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Student aspiring cinematographer in Australia - film vs digital


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#1 Jesse Phomsouvanh

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 11:49 PM

Hi guys,

I'd just like to say hello to everybody. This is my first post on this website :) Obviously wanting to be a cinematographer but I'm somewhat still new to the realm. I'm still confused about what is so special about digital cinematography. My film school only goes as far as teaching 16mm and so far... it's like everything that's important to learn and develop a craft with in film, is redundant for digital.

I really like the idea of capturing images organically, and selecting appropriate stocks with fixed ISOs and using cameras with different shutters, etc. I find it's a real craft shooting film!
But for digital, besides trying to filter out everybody raving about simplicity and the entire "who needs a high end camera when my SLR can do everything!"... I don't really understand what is making digital so great. Having a field monitor and customizable settings, seems to completely go against my idea of cinematography in film. I've read about different camera having higher ISO capabilities, or faster shutter capabilities, or longer shooting time before heating up in SLRs.. but what else is there that makes digital cameras so special? I guess it's a bit vague what I'm asking, so I'd love to discuss this with more experienced practitioners!

Thanks everybody :)
Jesse

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#2 Jeremy Ables

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:24 AM

As this is your first post this is my first reply, as digital film student I personally would love learn the craft of shooting film. I think what makes these cameras so great is the customizable settings, the dynamic ranges and the ability for faster turnaround times in the deliverable product all because of an expedited workflow. With regards to DSLR's, yes they are coming along with Canon's 1-DC at 4K resolution but you are talking about a camera that I believe is $15,000 U.S. out of the average consumers price range! Now I don't dislike them(DSLR's in general)but what I have come to realize is that there is no one right camera for every job, and the I think that is why I would like to learn how to shoot on film, how to shoot with high end Red's, Arri Alexa's, Phantom's, you name it I want to learn how it works, what it's workflow is and what it's limitations are. I don't know if you have ever watched the Zacuto's Great Camera Shootout where they compared film to digital I will include a link but I think maybe it will help to answer some of your questions.

Thanks,

Jeremy
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#3 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:40 AM

What film school are you at?
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#4 Jesse Phomsouvanh

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 04:22 AM

Thanks for the replies so far guys :)
So, like.. it's more a question of the camera itself when it comes to digital, than opposed to the film stock that makes the difference. I'd like to know how the cameras differ besides the general consumer/professional comparisons. Like, technical stuff.
I'm looking up Zacuto's Great Camera Shootout now :)
Shooting film is a great experience, you have to be so much more careful of stuff and for me anyway, using it is like an escape from the world that depends too much on digital nowadays. I'm a bit of a nature's boy :P

I'm at the Griffith Film School (Southbank, Brisbane, Australia). They touch on every aspect of film making, like producing, writing, directing, sound, VFX, but for cinematography, they don't teach much digital stuff besides the basics.
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#5 Jeremy Ables

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 08:01 AM

Yes and No, Technically yes the camera that you use can make a large difference when you shoot something. If you have fast moving objects and you are attempting to use a camera that has a CMOS sensor you will get what is known as a jello effect as the sensor reads like an interlaced television picking up one portion of the image at the top of the move and a radically different portion of the image at the bottom but will happen with stationary objects as well like vertical lines such as corners of walls. The other thing that can make a difference is the compression that the camera uses for output. Some have proprietary output files like the Red, some are in .mov file names but have different "wrappers" to contain the footage for the compression. This gets very complicated very quick and I know only enough to be dangerous. The compression of digital video footage is what makes a lot of footage look and feel like Video compared to film or at least look filmic. Raw and uncompressed footage has a much larger dynamic range (of course this depends on what the camera's sensor can see to begin with) allowing for more play in post. However you still have the color gamut of any digital camera to consider and what it will record at. You will have to check facts and figures but I know that between the color gamut of 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 you and the whether you have a 8,10, or 12 bit signal depends on how large your spectrum of colors are and the latitude you have to alter without having issues such as banding and artifacts within your image. Where the no comes in is it the right tool for the job, because you can use so many different cameras to accomplish the same task you have to know if the camera you are using is right for the task at hand and what its capabilities are if you are doing VFX work with heavy green screen you need at least the 4:2:2 color space and many prefer better depending on what you are doing and how high a quality the key has to be. If you are doing a multi-cam set up it is more about the connections that the camera has or what you can adapt to it in order to be able to control some its settings remotely. Lastly if you are doing something where you cant fit a conventional camera a DSLR will cut together well with most footage. Hopefully this was what you were looking for in the technical realm and a few examples thrown in.

Jeremy
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#6 Jesse Phomsouvanh

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:07 AM

Yeah man, that is a huge sandwich of information that is really helpful. Really appreciate it! Thanks!
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#7 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 03:16 AM

Ah right, that sounds fair enough. It is lucky they let you shoot on any kind of film because the discipline alone is worth learning.

I recommend getting involved with the ACS (http://www.cinematographer.org.au/), there's a great headquarters down here in Sydney that regularly holds great drop in nights and other such discussions. A student membership is very affordable and worth getting in on for the learning and discussions with other cinematographers.
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#8 Trevor McClung

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 07:34 PM

Film is what resembles our own imaginations more than any other medium on earth. That's pretty cool and that is all that matters to me.
Digital is quicker but it's missing the mysterious look of film so I don't believe in it.
Digital is also much, much more expensive now than film can be.
8mm is cool, 16 is awesome, Ultra 16 is radical, Super 16 is serious 2 perf 35 is out of this world and I honestly can't mentally handle shooting beyond that yet. Video isn't on the meter for me, I don't know why but I do know that very few people feel like video is cooler looking than film and those very few are most certainly lying or are delusional.
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#9 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:47 PM

Film is what resembles our own imaginations more than any other medium on earth. That's pretty cool ......


I think I drank a double brandy and outed myself re this film vs digital issue on the Indietalk forum. Rather than link to that I'll paste here.

Quoting myself with a few corrections for typos:

"....In the limit (as in a mathematical proof) the medium of film I believe will have an evolution into a medium for artists only. Think Lynch doing Erazerhead or Chris Marker doing La Jette, but imagine that history haden't yet happened (in order to guage their significance). It (film) may be wasted somewhat on narrative film makers as a medium. If film makers and thair audience can't tell the difference between film and digital it (film) may dissapear quickly as a mainstream production and exhibition medium.

We live in a world where we are told that everything can be expressed as a collectiuon of discrete parts. The world is deconstructed. An image is encoded as a matrix of zeros and ones that are transposed off to somewhere else. But like the frog that we may have been forced to disect in class, the analysis of parts is an exercise that can easily end the life force or whole value that glued all the parts together.

When light collides with a piece of celluloid it is a kind of total event leaving a vivid record. Analogous to the way all impacting experience on us (mind/body/physiology) leaves a record. These impressions don't easily dissapear. even if they are undersired. I think we are obliged to find or make images of significance or unavoidable fascination and then learn how to deal with them. I think there will be some artists who will linger in the world who will find film as a medium a fascinating loadstone in this respect.

There is a line that is being crossed as film dissapears from our experience in the mainstream cinema. It's a validation and reinforcement of the completely eroneous idea that only the surfaces matter. If we make digital look like film, who wiull ever know or remember it (film). But consider this, if you could have a rubber doll that looked , sounded and did everything in an identical way to your life partner, would you accept them as being of equal value? To accept that (the rubber doll) are you really even human enymore.

So please go ahead and enjoy film medium while you can....."

Cheers,
Gregg.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 25 May 2012 - 10:49 PM.

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#10 Trevor McClung

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 12:19 AM

I'm a former vinyl record producer and Tubes are still number one, 2" tape is better, Vinyl records are selling more today than 20 years ago and analogue recording hasn't gone away. CD's are about to die but analogue lives on. I think the reason is that you can't reproduce real life. Film will outlast digital and analogue audio will outlast digital. No reason to fear or fight it.
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#11 Daniel Smith

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 03:03 PM

2" tape is better

Could you explain this a little more or provide any objective test results?
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#12 Trevor McClung

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 03:32 PM

Ya, it sounds warmer and many artist prefer it. Especially me. What would you like to prove that we like it better? Are you trying to be a smarty pants? Why don't you do your own research with some head phones. If I said rock and roll is better than country would you have asked me the same question? I'm not sure if your a jackass yet. Can you provide some info or test' that prove that your not please.
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#13 Trevor McClung

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 04:06 PM

I'm being funny, I hope I didn't hurt your feelings. Digital is very capable of getting the job done. But it's like saying a Tube amp is better than solid state and having someone say "can you provide objective test" Every guitar player I know will probably say something like; I got your test result right here.
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#14 Trevor McClung

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 04:14 PM

I'm not sure this came across like I meant; No one can predict the future of digital no matter how it appears or what seems to make sense because it looked like CD's were going to kill Vinyl records but that didn't happen and now records have come back with "record breaking sales" So if people are going to pretend they know what the outcome of film will be then I'm going to predict it for the positive and I actually believe that the Arri Alexa will be obsolete before super 8mm will and I'll put money on it.
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#15 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 03:02 AM

I'm not sure this came across like I meant; No one can predict the future of digital no matter how it appears or what seems to make sense because it looked like CD's were going to kill Vinyl records but that didn't happen and now records have come back with "record breaking sales"

'now records have come back with "record breaking sales"'

Where exactly do you get that rubbish from?
Just about every shopping centre I know of has a place of one sort of another that sells CDs. I don't know anywhere that sells vinyl except for a couple of specialist shops down in the city. An Internet search confirms this is pretty much the pattern throughout the world.
Certainly vinyl record players are selling pretty well at the moment, but they're nearly always bought so people can play their existing collections of vinyl. Many of the turntables also allow users to transfer tracks to MP3 or other formats, and some also have a CD burner so you can turn your vinyl into CDs.
The vast majority of units sold have absolute rubbish ceramic cartridges, and the rest of the turntable is similarly junk, but it seems to do the job of making the old records audible. HiFI is definitely not involved.
There's always going to be a small but well-paying market segment devoted to ludicrously priced and outrageously over-hyped 'Audiophile' equipment. They do not represent the mainstream market! Such people seriously seem to imagine it's going to make people think there is something 'special' about them. And it does; but only in the sense of the Special Olympics.

Basically a HiFi nut, is well, just a nut. Crackpots of all stripes also seem convinced that if they behave in an 'eccentric' manner, people won't notice that they're crackpots, it's reality that's got it wrong and so on. :P
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#16 Trevor McClung

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 03:19 AM

http://www.tinymixta...ossibly-related

Thanks. Rubbish even. Nice word. Do some research before you insult people. Everyone in the know now knows that you talk out of the side of your neck. What a jackass.
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#17 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 03:39 AM

http://www.tinymixtapes.com/news/sales-vinyl-records-increase-sixth-straight-year-popularity-lensless-glasses-possibly-related

Thanks. Rubbish even. Nice word. Do some research before you insult people. Everyone in the know now knows that you talk out of the side of your neck. What a jackass.

OK, I stand corrected. Vinyl sales have gone from one microscopic drop in a bucket, to what? 1.5 microscopic drops in a bucket!
Perceived Reality 0 Internet 1
If you're prepared to pay an over-the-top price for a grossly inferior and inconvenient 19th century delivery system, you can call yourself an audiophile, you can pretend you have golden ears, you can spout all the elitist tripe you like; you are either badly deluded, or you're a crackpot.
There are no (0) other options.
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#18 Trevor McClung

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 05:02 AM

You stand corrected but refuse to admit that your a prick.
"Crack pot"? Well if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is.
I think your seeing a reflection of yourself mate.
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#19 Trevor McClung

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 05:07 AM

In case your too lazy to click the link.
Meanwhile, here is the top 10 best-selling vinyl albums of 2011:

01. The Beatles - Abbey Road (41,000)
02. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (29,700)
03. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (27,200)
04. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (26,800)
05. Radiohead - The King of Limbs (20,800)
06. Adele - 21 (16,500)
07. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (16,200)
08. Wilco - The Whole Love (14,900)
09. The Black Keys - Brothers (14,200)
10. The Black Keys - El Camino (13,800)


Has anybody actually seen real fools gold? It has little square type chunks sort of like pixels but real gold has soft rounded edges. It's very much like film vs video to me. The fool buys something and get's all excited about it so his friends and family don't have the heart to tell him that it doesn't look like the real thing. Very much like digital vs film.
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#20 Daniel Smith

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 11:57 AM

Ya, it sounds warmer and many artist prefer it. Especially me. What would you like to prove that we like it better? Are you trying to be a smarty pants? Why don't you do your own research with some head phones. If I said rock and roll is better than country would you have asked me the same question? I'm not sure if your a jackass yet. Can you provide some info or test' that prove that your not please.

Nothing wrong with liking it at all, I can completely understand the artistic use of analogue mediums. It's just it sounded like you were totally obscuring your own argument beyond any logical sense to prove analogue formats were factually better, something I wouldn't have a problem with if you could back it up.
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Visual Products

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