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Deakins shunning Celluloid?


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#1 Jay Young

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 05:16 AM

I just found this article via twitter: http://variety.com/2...oid-1201687528/

 

In it, Roger Deakins is said to have stated the following:

 

 

So regarding shooting film, did the old anxiety come back, worrying about whether you got the shots while waiting on the lab reports and whatnot?

Well, you know, it’s like they say riding a bike. I can’t ride a bike myself, but I’m sure it’s the same. It’s fine. We did have some problems. We had some stock issues and stuff like that, which was really disconcerting. And I’ve heard that’s happened to a lot of people lately, you know, stock and lab problems. That’s unnerving. I mean I never really remember having those kind of problems before. But it makes me nervous now. I don’t want to do that again, frankly. I don’t think the infrastructure’s there.

 

I mean the Western we deliberately shot on slow stock. It was as much the sets and the kind of lighting, really. I mean the thing is, what can you do? Film stocks today are nothing like the film stocks they shot with back then. Do you know what I mean? So you can’t make a choice. You can’t even process differently these days. You don’t have that option. You’re pretty restricted with what you can do with film these days. So I mean there’s how many stocks now? Four or five? Your choices are very limited. But as I say, that was fine. I wasn’t going to do much in terms of the way it was processed, so I probably wouldn’t have gone that way even if I had the choice. So no, originally we were not going to change the kind of format. It was only late in pre-production that the guys decided yes, the 1.33:1 [aspect ratio] would play for some of the films and, you know, George Clooney’s Roman epic would be 1.85:1, but it wasn’t going to be widescreen.

 

As I say, just the technical problems with film, I’m sorry, it’s over.

 

 

 

I find this very interesting. Surely everyone that has used celluloid has had stock issues, or lab problems in the past?   Seems to me its a bit heavy handed in saying all the technical problems with film?  And about the infrastructure of the lab? Isn't more being done about setting up mobile labs?  I think that's a fantastic modern use of technology to support a given medium.

 

I'm particularly puzzled about the mention of stock choices he references?  Neither of us were alive in 1930, but I'm pretty sure they had color film, and monochrome film.  I don't think there was much in the way of high-speed film, and certainly nothing like the technical marvel that is the current Vision3 stock.  T-grains hadn't been invented yet.

 

Then there is the bit about different processing.  I'm just about positive if I called down to FotoKem and said 'push my 5219 four stops, and run it through koolaid for a nice cherry finish' - given enough reputation and money they would find a way to do it.   I am not sure of the processing he's referring to being different, even in the 40's.  Did he want to shoot 3-strip? Surely if Roger Deakins called someone with one of those cameras they would say 'yes please use my 3-strip technicolor camera'.

 

I don't want to sound like I'm outright attacking him for his comments, I'm just a bit puzzled, more so about the comments of the industry.  Fuji didn't even exist in the time frame of this film. He could have used some Italian stock, if he could get it, but would a studio like Warner go for that?  Likely not in the 40s. Furthermore, with the Kodak '19 stock being so excellent at whatever you throw at it, why would one need anything different?  Sure, the 50D is also fantastic for certain applications.  But with the new grain technology, it won't give you that look of a 1950's stock.  One can get close, but not exact.   And in these days where everything is basically re-built in the computer anyway, why is he complaining about the lack of film stock?  Can one not replicate the older processes out of any digital footage? 

 

Perhaps he simply does not like celluloid?


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#2 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 05:29 AM

I made the same thread, but mine should be deleted. More info in this one.

 

Otherwise, his comments stun me. As far as I know, he shot the whole film on Vision 3 stocks, ya know, like everyone else. It sounds to me more like he's pro digital now and very biased, and him talking of stock problems (how? what problems? Plenty of people shoot film without any problems whatsoever) and infrastructure, what is he talking about? Problems with availability? If so, it's the first time I hear of it. It all sounds like he's trying to justify not shooting on film anymore and exaggerates the "problems" he's had to support his point of view. 

 

I find it really surprising, and I still maintain that his best work on digital pales in comparison to his best work on film, yeah, it's Deakins, whatever he does looks great (although not a fan of Unbroken, and I think Skyfall's cinematography is overrated), but digital lacks the depth of film, as well as the texture obviously. We know he's in love with the convenience and ease of use of digital, the simplicity of it all, and for him, to go back on film, even if he says it's no problem (well, yeah, it's the Coens, of course it's no problem), is like a step back. 

 

I pray that the Coens never shoot digitally, they thought about it at some point indeed but never gave in, hope they never ever do.


Edited by Manu Delpech, 26 January 2016 - 05:36 AM.

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#3 Mark Dunn

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 06:36 AM

It does seem technically ignorant, considering that he has been in the business since there was essentially only one neg stock ('47), and that there was only one in the 50s, but perhaps he has just forgotten. He seems to be conflating the period of the film with the early 80s when a few fast stocks did come in.

I wonder if he regrets being quite so off-the-cuff on the record.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 26 January 2016 - 06:37 AM.

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#4 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 06:51 AM

The man has shot exceptionally beautiful films on film, and he continues to do so with digital.

You guys sound like you're offended by the fact that he now prefers digital as a medium, and finds the lack of support infrastructure for celluloid a serious concern (which it is).

Why? I don't understand the concern over another person's preferences. How does it affect you?
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#5 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 06:59 AM

I think it's disappointing personally because he shoots digital mainly because he likes that he can see what he gets and doesn't have to sweat it, he has said on his forum that he's not a very technical person,  and it's not like he's touting the wonderful technical specs of the Alexa or whatever. 

 

What is the problem with the lack of support infrastructure as you say? This ain't some small production, you got Fotokem which is the last big one okay, but a few other smaller ones, and plenty of other movies shot on film lately (and a couple at Sundance right now) have had no problem. Kodak is also bringing back a couple of labs soon and there's Alpha Lab's mobile film lab that's up and coming, don't know which productions have used it but more of those would make shooting on film a no brainer.

 

Fact is, I haven't heard any complaints about the infrastructure anywhere else, unless you're shooting in another country and it'd take a couple of days before getting the dailies as it happens on a few films such as Big Eyes or Spotlight, etc.

 

I also don't think we need those kinds of damning comments on film, film is soaring lately and to have someone like Deakins, a legend, say that is a bit disconcerting. 


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#6 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 08:14 AM

I think Deakins's style has always been quite close to that what's Alexa is good for when considering lighting, colour, contrast, gamma, graininess choices so it is quite natural for him to use a system which fits very well to his style most of the time. I have always thought that one of his goals is to minimise the grain and maximise the "natural sharpness" of the medium, so it is thus quite natural to shoot on Alexa then. His work is also very coherent over the years which further supports this choice.

 

I don't know what he meant about the film stock problems, bad rolls from Kodak? sounds like quite unlikely, I've understood they have very strict quality control and would not definitely want to deliver mediocre quality product for someone like him  :blink:

 

 

I'm not strictly a Pro Film Guy,  I'm a "pro--best-tools-for-a-shot" type a person so it's very natural for me to change the format even within a scene (intercutting and mixing crappy 5D2 image with N16mm and 35mm for example to get an emotional effect from mixing different image aesthetics) .

I think most of the people who have shot lots of different formats at least partially support this view; one should always choose the medium and tools according to the project and conditions, there is no single perfect tool for all the different productions and shooting scenarios out there  <_<


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#7 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 08:34 AM

There are big, multi-million dollar films with a-list directors that can't secure reliable-enough dailies, or processing that they're happy with, to commit to shooting on film. As you mentioned Big Eyes was a recent one, and I've read that same story a bunch of times in American Cinematographer over the past year. I'd say that's a pretty clear example of a serious lack of infrastructure.

 

In LA, and Japan, it sounds like there's still reasonable support in place, but almost everywhere else in the world, it's becoming a real struggle. Can it still be done? Certainly. Is it the smooth, well-oiled process it used to be? No. 

 

And calling lab and stock problems 'unnerving', is hardly 'damning'. Roger Deakins' comments aren't going to destroy what remaining film infrastructure still exists, mass-market adoption of digital acquisition will (and already has for the most part).

 

This is all just the market reality at the moment. We can lament it, but getting frustrated at someone like Deakins for it makes no sense.


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#8 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 08:34 AM

You have a point about the grain aapo, I remember him saying during an Alexa conference or something that he kinda hated grain when discussing whether he added grain to digital. But I still think at the risk of sounding like a broken record that Sicario, or Skyfall, or Prisoners do not come close to the depth, dimension and texture of film on films like Jesse James or No Country For Old Men or True Grit, I know some will tell me that he would have achieved the same look on the Alexa, but I don't think so. 

 

Agree that sometimes digital is right for something,  kinda like End Of Watch which mixed all those digital formats and looks awesome. Deakins never shied away from the fact that knowing what he has right on set, having more freedom and being able to sleep at night are big pros of shooting digital for him. But then again, he doesn't even look at other cameras like he says on his forum, he just shoots on the Alexa because he likes it and doesn't feel the need to look at other systems or etc, he also has one single LUT he's used on every digital show he's done, he likes to keep things simple clearly.

 

But pro digital and pro film people really take it at heart, like I do, but that's also because it's really important to me to shoot on film, not just because of the look, but also because I take it more seriously, it stands out, it's more special and for me, I get an immediate emotional reaction to film compared to digital, not that I don't have one with digital but it's completely different. I feel like a lot of stuff becomes flat when shot digitally, even a simple shot of a day light exterior would look much different on film.

 

 

@Mark: the ones we read about are a select few compared to the hundreds of other ones shot on film without a problem. I understand not shooting film if you can't get dailies before two or three days, I'd freak out, but unless you're in another country, it's not really a problem. I think if you want to shoot film, and REALLY really want it and put in the effort, then you make it work. There are labs in France, the UK, Belgium, etc, not a lot but still. Of course it's not much compared to before, but Kodak is striking back, just look at their partnership with Sundance, striking 35 mm prints for the movies shot on film shot over there, making discounts on film to encourage filmmakers to shoot film. I'd say the format is in really top shape right now.

 

I feel like Roger should elaborate on those problems because it doesn't make sense for me, it's a Coen brothers film and shot in LA.


Edited by Manu Delpech, 26 January 2016 - 08:39 AM.

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#9 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 10:11 AM

If you are strictly prohibiting your project to use certain tools and mediums you may also compromise the end product. especially in documentary projects: you probably won't get the shot if you choose your tools only based on predetermined principles and methodology which you must follow. it will only make the project better if you allow it to 'breathe'  :lol:

 

The problem is specifically that quite some people seem to ONLY compare the mediums and tools based on aesthetics OR based on practical reasons  :ph34r:  you should always consider them together because they are dependent on each other and may also be interchangeable. for example choosing a dslr over arri 2c for a romantic scene may help the actors to deliver better performances (no mag changes, no disturbing noise...) and therefore make the scene much better even if it is not aesthetically as beautiful as with film. But the next scene may benefit greatly from 35mm and therefore should be shot with that  :rolleyes:

 

Just my 2 cents: 

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#10 Jay Young

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 10:21 AM

 you should always consider them together because they are dependent on each other and may also be interchangeable. for example choosing a dslr over arri 2c for a romantic scene may help the actors to deliver better performances (no mag changes, no disturbing noise...) and therefore make the scene much better even if it is not aesthetically as beautiful as with film.

 

 

 

 

I take disagreement with your example.  Only from the standpoint of the actors should be able to deliver the same performance no matter what.


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#11 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 11:18 AM

Disagree with you aapo, I see where you're coming from, but would you really shoot ONE scene digitally while shooting the rest on 35 mm just because it could help the actors deliver a "better" performance? I'm going for consistence, if I shoot a film, I'm shooting on film the whole way (unless you need the high framerate for specific slow mo sequences) because of the look, because of the emotional response, because it feels right, I'm biased like we all are, one just looks better to me than the other. I'd argue that shooting on film and having mag changes and all of that not only requires more discipline and has everyone more focused but also provides some downtime and helps the actors breathe instead of letting it run just because you can although guys like David O. Russell will just let the mag run till the end sometimes. 

 

Now, if you shoot digital and you use different digital formats as there is a reason for it like found footage, or some kind of immersive thingy, yeah, why not, but why would you shoot on something inferior like a DSLR if you shoot the rest on film, it just doesn't make sense to me. Well, I guess we'll agree to disagree.


Edited by Manu Delpech, 26 January 2016 - 11:22 AM.

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#12 Christopher Santucci

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 11:27 AM

Hasn't been "celluloid" since the 50's, people. Please stop calling it celluloid. 

 

I think his main point, that the infrastructure isn't what it used to be, is the most important thing. And just because Tarantino et al have managed to effect Kodak's production, doesn't mean labs will do the same thing for long. Film is a format. And as with magnetic tape and all things antiquated, it's going away. 


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#13 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 11:59 AM

 aapo, I see where you're coming from, but would you really shoot ONE scene digitally while shooting the rest on 35 mm just because it could help the actors deliver a "better" performance?

actually yes, if it helps making the whole movie better then I would definitely shoot that one scene on digital and the rest on film.

I could change formats even within a scene if it helps to make the scene better (one example was a short film which I shot a while ago with 5D2 but for example a sunset scene we used  sunset closeup shots which I  made previously with Bolex 16RX which was easier to use for very bright objects and very long focal lengths and helped to make those shots look better) 

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I think consistency is hugely overrated and is mostly important within a scene. You don't have to make the whole film with only one style just because of being scared of that it would otherwise distract the audience.

you can also of course try to hide the different shooting mediums and blend them together hoping that the audience does not notice and only benefit from the different camera bodies which may be easier and more practical for some situations. Usually the audience doesn't notice anything if the shots are matched correctly. That's the common way to do it, I myself am trying to use the differences for my advantage rather than trying to hide them because differences can always be seen, more or less.

 

shooting on dslr over film may be practical because of for example form factor, used light levels, ease of handling the material, small power requirements, possibility to shoot longer takes, possibility to shoot without disturbing the subjects too much (child actors, animals, amateur actors, public places, etc) , flicker or other sync issues (cheaper and/or older film cameras with oddball shutter angle or inconsistent speed) .... 


Edited by aapo lettinen, 26 January 2016 - 12:08 PM.

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#14 John E Clark

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 12:30 PM

I just found this article via twitter: http://variety.com/2...oid-1201687528/

 

In it, Roger Deakins is said to have stated the following:

 

 

 

 

I find this very interesting. Surely everyone that has used celluloid has had stock issues, or lab problems in the past?   Seems to me its a bit heavy handed in saying all the technical problems with film?  And about the infrastructure of the lab? Isn't more being done about setting up mobile labs?  I think that's a fantastic modern use of technology to support a given medium.

 

 

 

While I can't speak for Roger, I too would have worries about using Film film these days. We had this come up in regard to shooting the Daughter's wedding. She wanted the Mother to shoot film with the Hasselblad... the Mother was pretty adamant about not shooting any Film film.

 

The reasons are... The Hasselblad hasn't been serviced in over 15 years now... all the local labs we dealt with in the past are closed and one has to send one's film 'out'... in the olden olden days we use to process her B&W film by hand. We then found a service in town which did B&W and worked with them to get the processing to what we use to do by hand. She would then print the B&W herself and did that until the lab she used closed. We then had to start sending out work... and were never quite as satisfied as when printing by hand.

 

We made the transition to digital, and found service bureaus which produce the B&W quality we desired... and so she transitioned to spending time with Photoshop than working in the lab.

 

In any case, the infrastructure for still photography Film film processing is gone.

 

As a note we never processed or printed our own color work, but the labs we used were 'in town'. They are all gone...

 

In the case of Wedding coverage it is very stressful to put film in a shipper and hope like hell the truck doesn't burn up (happened to associates...), film gets lost (also happened to others), film damaged (others as well)... the way we dealt with this was I would deliver the exposed film to the lab directly, and pick the results... if I was killed in an accident and the film lost... well... I didn't have to worry about what happened after that...

 

In the case of a big film production if some of those Film film disasters occurred, I'm sure they would do a pick up shoot... at some expense... but for events, while one can reshoot some formal shots... one can never recover the 'event' coverage.


Edited by John E Clark, 26 January 2016 - 12:34 PM.

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#15 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 12:31 PM

Well, those films who use those horrid Gopro shots make the switch from 35 mm to Gopro or from Alexa to Gopro really jarring actually. I get what you mean though, good looking frame by the way. 

 

Absolutely for what you're saying about DSLR, but that's if you make that choice and it is necessary or better for the material, that's it.

 

@John: Oh I've definitely thought about that kind of stuff before when deciding whether to shoot film but for me the get is so worth it. Plus, how often are there issues? Sending film via Fedex and getting the dailies back the next day has been done forever, there are procedures in place, I just wonder how often does the bad stuff happen? Obviously, the mobile film lab is an amazing solution and needs to be widely available, it costs a lot though, but I think Alpha Lab said they were making a second one, having the lab right on the parking lot would alleviate some of those fears.

 

I still somewhat fear that but I figure if I have a great crew, who know what they're doing, and do everything right, nothing will go wrong.


Edited by Manu Delpech, 26 January 2016 - 12:35 PM.

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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 12:50 PM

You can certainly make an art out of discontinuity -- the best example is the use of different film formats in "JFK" and "Nixon". The switches weren't always logical, more emotional at times, a certain mood best created by a Super-8 image, etc.  But in those films, the cinematic language of mixing formats was established early as a motif.  And I've seen digital movies that mix digital formats of varying quality for similar graphic effects, changes in texture, roughness, etc.

 

But for most narrative movies, a fairly consistent technical quality throughout is the standard that most aim for within reason.

 

In the case of Deakins, I can understand what he is saying about the infrastructure.  Lab work isn't what it used to be and Deakin always demands a very high, consistent quality level in his work, from himself, his crews, his labs and post, so when you have some odd problem with the stock and you don't know if it is the stock itself or the lab work, that can be frustrating to track down and deal with in the middle of production. Once most cinematographers step onto a set, they want to be dealing with the issues of shooting the scene, not wandering off set on a phone call to a lab or post supervisor trying to find out what went wrong with some footage, then going back to the set and shooting and hoping the problem gets solved or doesn't reoccur. 


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#17 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 01:05 PM

Ohh you guys have been busy on this one! LOL :)

Roger has admittedly never really liked film, though I think he started saying that AFTER he switched to the Alexa. He used it because the filmmakers he worked with wanted it more than anything else. The issues he has with it are echoed in part by other filmmakers as well. You gotta remember, when Deakins shot film last, both Technicolor and Deluxe were in business and I'm more then certain, he probably used those labs over FotoKem, who was at the time, the 3rd best. FotoKem is actually a pretty small lab compared to Technicolor and Deluxe as well and they've grown exponentially in the last 5 years or so. I assume they shot the whole move in Los Angeles, so they must have used FotoKem and unfortunately, FotoKem doesn't have a lot of lab resources. They've got all the machines, but they don't have that go to guy ya know? I'm sure Deakins had his guy at Deluxe or Technicolor who would take care of his stuff. That's the old way of doing business and since we know he's not a very technical guy, it makes perfect sense why he's frustrated. In his mind, he's having to "deal" with film instead of it being a normal thing.

I don't blame him for the frustration at all. Film today is nothing like it was at the end of 2013. That was the death of film and today we're slowly going through the rebirth. The problem is, it's going to take a huge investment by Kodak to secure film's future and solve these problems.

Funny side note, I did a one light daily print recently of something I shot in 16mm. The last 100ft or so of the print was damaged. It was covered in what looked like liquid stains. I checked the negative and it was clean. I didn't bother calling FotoKem because it wasn't that important the film I cut with looked perfect. However, in all the years of working on film and striking prints, I've never seen so much damage. Sometimes you get damage right at the head or tail, but never 100 feet from the end. Maybe those are the kind of things Deakins is talking about. Just little issues that are a real pisser and not typical of most film labs.
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#18 Manu Delpech

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 01:11 PM

I guess so, it'd be more of a problem for Deakins himself than it would be for anyone else. He likes to keep things simple and working as he's used to.


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#19 Freya Black

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 01:46 PM

I do wonder if it's like Tyler suggests and he is used to a very high standard from the labs.

Here in the UK there used to be a lot of stories of labs really looking after established DP's.

Of course I got the opposite kind of treatment but many DP's seemed to expect all kinds of stuff as normal that I would never be able to get out of a lab.

The labs back then would barely speak to me or give me the time of day.

 

Now things have shifted a lot and labs are more open to less established film makers and will generally deal with a greater diversity of customers but that may mean that they treat people more equally. Dunno.

 

Having said that I think I would be a big upset if my film was covered in gunk like Tyler describes. That's not what you expect from a large lab.

So who knows what Roger Deakins experience has been.

 

Freya


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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 26 January 2016 - 07:28 PM

I just found this article via twitter: http://variety.com/2...oid-1201687528/
 
In it, Roger Deakins is said to have stated the following:
 
 
 
 
I find this very interesting. Surely everyone that has used celluloid has had stock issues, or lab problems in the past?   Seems to me its a bit heavy handed in saying all the technical problems with film?  And about the infrastructure of the lab? Isn't more being done about setting up mobile labs?  I think that's a fantastic modern use of technology to support a given medium.
 
I'm particularly puzzled about the mention of stock choices he references?  Neither of us were alive in 1930, but I'm pretty sure they had color film, and monochrome film.  I don't think there was much in the way of high-speed film, and certainly nothing like the technical marvel that is the current Vision3 stock.  T-grains hadn't been invented yet.
 
Then there is the bit about different processing.  I'm just about positive if I called down to FotoKem and said 'push my 5219 four stops, and run it through koolaid for a nice cherry finish' - given enough reputation and money they would find a way to do it.   I am not sure of the processing he's referring to being different, even in the 40's.  Did he want to shoot 3-strip? Surely if Roger Deakins called someone with one of those cameras they would say 'yes please use my 3-strip technicolor camera'.
 
I don't want to sound like I'm outright attacking him for his comments, I'm just a bit puzzled, more so about the comments of the industry.  Fuji didn't even exist in the time frame of this film. He could have used some Italian stock, if he could get it, but would a studio like Warner go for that?  Likely not in the 40s. Furthermore, with the Kodak '19 stock being so excellent at whatever you throw at it, why would one need anything different?  Sure, the 50D is also fantastic for certain applications.  But with the new grain technology, it won't give you that look of a 1950's stock.  One can get close, but not exact.   And in these days where everything is basically re-built in the computer anyway, why is he complaining about the lack of film stock?  Can one not replicate the older processes out of any digital footage? 
 
Perhaps he simply does not like celluloid?


I think Deakins simply expects and is used to top quality lab work - no chemistry variations, dirty baths, or imperfect washes; no handling errors that would introduce scratches, pressure marks, light leaks, hairs and dirt; perfect prints with his specified printer lights, and so on. And consistent lab work is difficult to find these days. So I don't see how he can be faulted at all for preferring a digital workflow to avoid these issues.

He does not seem to be a cinematographer who has ever liked heavy grain, halation, flares, light leaks, 'happy accidents' in the lab. He generally prefers clean, sharp images with the least amount of interpretation possible between the image in his viewfinder and the final image on screen. Digital capture is perfect for that mindset. It's not for everyone.
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Zylight

Paralinx LLC

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Pro 8mm

rebotnix Technologies

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Zylight

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly

Broadcast Solutions Inc

The Slider

CineLab

CineTape

Ritter Battery