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Film vs.. Digital

An overview of the great debate of digital taking over cinema.

We’re now at an age where technology is always moving forward. And as technology moves forward, many art forms are moving forward with it. If you’re not too familiar with what goes on in the cinema world, there is a behind the scenes debate between filmmakers about the use of digital cinematography as the primary choice for making movies. The use of film is slowly dying out, and this upsets a lot filmmakers, but on the other hand an even greater amount of filmmakers have already moved on to utilize digital into their visions.

Film has been around since the beginning of the art form, all the way back in the early 1900’s, & had always been the primary choice to make movies until digital came around in the 1990’s. With film, you would have to physically take the film reel, contain it, take it to get developed & literally cut the film & paste it together to edit it into your movie. Some find this hectic nowadays & immediately see the benefits of digital filmmaking. Also with film, the cameras make a lot of noise which can be distracting for actors. You are also very limited because you only have a certain amount of the reel(s) to use. But despite all of these downfalls, filmmakers argue that film creates the best possible picture for movies & that it gives you a clean & crisp unique look that digital cannot create. In my opinion, this is very true because if you have ever seen a movie that was filmed in 65/70mm film, it looks absolutely amazing. Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) has taken huge advantage of this by utilizing it into his Batman movies & seeing those movies in IMAX was truly an amazing experience. Nolan is a huge defender of film & I can see why.

The invention of the camcorder intrigued some filmmakers to make a bold move & make their movies digitally with camcorders & digital editing software. At the beginning of digital, a lot of filmmakers were very put off by the look digital created. It just didnt look like film. It looked too home video-ish & a lot were upset by this new invention. But as time went on, digital films were being submitted to film festivals & they began to get a lot more recognition. Filmmakers like David Lynch began to make this their primary choice for making their movies. By the early 2000’s digital cinema cameras were being manufactured & it became available as an alternative choice to make movies. Director George Lucas (Star Wars) saw this as a great opportunity & used it to make Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. All the way up until now you can see how much digital has taken over. Directors like James Cameron love digital & he certainly isn’t looking back. With digital there is much more freedom, you have an unlimited amount of roll time & your footage is exported into video files which are simply cut & edited together without having to worry about ruining your footage. There is an unlimited amount of possibilities that filmmakers have seen as a miracle in filmmaking. Directors like Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh & even legend, Martin Scorsese love their experiences with digital compared to film.

So how long does film really have until it is truly obsolete? No one can say for sure but it eventually will be gone completely. I probably will never have the chance to try out film but digital is such a great & easy way to make movies. It has given average people like me the opportunity to make moves from my own home. Some filmmakers don’t like that idea for some selfish reason, but I am grateful that it was invented. While film gives a cleaner look, digital can be used in darker locations & it’s much more compact & portable. As technology moves forward, I’m sure one day they will get digital to look just like 65mm film. They’ve already got 35mm down, why not try for better. I think digital is a great invention & I’m excited to see what it can accomplish in the future. I mean we’re already projecting movies digitally in our theaters!

If you want to get into more detail on this debate, I suggest checking out a great documentary that inspired this article called ‘Side By Side’. Actor Keanu Reeves interviews all the Directors I mentioned & more about what they think & the documentary goes much more into the history of both film & digital. It’s on Netflix right now so check it out while it lasts! Also feel free to comment & debate your opinions on what you think!

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