Happy Thursday to everyone. Some days I’m not always prepared to offer an elaborate discussion—that is, above and beyond my other posts or features. But today is not one of those days. I think a few words on film vs digital are warranted—perhaps even more so since I am beginning to see that the “end” of film is not nigh.
I was actually on the verge of writing the following: “It’s fairly clear that we’re fast approaching the post-film era…” Blah blah blah. That seemed to be the take-home message from the documentary Side by Side (2012), which featured several directors who saw digital as the wave of the future since it saved so much time in shooting, colouring, and (most of all) incorporating special effects. The facts are, film requires lots of stops and starts, reloads, “dailies,” and a crew willing to lug and load it all onto trucks every time the scene shifts to a new shooting location.
But so bloody what? many directors and contemporary professional photographers say. Especially when film can capture texture, colour, and light so well. The “quality of light,” and film’s ability to represent that, is a recurring phrase in Side by Side. I’ve already quoted Breaking Bad DP Michael Slovis on the “feel” of film (see my “Dailies” from last week), so I’ll turn to a few others who offer their input. Kristopher Tapley’s January 2015 article for HITFIX, “Industry Cinematographers Weigh in on Film vs Digital,” quotes Quentin Tarantino who recently referred to digital in disparaging terms as “TV in public.” Other DPs in the article were—I must admit, disappointingly—silent on the very specific aesthetic differences of shooting with film. I did find a very concrete description from Rebecca Lily, a professional photographer from Ireland who had this to say in her guest post for Digital Photography School:
After playing around with film a bit myself and studying the work of other photographers, I can definitely acknowledge that film has several advantages over digital—mainly, the dynamic range (or, ability to retain details in highlights and shadows over a wide range of stops), and also the forgiving nature of film when you overexpose it.