 8 looks cool, but I don't shoot on it anymore because the cost is so close to 16mm that I feel it's more worth it to simply shoot 16mm. (I own a NIZO 6080 and a Frezzolini LW-16 news camera. Both take outstanding pictures. These old cameras blow away any state of the art DV camera out there).

I remember reading about Robert Rodriguez comparing film and video. He felt his HD camera was like a Ferrari and a film camera was a Volkswagen or something. I don't see it that way because I'm sure that the HD camera he purchased then has since been 'upgraded' or even outright replaced and film cameras remain the same and are STILL superior in image capture. Which is the real Ferrari?

All these guys who were shooting movies on standard DV a few years ago and were saying how great it looked and how it looked like film (which I vehemently disagreed with) have probably since jumped to HDV and saying how much better it is than standard DV. But those old Arri's and CP-16's are still chugging along producing better images than those cameras can ever hope to. Soon some other better video technology will come along and they'll jump on that band wagon and guess what? Those old film cameras will still give them a run for their money.

Ironic too that all the film haters out there (and there's a growing number of them really because of the expense of film not the look of it) try so desperately to make their video look like film (the format they seemingly want to die a quick death because the expense prevented them from making a movie apparently).

Just because video looks like film and is cheap and 'easy' to use, doesn't mean it's better. I'd rather go through the trouble of shooting film because at least then I don't have to go through the trouble of making it look like film.
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#12 dr_gonzo

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 08:38 PM

All I can say is you get what you pay for. HD can be a great tool when used properly ie: hard candy...but film just does it for me compared to the instant gratification of video. There is something to be said about shooting a film, sending the negative to the lab and waiting a week to see your images.

I worked on a Hammer style horror feature last summer that shot on HD. The images looked nice, but it was just missing so much of the style it was trying to emulate.
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:28 PM

All I can say is you get what you pay for. HD can be a great tool when used properly ie: hard candy...but film just does it for me compared to the instant gratification of video. There is something to be said about shooting a film, sending the negative to the lab and waiting a week to see your images.

I worked on a Hammer style horror feature last summer that shot on HD. The images looked nice, but it was just missing so much of the style it was trying to emulate.



Sounds like "film" people just dig waiting more than the film itself. :) I'm not much one for waiting around when I don't have to. But that's just me.
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#14 dr_gonzo

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:36 PM

Sounds like "film" people just dig waiting more than the film itself. :) I'm not much one for waiting around when I don't have to. But that's just me.


Hah yes I love waiting.....

the instant gratification of video just takes the magic out of waiting a couple of days in anticipation of what you have shot....
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#15 Peter Tripodi

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:57 PM

When I hold the film to the light, I can see little tiny pictures.

I can?t see anything when I hold the tape to the light.

I?ve conducted this test several times with the same results.
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#16 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:58 PM

Hah yes I love waiting.....

the instant gratification of video just takes the magic out of waiting a couple of days in anticipation of what you have shot....


Magic? Who wants to wait to see if something went wrong? What does that cost to keep sets up, call people back, answer to "suits" who want to know what happened.....

Magic? Whatever. I won't argue that film looks different than video and in many instances is a more appropriate choice given the subject matter, but I've never understood this "romantic" notion thrown over the process. You turn the camera on, light hits whatever is "recording" the image, and you see what happened, either immediately or the next day. Period. It's an objective technical process no matter what format is being used. I don't buy for a moment that if a cameraman could see his film immediately, he wouldn't do it for the "magic" of "anticipation." C'mon. :rolleyes: We wait for film because we HAVE to, because the process takes a relatively "long" time, not because everybody craves the "magic" of "anticipation."

I understand people not choosing video or HD because they aren't partial to that look, but demeaning the format because of it being inherently instantaneous is a red-herring argument that means nothing.
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#17 dr_gonzo

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 11:50 AM

Last I checked you can get next day dailies at any lab....
More craft goes into shooting on film, and an experienced person will get it right the first time.

Video is a good tool, but if your serious about having a nice looking film why bother with video. Especially considering that renting an HD camera can cost MORE than renting a nice S16 camera.

I understand people not choosing video or HD because they aren't partial to that look, but demeaning the format because of it being inherently instantaneous is a red-herring argument that means nothing.


I also wasnt demeaning video because its an instant result like a polaroid...I've just seen far too many DP's take the short cut in lighting for video with the age old excuse "we can fix it in post". It seems like there are far too many point and shoot camera ops passing themselves off as DP's these days.
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#18 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 02:13 PM

Last I checked you can get next day dailies at any lab....

True. I don't remember anyone saying that you can't. The guy above said that it took two days. He should try a different lab. ;)

I think the point he was trying to make is that there is some kind of special "magic" (whatever that means) in the "anticipation" of waiting for the final product, as if it were a Christmas present to be unwrapped. Great, if somebody gets a thrill out of wondering if he shot it right or f***ked up, that's his business. But I was making the point that I'm sure that everyone involved would feel a whole lot better if they could walk away from a setup KNOWING that they have it instead of just hoping that it all turned out okay. HD gives the Director, the DP, the Operator, and the Focus Puller that assurance right away that they "got it." And I was suggesting that if film gave that same kind of instantaneous feedback, I'm sure that nobody would turn it away because they are so in love with the "magic of anticipation." It's a nonsensical argument meant to suggest that video shooters can be hacks because they get instant feedback and don't have to know what they're doing.

More craft goes into shooting on film, and an experienced person will get it right the first time.

More craft? What's that supposed to mean? Define "craft" and how "film" inherently demands more of this "craft" than shooting video does. Please. An experienced cameraman of any kind shooting on any format will get it right the first time. Again, I don't understand why it is anymore true with film than with video. A cameraman has to get it right the first time no matter what format he is using.

Video is a good tool, but if your serious about having a nice looking film why bother with video. Especially considering that renting an HD camera can cost MORE than renting a nice S16 camera.

Theres's the question. Why bother with video? I don't know. There are many reasons to choose one format over another. Why bother shooting 16mm when 35mm is obviously better? In the side by side comparisons I've seen, HDCAM looks superior to any 16mm. Varicam is on par with 16mm which is why you don't see many features being shot with it, I guess.


I also wasnt demeaning video because its an instant result like a polaroid...I've just seen far too many DP's take the short cut in lighting for video with the age old excuse "we can fix it in post". It seems like there are far too many point and shoot camera ops passing themselves off as DP's these days.


Funny, I've seen the same "fix it in post" attitude with film cameramen as well. In fact, I think a valid argument can be made that because film has so much latitude, that any hack with a pulse can shoot film because it is so forgiving. On the other hand, because of the relative lack of latitude in video, it takes more care and attention to achieve a quality image. If a cameraman is relatively inexperienced and "misses" a proper exposure by a stop or two in film, it doesn't matter as the filmstock will save him from himself and it can be "fixed in post," but in HD or standard def, the cameraman has to make better choices because the parameters are so tight. In the 18 years I've been shooting video, I can't recall any instance where a "mistake" on set could be "fixed" in post. A few minor adjustments in brightness, contrast, and color can be made, but for the most part, if you've blown out the highlights, that's it. There's no "fixing in post" as you are implying. I have no idea where you came up with that idea.

I do wonder if this blanket generalization about "video" guys has any basis in reality or if it is just an assumed "fact" in order to demean the format for whatever reason someone might have. Yeah, news guys and tabloid shows point and shoot because that's their job and the final product doesn't require any more than that. But I've seen plenty of point and shoot scenarios in film with Operators just flipping the switch...typically those are Day Exteriors on "action" shots where all that is needed is an exposure. Again, this attitude that all video operators are hacks who just "point and shoot" and no film guys are like that is a myth perpetuated in order to keep this "romance" of film alive.
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#19 dr_gonzo

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 02:30 PM

*"But I was making the point that I'm sure that everyone involved would feel a whole lot better if they could walk away from a setup KNOWING that they have it instead of just hoping that it all turned out okay. HD gives the Director, the DP, the Operator, and the Focus Puller that assurance right away that they "got it." *

I believe this is why monitors, video taps, and clamshell recorders were also invented.

*More craft? What's that supposed to mean? Define "craft" and how "film" inherently demands more of this "craft" than shooting video does. Please. An experienced cameraman of any kind shooting on any format will get it right the first time. Again, I don't understand why it is anymore true with film than with video.*

It also seems to me that if you learn by lighting film and then move to shooting video you will have a better product since you will know much much much more about cutting lighting, achieving your stops, etc to break up the endless depth of field that video and HD yield.

It is true that its much harder to make video look as good as film, there are a few who have done it and my hats off to them. But until there is a process that can replicate light hitting emulsion properly ill stick with film stock for the projects i fund for myself.

This debate is essentially pointless because both these mediums have their drawbacks and strengths....
IMO the only filmmaker that is really doing anything interesting with video is Hal Hartley. He's shooting these microbudget features on older cameras that look more beautiful than anything shot with George Lucas's latest gadget.
[/quote]
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#20 Hal Smith

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 02:40 PM

When I was racing sportscars (Lightweight Racing Elan amongst others) the difference between winning and fifth place was often 15 seconds or less after a half hour or more of racing. You couldn't fix a spin-out in post, you couldn't take a peak at the video village to see how your tires were, you got it right, or you went home with an empty checkbook and a car to fix.

Anything that appears easy in life invariably draws a throng of wannabe's who really don't understand just how difficult perfection truly is. I could tell many stories of people showing up at the track with "racecars" that in truth were a street car with a roll bar and racing tires on it. Let me tell you about the time on a twisty track in Wisconsin that I blew off a 427 CID Corvette in practice driving my first racecar, a 60 CID Bugeye Sprite. I had a racecar, he had a big engined toy sled.

The reason the film troops often can turn out better work is that they've had to learn how to do it right everytime. The real pros can, and do, shoot video but they learned the craft and art the old fashioned way: shooting film and waiting for dailies - and knowing that fixing it in post was much more expensive than knowing their equipment, emulsions, and how to read a lightmeter.

My inventory?

Sony TRV-30
Panasonic PV-DV53
Arriflex 2A/C
Nizo 4056

The Sony is nice for a quick play projects, the Panasonic is for B cam and playback, the Arriflex is for getting it right, and the Nizo is my new play toy - eat poop miniDV! :)
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