Digital Killed the Film Star

· Joanthan Poritsky

Evan Luzi provides a great overview of the costs of digital filmmaking in a new post, The Hidden Cost of RED Epic and Digital Cinema, on The Black and Blue. His main focus is the on the new(-ish) RED Epic 5K camera and how its high resolution carries with it a steep increase in production costs. No matter how affordable the camera becomes (without lenses, the kit retails for $58,000, a relative steal) the actual production costs are exponential to that of a lower resolution camera. As Evan points out:

Estimates are showing that, “At 5k 2:1 and REDcode 5:1 (which will likely be what most features shoot with), a 64GB SSD will be about 12-13 minutes,” [said Deanan Dasilva from RED]( SSD-questions&p;=687522&viewfull;=1#post687522).

That’s about half of what you get at a similar aspect ratio, 4K, Redcode 42 compression ratio with the RED One.

There’s a lot more shop talk in his article (that’s The Black and Blue’s charm) about where all the money goes, but it’s later on that Evan hits on the most interesting aspect of the new format’s effects.

For the longest time, digital impressed filmmakers because they could shoot at high qualities at a relatively low cost to film.

The inevitable is happening: digital costs are equalizing themselves, offering little to no advantage over actual film. Meanwhile, the rush to digital has completely eroded the film marketplace. In the very near future, there may be [nowhere to process film anymore]( /deluxe-technicolor-begin-orderly-retreat-212459), that is if companies are still producing the stuff. Film’s death knell never rang so loud as it does today.

As curmudgeons no doubt whined about sound and color in cinema, I feel we rushed into digital. In New York City, it’s almost impossible to catch a new movie on 35mm film anymore1. I have a particular love for celluloid film. It’s an organism, beholden to nature and the elements just like the rest of us. This, of course, is its downfall. Digitally projected movies are crisp and clean, lacking the dust, scratches, cigarette burns and other blemishes of its forbear, but it’s not nostalgia for film’s ugly side that makes me love it.

Digital motion pictures are more lifeless than film images. They hang there over the audience, a corpse-like patina covering the screen just above the action. Digital’s binary nature allows it to be exactly what it is told to be (either a one or a zero); film, on the other hand, manages to have a mind of its own.

Digital production tools are often considered to be superior to film for their cost and their convenience, but they are becoming more and more like film as time goes on. I for one, don’t find digitally captured images to be superior, or equivalent, to their film counterparts. There is a certain beauty that digital imagery brings to the table, but as a format all its own, not as a replacement for film. Too bad, then, that we now live in a world where it’s the only game in town, and its convenience and cost are now on par with that spurned hog known as celluloid.

  1. For a superior lament from last year read Vadim Rizov’s A Bright Future (Measured in Lumens) over at GreenCine Daily. ↩︎