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The Monday Question: Film/Digital!


The weekend is behind us again (unfortunately), so it’s time to fire up those braincells again with a question. Last week I finally managed to see a documentary I had been looking forward to for quite a while, Side by Side. For those that don’t know this documentary, it’s about the differences between shooting movies on film and digital. Many well-known directors and cinematographers have their say about it and it’s clear both formats have their strong and weak points. After watching this and seeing many examples of movies shot on film and digitally I did ask myself a question, which I would also like to ask you:

Do you see the difference between film and digital and do you prefer on of them?

Personally I will have to admit that I, in general, never notice the format on which a movie has been shot. The only movie I can remember seeing a difference was when watching Public Enemies, but besides that I would not be able to tell. It also means that I really don’t care on which format a movie has been shot. To me it’s about the story I want to get lost in and if it’s a good movie that will happen no matter the format.

Do you see the difference between film and digital and do you prefer on of them?

Category: Movies
  • youjivinmeturkey says:

    Film Is Easily BETTER.
    Digital Makes EVERYTHING Look Fake.
    Drives Me Crazy. :(
    -B.

    September 24, 2012 at 10:17 am
    • Nostra says:

      So it seems some people do notice the difference…

      September 25, 2012 at 10:56 am
  • Scott Lawlor (@FrontRoomCinema) says:

    I wantt o say film, but I am like you and really cannot notice the difference. Maybe I need to go to more 35MM screenings.

    September 24, 2012 at 10:35 am
    • Nostra says:

      I guess that’s it, but even if it’s digitally projected I guess some people would notice the difference…just seems it’s not us ;)

      September 25, 2012 at 10:56 am
  • The Focused Filmographer says:

    after watching the doc Side By Side as well, I can say that it doesn’t matter to me. I just want the movie to look good. Truly. I don’t want celluloid to disappear. I still want it to be used. But I also want to see digital continue to progress.

    September 24, 2012 at 10:46 am
    • Nostra says:

      I don’t care much whether or not celluloid is still used, it really is about the movie for me…

      September 25, 2012 at 10:57 am
  • Kid In The Front Row says:

    Non-issue to me. Film is old technology; only thing going for it is nostalgia. Time to move on.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm
    • Nostra says:

      I kind of feel like that as well…

      September 25, 2012 at 10:57 am
  • keith7198 says:

    I really have no preference. I do appreciate good visuals but a good story is what drives a movie and the format has yet to make a big difference for me.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm
    • Nostra says:

      Seems it is an issue which is mainly something which people who make movies are concerned about and that most people who watch them don’t really care (and I would dare to say don’t even know that some movies are shot differently)

      September 25, 2012 at 10:58 am
  • VictorsMovieReviews says:

    The only difference I can tell is in night shots. In digital you can make out more details in the background. A good example of this is in “Miami Vice” where you can make out the clouds in the night sky. That would not be the case with film.

    In the end this is an economic decision. It’s less expensive to shoot, duplicate, and distribute in digital.

    This is not a bad thing.

    Last time I checked movies shot in film are not physically cut on an editing station with a guilotine and spliced with tape like they used to be. The film is converted to digital and edited on the computer.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm
    • Nostra says:

      Yeah, the documentary gave a good example with Collateral showing something which could not be done with film.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:59 am
  • fernandorafael says:

    Same here. Don’t really notice the difference, but I did when I watched Public Enemies! haha
    “I really don’t care on which format a movie has been shot. To me it’s about the story I want to get lost in and if it’s a good movie that will happen no matter the format.” I SECOND THAT.

    September 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm
    • Nostra says:

      Yes, there is something about that movie which gives it a very clean look which stands out…

      September 25, 2012 at 11:00 am
  • ckckred says:

    I like film more because it gives a nice crisp look. I don’t think digital looks bad, but film blows it away easily.

    September 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm
    • Nostra says:

      You think so? I went to a festival where they first showed a 35MM movie and after that a digital one, but I preferred the latter, it really looked better. Of course it could be a bad projectionist…

      September 25, 2012 at 11:01 am
  • Nic says:

    There are a couple of films that used the RED cameras that you could tell the difference and it bugged me. Everything just looked to clean and crisp.

    I guess I like how some older films are intentionally “defective” from noise due to using film, but it isn’t that big of a deal.

    September 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm
    • Nostra says:

      So are you looking forward to the Hobbit, knowing that has been shot digitally (not even talking about the higher framerate)?

      September 25, 2012 at 11:01 am
  • Tim The Film Guy says:

    Haha you used a ! instead of a ?, then wrote ‘on’ instead of ‘non’
    Best of all in a post with ‘fire up those braincells’ written in it haha :D
    Sorry :( To be honest I dont mind either of them :D

    September 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm
    • Nostra says:

      The ! is intentional, do that every week :) And you are right about the ‘on’, it should be ‘one’. Thanks for pointing it out.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm
      • Tim The Film Guy says:

        Oh yeah, I was just being a dick. Made me laugh so thanks for that :D

        September 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm
  • AndyWatchesMovies says:

    I can’t always tell…But I can definitely tell when a film is shot on digital and grain is added to it. I hate that.
    I prefer the look of actual film 9 times out of 10.

    September 26, 2012 at 5:19 am
    • Nostra says:

      Yeah, always think that is a weird decision…

      September 26, 2012 at 8:58 am
  • Kob Monney says:

    Film, 10 times out of 10. You can tell when a film is shot in digital. Night scenes tend to have a weird , underlit contrast to them (watch Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand trailer, it looks harsh) and day scenes have a habit of looking they have too much detail, as if everyone is in focus. And there’s an even stranger, bland, homogenous look to digital to as well. As much as I liked The Avengers, the end-battle felt like it was wall-to-wall grey (which may have been a production decision).

    I can understand why directors would use digital (from the looks of it it’s cheaper and less time consuming to operate) but film looks so much better, especially when it comes to lighting. Digital filming gives off a home video vibe for me. Digital projection however, I don’t mind, it usually looks better because (i think) it’s more consistent although I’ve been to digital screenings that have started with no sound!

    Anything else strikes me as being rather cold and sterile and storing films in digital files might be the worst thing you could do if you want to keep a hold of it. As much as I would love to be ensnared by a story alone, a lot of my intrigue in watching is down to how it looks. I know Michael Mann uses digital a lot these days but his use of 35mm in Collateral always looked better than the digital scenes in that film (oddly enough with that Neon type setting, it worked).

    Sorry for the long response but I’m really disappointed that film is heading towards being a relic. Most of todays films shot on digital can’t even hold a candle to something shot on film like The Red Shoes or even Apocalypse Now. It feels like a step back, not forward. I’d disagree with the argument of digital having more detail that film in some instances, digital can’t produce images with quality of 70mm or IMAX. There’s more warmth to a film production/print than a digital one.

    The only type of production that suits digital is something like a Sin City/300/Speed Racer where everything is pretty much generated. Phew, take a breather!

    September 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm
    • Nostra says:

      Wow, that must be one of the longest comments I’ve received :)

      Obviously you are very sensitive to it (I’m not) and you come up with some good reasons why you don’t like digital. Did you watch Side by Side?

      October 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm
      • Kob Monney says:

        I’ve not watched it! It unfortunately does not have a release in the UK but I’ve been reading about the switch to digital for a few years. There’s advantages and disadvantages to pursuing digital but I think the latter outweighs the former.

        There’s an interesting conversation about film/digital at NY Times site http://tinyurl.com/9a5dov9

        October 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm
  • Alex Withrow says:

    Excellent question. I can notice the difference between film and digital within a matter of frames, and I can honestly say that I value the lush crispness of film about as equally as the grainy realism of digital.

    If forced to chose, I have to go with digital. It gives everyone a chance (which is good and bad, certainly, but good for people looking to break in).

    October 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm
    • Nostra says:

      I guess my eyesight is already too bad to see the difference if you can see the difference in seconds ;)

      October 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

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