Learn from the professionals is always good advice. One of the most well-known working directors today has to be Christopher Nolan, especially for this epic action sequences and desire for doing it all in camera with massive IMAX cameras. It’s a lot of work (and money) but the results tend to speak for themselves when you are sitting in a theater or at home and watching these incredible sequences. They feel more real.
Fortunately, if you want to hear more about the process, both Nolan and his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have spoken a lot about why they film in camera and with IMAX setups. AlterCine put together a video where they get to explain themselves.
The simplest reason is that if you do it for real, it’ll look real to the audience. Makes a lot of sense. Even if you aren’t always thinking, “oh, that’s a CGI image” on most projects, the knowledge in the back of your head can dull the impact of the scene. Another reason Nolan throws out there is that doing it for real is a lot more fun. Yes, it can be as simple as that.
Having fun on set can help the filmmaking process. It can get a better performance out of an actor. It can make the camera movements look more realistic and natural. It also helps maintain quality of the IMAX film they are using.
Hoytema makes the quality point. Visual effects are far from the ultra-high resolutions that film scans and digital can capture. He also talks about the more “visceral” feeling you get from shooting something real and how you move through the space visually. It’s a ton of work. The engineering and problem solving adds a layer of investment to the project though.
Another part is simply a philosophy on how to make a film. You shouldn’t rely on digital and computers to fix it later. You should be putting the work in during the production. In the event you are using visual effects, post should be involved in the production side to get it as close as you can. An example of this is the back projection techniques for Interstellar.
As for the reason Nolan still uses film, he still holds onto the richness and analog color and resolution of film. Following that, the projection in theater is still a unique experience that can’t be matched. Nolan also talks about the sophistication of human sight.
People can pick up on the small things easily and you can tell the difference in look between a feature film and a news program. The look of film, and especially IMAX, has it’s own feel and look that will keep that impact. It’s almost spectacle and the theater is part of that experience.
Film, and especially IMAX, provide a closer rendering to that of the human eye. The look, color, and resolution are, in Nolan’s opinion, unmatched by digital technology. Hoytema backs this up and loves the incredible resolution and technical superiority of IMAX.
Shooting on film, using practical effects, and using IMAX systems are the best way to create an authentic cinema experience in Nolan’s eyes and he doesn’t see how we can just give that up.