Posted by: ckckred | June 27, 2013

Talking About Digital Moviemaking


Film is dying.  I’m not talking about movies, but actual film.  In the past ten years or so, digital has slowly taken film’s space.  More and more directors now use digital (even directors like Martin Scorsese have made the jump) and plenty of movie theaters have made the jump to digital projections.

For someone like myself, this is a great loss.  First, let me say that I have nothing against digital.  While early digital looked aggressively terrible and artificial, today digital is smooth, clean, and polished.  It’s completely refined and impeccable.  I don’t blame studios or directors for switching to digital as well.  It’s cheaper, takes less space, and easier to edit and manipulate.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed by the digital imagery of Life of Pi or plenty of other movies.

But film for me is superior.  Perhaps it’s due to attachment, but I find film to be far more realistic than digital.  Film captures each image frame by frame and translates them to the screen.  Digital does the same process, but is a replica of film, and while it’s a good replica cannot beat the original.  Film also shows the true effort behind the director’s work.  In movies like Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane, or more recently The Master and The Tree of Life you can see how their directors (Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Terrence Malick respectively) really put all their might into showing you their stories.  Film captures light and colors in a way digital cannot.

Now let me reiterate that I don’t bemoan digital coming.  Digital is keeping movies alive in a way film couldn’t.  Film is hard to preserve and over the years audiences have lost plenty of great movies (who knows what happened to the missing reel of The Magnificent Ambersons).  Digital doesn’t have that problem.  But even still I would prefer watching a movie made by film than digital.



  1. Great post 🙂 I agree with you that it’s a shame to see film die, it’s always a bit of a shame when classic ways of doing things die out over time…kinda like typewriters, there’s something so nice about the way a type-written script looks, and now that’s been replaced with computers that replicate a similar font, and then print on a fancy printer.
    Change is necessary though I guess, and I personally love how digital looks on screen and I much prefer using digital cameras when making a film, but it is definitely a shame to see it die out.

    • Thanks! Digital cameras are much easier to use than film ones and look great, but it can’t replicate the same image film can. It’s sad to see film go away.

  2. I think you’re pretty spot on with this. Film is probably the absolute best way to do it but digital is still pretty good, especially now the technology has progressed. I think it’s also a shame that digital has basically made a whole occupation redundant in projectionists.

    • Thanks for the comment. Digital is bad, but film for me is better. I’m more sad that digital projections have replaced film ones.

  3. What a great write up. I love your points and agree with every single one of them. I’m torn between the two. I love the way they have perfected digital. But like you say there’s a special quality to film that I also love. It also is a great sandbox for truly talented directors to play again.

    • Thanks! I admire digital, but I have a deeper connection with film.

  4. Really well done! I couldn’t believe it when Scorsese made the jump to digital! I’m just thankful for the holdouts like Spielberg and Nolan who still work on film.

    • Thanks! I was surprised when Scorsese made the jump, but he filmed Hugo very well. If there’s one director who could perfect digital moviemaking, it would be Scorsese.

  5. What an interesting post! Digital in general is taking over the world. SLR cameras are obsolete, book shelves will become unnecessary, and record players are fun relics. Digital killed the art work of it all. There’s something tactile about the process of film. I like the sound of the film projector, the look of it, and the cutting and editing–there was an art to it, now out the door. 😦

    • Thanks! I don’t dislike digital, but film means much more to me.

  6. It’s convenience over artistry, sadly. It was inevitable though I think.

    • Yeah, I agree. It’s much easier to work digital over film and while I do see the reasons behind it, film will always be superior.

  7. I hear what you are saying about film but for some reason I cant get too worked up about it. Digital could help bring film making to the masses. Shane Carruth shot Up Stream Color, on a Panasonic Lumix GH2, with Voigtlander and Rokinon lenses. You could pick up that set up for under 3 grand on Amazon.

    • Good point. Digital’s strength is that it could spread filmmaking and gives new directors an easier opportunity to make movies. Still, there’s something I see in film more.

  8. I think digital will eventually either successfully mimic or make us all forget about the element of realism that film offers. But, nothing can replace that sound of a film reel starting up and reaching it’s speed. Just makes you want to cozy into a comfortable seat and sit back for a couple hours 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment. You’re right, digital can never replicate the feeling of seeing a movie on film.

  9. I am also on film’s side. Luckily many of our premiere directors still work with film.

    • Yeah, I prefer film as well. The look is much better. I know a few directors who keep working with film (Cameron mentioned Spielberg and Nolan before, I think there’s a couple of other key directors who do so) and I’m glad to see that it’s still being used. I’m worried that perhaps in ten years, film would die and digital would replace it. Thanks for commenting.

  10. I’m totally with you on this one. I prefer the look of film, which is not to say I hate digital, because there is no denying a lot of digital films look fantastic. With most of the filmmakers who talk about their preference for digital, it always sounds like it is predominately a convenience thing. Digital means they don’t have to wait for the next morning for the film to be developed so they can check out what they have shot. It is more instant. But I don’t think I have heard any directors profess an actual preference for the look of digital.

    • Thanks for the comment, glad you agree. I think digital looks great and I do see it’s more convenient, but film has a nicer, more crisp look.

  11. I don’t have an issue with it as I really don’t notice much of a difference. Have you seen the documentary Side by Side?

    • I was going bring Side by Side up. Much as I’m sure many filmmakers bemoan the slow death of celluloid, they also know the horse has already left the stable when it comes to digital. One issue digital does present is preservation. With technology moving forwards do quickly and new formats replacing old ones just as speedily there’s a worry films on ‘old’ digital formats could be lost.

      • Thanks for commenting. It’s strange to think digital movies would be lost, but with the coming of new formats I think you may be right.

    • Film captures colors and light differently than digital. I haven’t seen Side by Side yet, but I’m interested in checking it out. Thanks for commenting.

  12. The thing I dislike most is that film projectors are almost completely gone, especially in smaller cities.

    My all-time favourite film, Playtime, has become dated now because it really needs to be seen on a widescreen, film-based projection; the details of Tati’s misce-en-scene are so intricate that DVD or Blu-ray fails to capture the experience. The same goes for many of the greatest films.

    Digital is good because of preservation (silent movies used film, and about 99% of them are lost), but I can’t help but feel the over digitalisation of movies signals a paradigm shift in filmmaking in general.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree. Film projection is almost completely gone and even all the art house theaters I attend have switched to digital. I know it’s easier to work with, but it loses some of the details (as well on digital it is easier to pirate). The strength of digital is that it’s easier to preserve, but I’m unsure if the transition to digital is good or bad for moviemaking.

  13. Great article Digital has really helped films such as old ones like Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3-D and Phantom.

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