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FILM vs DIGITAL

Film digital comparison

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#1 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 06:08 AM

Hi everyone

 

I am sorry if I brought such a subject which has been discussed I guess so many times which is Film vs Digital, I don’t want to discuss the technical aspect I want more to see your opinion about the evolution of cinema and how tools can help doing this

I watched recently the THR (The Hollywood reporter) roundtable (Cinematographers) you can watch in the link bellow.

And they started as usual praising Film, which still looks better than Digital until NOWDAYS and I am sure Digital will surpass it in the next decade. And  I can quote some what they said:

Bruno Delbonnel “we are going from watchmaking if I may say so, an ArriFlex Camera or a Panavision Camera were like a Swiss Watchmaker, it was really precise, it cost a fortune .. $300k and now we gonna use camera which gonna be $2000, the problem is It’s an economical decision it’s not an Artistic decision, ….. “

With all my respect to them,

First off, I don’t know if the guy has a clue about Digital cameras prices or he is comparing Film Camera to Panasonic DSLR’s !!

And something that we really have to know, is it really just about money? Or Cinema/video tools have to evolve to give us better tools in the future that we can use to better tell stories ?

 

If you watch the Roundtable, you find a lot of opinions regarding Old vs New tools which is for me a kind of “Orthodox” traditional way of thinking, that some of the Great Cinematographers still believe in, not just in this roundtable but in general, I would like quote some other things that have been said (About lenses sharpness, film grains, look, 3D,…) but I guess the post is long enough to mention this here. And I hope I can discuss this in details if people are interested

To put it in a nutshell, Are we supposed to take care of Digital, evolve it in way it can be better than Film and even to Mimic Film for Film look lovers, or still praising film until the end of the days?

 

 

Regards

 

 

 

 

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#2 John E Clark

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 11:34 AM

I have a couple of thoughts on this... well more that a couple... but for the moment I'll express 2 thoughts...

 

1) I'd like for people to stop calling themselves Director of Photography, when all they have is a digital camera in their hands.

2) I'd like for people to stop 'thinking' that somehow if they shot on film, it would come out 'beautifully' and look like films that were DoP'd by people who had worked years in the craft.

 

Ok... 3 thoughts...

3) I'd like for people to discontinue 'raving' about getting a 'filmic' look out of a DSLR or lower end digital camera, by use of 'creamy/soft/crappy' lenses. (There's a reason why cine lenses cost big bux... and part of that is designed to avoid 'creamy/soft/crappy'... but I digress...).

 

Uh... how about 4 thoughts...

 

4) Digital is here to stay, so I'd like to see more people focused on getting as much out of their camera, at the entry level, whatever the 'price', and use 'art' principles in such areas as lighting, framing, and post-processing for 'look'. Not so much with an eye for 'making it look like film', but with the goal of 'what works for the story'... (if 'creamy/soft/crappy' works for the story, by all means... just watched "Hello Dolly"(1969) and was really irritated by the switching between 'soft' close ups on Streisand to fairly 'sharp' for the master shots... but I digress...).


Edited by John E Clark, 11 September 2014 - 11:37 AM.

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#3 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 02:23 PM

I have a couple of thoughts on this... well more that a couple... but for the moment I'll express 2 thoughts...

 

1) I'd like for people to stop calling themselves Director of Photography, when all they have is a digital camera in their hands.

2) I'd like for people to stop 'thinking' that somehow if they shot on film, it would come out 'beautifully' and look like films that were DoP'd by people who had worked years in the craft.

 

Ok... 3 thoughts...

3) I'd like for people to discontinue 'raving' about getting a 'filmic' look out of a DSLR or lower end digital camera, by use of 'creamy/soft/crappy' lenses. (There's a reason why cine lenses cost big bux... and part of that is designed to avoid 'creamy/soft/crappy'... but I digress...).

 

Uh... how about 4 thoughts...

 

4) Digital is here to stay, so I'd like to see more people focused on getting as much out of their camera, at the entry level, whatever the 'price', and use 'art' principles in such areas as lighting, framing, and post-processing for 'look'. Not so much with an eye for 'making it look like film', but with the goal of 'what works for the story'... (if 'creamy/soft/crappy' works for the story, by all means... just watched "Hello Dolly"(1969) and was really irritated by the switching between 'soft' close ups on Streisand to fairly 'sharp' for the master shots... but I digress...).

John,

 

1) I don't think that a digital camera can make a movie by itself ! DP has to compose and paint scenes with light along with other responsibilities. its the same for painters, you don't have to use oil on Canvas to be an Artist !

 

2)..

 

3) I believe in quality, but the billion dollars that Avatar got or any blockbuster film came from people that 90% of them if not more doesn't make difference between sharp or too sharp or an image came from film or digital camera ! they even don't even realize that some of the scenes in a movie are in 3D Animation or so.

 Anthony Dod Mantle got an Oscar in Slumdog Milionaire using sometimes a sensor with laptop (SI camera) he even uses a Canon 1D !

 

My point is, I want that people see the big picture and respect what others use to tell stories  as long as it make it in a good way.

 

I can mention an example here : Roger Deakins is using Digital and he never used Anamorphic glass (if I am not mistaken)  and he still one of the Gurus ! he is open to use any technique that makes storytelling better and easier.


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#4 John E Clark

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 02:23 PM

I interpreted your post in several ways. One way is with Digital Film there is a democratizing principle in operation. What that means is, due to the now low cost of entry, there are a large number of people taking up 'cinematography', who, often, do not bother learning any 'principles' of photography, shoot some thing or another, and say, find 'fame' on Youtube or the like for their material. And that's how I responded initially.

 

I don't look to these sorts of people to 'advance the state of the art of Digital'.

 

Personally, ever since the early 80's I have felt that 'Film film is dead', but it took about 30 years for prices and performace of digital image capture devices to achieve 'acceptable' results.

 

I think at this point, no one should feel 'embarrassed' or 'inclined to excuse using Digital Film', for example, 'due to budgetary considerations', when they use Digital means for capture. Nor do I think someone needs to even make a 'nod' to Film film's 'superiority'. For the top end Digital cameras, in some way they all exceed some parameter of Film film, except obviously for those who will not accept anything but Film film.

 

As far as I can tell, most of the top end Digital Cameras seem to be weighing in at about ISO 800... about 2/3 stop 'faster' than the popular Kodak Vision films, and allows image capture to be done in conditions that would be more difficult for Film film. Would development on Film film produced a 'fine grain', 'good image quality', at 800 or 1000... given the number of years between quantum leaps of ISO values... probably not for some time...

(For example, when I tuned into photography, in 1970, Tri-X, was rated 320/400, depending, T-MAX, which had high ISO like 3200... came out mid-80's some 18 years after I started using Tri-X, and in fact never really replaced Tri-X, as over ISO 400 the results due to grain were not considered 'pleasing', unless one was going for that surveillance film look... And that was for B&W... For color the ISO for 'quality' image sort of topped out at 400 for years. Kodak had a ISO 1000 film... but again, due to grain, if one was going for that 'pointilism' look, fine, otherwise not typically used for 'critical/commercial' applications. I'm speaking herea bout still films. Moving picture films tended to be more conservative about ISO values, with B&W toping out at about ISO 200 for Double-X or 400 for Tri-X, and Color film now at about 500.

 

What Digital improvements could be to move Digital beyond Film... well, better capture resolutions, such as 4:4:4 directly from the sensor, removing the subsampling effects of lower resolution in Red and Blue. Deeper intensity resolution, tending towards 16 bits, rather than 8, 10, 12. And smaller 'capture' packages even at the high data rate required for such high sampling.

 

The other aspect that is not mentioned much is the projection systems. Film film was directed to theatrical release, however, I think Digital film needs to expand the universe of presentation to actively include much smaller devices, which have become ubiquitous. Small display devices that have better color representation than Rec. 709, etc. at 'popular prices'.

 

I personally would like display manufacturers to support DCI package 'directly', rather than go by way of Rec. 709 to BD devices...

 

So, yes I think there is an 'obligation' on the part of people working in the moving picture business to advance Digital Film, but not necessarily look over their shoulder to Film film, at this point.


Edited by John E Clark, 13 September 2014 - 02:25 PM.

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#5 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 02:28 PM

After all the philosophizing, the bottom line is that ALL filmmakers should have the choice to shoot on the medium they want.


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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 02:52 PM

After all the philosophizing, the bottom line is that ALL filmmakers should have the choice to shoot on the medium they want.

 

While that may be true, it is also true in this current economic system, if there is no market, then 'all choices' may not be available, or only available at a price that some large number of filmmakers may not be able to afford.

 

For example, until about 1995 I would set up a B&W darkroom in my house to produce the Wife's and my prints. I would not do that now. I have a garage full of enlargers and related equipment... I took some old bottles of chemicals that had been over looked for years to the official EPA approved disposal service... (but there still may be some bottles remaining...).

 

If past customers call for reprints from their weddings, now some cases 20-30 years back, for some reason (often upon the death of one of the participants these days...) We tell them that the cost will include a scanning charge for the negs, may require some Photoshop adjustments, and the files are sent of to a service in the mid west somewhere for printing. (From about 2003 all of ours wedding coverage was digital... in fact this has resulted in a tussle between the Daughter and the Wife, since the Daughter wants some Real™ Film taken at her wedding, and the Wife is now disinterested in sending the Hassleblad to service, as it has not been used in over 10 years...)

 

The point being, things change, and while one is 'free' to choose any method, some may not be available, and Digital methods should advance to become more cost effective further down the chain of user levels.


Edited by John E Clark, 13 September 2014 - 02:52 PM.

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#7 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 05:12 PM

Thank you John for your informative reply,

 

I certainly agree that ALL Cinematographers/ directors choose whatever they need FILM or DIGITAL  to accomplish their stories, in fact I am talking about a bigger picture, I am just against some orthodox point of view against digital, some of the big names are even making fun of DIGITAL medium and I am pretty sure some of them are afraid that they will lose the voodoo they used to have ! now with digital they have more competitors than old days. so some of the open-minded ones  adapted with the new technology and conditions and start using whatever it takes to tell a story and stopped praising old things ! and one day history will mention the people who participate in making a certain technology useful and beautiful,

 

 I am certainly also not against film, I even still prefer its quality in a certain concept, but we can use Film and at the same moment participate in the evolution process of the digital, because one day no one will use film because at that time digital will be certainly better in all aspects ! so no one will use expensive and and a not so good thing !

 

at the end I hope everybody (especially qualified cinematographer) will help doing the right thing to help things go on, and not taking one side just because they like how it looks or works at that time, Film started more than a century ago , and cinema will continue to exist until the end of the days ! so you can imagine what technology will give us in the next dozens of years or even centuries !


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#8 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 05:26 PM

 

While that may be true, it is also true in this current economic system, if there is no market, then 'all choices' may not be available, or only available at a price that some large number of filmmakers may not be able to afford.

 

For example, until about 1995 I would set up a B&W darkroom in my house to produce the Wife's and my prints. I would not do that now. I have a garage full of enlargers and related equipment... I took some old bottles of chemicals that had been over looked for years to the official EPA approved disposal service... (but there still may be some bottles remaining...).

 

If past customers call for reprints from their weddings, now some cases 20-30 years back, for some reason (often upon the death of one of the participants these days...) We tell them that the cost will include a scanning charge for the negs, may require some Photoshop adjustments, and the files are sent of to a service in the mid west somewhere for printing. (From about 2003 all of ours wedding coverage was digital... in fact this has resulted in a tussle between the Daughter and the Wife, since the Daughter wants some Real™ Film taken at her wedding, and the Wife is now disinterested in sending the Hassleblad to service, as it has not been used in over 10 years...)

 

The point being, things change, and while one is 'free' to choose any method, some may not be available, and Digital methods should advance to become more cost effective further down the chain of user levels.

 

I fully understand the economics of the situation as I've posted in other threads the simple fact that the film business is just that.  It goes where the money is.  On that note, however, you mention black & white still photography and darkrooms.  That's still around.  So is oil painting.  Digital photography has not fully replaced still photography.  Still photography did not fully replace oil painting.  Digital cinema should not fully replace film - especially when the respective looks are so drastically different.

 

You are correct...no one with an open mind should take one side, hence my point in the original post.  The aesthetic option should always be there.


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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 05:52 PM


 I am certainly also not against film, I even still prefer its quality in a certain concept, but we can use Film and at the same moment participate in the evolution process of the digital, because one day no one will use film because at that time digital will be certainly better in all aspects ! so no one will use expensive and and a not so good thing !

 

So you're not against film and want everyone to be open-minded and not take one side or another.  But it sounds like you are open-minded towards digital cinema only which basically translates into a narrow-minded view.

 

Look, I love film and I prefer its texture over digital.  I also see the potential that digital has for certain things - but not everything.  I am actually anxious to get my hands dirty with a decent digital camera but the only ones that have impressed me so far are the RED and the Alexa.

 

But you talk as if everyone who prefers film over digital is also actively attempting to vilify it.  That is not the case - at least not in the circles I'm in.  Everyone is aware that digital is here to stay and most of the people who love film have also embraced digital for one reason or another.  But just because something looks good and is economically viable doesn't mean everyone is going to completely dismiss film.  I agree, we who prefer to shoot on that medium are now a minority, but we are still buying film.  And if you know how to budget for film, it's really a lot more feasible to shoot on than most people make out.  But now everyone is high on the "endless-takes/DSLR" shoot which has also brought down the quality of storytelling in general.

 

But just because we want to keep part of the past around - a very beautiful part - while digital evolves, by no means indicates that those people are stuck in the past.


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#10 Zach Healey

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 06:45 PM

Hello, and thanks for starting this topic!

 

Firstly, I would like to say that I did have time to watch the roundtable interviews - however I feel that this is not really necessary with regard to this debate. Opinions in this case are just that, opinions. We may talk about many aspects of cinematography that we find appealing, but what does this mean? How can we think critically about what we are viewing? How do we view images? How are these  images disseminated culturally? 

 

​In the worlds of Marshall Mcluhan: "In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology."

 

When studying digital media and images, it is commonplace to study the works of Marshall Mcluhan. The Medium IS The Message. He discusses our relationship with technology and how there are aspects of new innovation that we are unaware of at the time of its birth. This can be observed in the common debate Film and Digital production. So, instead of asking which is "better" (film or digital) - ask "how do we view each medium?"

 

John Berger's book "Ways Of Seeing" explores this topic further. It was later turned into a TV documentary that is quite interesting:

 

Ways of Seeing:

https://www.youtube....h?v=LnfB-pUm3eI

 

The history of images (and image viewing) provides important insight: What is the story? Why have these cinematic choices been made? What makes an image ascetically pleasing? How do these images make me feel. Personally I have seen images captured on VHS that have made me consider what I am watching. There is more to filmmaking and cinematography than ascetics. Move beyond! 

 

That is just my opinion, thanks for the debate!


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#11 Anthony Schilling

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 08:42 PM

As far as I can tell, most of the top end Digital Cameras seem to be weighing in at about ISO 800... about 2/3 stop 'faster' than the popular Kodak Vision films, and allows image capture to be done in conditions that would be more difficult for Film film. Would development on Film film produced a 'fine grain', 'good image quality', at 800 or 1000... given the number of years between quantum leaps of ISO values... probably not for some time...

Kodak used to have an 800T film in the first Vision line. They scrapped it when Vision2 was released because you could push the V2 500T 5218 a full stop to 1000ASA and still have finer grain than the 800T did. 

 

What gets my goat, the public perception of film is that it's outdated and stagnant technology. And digital gets all the buzz and hype like any other new gadget. When the fact of the matter is that film technology is very complex and has been evolving for 100 years. And thanks to digital technology, it's only now that we are able to interpret the full resolution of film in a video format. In fact films biggest drawback has been the not so great video interpretation it has gotten for so long. If you look at any cheesy digital rendition of inherent film flaws, a lot of it is actually replicating that crap transfer jobs they were subjected to back in the day, like flickering, vignetting ect... Unfortunately, all the digital advancements in film scanning which lower costs and improve quality get no hype at all. Ask around and no one has even heard of a telecine. 


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#12 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 02:10 AM

...To put it in a nutshell, Are we supposed to take care of Digital, evolve it in way it can be better than Film and even to Mimic Film for Film look lovers, or still praising film until the end of the days?

 

 

If that is your concern,  why have you put it under such a broad subject line?  It gives licence to almost anything. 


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#13 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 03:01 AM

....What makes an image ascetically pleasing? ....There is more to filmmaking and cinematography than ascetics. Move beyond! 

 

 

Ascetically pleasing?  Meaning pleasing to ascetics,  or is it a formal reference?  This unintended humor here may lead somewhere.

 

A photograph can provoke a simple but profound recognition of selfhood,  an identification with the universal while still being anchored to a particular moment.  Motion picture film being considered here as a succession of photographs with that same potential.   Each frame is impossibly dense with information,  of a subtlety and complexity that we just do not properly understand yet.  

 

A digital image does not even attempt to achieve the same thing.   Sensors just count photons.  Each wonderful,   inexplicable photon becomes just a number.  The best that can happen is a simulation, a reconstruction of an image according to our cultured expectation.

 

Being overrun by digital seems like a historically inevitable  mass delusion.  So yes let's "move beyond".  Rediscover the profound nature of the photograph.

 

We'll need a new thread on the difference between ascetic and aesthetic.


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#14 Manu Delpech

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 04:40 AM

I love digital but film wins every single time. Digital may be more convenient & cost effective in the long run (then again, film is not that much more expensive depending on your project, I'm shooting my short on 35 mm), but I'll take the texture of film, the grain, the more pleasing colors & that organic feel every single time over the hyper smooth, precise, clean look of digital, now some movies shot on Alexa look more cinematic than others & have a texture to them, but in no way does it come close to film. 

 

Just lately, movies like Warrior, Out Of The Furnace, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Mud, The Spectacular Now, none of those movies for me would have the same impact if they had been shot digitally, there's so much more emotion there, and I find it sad & infuriating that so many movies & tv shows go the digital way, even for economic reasons. Speaking of TV, have you seen a better looking show than True Detective or Breaking Bad? both shot on film, and what a difference it makes. With film, something happens, something more, it comes alive, it's not pixels, 1's & 0's like digital, with a layer of grain added on top of it.

 

Kudos to Nolan, Cooper, Abrams, Nichols, PTA, Miller & many others who continue to shoot film. Could you imagine a movie like Interstellar shot digitally? Hell no. 


Edited by Manu Delpech, 14 September 2014 - 04:42 AM.

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#15 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 04:59 AM

 

So you're not against film and want everyone to be open-minded and not take one side or another.  But it sounds like you are open-minded towards digital cinema only which basically translates into a narrow-minded view.

 

 Bill,

what I said doesn't mean at all that I am asking people to use Digital and stop using film or stop loving film and its look, and I'll be pleased if they can make it better than now.

 

the only thing that I care about is the quality, Digital or Film or even a new medium or technique that can be used, I  know that there is a lot of things that are going on now (there is even camera that can take more than 4 trillion fps in a low res, Focus free cameras) so in the future so many things will change, so if film will compete also to make something better, everybody will be pleased.


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#16 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 05:09 AM

I love digital but film wins every single time. Digital may be more convenient & cost effective in the long run (then again, film is not that much more expensive depending on your project, I'm shooting my short on 35 mm), but I'll take the texture of film, the grain, the more pleasing colors & that organic feel every single time over the hyper smooth, precise, clean look of digital, now some movies shot on Alexa look more cinematic than others & have a texture to them, but in no way does it come close to film. 

 

Just lately, movies like Warrior, Out Of The Furnace, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Mud, The Spectacular Now, none of those movies for me would have the same impact if they had been shot digitally, there's so much more emotion there, and I find it sad & infuriating that so many movies & tv shows go the digital way, even for economic reasons. Speaking of TV, have you seen a better looking show than True Detective or Breaking Bad? both shot on film, and what a difference it makes. With film, something happens, something more, it comes alive, it's not pixels, 1's & 0's like digital, with a layer of grain added on top of it.

 

Kudos to Nolan, Cooper, Abrams, Nichols, PTA, Miller & many others who continue to shoot film. Could you imagine a movie like Interstellar shot digitally? Hell no. 

this is very subjective !


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#17 Manu Delpech

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 10:48 AM

Honestly, I don't think it is, depending on what part exactly you're talking about. I don't think anyone's going to argue against the fact that film is organic & has a magic that digital will never have.


Edited by Manu Delpech, 14 September 2014 - 10:49 AM.

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#18 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 11:01 AM

Honestly, I don't think it is, depending on what part exactly you're talking about. I don't think anyone's going to argue against the fact that film is organic & has a magic that digital will never have.

Organic ! that's a fact and no one will argue with that. and Digital will never have that magic is totally subjective ! I am not trying to defend digital, Time will do, and anyone can deduce from how Film has been improved  through years and also how Digital has been also improved through time, that one day image will not look this way in the next maybe 50 years, and I don't care if it is Film or Digital..


Edited by Younes Boudiaf, 14 September 2014 - 11:04 AM.

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#19 Manu Delpech

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 11:46 AM

Your posts are kind of confusing to be honest. Film will be around as long as people keep shooting it, hopefully for a very long time, but it's like you're saying that none of it matters or won't matter in a few years. How has film improved aside from the stocks getting better ? You can't talk about film improving in the same way you're talking about digital improving. 

 

If I had to use one word to describe the difference btw the two, aside from organic, it'd be soul. Film has a soul, digital does not, I don't know if that's a bold or arrogant statement, but you guys will understand what I mean by that. It's like vinyls vs cds in a way, you can't beat that analog feel. 


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#20 John E Clark

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 12:50 PM

Honestly, I don't think it is, depending on what part exactly you're talking about. I don't think anyone's going to argue against the fact that film is organic & has a magic that digital will never have.

 

'Organic' and 'magic' are completely undefined terms, outside of some subjective evaluation, that is, a mostly idiosyncratic definition of 'I know it when I see it'.

 

Since 99.99% of all viewers will be seeing material via some digital process, once a Film film frame is digitized, it 'loses' its 'organic' or 'magical' quality. Is that what you are saying?

 

The only way to maintain this 'organic' and 'magic' attribute is to use Film film capture, Film film Internegs and Interpositives, and then only project via Film film prints?

 

Further, even with say, "Walter Mitty"(2013), one has combinations of 'digital' in the form of CGI based FX... so some of the image frames are a mix of 'live organic action', and 'computer souless computation' all mixed in via inorganic DSP processes.


Edited by John E Clark, 14 September 2014 - 12:53 PM.

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