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Why do they still shoot on film?


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#1 Doug Gorius

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:23 PM

I don't intend to start some sort of flame war, but this is just something that's been on my mind for a while.

I've been wondering why people still choose to shoot on film these days. It seems that everything is inevitably converted digitally and processed to the point of not even looking as if it were shot on film in the first place. Of course you could say they shoot on film because it has a really high resolution, but so do the RED cameras, which (I believe) have the same resolution as the highest resolution Digital Intermediates (blech!). And while I'm on the subject of DI's, I would just like to go on a tangent and say how much I hate them. I think they are the main reason most films today look so disgusting and soulless. I have not seen one visually pleasing DI. They all have this overly static, artificial look along with a color scheme consisting only of orange and teal. I know they probably make DI's these days because it's cheaper, but I don't care; that doesn't make me dislike them less. I wish that DI didn't kill the photochemical process, that they could have at least coexisted together.

Anyway, what's the point of shooting on film if you're going to make it into a processed digital video at the same resolution as one of the best video cameras out there? I absolutely LOVE pure, unadulterated, analog film, but I really don't like the direction film acquisition has been going since the mid 2000's.

Edited by Doug Gorius, 29 December 2010 - 06:25 PM.

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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:45 PM

I've been wondering why people still choose to shoot on film these days.


Oh boy. :blink:

R,
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#3 Deniz Coker

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:47 PM

You know, I personally think of it this way. There's guys who have been shooting film their whole lives. Masters of the format. Know how it handles, they instinctively work with it. It would be a crime to take that away from them. I know Deakins is very connected to film and isn't a fan of the RED and that's okay, it's Deakins. He as a master of the format has a right to demand film as he deals within the aesthetic realm. I've shot digital due to budget constraints and working in television, we need everything now now now. But I feel film has an unmatchable range, handles highlights and shadows in ways digital can only dream and of course it has the 'film look' that drives people crazy. Film look has been a buzz word in my mind. I've always thought, digital is digital, if I want the film look, I'll shoot on film, but it won't make something more cinematic by default. So to me I see it as a comfort and mastery thing. The younger crop (including myself) appreciate it as well but for a lot, digital is the only option. Most people may never see a budget that allows them to use film but given the chance, they might perhaps take it over digital as well. Now I will say this about the RED, I've read Deakins' argument against it and he has laid out some very valid technical reasons as to why he doesn't like it. Having said that, he is in a position where he can choose not to like it and I might get a RED shoved in my face for a project. Not to say it's a bad camera, but I just wouldn't argue his choice with him knowing his past and how he likes to shoot.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:56 PM

D.I.'s have improved quite a bit over the decade, I've seen plenty of side-by-side tests of film that has gone through a D.I. next to a straight contact print and it's pretty hard to see any difference. Of course, ideally it would all be done at 4K, but at least today it has become common to scan at 4K even if then they downsample to 2K immediately, this is a bit better than scanning 35mm at 2K.

It's certainly not cheaper to do a D.I., but considering that all movies need to deliver a 1080P HD master for home video, and sometimes a 2K DCP for digital theaters, you might as well do a D.I. otherwise you are repeating a lot of color-correcting work, doing everything twice.

The advantages to film are not only in terms of resolution. For one, a film negative and protection IP and/or b&w separations are good archival elements for a future where god-knows-what digital formats will be in existence. Also, there is dynamic range, only the Alexa comes close, not counting the future HDR function of the Red Epic cameras. And there is simply the fact that film works, it's a known quality (warts and all) and has a well-established workflow, and people like the way it looks (warts and all.)

But obviously we are in a slippery slope now that digital post is the norm, D.I.'s are the norm, digital projection is becoming the norm, image acquisition is the last hold-out for film -- once dynamic range is addressed, and the color science is worked out, it will get harder and harder to make the argument for film unless the budget is healthy enough that the filmmaker can choose whatever they feel like using, for the slimmest or the best of reasons, whatever floats their boat.

But the simple answer to your question is that people shoot film because they like the results, pure and simple. It conforms to what they think movies should look like. When they start to like the results of shooting digital more, then they will shoot digital. And if they can't tell the difference, it's likely they will choose whatever seems cheaper and more efficient to them, likely digital.

There is also a generational aspect, there are younger people who are so used to digital images that they don't have any nostalgia for film and feel that digital "looks right" to their eyes, it's simply a taste thing for them, and who can argue with taste? Some people think that digital images look "plastic" to them, being so clean, and some people think that film images are just soft and grainy, the beauty of that sort of image eludes them.
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#5 Ravi Kiran

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:26 AM

It's certainly not cheaper to do a D.I., but considering that all movies need to deliver a 1080P HD master for home video, and sometimes a 2K DCP for digital theaters, you might as well do a D.I. otherwise you are repeating a lot of color-correcting work, doing everything twice.


I used to think that DIs were only used on films that required some special look that optical grading couldn't deliver, but nowadays I see that even relatively normal-looking films are going through DIs. You know DIs are the norm when cinematography-related publications make a point to mention that Inception didn't go through a DI.
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#6 Don Norman

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:35 AM

Regarding the orange and teal color scheme, what is the rationale for its use? Does anyone else here find this color scheme to be annoying or a distraction?

There is an interesting article at this link called "5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same" that lists it at #4:

http://tinyurl.com/37g66va

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:22 AM

Regarding the orange and teal color scheme, what is the rationale for its use? Does anyone else here find this color scheme to be annoying or a distraction?

There is an interesting article at this link called "5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same" that lists it at #4:

http://tinyurl.com/37g66va

- Don


It's just a popular color scheme -- I mean, blue-green backgrounds and warm faces make more sense that purple backgrounds and green faces, don't they?

As color schemes go, warm and cold are a lot easier to justify than some other colors, in real life we have plenty of light sources that are either warm, cold, or cyan. In industrial lighting from metal-halide and sodium vapor sources, you get the same cyan and orange combinations -- Paul Cameron pushed this color combination heavily in movies such as "Swordfish" and "Gone in Sixty Seconds". People liked it then, thought it was pretty. The only problem now is the repetition, it's no longer fresh, but as a color combination goes, it's more attractive than a lot of other colors I could combine together.

It's a basic problem when you decide that you want a more saturated look with more use of colored lighting -- it's easier to justify the warm and cyan sources than some other oddball colors, especially when it comes to lighting faces.

I mean do you need a "rationale" for a late afternoon scene with warm sunlight and blue skies to justify why the light is warm and the sky is blue?

I think the only problem today is the fear of neutrality, having scenes shot under white light, because it seems uncreative or visually unexciting. Trouble is that you need neutral shots now and then so that the colored shots stand out better, as a point of departure. But I don't have a problem with warm and cold lighting as a creative choice.
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#8 Navinder Singh

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:35 AM

Don't blame the technology, blame the people who use it poorly. Your argument against DI is the same as that of against 3D. Is 3D a poor technology? No way, if used properly. Avatar is the perfect example of how 3D can be a whole new experience for the cine-goers. Blame the greedy producers and directors who are trying to convert their 2D movies into 3D and thus, giving the technology a bad name.

Don Norman, I read the article that you pointed out. The writer makes good points; however, he is blaming the technology instead of the people who are using it. For example, he rants about the use of color correction during post production. Color correction, in my opinion, is a very handy tool just in case something turns out to be wrong, but filmmakers have become irresponsible and lazy, for they just rely on color correction to get the image right instead of capturing it right with the camera.

As far as Film vs Digital is concerned, I think it all depends upon the type of film you are shooting. For an indie filmmaker who is short on funds, Digital would be the perfect way (Paranormal Activity is a good example); however, for a filmmaker who has a lot of money, it can be both. And I've seen that many filmmakers are using both film and HD to make their movies. Black Swan, for example, was shot both on 16mm and Canon 5D and 7D.

Lastly, it depends upon the director. Director like Fincher prefer Digital over film; on the other hand, directors like Nolan and Tarantino prefer film over digital.
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#9 John Sprung

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:11 AM

Is 3D a poor technology?


Yes, actually, as it's done today, it is. It's just stereopsis, which is only a part of how we see depth in the real world. Human vision doesn't use it beyond about five meters. So, today's 3D is still only a gimmick, just as it was in the 1950's.





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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:13 AM

You know DIs are the norm when cinematography-related publications make a point to mention that Inception didn't go through a DI.


DI replaced conventional printing in studio pattern budgets about five years ago.





-- J.S.
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#11 Navinder Singh

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:26 AM

Yes, actually, as it's done today, it is. It's just stereopsis, which is only a part of how we see depth in the real world. Human vision doesn't use it beyond about five meters. So, today's 3D is still only a gimmick, just as it was in the 1950's.





-- J.S.


Proved my point. I'm not a big fan of 3D myself, for people are not using it properly. The only film that I can think of which used 3D properly is Avatar and to a certain extent, Step Up 3D.
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#12 Simon Wyss

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 04:32 AM

Doug Gorius, student ?!

I sometimes have the impression that posts or thread starts like this one could be home made, I mean written by insiders for keeping the forum alive. Who can be so non-read as a student to ask such questions?

Resolution? Resolving power, film versus video, come on, Douglas living person, are you not aware of the basic difference, that one is something organic, the other anorganic?

Because you LOVE film, why not tell us your love story? Where are you, who are you, which direction in cinematography are you taking?
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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:50 AM

the orange and teal color scheme



Oops.
tealandorange.jpg

Now I feel like an idiot. But what the hell else was I supposed to do; it's candlelight and moonlight. I don't think Constance would have been very happy if I'd have lit her in, say, purple.


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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 10:19 AM

[/color]

Oops.
tealandorange.jpg

Now I feel like an idiot. But what the hell else was I supposed to do; it's candlelight and moonlight. I don't think Constance would have been very happy if I'd have lit her in, say, purple.


Thats a great shot Phil, I really like it, what was it shot on and what is the project? Looking great although it looks slightly bright for moonlight to my eyes?

love

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#15 Doug Gorius

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:18 PM

I apologize for the overly sensational thread title; I wasn't really sure what else to call it. I just don't see why people choose to shoot on film when they can easily make their flat, lifeless, orange and teal dreams come true with a digital camera.

Now I don't think Phil's example looks bad at all, I'm talking about this trash:
http://tinyurl.com/ybb7kv2

I know what I'm about to say probably doesn't make any sense because I'm inarticulate, but it seems that the idea of the "film look" has become subjective over the years. The "film look" used to be (to me, at least) the look of genuine celluloid untouched by computers. Then, over the years, people decided that untimed film isn't good enough. The "film look" evolved into a stock visual effect and a cliche representative of how other films looked at the time. If other films were shot on 35mm and then color-timed to have less color variation than 2-strip Technicolor, than that is the "film look." If other films were shot digitally with fake film grain added in post and cropped to 2.35:1, then that is the "film look." If a film was shot on 35mm, degrained in post, and then overlaid with fake film grain for absolutely no reason, then that is apparently the "film look."

I like to think that years from now people are going to laugh at all these overly touched-up images the way we laugh at overproduced disco music from the late '70s.

And yes, I am a fan of gate weave. Not loads of it, mind you, but just enough to give it the look of film being projected. Screw DI for taking that away.

Edited by Doug Gorius, 30 December 2010 - 02:23 PM.

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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:38 PM

And yes, I am a fan of gate weave. Not loads of it, mind you, but just enough to give it the look of film being projected. Screw DI for taking that away.


Surely when you project the 35mm print from a DI you would still get the gate weave?!

love

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#17 Doug Gorius

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:30 PM

^All the closest theaters are blu-ray projections, and the DVDs of these films are mastered from 00101100010's, not film prints. I'm not interested enough in the films anyway to drive 20 minutes so I can see something shot on film, converted to 2K (most of the time) and then outputted back to film. Ew.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 06:08 PM

^All the closest theaters are blu-ray projections, and the DVDs of these films are mastered from 00101100010's, not film prints. I'm not interested enough in the films anyway to drive 20 minutes so I can see something shot on film, converted to 2K (most of the time) and then outputted back to film. Ew.


Not really accurate, digital theaters use 2K DCP files, not 1080P blu-ray discs... and DVD's of movies shot on film ALL require a transfer process, whether from a film print, negative, or interpositive. And mastering a DVD from a film print is probably the WORST way of transferring a film image to video, the gamma is too high for a good transfer, it was designed for print projection in mind, plus most prints were not pin-registered when made.
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#19 Doug Gorius

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 08:04 PM

Not really accurate, digital theaters use 2K DCP files, not 1080P blu-ray discs...


I know that, I was just making a joke.

and DVD's of movies shot on film ALL require a transfer process, whether from a film print, negative, or interpositive. And mastering a DVD from a film print is probably the WORST way of transferring a film image to video, the gamma is too high for a good transfer, it was designed for print projection in mind, plus most prints were not pin-registered when made.


Oh really? That's a surprise. But how come the frame is so steady (especially during scenes with credits and other titles)? It looks a bit too artificial to look like a film transfer to me.
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 08:20 PM

But how come the frame is so steady (especially during scenes with credits and other titles)? It looks a bit too artificial to look like a film transfer to me.


I'm not even sure what you are saying -- steady during what? While playing on TV? What do you mean by "artificial"? What's a film transfer supposed to look like? It's supposed to be unsteady, jittery, and dirty?

Negs are usually exposed in cameras with pin-registration, and I.P.'s are made off of the neg using a step printer, but prints are made at high speed using a continuous contact printer so there is some loss of sharpness and steadiness. But the main problem is the contrast (gamma), which is not designed for telecines and scanners, so there is a loss of detail in the dark shadows and bright highlights, plus no flexibility to color-correct the image.

Even before D.I.'s, the majority of movies ever since the flying-spot telecine was invented in the early 1980's have used an interpositive made off of the original negative for the transfer to video. Others have used the original negative (tricky when it's been spliced or A-B rolled), dupe negs, or low-con prints. Projection prints are generally last resorts for video transfers, saved for transfers of really old movies where no other element exists, particularly public domain movies.

Modern movies that go through a D.I. will have things like titles over picture and visual efx delivered as finished digital files that are edited into the master, so in a home video copy, they wouldn't have gone through a film-out and then a retransfer back to digital and thus are steadier. The old way of doing composites like titles over picture would be to use an optical printer and dupe elements, so there would be more grain & dirt built into the composite.

Even movies that don't go through a D.I. will still generally have composites & titles done digitally, which are then recorded to film interneg and cut into the original negative.
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