Film versus digital is the filmmaking debate that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. It also very uniquely doesn’t follow the usual trend of new versus old where you have a generation that won’t let go and a younger one all too willing to embrace the latest tech.
Two giants of film are Quentin Tarantino and Roger Deakins and they both fall on completely different ends of the argument. Tarantino is a film purist while Deakins has enjoyed the advantages brought by digital. They both also have has a lot to say on the subject.
That is why AlterCine was able to put together a piece with plenty of sound bites of Tarantino and Deakins about why they decide to shoot on film and digital, respectively.
Right away we are getting strong feelings from Tarantino, which shouldn’t be a surprise. He believes that the “magic of film” is absolutely reliant on film itself. The appeal of shooting and watching a projection with actual, physical film stock is that it captures and realizes the depth of the images in a way that digital just can’t replicate. He also thinks digital is the “death of cinema.”
Coming in from the other side with a more measured approach is Deakins who has moved to digital solely because it has become the right tool for many jobs. The gear almost doesn’t matter, it’s just a means to an end and digital is a great tool for creating and crafting images. “It’s about the eye behind the camera,” per Deakins.
Deakins has definitely moved into digital as his preferred tool. Among the reasons for this are its flexibility. He feels it gives him a bigger palette to work with.
Also, it’s hard to deny the practical advantages of newer digital cinema cameras that are small, lightweight, and fast to use. He can also double check footage on set right away and feel comfortable that they nailed it. Gives you more room to experiment instead of having to play safe with a film workflow.
Heading back to Tarantino, he thinks that digital projection is the end of cinema as he knows it. He’s right in a sense, there is a different look and feel to a projection, especially as it can literally take on some wear and you can see these imperfections in the print.
As much of art is appealing because of unique “flaws” this aspect means that the experience can be unique to each audience of a film. You obviously don’t get that with film, but it’s hard to argue that consistency with digital isn’t nice.
Digital is just so much easier to work with. There are new tools that have changed the workflow dramatically. With film you are reliant on shooting and almost hoping that it is what you want. There’s also limited collaboration with film since a lot of people can’t actually see what is happening.
Digital changes that by allowing a lot more open conversation on set and in the moment. The mystery of film is not fun to Deakins, though he does think it’s a nice option to have for certain individuals. For digital projection though it is a clear advantage to Deakins.
With film, you are essentially making a copy of a copy and have little to no control over the final handling of the product. Digital has a clear pipeline and the data sent should be exactly the same everywhere.
Even Tarantino can’t deny there is good to digital. There is a huge advantage to new filmmakers since it lowers the barrier for entry. Anyone can make a movie if they have the tenacity to get something done. With the film-only days most people just could never climb that first hill.
Deakins is a bit over the conversation in general. It’s what in the frame that matters and I think that is the best take here. Sure, there is style and story behind film, but digital is just a better tool for most people today and there isn’t really a disadvantage.
Do you have a stance on the film vs digital debate? Considering the coverage and types of posts on 4K Shooters, I think there is a clear leaning towards one side here.